Monday, March 2, 2009

Launceston and Tasmania’s North

We drove into Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city (about 100,000), the capital of the north and the gateway to the Tamar Valley wine region. Founded in 1806 the city is full of gracious Victorian homes decorated with the distinctive Australian wrought iron. Our Peppers Seaport Hotel is superbly located on the river front with a tall ship, a fishing boat and a host of pleasure boats moored under our balcony. In the morning we ambled off to Cascade Gorge, a 16-ha wilderness park in the heart of the city with dramatic cliffs and rushing waters .
The Tamar Valley beckoned so my dearest and I drove northwest. Vineyards, most of them covered in netting, tumble down the valley sides. We passed Legana and Exeter and pulled in to Beaconsfield, a pretty little town where gold mining started in 1881 and continues today. A tall mine shaft towers over lovely rose gardens, a museum, a coal miner’s cottage, a school house and other historic items.
Next we stopped at Beauty Point where Sunday fishermen were lined up on a large wharf that also contains Platypus House and Seahorse World. In the bay, sailboats were heeled over in the stiff breeze, their sails aglow in the sun. We motored on, enveloped in the soporific afternoon heat, to the Narawntapu National Park. For 20 km we rattled and bounced along a corrugated dirt road with a long plume of dust trailing behind. Once there, we wandered through bushy sand dunes, spotted a little wallaby, and stepped onto a long glorious beach with nary a person on it. After a refreshing dip into the waves we returned to Launceston. For dinner we wolfed down a pail of giant prawns, fish and chips and several bottles of Boags, reputed to be the best beer in Australia. We couldn’t argue.
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