14 Days in Van Diemen’s Land (Part 3)

Our next stop was to much warmer climes, in the charming little town of Strahan. This was our last new location, and our second last stop of our Tasmanian holiday. Strahan doesn’t have a lot going on but we absolutely loved our accommodation and the activity we did while there. We stayed at a boutique hotel called Franklin Manor. It was a very elegant yet cosy house, with friendly staff and a delicious breakfast included. It was a short walk to ‘The People’s Park’ which was a lovely fern fringed walk to a little waterfall and an even shorter walk to the harbour. On our first morning in Strahan, we boarded the 9-million-dollar vessel with World Heritage Cruises and sailed around the harbour and the Gordon River. The six-hour tour included stops on two small islands, of note, Sarah island which has some of Australia’s oldest convict ruins. This island had convicts sent to it long before Port Arthur, and the stories told to us by our guide were fascinating. The whole cruise flew by and I absolutely loved sitting in our front row seat (gold star to Callum), sipping my coffee, eating my muffin, snapping pictures, and exploring the boat. The lunch served to us was very nice—a selection of cheeses, meats, salads, and bread and delivered to us rather than having to line up in a buffet and worrying you won’t get what you want. All in all, a very nice day out on the water.

After Strahan we had a rather long drive back to Hobart. If you do the drive all in one go it’s 4.5 hours long. Most of our driving days were only 2 hours long so we weren’t used to the long day. We broke it up by stopping at three different places. The first was ‘The Wall’ in Derwent Bridge. No photographs were allowed (and we were reminded of such at every turn). This place was a large 30 meters high, 100 meters long wood carving of a various stories from Tasmania. The artist, Greg Duncan has painstakingly carved animals, people, and machinery over a ten-year period. He is still not done, but the unfinished parts merely give insight into his process. It was an amazing piece of art to see, and one which I wish I could have photographed. Click here to see the website where this is a very brief trio of pictures for you to view.

Our second stop on our little road trip was to see the second half of the Cradle Mountain National Park which is Lake St Clair. It was here that we went on a short walk through the forest and saw several echidnas! It was so special to us as they are hard to see in WA and I had only ever seen one before, long ago in Victoria. Here in the park we saw three or four of them. Other park visitors didn’t seem phased by it and casually remarked, “Oh, there’s an echidna. Seen one, seem ‘em all” much like I would remark of bison in Yellowstone national park. The first time you see one, it’s special, but then you see them all the time so you’re not bothered to snap a picture. I’m not at that stage yet with echidna spotting. Or kangaroo, for that matter. I still think they are pretty neat.

Our third stop took us to Russell Falls, which is one of the most visited places in Tasmania. There are a few short walks to do at this national park. We enjoyed the final chance to stretch our legs before getting into the car to drive the final little leg to Hobart. We checked into a very nice hotel called Lenna of Hobart Hotel which was very close to the harbour, shops, and The Drunken Admiral, where we had our last dinner in Tasmania. It was a very cute restaurant completely stuffed full of mariner décor. We dined in a private little boat quite cut off from the rest of the guests. I was afraid we would be out-of-sight and therefore out-of-mind of the staff but we were attended to by a thoughtful server. I had salmon baked on a hot rock—something I’d never tried before, and Callum enjoyed oysters and a prawn linguini. It was nice to splash out a bit as we had not had many great dining experiences and were always bombarded with one of three choices: pizza, burgers, or fish and chips. I ended the evening with a chocolate gelato.

Our final day we visited the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and I discovered a new artist. Er, he’s not new, just new to me. Tasmanian artist David Keeling’s exhibition ‘Stranger’ was exquisite and soul-quenching. His art moved through at least four rooms of the gallery and each room was quite different. He has painted quite surreal landscapes and collections of random objects in suburban settings, but in other rooms his focus was simply on trees. We loved his work. His oil on linen paintings really sang and I was left feeling both inspired and completely heartbroken. Why do I even paint?? What is the point, when David Keeling exists and is making art so sublime, I could never compare? I had a fan-girl moment with an octogenarian who was oohing and ahhing as much as I was. We geeked out a bit together and she said “I wish I could paint, but not everyone can do that. Not everyone can draw. They tell you everyone can, but they can’t.”

I replied “Well, I am an art teacher, so I have to believe that it’s possible…”

“Oh! Yes, I suppose. But do you really think so?”

“No,” I replied. “I think it is possible but not every kid has it. Not every person wants to learn how to draw. Or maybe they do. But I think the key element is patience. If you don’t have the patience to learn it, you never will.”

“Ah!” she said. “Well, that explains why I could never draw. I was such an impatient child.”

We talked some more about Keeling’s work and how much we admired it and then parted ways. It is always so nice to actually talk to strangers about what we’re collectively looking at in a gallery or museum space. I like how art bridges the gap between generations, as well. You can be four or forty-four or 104 and you all might like the same painting.

We rounded out our Hobart time with a quick treasure hunt for those earrings I had missed buying on our very first day. I thought perhaps the designer of said earrings would have her wares somewhere in the art shops of the Salamanca Arts Centre. Alas, I could not find them anywhere! I was feeling disappointed, my feet hurt, I was hungry, and I just wanted to go home at that point. Then I had a brainwave and emailed the company as Callum had taken a photo of me looking at the earrings longingly. The logo of the company was obvious. I did some digging and emailed the owner, asking where I could find her products in Hobart. She replied with a clue to one place and it happened to be only a five-minute walk to where we were having lunch. We went, but the ones I wanted were not there. I asked that shop owner about other options. She suggested Red Parka, another little shop right in the city. So, we went there, and it was the shop of an author/illustrator that I admire, Jennifer Cossins. I had just purchased one of her books whilst visiting the art gallery in Launceston. I recognized her and got a photo with her and her autograph in my book. Another geeky fan-girl moment for me. And the best part was she was stocking the exact earrings I wanted. Hooray!

Moral of the story: if you see earring you like, just buy them.

Overall, our trip to Tasmania was excellent. We enjoyed every place we went, all the animals we saw, the scenery we got to witness, and some excellent accommodations and meals. Everyone in Australia should visit Tasmania. It feels unique from other states we’ve been to. I think you could say that about every state, actually. There were times I felt like I was in Canada or New Zealand. The temperatures were a lot cooler and a nice reprieve from the heat of Perth summers. I am so thankful that we got to travel to a new destination. It was so wonderful for my eyes to look at places I had never seen before. I had actual tears in my eyes our first day of driving. It reaffirmed for me that I really do love travel and get a lot out of it. I sincerely hope that vaccines will be a perfect solution for the world and more places will open up to all of us. Get out and explore!

Until our next adventure, adieu!

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