I will probably get heartburn when we do up a final tally of the trip. Australia is not a cheap country to live in, nor is it to visit. I reckon the standard of living is even higher than that of Chicago.
It was a phenomenal trip nonetheless, and totally worth it.
We left with two cases of wine – although we had pared down the number of wineries from our original admittedly ambitious list (we went to 13 in the end, plus stayed at another vineyard), we bought on average a couple bottles from each. The winieries here typically make two distinct styles of Pinot Noir: a more fruit forward, fresh and vibrant one, with a perfume-like nose of rose scented water and cherries; and a more complex, aged style that calls up spices (pepperberry bush, a Tasmanian plant) and oak trees. Look to the next post for a lengthier summary of the wines.
We lucked out on the apartments and the one bed & breakfast that we found. They were all cute, spacious, and had different styles and charms.
Our first night, we stayed in newly remodelled apartment trailers with large living rooms and patios that overlooked the beach – beautiful sunrise. The second night, we stayed in a stone cottage with interior wood paneling and a kitchen in which we whipped up a breakfast of omlettes and fresh cherry tomatoes. This cottage, in Bicheno, also overlooked the coast.
Our first evening in Launceston, we stayed at a bed and breakfast. Although it was a little aways from the city center, the views were also gorgeous. The house was situated on top of a hill and from the living room you could look down into the valley and at the Tamar River. Beautifully apointed room, with small welcoming touches like a fresh jug of milk in our fridge for coffee and tea, and a decanter of tawny port with chocolate to enjoy in the evening. In the morning, we were also treated to a sumptuous made to order breakfast. Along with fresh juices, latte/cuppacino, toast, I had a beautifully done up saffron infused omlette with smoked salmon and hash, while Jeff got asparagus wrapped prosciutto with poahed eggs and hash. Such a treat!
Our second evening in Launceston, after a fulfilling day of tasting, we pulled up into Rosevears Vineyards to find our own apartment overlooking the grapevines and the river. Gorgeously done up in a contemporary style, with track lights, floor to ceiling windows. Just had to wake up for the sunrise again to snap some photos.
Our wooden cabin in Cradle Mountain was a delight too. Although it got really chilly in the night after the fire in our wood stove died out, we loved that it was set back in the woods and had a lovely smell of pepperberry wood. It was such a fun surprise to be cooking in the kitchen and looking out to see a pademelon (looks like a small kangaroo) curled up right outside. Too bad we did not catch a glimpse of what the other guests affectionately referred to as Rufus, the giant posum that loved to visit the hut.
Tasmania, for such a large island state, is very sparsely poplulated. We spent most of our evenings in tiny towns with population not more than a thousand – Swansea had 580; Bicheno 700. Even Launceston had just 71,000 people. After so many days in the countryside, it was a bit of a shock to return to Hobart, a town of 200,000. All these other random Asians and kids decked up in goth milling about. But then again, it is a small city – probably 20 blocks by 10 blocks?
We wished we had more time to do the scenery justice. As it is, it was lovely to drive down the highways of Tasmania (one lane affairs typically, like in Scotland), past the bucolic countryside and lazy cows and sheep grazing in the flourescent green grass of spring. We managed a five hour hike in Freycinet National Park, covering the famed Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach circuit. Too bad the water was a little too chilly to splash around in, although that did not stop a quad of teenagers frolicking in the sea.
In Cradle Mountain, we hiked the Dove Lake Circuit, which, as the name implies, circled Dove Lake, with the imposing Cradle Mountain as a backdrop. We also did two short forest hikes and revelled in the deep greenery and moss. One of the walks was aptly named the Enchanted Forest Trail. We covered that at first light, when the grasses and shrubs were still encased in delicate sheens of ice that sparkled and glittered in the soft morning rays, and took exuberant delight in snapping dozens of pictures of the pademelons calmly grazing not two feet from the trail.
For the most part, fresh and delicious. We still dream about the calzones we picked up from Bread the first day we arrive in Hobart, as well as the super fresh beef and salad roll we picked up from the Ugly Duck Out in Swansea. But eating out in Tasmania is hard on the pockets. We made breakfast a couple of days and cooked dinner one evening but the food bill will be not much fun to look at.
In summary, a great and fun trip. We had a total blast and are putting Tasmania near the top of our list for a return visit. Still more wineries to taste and so much more hiking to do!