Toodling Around Tasmania

kookaburra75

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Tasmania is a place MrsK and I have enjoyed travelling to over the years. I was fortunate to first travel there in 1980 working as an Assistant Surveyor at a mine up in the north-west, in Luina and spent time exploring the wilderness around the mine, as well as the heady heights of Hobart. Over the next 40 years I have been back for work in other roles, catching up with people in a variety of places.

MrsK only had the opportunity to get to Tasmania several years ago, and we have made a few trips, having stayed in Hobart and explored the area to the east including down to Port Arthur, and also in Launceston, again exploring the Tamar Valley and across to the east coast.

In March 2020 we planned to be down there again, for the Hobart Wine, Food and Gin tasting trip – March 21 2020 that @Tassieoptom was very kindly organising. MrsK used her $450 AMEX Credit and we were ready to go. Then that Covid thingy came along and we had to cancel and put the flights into credit. MrsK's nephew then went and booked a wedding in Melbourne in late December, so we thought we would use the flights for that (fingers crossed) and add in Tasmania, as we had to go through Melbourne anyway. At that stage I tossed in the idea of booking a campervan. MrsK had had a really bad camping experience in her late teens, and it still haunts her today, so she was a bit nervous. I looked at what was available, and picked out a couple of options, all of which had toilet and shower, which was a non-negotiable requirement from MrsK.

Me, I had grown up camping and also spent many years in sleeping in swags when I worked in the outback and beyond as a surveyor. Plus I had prior experience in the 1970's with my family, spending 4 and a half months in one through Europe. Although MrsK wasn't into recreating that experience.
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I hadn't booked anything at that stage, given all of the unknowns, and as it was the wedding date had to be postponed, and they reset it for late March this year. In early December we bit the bullet and got the flight bookings made, and booked the mighty Sandpiper van through Cruisin Motorhomes. That decision saved us a lot of money as we locked in the price at about half of what people were paying in Feb/March. At that stage, I noticed on some of the AFF Posts that @bpeteb was also going to circulating around Tasmania at the same time, although in slightly different directions and places - which he has recorded Planes, boats and automobile, it’s Tassie road trip time. All I can say, it was a lot more eventful than our trip.

With the Family Wedding in Melbourne on the Friday, we flew down on Thursday and booked an AirBnB in Doncaster (having grown up in Melbourne, those were words I never thought I would ever say), and then flew down to Hobart on the following Monday. We had the van booked until the following Saturday, with Saturday night in Hobart and fly home on Sunday. The Saturday night had to be in luxury accommodation, in case MrsK didn't find the campervan life to her liking and needed to recover (she did enjoy it, and the place we found was very nice).

The day came, and after making our way to the airport and seeing off the kids and the grandson on their way back to Sydney, we settled into the Qantas Lounge for pre-expedition glass of bubbles. Our mighty aircraft waited for us at Gate 24.
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After an uneventful flight, we landed at Hobart International Airport and got ourselves organised for the Great Campervan Expedition (GCE).
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kookaburra75

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During our planning for the GCE, we looked at different options and what we'd like to see. As we had visited places on the east coast, I suggested Strahan and taking a tour on the Gordon River, as I hadn't been there either. Fat Pig Farm down at Cygnet was also on our list, but due to Easter we could only get in on the Thursday prior. However, as you can't cut in a straight line from Strahan, in fact you really can't get anywhere in a straight line on the west coast, we had to leave that for our next trip.

As others have posted and I have experienced, on many of the 'highways' in Tasmania you are lucky to average 70 kmph due to the windiness and the surface. When travelling, we try and limit to no more than three hours travelling in a day, often a lot less if we find interesting things on the way. So after a but of umming and arrhing, we decided that after arriving on Monday afternoon, stay close to Cambridge where we would pick up the van in case there were any issues, head up the middle, swing across to Strahan for two nights and take a cruise, back across towards Hobart to stay somewhere, and then run into Cambridge to drop off the van on Sat lunchtime.
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For the final night, I had found an AirBnB in Lindisfarne that claimed to have a view across Hobart - and it did deliver - see later posts.

We arrived into Hobart Airport after 3pm and got a taxi across to the Cruisin Motorhomes yard at Cambridge by 4. It was busy, with a stack of vans ready to be taken away, many having interstate plates. We got into our Sandpiper van and watched the introductory video of how everything worked in the van, which took at least half an hour. At least they had a hard copy manual of all that information we could read through later.
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We picked the Sandpiper as it had the mandatory shower and toilet. At 6m long it was ok to drive, as I'm used to vehicles that size. The Fiat van it's based on performed well, but on windy, hilly bits I found it was best to drop it out of auto and into manual gear selection mode, to maintain the right speed. One thing it didn't have that was surprising, was a reversing camera or sensors. As long as I could see objects through the back windows it was ok, but when backing into some places MrsK had to guide me in.

The image below from the Cruisin website shows layout of the van.
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The double bed at the back was set up with an inner-spring mattress, the toilet/shower in the middle like a waterproof wardrobe, the kitchen bench with fridge and microwave underneath and cook top and sink above, with a drawers and cupboards, and the small table and seat - with the TV mounted on the wall above that seat. The two front seats pivoted around, with the drivers seat being the other side of the table. The van was high enough so we could walk around inside without ducking our heads.

It worked well for us. Each evening we could retire indoors for a glass of bubbles, or enjoy it outside with the extra camp chairs and table that were stored underneath. MrsK below, with her obligatory glass of bubbles, sitting the driver's seat that has been swung around. There is a curtain that you clip in place across the front cab.
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The van was big enough for us to move around in, and get past each other. The image below is taken from the passenger's seat that has been swung around, back towards the bed.
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There was a lot of storage in the van. We had been warned by others that motorhomes don't have enough space to store suitcases, so in Melbourne we had broken down our things into a couple of soft bags, and leave our suitcases at the Motorhome office, where they had storage space. But with the Sandpiper, we didn't really need it, as there is a lot of storage space in the back, under the bed.
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In the photo you can see the storage, where I had two soft bags and a suitcase, plus the cleaning gear, table and chairs. The cupboard in the lower right has the cords and hoses to connecting up the motorhome. Above the bed, there are overhead cupboards where we stored our clothes etc. As we use packing cubes in our suitcases, it was a simple matter to pop them up in there. There wasn't any hanging space in the van though.

After we got ourselves organised, we headed off to the Big4 Caravan Park next to the airport. It was clean and comfy, and easy to get into. After we got our bearings, we headed up the road to Sorell to get supplies and had dinner at the Pembroke Hotel, which we'd recommend. We then got back to our site and settled in for our first night on the road.
 
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I like that route. It looks great for unplanned stops of interest.
 

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Anyone near Derwent Bridge must call in here. It's fantastic

 

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So sorry I missed you on your trip, especially when (un-knowingly) we were at New Norfolk the same night. I hadn't planned to be there that night and assumed you had left the state. Another time!
 

kookaburra75

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Anyone near Derwent Bridge must call in here. It's fantastic
We stopped in Derwent Bridge for lunch on Good Friday, and saw the sign to The Wall - we wondered what is was. It's now on our list to go back and see.
 

kookaburra75

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So sorry I missed you on your trip, especially when (un-knowingly) we were at New Norfolk the same night. I hadn't planned to be there that night and assumed you had left the state. Another time!
That's ok. We only decided to stay in New Norfolk the morning we left Strahan, as we hadn't made up our minds where to stay on our final night. Looking at the photos of where you stayed, MrsK did make a remark about us having to go and stay there on the next trip. As it was, the New Norfolk Hotel was open and we had dinner there, sharing experiences with another couple who were next door to us in the caravan park. We did note that New Norfolk seemed to have the highest amount of Mullet hairdos per capita.
 

kookaburra75

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I'm enjoying riding along with you and have to thank you for reminding me why I never want to travel in a camper. Some of us just do not have that adventurous spirit.
Certainly MrsK was of that opinion too, and that's why this trip was relatively short so she could experience it in a small bite. Thankfully, she did enjoy it and would do it again. Having the inside shower and toilet did help. The good thing about travelling by camper is that you can set our own pace, and chop and change your plans as you wish, you dial your sense of adventurism up and down as required.
 

kookaburra75

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Day 2 of the GCE dawned.

We had a good night's sleep at the Big4 Hobart Airport Tourist Park. It was excellent, friendly service, very clean, and well laid out, but - it's right next to the airport and the helicopter base. Thankfully there wasn't much in the way of air traffic and the helicopters didn't start up until 7 in the morning. It worked for us as we got in late. Likewise, it would be good if you had to drop your van off early in the morning. The other providers such as Apollo and Juicy are also close by. If we had got in earlier in the day, we would have got started onto the road and found somewhere else to stay.
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Our first night in the Big4 Hobart Airport

Our route for Day 2 was to travel up through the middle and spend the night at Quamby Corner Caravan Park, which is just south of Delloraine. I picked it, as it was a quiet country spot away from it all.
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First we set off in search of coffee, and as we had to virtually go past Richmond we made that our first port of call - as we had discovered the night before there wasn't really anywhere for coffee in nearby Cambridge. We cruised into Richmond and after a few laps found a place where I could park the van. This being a skill we honed as we went along. Best choice was parallel parking and getting the end spot so we wouldn't get trapped in and I could reverse out easily.
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Parking in Richmond - I was on the end spot but another van managed to park behind me. Thankfully I had left enough room in front to get out

We continued up the central highway, before turning off onto road that would take us up to Bothwell and then onto Quamby Corner.
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The great open road

I had loaded up a memory stick full of suitable '...out on the open road...' type music, plugged it into the stereo and started with On the Road Again... No Willie Nelson said MrsK. After a bit of light hearted banter/discussion about what might be acceptable music, Born To Run was deemed acceptable, once. The discussion then turned to what to name the van. I get @bpeteb name for their van (Apollo) Son of Zeus and I suggested what I thought were witty takes on Cruisin, Sandpiper, First Timers etc. "Ed" replied MrsK, so Ed it was.

We continued up the road and pulled into Bothwell and had a great lunch at the Castle Hotel, and a chance for a rest before pushing onto Quamby Corner.
 
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kookaburra75

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As we continued our way towards Quamby Corner, we climbed up off the plains and up into the mountains. Our route took us through Miena and along the Great Lake, before dropping down to Golden Valley where we would be staying the night.
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Great Lake - at Miena Dam

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The 'hills' along the way

While the climb up to Miena was an easy drive, the road around the Great Lake and then down the other side was very twisty, with steep descents. Thankfully I could switch the gearbox across to manual mode, and control the speed without having to resort to the brakes too much.

We arrived at Quamby Corner Caravan Park in the late afternoon, parked our van and set up for the most important part of the day. Drinking bubbles while watching The Bold & The Beautiful. We were out of range for TV but I got enough of a signal on my phone to stream it. All was good in the world for MrsK
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Taking in the serenity

We had a good chat with our neighbours and watched the sun set behind the hills and the moon come out - which was bright in a clear, and chilly sky.
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The morning was crisp and pleasant, and it was nice to wash up the dishes with such a view.
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After packing up the van, we headed off for Day 3 towards Deloraine to top up the supplies and make our way across to Strahan.
 

kookaburra75

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Day 3 of the GCE - to Strahan

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I decided to use a few back roads to get across to the west coast so we could take in the views, rather than keeping to the main roads. That was the plan anyway.

The morning started with a trip into Deloraine for coffee and supplies, and a walk around the middle of town. It has certainly changed a lot since I was there 40 years ago (but then things do I suppose), and now it is a foodie paradise. Thankfully the top and bottom pubs are both still there.
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MrsK and the Meander River
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I picked out a route on Google Maps, that would loop down to the south along some of the C-routes. Little did I know there were C-routes that are sealed, and C-routes that are unsealed - I should have gone via Mole Creek, but you live and learn..

Initially there was a lot of lovely country side...
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Then it got a bit more rustic and bleak ...
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But finally, we found bitumen again.
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We pulled in at the Mount Roland Look Out to get a view of where where we were heading to the west
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Before heading onto Moina for a well earned lunch at the Cradle Forest Inn. A nice lunch, in a very peaceful setting.
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After lunch we continued on the main road towards Strahan. We were held up briefly by roadworks, but the view was worth the wait - plus the guys in the fluro vests started dancing around as I think they thought we were videoing them.
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After another hour or so of twisty roads we arrived in Zeehan, and had a quick comfort stop and look around. Like many of the old mining towns, they had their heyday. To quote Wikipedia, "In the first decade of the twentieth century it was on a par with Launceston and Hobart for size. With a main street over two miles long; it also claimed over 20 hotels". Now, not many of its fine old buildings remain, but it's going through a revival through tourism.
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After that stop, it was quick run into Strahan, where we found the Strahan Beach Tourist Park, which would be our home for the next two nights.
 

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Now, not many of its fine old buildings remain, but it's going through a revival through tourism.

And mining is hanging on! Renison tin mine to the north, new Avesbury nickel mine to the west and a couple of projects processing the old tailings. around the town There's life in the old dear yet.
 

kookaburra75

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We booked for two nights in Strahan, so we could go on one of the Gordon River Cruises. During our planning, we had checked out the Gordon River Cruise (the grey boat) and the World Heritage Cruise (the red boat) - they both had the same itinerary, just different food and wine options. The Top Deck on the Grey Boat caught our eye, but by the time we went back online to book it had sold out - just missing out on being on the same boat as @bpeteb. So the Top Deck on the Red Boat it was, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We didn't get the all inclusive wines, but at $100 less per head, we could live with that.

The morning started early, and we wandered along the edge of Macquarie Harbour around to the booking office - about a 10 minute walk.
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It was all well organised at the wharf, with them taking us onboard in pairs, and escorted us to our seats. Up on the top deck there was approx 10 couples and one family all up, so we were well spread out. I'm not sure how many were downstairs, as virtually everyone was out of their seats and outside on the decks.
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You could explore out the back of the boat, as well as go down to the next deck and go out the front as well as the back. You could also go up a level to the top and also step into the wheelhouse if you wanted.
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The Wheelhouse, on the approach to Hells Gate

Our trip took us out to Hells Gate, down to Sarah Island and onto the Heritage Landing on the Gordon River. The Captain provided the commentary, along with videos inside which went into the history of the company and its connection to Strahan (5th generation), Tourism Operations on the Harbour and River since the 1930s, the History of Huon Pine Logging (the Piners) and the connection to the Franklin-Gordon Protests. One of the old Tourist Boast used to surreptitiously support the protestors by running in supplies and people.

We approached Hells Gate at the opening of Macquarie Harbour - having read Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore I had an idea in my mind what it must have been like for the early convicts and settlers.
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After going out through Hells Gate, looking back into Macquarie Harbour

As we were going back into the Harbour, the Captain declared that the Sun was over the Yard Arm (somewhere in the world), and we reacted accordingly.
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MrsK saluting the Sun Over the Yard Arm - looking back towards Hells Gate

We looped back through the Harbour, past the fish pens - which have been described in the reports by @bpeteb and @RooFlyer . Some of the pens were empty, as they let some lie fallow to stop stressing the local environment, as well as a lot more monitoring and control on their operations.
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We then made our way to Sarah Island for a stop and tour.
 
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kookaburra75

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Our tour continued to Sarah Island - which again featured in Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore. The thing that struck me the most, was how small it was. Two guides were on the boat with us, and split us into two groups. There were very entertaining, and mentioned they were part of the Round Earth Company, who performed The Ship That Never Was each evening in Strahan.
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Looking back at the dock where we landed

Our guide certainly brought the place to life, with her descriptions of the life of the convicts, guards and their families. As we wandered around, we stopped at several places, each with its own tale. Most of the old buildings have been lost to time and overgrown.
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In the water in the foreground are the remains of the old shipyard slipways

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One of the few traces of buildings left

After a good hour, we sailed off up the Harbour towards the mouth of the Gordon River. I realised later we had left the guides behind but they would have been picked up by the Grey Boat cruise for their tour of the island.
 

kookaburra75

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We crossed the Harbour and gingerly crept our way up the Gordon River. The videos had prepared us for the life of the Huon Pine fellers, and as we went past Boom Camp you could match up what you saw in the still images with the country side.

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At the mouth - the wind had sprung up and was making things choppy.

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Cruising through the brown water

We arrived at the Heritage Landing and went ashore for a walk through the forest - the Captain came ashore as our guide.
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At the Landing, with the Captain the centre

For me, it was an interesting talk as he went into the detail of the different types of trees and fungi and their relationship within the Cool Temperate Rainforest, which is unique to the area. He also pointed out the lack of birds, as basically there are no flowers or insects, so nothing for the birds to eat and likewise other land animals. It was eerily quiet, and very peaceful.

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MrsK pointing out something interesting.

We then returned to our boat and made our way slowly down the Gordon River, back to the Harbour.
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Once out of the River, we cut across the Harbour to get back to Strahan - you can see our trip on the map below that I 'borrowed' from the World Heritage Cruises website.
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kookaburra75

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As we neared the dock back in Strahan, they made an announcement about the performance of The Ship with No Name, at that stage we were getting weary and decided to leave it for next time we are in Strahan. Certainly looking at @bpeteb 's trip report, it is worthwhile.

I also forgot to take any photos of the lunch on board. While it wasn't as plush as the one on the Grey Boat, it was enough for us. The lunch was served to your seat in individual trays with compartments (like a Bento Box), with the different meats, salads and treats. Coupled with some glasses of Josef Chromy sparkling, life was good. All in all, we liked the Red Boat cruise. It didn't have the 'silent drive' on the river, extra comfy seats or the drinks included in the package, but it was good value at around $100 per person cheaper than the Grey Boat.

We spent our final night with a quick dinner at Hamers - and yes it wasn't cheap. We had planned to go to Risbys for dinner, but as it was another 10 minute walk further from the caravan park we decided to put it on our "next time" list and rang ahead to cancel. We sat outside Hamers and watched the world go by, and looked up at the Strahan Village accommodation on top of the hill, and wondered what that was like (reading @RooFlyer 's trip report, we now know).
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On our walk back to the caravan park, we went past the old Post Office & Customs House, which is still in use today.
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We then settled in for our last night in Strahan, and started to think about where to stay on our last night in the van as it would be Good Friday. After a few calls to different caravan parks outside of Hobart, we picked the New Norfolk Caravan Park, and then called it a night - after trotting across the road to top up our supplies from the bottle shop at the Big4 Caravan Park. After seeing what Pete and Al had bought on their travels, I didn't expect to bump into them there.

We packed up the van in the morning, having got into the routine, and headed off the road to Queenstown. "Would it be windy?" asked MrsK - "there are some squiggly bits on the map said I". And there were. It was a pleasant enough drive along the Lyell Highway, and I didn't go any faster than 80 kph as it was just uncomfortable bouncing around. When a few cars built up behind me, I'd pull off to let them through and then usually catch up along the way.
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We arrived in Queenstown in time for our morning coffee and settled in at the Railway Station, with a hot cross bun as an add on. As @RooFlyer featured in his trip report, the railway line is running, although things were quiet given it was Good Friday. I too spied the Mining Display outside the station and said "...nice single leg jumbo there". "What?" said MrsK.
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Scenes around Queenstown

We also stuck our nose into the Empire Hotel (sadly not open), to see the staircase. On the Gordon River Cruise, the Captain had told us about how Blackwood was taken from the forest, sent to the UK where it was turned into a staircase for the Empire, broken down into a flat-pack, and shipped back to Australia to be assembled. It was rather amazing to see it - when I had a drink there all those years ago I never looked at it.
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From Queenstown we continued along the highway, stopping to take in the view or check out anything that looked interesting.
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On the Lyell Highway, near the turn off to Rinadeena

We continued on to Derwent Bridge, where we stopped at the Derwent Bridge Hotel for lunch. It was a pleasant pub-grub meal and filled us up for the next stage of our trek.
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MrsK relaxing and thinking about how many more windy roads we have to travel on

We continued on our way and stopped in at Ouse for an ice cream and explored the grounds of the church, which dates back to the 1840s and is still in current use.
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St John the Baptist Church - Ouse

We got back out on the highway, and kept heading towards New Norfolk. We saw the sign to Lawrenny Distillery, but alas they were shut. We needed to do a quick comfort stop and came across the town of Hamilton, and dropped into the Hamilton Inn. It has an interesting history, as explained to us by the barman. It was built in 1826 by William Roadknight, who came to Australia as a settler, killed someone and was jailed, and then got pardoned. He went to on building the Inn using convict labour, and became the town's constable, mill owner and post master.
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MrsK inside the Hamilton Inn

We were given a tour through the place. Through the door in the above photo is the formal dining room, with accommodation upstairs. It suffered a couple of fires, the most recent in the 70's being suspicious and what was called an insurance job. There is some more background in the On the Convict Trail blog. There is also a public campground on the Clyde River, which looked a good place to stop.

We then completed the run into New Norfolk and made our way to the New Norfolk Caravan Park. I forgot to take any photos, but it was pleasant location on the river, and only about a ten minute walk into the centre of town. We checked what was open, and the New Norfolk Hotel was open for meals, so we trekked up to the pub along with another couple from the caravan park who were also heading up for dinner. The pub was packed, but it was a good pub meal and we were all amazed how many of the young men had mullet hairdos. I blame the current wave of AFL players.

After a good meal and a few wines, we settled into the last night in "Ed" the Sandpiper.
 

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The final day of the GCE dawned. We packed up the van and started our final leg back towards Cambridge. We had a noon drop off, so we were in no rush.
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The drive along the River Derwent was picturesque, and we just dawdled along, having got use to the slower pace. As we were ahead of time, we dropped into Lindisfarne for a coffee and also to check out where the AirBnB was, that I had booked. It certainly had a view, it was at the top of the suburb.
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At Beltana Park in Lindisfarne

After the coffee and cake top-up, we travelled out to Cambridge to drop off the mighty Sandpiper at the Cruisin depot. It took no time to repack the bags and call for an Uber to take us back into Hobart. It was sad to see Ed go, but we had really enjoyed ourselves.
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Goodbye to Ed

The Uber got us to our AirBnB. In the posting it described itself as "Amazing Views, Stone Bath, King Bed", with images of views across the Derwent. I picked that as somewhere different, as we usually stay in the centre of town, and also the relaxing bath might be necessary depending on how the trip went. And it lived up to the hype.
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Panoramic photo out the front

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View from inside


We dropped off our suitcases and caught an Uber into Salamanca Place, where we caught the last couple of hours of the Markets, had a couple of relaxing drinks at Jack Greene, stocked up at Salamanca Fresh for food and drinks, and then got another Uber to get us back. All while experiencing an unheard of heat wave of 30 deg!
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We made sure they drove us right up to the top of the driveway, as it is almost impossible to walk it. You can see in the photo above how the driveway climbs up on the right hand side of the photo, around to the back of the Studio Apartment.

We then settled in and watched the sun set on our final night in Tasmania.
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The next morning we did our final packing, and decided to head into town for lunch before our flights back to Canberra (via Sydney). I managed to book at Frogmore Creek at MacQ, so we didn't have to travel too far. Plus, one of my ankle/foot had started to play up with what felt like the start of a gout attack. So I spent the day abstaining from alcohol and shuffling along at a very slow pace. Our AirBnB Host was kind enough to look after our bags until we got back, so off we went again in our Uber and me shuffling around Salamanca Place.

After a great lunch (and fine wines says MrsK), we went back for our bags and out to the airport, to settle into what passes for the QF Lounge. The flights home were uneventful (apologies to anyone stuck behind me as I shuffled up the ramp from hell at Hobart), and at least we arrived at Gate 3 in Sydney, with our flight to Canberra departing from Gate 1. If it had been over at gates 16-19, I would have hijacked one of the trolleys, as I wouldn't have made it on my own.

We were picked up in Canberra by one of the kids who had come down from Sydney and were staying at our place over Easter, so we were able to take them through the photos and tell the tales. They had been following MrsK's exploits through Facebook and WhatsApp anyway. Next time I would also try and take more photos, just to keep up with the Joneses - looking at you @bpeteb and @RooFlyer

So, in summary, it was a great trip and MrsK and I did something different together. MrsK enjoyed the campervan life and would do it again. The Sandpiper van was the right size for us, and was easy to drive for me. For six days hire, it was $1070 all up, including all insurances, refills, table and chairs - I had booked it back at the start of November, so it pays to get in early. Of the caravan parks we stayed at, they were all excellent, except for the Strahan Beach Tourist Park, which I would rate as just good. If we stayed in Strahan again we would check out the Big4 Park across the road.

So, now we're checking out NZ South Island for this time next year.
 
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