Last Saturday I had the immense pleasure of joining an Instameet organised by the fine people at Hobart and Beyond and Discover Tasmania, the major tourism bodies of this lovely island of ours. Regular readers of this blog will know the score, we get taken to some of the choicest locations around Tassie in order to take some photographs and help promote those areas and the local businesses we visit. It was the Instameets that first introduced me to so many amazing places in Tasmania as well as getting to meet a bunch of lovely locals.
Fast forward a few years and they’re still a wonderful experience and something I very much look forward to when they happen. On this occasion we got to visit the Tasman Peninsula, which is perhaps Tassie’s most famous piece of land. It’s where Abel Tasman first set foot on this island as well as being the site of Port Arthur, home to many of Tasmania’s early and more infamous convicts.
We all met up on the Hobart waterfront at 7:30 in the morning and hopped aboard a Pennicott Wilderness Journeys minibus bound for Pirates Bay. That’s right, we were getting to go on one of the famous Yellow Boats and see the epic coastline of the Tasman Peninsula. Ya…..freaking…..hoo!!
Our driver for the trip down provided some fascinating insights into the history of the places we passed along the way including the infamous dog line that marks the beginning of the Peninsula. It’s a very narrow piece of land that back in the days of Port Arthur was lined with a number of large, scary, teeth bearing doggos that would make any prisoner think twice about trying to escape the Peninsula. Many prisoners couldn’t swim either so were essentially trapped on the peninsula, so yeah best just stay in your cell and do your time, even if you did only steal a loaf of bread back in Ireland.
Before we hopped aboard the Pennicott boat, we stopped for a quick morning tea at Port Arthur Lavender. There’s a smallish display garden of Lavender plants next to a delightful scenic pond and the main visitor centre is nice and modern with lots of lavender related products for sale. A quick cuppa and a scone and we were back on the road towards Pirates Bay (can there be a more epic name for a bay?!) and the start of our water based part of the trip.
Following a quick safety briefing, we all took our seats depending on our propensity for enjoying getting wet and/or enjoying a bumpy ride. If your stomach is a little on the tender side, you’ll want to sit down the back. If you love a bit of hooning on the ocean, strap yourself into the front seats. In the days leading up to the trip, our lovely host Chelsea from Hobart & Beyond had shared concerns about the weather saying it might be a bit touch and go. The day itself turned out to be glorious, with the huge sea cliffs protecting us from the Westerly winds that had been blowing hard.
I have been on the Pennicott boats twice before including once on the Tasman Peninsula, albeit from a different starting point and therefore different route. I was expecting to be doing the same route as the last time and so was very pleasantly surprised when we took off from Pirates Bay. The route would take us from the other side of Cape Pillar heading back towards Tasman Island via Cape Hauy. Excellent!
We promptly set off from Pirates Bay, the 750hp worth of engines powering us along the water with ease. Exiting Pirates Bay we were soon flying past some impressive cliffs before slowing down and checking out iconic sights like the Tasman Arch and Devil’s Cauldron. It was fascinating to see them from a completely different perspective and you really get a sense of the power of the ocean that carved out these huge structures into the rock.
If you’re into Geology, you’ll be frothing at the mouth on this trip as you get a real close up look at the differing rock types along the Peninsula. You start of with cliffs made of layer upon layer of mudstone before the rock abruptly changes to vertical columns of Jurassic Dolerite, one of the hardest rock types known. Despite it’s tough nature, the sea has still managed to punch massive holes into the rock as if it were butter, albeit over millions of years.
Any trip on the waters around Eastern Tasmania this time of year promises the chance of spotting those most glorious of creatures, Whales. Alas we were a little late to the party as it’s currently the tail end of the migratory season so we didn’t spot any this time around. That didn’t mean the trip was devoid of wildife, no sir. Cape Hauy is home to a colony of Long-nosed Fur Seals and we were lucky to get a front row seat to their chillout session on the rocks at the base of the massive cliffs.
Seals or Dogs of the Sea as they should be called are always an entertaining sight and it was great to float back and forth in the water (at a respectable distance) and watch them lazing about on the rocks or having an argument about who’s bit of rock belongs to who. It’s a tough life.
What would you need after a bouncy day on the water? A stiff drink? Great idea! Chelsea read our minds when making this itinerary by booking us in for a stop at McHenry Distillery once back on dry land. McHenry’s is Australia’s southern most Whiskey distillery and we were very fortunate to have Bill McHenry himself give us a private tour of the Gin Lab and site of their weekly workshops where you can make your very own Gin! The lab is perched atop Mount Arthur and we were ferried up in small groups, escorted by Daisy, the ball of energy doggie who had no issues running up and down the hill a number of times. Bill spoke of the history of the site whilst giving us a taste of some of their delicious tipples. He made the move down to Tassie from Sydney and opened the distillery after realising the potential for a distilling business at this site which has its own Spring. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon at all at all.
What would you need after a lovely time at a Gin Distillery? A stiff drink? Another great idea! Chelsea read our minds once again when making this itinerary by booking us in for a stop at Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed once beyond the Peninsula. 🙂
We were welcomed by Matt Dunbabin, who runs Bangor with his wife Vanessa and their three children. The Dunbabin name is well known in Tasmania with John Dunbabin having arrived as a convict in 1830. The history doesn’t end there though as the modern day property sits on the site where the Dutch flag was hoisted by Abel Tasman’s crew in 1642 and was where local Aboriginals had their first contact with Europeans.
Bangor is so much more than a wine and oyster shed as the name might suggest. They have an extensive grazing operation with superfine merino sheep, prime beef and prime lambs. In addition to the wine, oysters and meat, Bangor has thousands of hectares of native forest and grassland which is home to numerous threatened species including the Tasmanian Devil, Swift Parrots and Sea and Wedge Tailed Eagles.
Tassie has many fantastic vineyards and wineries but there’s few that can boast the history and sustainability philosophy of Bangor. Their wine is pretty damn tasty too!
I’ve been on the Pennicott Boats three times now and I think they’re one of, if not THE best thing to do on a trip to Tasmania. Mainlanders can now enjoy the experience for themselves with a new route having opened in Victoria’s Wilsons Promontory in recent months. Look forward to checking that out some day.
Huge thanks to Hobart and Beyond and Discover Tasmania for putting on this epic day trip. It’s a pretty damn good itinerary if you’re looking to make the journey down to the Tasman Peninsula. There’s plenty more places to see too so be sure to have a look through the websites above to find out more about this stunning part of Tassie.