Category Archives: Travel

Beautifull An Eclipsophile’s Tale

This summer I’m heading to eastern Oregon for the total eclipse of the sun on Aug. 21. My husband and I will share a cabin with four friends we met in 1998 at a total solar eclipse on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Yes, we’re true “eclipsophiles” who’ve followed the phenomenon around the world.

We didn’t realize we would get hooked before our first total solar eclipse in 1991 on Hawaii. At the last minute I’d convinced my husband, Michael, to go, and though we were able to buy airline tickets, we couldn’t find lodging. We finally did: The woman I called for help at the Big Island Visitors’ Bureau told me she knew a guy who was renting out rooms in his home. When we called him we found out that he was her son, Kerry, a high school science teacher and a wonderful host.

The morning of the eclipse, we scrambled to the summit of a small volcanic cinder cone called Nohona a Hae — “The Place of Wild Things.” We could see the grasslands below and the firmament above. Michael whined about getting up at 4 a.m. for the 7 a.m. display, but when totality hit — when the moon completely covered the sun and the sun’s halo suddenly appeared — he cheered.

He wasn’t alone. Everyone screamed: The sky had gone crazy. Planets and stars appeared, and the heavens glowed in shades of lapis lazuli with a thin line of sunset shades of orange and pink for 360 degrees along the horizon. The darkness of the moon’s shadow confused animals and plants. Cows headed back to the barn. Day-blooming flowers closed their petals. We felt as though the world had turned upside down — and we could relate to ancient peoples who thought the black dot of the sun meant the end of the world.

Now unabashed total-solar-eclipse junkies, in 1994 we traveled to Chile’s Atacama Desert, where rainfall has never been recorded. After totality we joined a hundred enthusiastic new eclipsophiles spontaneously forming a circle, holding hands, cheering and dancing on the hillside.

Our third eclipse took us to Curaçao in 1998. On our scouting mission the day before, we discovered that our planned viewing site, Christoffel National Park, would be closed the next day to protect the delicate desert from single-minded eclipse gazers. We found a public beach instead, but that morning it rained. To our relief, the sky cleared 20 minutes before totality, and we again experienced the euphoric otherworldliness of an eclipse.

Whether or not the weather cooperates and we can see it this summer, we’ll have fun with our eclipsophile friends. It’ll be a great chance to plan our upcoming total-eclipse trips: 2019 in Chile and 2020 in Argentina.

Best Destination to See the Total Eclipse

Daylight will darken eerily. Temperatures will drop. And the moment the sun, moon and Earth line up, the sun will instantly become a black disk in the sky, encircled by the mystical solar corona. The last one visible in the continental U.S. was in 1979, and we won’t see another until April 8, 2024.

This is the magic of “totality” — a total eclipse of the sun by the moon. It’s well worth a trip to see this rare event, and millions are expected to travel to communities along its path. This year that path begins in Salem and Corvallis, Ore., then curves across the country, visible in towns such as Casper, Wyo.; Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville, Tenn., and finally Charleston, S.C., on the East Coast. Oregon and South Carolina each expect a million eclipse-chasers. Wyoming is “preparing for a massive influx” of visitors. The population of Nashville may double.

Those in the know have already made their plans, so accommodations may be a little tricky to find, but it’s certainly not too late. Be persistent: Call or email hotels and campgrounds directly to check for cancellations, investigate rentals through sites like Airbnb.com and HomeAway.com, and be flexible about location. You’ll find that your options expand the farther you stay from your chosen viewing site. Wyoming’s tourism office says “plenty of lodging” is available outside the path of totality.

Some viewers may become lifelong eclipsophiles (as I am and documented in a separate article). “Watching a total solar eclipse is a way to connect with the cosmos,” says solar physics researcher Michael Kirk of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “You can’t explain the beauty to people.”

But there can be far more to the experience than the actual eclipse, which takes less than three minutes. A celebratory energy is already pulsing through towns and cities in the 14 states along the eclipse’s narrow path. Many plan to celebrate with all kinds of activities. For example:

Madras, Ore. (eclipse: 10:19 a.m. Pacific Time) This tiny town, about 120 miles southeast of Portland, is hosting a massive SolarFest Aug. 17-22, with three days of music — lots of country and tribute rock bands — and entertainment at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. You can reserve a spot for RV and tent camping (or shell out $1,449 for a large “glamping” tent with cots) at the Solartown campground, which will be set up nearby on the centerline of totality.

Casper, Wyo. (eclipse: 11:42 a.m. Mountain Time) With clear air and an altitude of 5,000 feet, Casper swears it’s a prime viewing spot. The town is celebrating with theWyoming Eclipse Festival (tagline: “Totality — Feel the Shadow”) beginning on the 16th. There are lots of spots set aside for public viewing, such as the outdoor Casper Events Center, which sits on a bluff overlooking the city, and the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, offering a week’s worth of festivities. The gorgeous Grand Teton National Park to the west is in the eclipse path as well, though the park is anticipating that Aug. 21 will be its busiest day ever.

Homestead National Monument, Neb. (eclipse: 1:02 Central Time) Bill Nye the Science Guy leads the cheers on eclipse day at Homestead, which is about 50 miles south of Lincoln. Visitors can make pinhole viewers to safely watch the partial phases of the eclipse. NASA scientists will talk about subjects like space exploration and astronaut training, and another expert will cover “Native American Starlore.” There will be lots of kid-friendly activities, too.

Jefferson City, Mo. (eclipse: 1:15 p.m. CT) The total eclipse is a huge deal for this capital city, which hasn’t seen one in 148 years. And, unlike other Midwestern cities such as St. Louis (about a two-hour drive west) and Kansas City, which are on the edge of the viewing range, Jefferson’s in the sweet spot for maximum totality. Among the festivities is the Capitol Eclipse Celebration, with corn mazes, sci-fi movie screenings and a Dark Side of the Moon concert performed by a Pink Floyd tribute band, Interstellar Overdrive.

St. Clair, Mo.: (eclipse: 1:15 p.m. CT) They’re calling it “Get Your Eclipse on Route 66,” an eclipse fest from Aug. 18 to 21 that will include the Route 66 Bluegrass Festival, Route 66 Car Show, a craft fair and parade. Viewing stations will be set up around the town, which is about an hour’s drive southwest from St. Louis.

Carterville, Ill. (eclipse: 1:20 p.m. CT) About two hours southeast of St. Louis, you’ll find Moonstock, a rocking eclipse-themed music festival featuring four days of headbanging bands like Saliva and Pop Evil — climaxing with headliner Ozzy Osbourne kicking off his concert during the eclipse with “Bark at the Moon.” It’s being held at a vineyard, which is releasing a special wine for the event called Solar Red.

Nashville, Tenn. (eclipse: 1:27 p.m. CT) Nashville’s pumped to be the largest U.S. city on the eclipse path, and it’s sure to draw huge crowds of music-loving eclipse watchers. The Music City Solar Eclipse Festival at the Adventure Science Center will be a hot spot, offering more than 175 science exhibits, plus eclipse shows in the Sudekum Planetarium, and free outdoor astronomy exhibits and a viewing party. Among many other celebrations, The Grand Ole Opry’s hosting a special concert on the 20th featuring Darius Rucker, Little Big Town and other faves, in the eclipse’s honor.

Clayton, Ga. (eclipse: 2:35 p.m. ET) Rabun County’s going ga-ga over the eclipse, celebrating with the Outasight festival and all kinds of fun, such as outdoor bluegrass performances in Tallulah Falls (bring your fiddle or guitar and join in), eclipse viewing events at Tallulah Gorge State Park, parties at local vineyards and more.

Columbia, S.C. (eclipse: 2:41 p.m. ET). The tourist board here is giddy to be considered the best spot on the East Coast for eclipse viewing. The city is offering special historic and food tours, and there are local viewing parties and festivals galore, including  the Grape Eclipse, a four-day wine lovers festival at Mercer House Estate Winery in nearby Lexington. Charleston, two hours away on the coast, is also a hot spot, though it’s at the edge of the eclipse path, so totality won’t last as long (about 1 minute 33 seconds, compared with 2 minutes 30 seconds in Columbia).

The Caribbean (eclipse: approx. 3:30 ET)  Royal Caribbean’s massive Oasis of the Seas will take passengers on a seven-night Caribbean cruise departing Orlando (Port Canaveral), Fla., on Aug. 20, heading for the path of totality around 400 nautical miles off the Florida coast. The cruise (from $975 per person) will include eclipse- and space-themed trivia contests, midnight dance parties and science activities for kids.

If you go, some tips:

1. Find a panoramic viewpoint in advance. Consider checking out the location of the sun at the time of the eclipse a day ahead to make sure nothing will block your view.

2. Don’t take pictures. Put the smartphone down! Spend your minute or two of totality enjoying and absorbing this spectacular event. Photos can never capture the feeling. And Facebook will already be packed with pics.

3. Don’t look at the sun. This is the tip everyone hears about, but here’s why: You can cause serious damage or blindness in a matter of seconds. During totality, when the moon completely covers the sun, you can safely look at the black moon-dot and the ethereal solar corona. But if you want to see the crescent-shaped partial phases of the eclipse, buy No. 14 welder’s glass or special eclipse glasses from observatories, science museums and reputable dealers such as Rainbow Symphony or Eclipse2017.

Amazing Pacific Northwest

Thirty years ago, my husband Greg and I spent the first few years of our marriage living in Seattle, but after we left, we never went back. The expression “You can’t go home again,” taken from the title of the famous Thomas Wolfe novel, has always resonated with me. I’ve moved around a lot in my life, and I’ve avoided returning to the places I’ve left because doing so leaves me with a sense of melancholy.

Yet here I am on the first evening of a fall cruise of the Puget Sound, standing on the prow of the 93-passenger American Spirit with the wind whipping through my hair and memories returning as if through a Seattle mist.

In the mid-1980s, Greg and I often took weekend trips to ports that we will visit on this cruise. Back then, the pristine beauty and scope of all that was around us nearly overwhelmed me, and the sheer beauty of the Pacific Northwest still brings me to my knees. Now, however, it also fills me with a sense of peace. My surroundings feel familiar, and going back evokes not a sense of loss, but a new perspective.

We are sailing on one of American Cruise Lines’ (ACL’s) small-ship itineraries. There are more than 35, including this eight-day Puget Sound cruise, the Alaska Inside Passage and an assortment of Mississippi River, New England and Southeast cruises. The company’s ships, some of them riverboats, are all small, with 185 guests maximum. ACL caters to cruisers whose age averages 70 — a dozen years north of my own, though Greg and I easily strike up conversations with our accomplished, well-traveled shipmates. The line touts a nightly top-shelf happy hour and includes Wi-Fi, regional cuisine in an open-seating dining room, and knowledgeable, compelling local historians. The American Spirit has a small library space on board; a sprawling upper deck for sunning, with a few pieces of exercise equipment; and a larger lounge, casually furnished. But if a casino, spa or super-gym is among your desires, ACL’s fleet isn’t for you.

The American Spirit circles the upper section of the Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. Its southern meandering tentacles reach such Washington port cities as Olympia and Tacoma. But 100 miles to the north, where the sound is fed by the Strait of Juan de Fuca and traversed by the international border of Canada, its waterways widen and are dotted with islands big and small. The first night, we make it to Anacortes, the location of the dock for the Washington State Ferries, which transport people and their vehicles to the San Juan Islands. We sleep soundly in our comfortable stateroom, generous in size at more than 250 square feet.

The following evening, we sail a little more than 20 miles west, to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, and in the morning we wander the main street of the charming town, settled in the 1850s. After being briefed by Amy Traxler, a natural storyteller and our cruise’s marine-mammal specialist, we board a San Juan Excursions boat for an afternoon whale-watching trip, on which we spot three different pods of local orcas. It’s addictive, scanning the horizon for those telltale dorsal fins, and we return, glowing, to the American Spirit just in time for a postcard-perfect sunset.

Scoring Last Minute Travel Deals

Growing older means greater flexibility in planning getaways. If you’re retired, you don’t have to work around school schedules or job demands, and can travel more inexpensively by snagging flights with unsold seats and booking hotels when rates are low.

Get ready to pack your bags on the spur of the moment using these strategies:

1. Eyeball airfare charts to pinpoint when to go. Fares vary day to day, depending on demand. Websites of carriers — including Delta, Southwest and United — show the cheapest days to fly if your dates are flexible. (It’s often best to go on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, when most business and leisure travelers don’t.) To cast your net wide, punch in departure and arrival cities and a time frame on websites such as Skyscanner or Google Flights. They survey multiple airlines to show the most economical days to travel.

2. Set up fare alerts. If you want to visit grandchildren or friends and don’t have firm dates, sign up for a price alert. You can do that on websites such as AirfareWatchdog to be informed when seats cost less. When you search for flights on Kayak, it will advise whether it’s a good time to buy or if fares are expected to go down. You may also sign up for email notification of discounts on many travel websites. One of the best newsletters for current offers comes from TravelZoo, a clearinghouse for discounted flights, hotels, and air and lodging packages.

3. Use frequent-flier airline miles to take off. If flights aren’t filled, carriers may offer more award seats close to departure. Carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue have eliminated blackout dates in loyalty programs, meaning if a seat is available, you can grab it using points. An impromptu round-trip ticket booked in July from Baltimore to Albany, N.Y., costs 15,000 miles on Southwest, plus $11 tax. The cash price would have been $400. It pays to periodically review your miles and expiration dates so that you don’t lose travel that’s nearly free.

4. Call on a “virtual travel assistant” to do the searching for you. The Hipmunk site is a great source for travel steals. Its new “Hello Hipmunk” feature, which uses artificial intelligence, lets you email what you want (a quick getaway to Vegas, for instance). Within seconds, you’ll be given options for flights and hotels, with sassy commentary from a cartoon chipmunk in aviator goggles hauling a roll-aboard suitcase. “Vegas, Baby! … stress no more,” the Hipmunk replied when asked for flights from Washington, D.C., and hotels in early August. The lodging (Stratosphere hotel, $76 a night) and cheapest round trip ($268.38 on Spirit) were cheaper than on hotel and airline sites. Hipmunk then sends users to sites including JustFly and CheapoAir to book. It also ferrets out Airbnb rentals in your chosen destination.

5. Pay less for rental digs. Owners don’t want properties to sit vacant, so it’s possible to score lower last-minute rates via sites such as Airbnb, FlipKey, VRBO and HomeAway.com, where you deal directly with homeowners or property managers. Sometimes you needn’t negotiate: Sale rates for certain rentals are shown.

6. Bed down cheaply on an impromptu road trip. Have points in hotel loyalty programs? Book a free stay along the way. Or bid for low rates at Priceline.com to score a deal, though you won’t know the name of the property until you book. Priceline’s “Express Deals” don’t reveal the hotel, but also don’t require bidding. If extreme last-minute planning suits you, HotelTonight  has access to unsold rooms and can put you into one cheaply the day you wish to stay. You can book up to a week before through its website or app.

7. Scope out a last-minute cruise. When ships don’t sell cabins, prices sink. Unfortunately, now that cruising is so popular, rock-bottom prices are scarcer. This summer, Alaska sailings sold out fast, says Travel Weekly. A reservationist at the CruiseDeals site said sailings everywhere now fill faster, so booking early is a smart move. She did find a seven-day Mediterranean cruise from Savona, Italy, in October on the Costa Pacifica for $392.60 a person, double occupancy, including taxes and fees. “Last Minute Cruise Deals” on the website are worth checking out.

8. Go one-stop shopping at Last Minute Travel. Whether seeking a vacation destination, flight, cruise, air and hotel package, or rental car, you’ll find it at the Last Minute Travel site. The website offers “Undercover Hotels” at rates below the norm (you won’t know the lodging name until you book). Join the Last Minute Travel Club for $50 a year to nab even lower prices; if you don’t save what you paid to join, you’ll get a promo code for discounts to make up the difference.

Holly Winter At Tasmanian

Winter is an amazing time of year to visit Tasmania with heaps to see and do all around the state. From June to September you will always find plenty of things to delight the senses on a winter break.

1. Winter Festivals

Tasmania is home to some of Australia’s best winter festivals with delights for all your senses. Whether it’s music and art or the best food around you will find it all in Tasmania over the winter months.

Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo runs from the 8th to the 21st of June and features a huge range of performances from top international and Australian talent including Mogwai, A.B. Original, Ulver and plenty more. Keep an eye out around the water front for massive art installations including Dark Park and eat until your stuffed at the Winter Feast.

To end the festival write down your fears for the Ogoh-Ogoh and join the procession to the burning. If all that isn’t enough don’t forget to sign up for the nude solstice swim and join hundreds of others for a quick skinny dip in the Derwent River.

Huon Valley Mid Winter Fest

The Mid Winter Fest has become a winter highlight for many in Southern Tasmania, happening in the middle weekend of July (14th to 16th). The festival is based on ancient European traditions helping to bring in a bumper harvest when spring arrives.

The festival includes a giant burning straw man and the Wassail Away where you dance, sing, scream and make as much noise as you can in order to scare away anything nasty from the local fruit orchids. While there make sure to enjoy the amazing cider that the Huon Valley is famous for.

Festival of Voices

Festival of Voices is Australia’s premier vocal and choir festival happening from the 30th of June to the 16th of July. Expect to see some amazing performances with artists travelling from all over the world to sing and share their knowledge and experience.

A major highlight of the festival is the huge bonfire and singing event that happens in the middle of Salamanca.

2. Keep an eye out for the Aurora Australis

Winter with it’s shorter days is the perfect time of year to see the Aurora Australis. The Aurora occurs when solar winds from our sun collide with the magnetosphere and are pushed down into the upper atmosphere where they lose their energy and create stunning colours that dance across the night sky.

The best places to see the Aurora Australis are outside of populated areas in Southern Tasmania with beaches such as Clifton Beach and Eaglehawk neck often proving popular. It takes a powerful Aurora to be seen by the naked eye but you can usually see them with a camera capable of taking long exposures.

3. Lift your spirits

Tasmania is home to a booming Whisky and Sprits industry, and it feels like there is a new boutique distillery trying something different opening up each week. From Vodka made with Sheep Whey to global award winning whisky it’s not difficult to find a raging fire and something strong to warm you up.

If you need a designated driver make sure to check out Tasmanian Whisky Tours.

4. Screw the cold, let’s get muddy

If you are like us getting stuck in doors for months on end is enough to drive you bonkers, at some point it’s just worth throwing on a rain jacket and braving the cold. There are plenty of new MTB trails all around Tasmania to enjoy with plenty of new ones going in at Derby if you are looking for a challenge. If Mountain Biking isn’t your thing then head out on a walk or even jump in a kayak, you can always dry out in front of a fire with a whisky later!

5. See the sights and the snow

Winter is a great time to go sight seeing in Tasmania with all the major attractions open over the winter months including national parks and Port Arthur. Winter is traditionally a quieter time of year so it’s a great time of year if you want to spend more time somewhere without lots of people.

National Parks like Cradle Mountain and Mt Field also often get a regular dusting of snow between June and October so if you are looking to enjoy the snow then this is the perfect time of year to visit Tasmania.

Best DIY Travel Hacks

When people pack, they tend to overdo it, just in case the weather changes or, say, they get invited to a fancy party. But planning for every imaginable scenario often means you’ll overstuff your bag or check in extra luggage at the airport. Thankfully, HuffPost perused Pinterest to come up with the best DIY travel hacks possible. Here are just a few of them. If nothing else, they will help you streamline your luggage mass. And that means more room for souvenirs!

1. Downsize makeup and lotions by putting them into leftover contact lens cases.

These spill-proof tiny compartments are also good for storing mouthwash, earplugs, rings and earrings, and most anything else you normally carry in a bulky bottle. We have to admit, we may never throw another old contact case away again! This is a perfect solution for anyone going away for only a few days who doesn’t want to cart a bunch of makeup containers.

2. Fill drinking straws with travel-size amounts of skin-care products.

We admit, we’ve never tried this before, but it seems pretty simple. Just fill a straw with whatever you want and use a Q-tip to push it in. Make sure there’s a bit of straw left on both ends to seal off with a heat sealer. And don’t forget to write the name of the product on tape or on a tag so that you remember what’s inside. Beats lugging around a bunch of bottles, right?

3. Use old sunglasses cases to store cords, chargers and headphones.

Cases can also be repurposed to carry jewelry and even manicure kits. And headphones and chargers can be transported in pencil cases and Altoids tins. With their movement restricted, cords are less likely to get tangled, and you won’t have to contend with a messy bunch in the bottom of your purse.

4. Turn pot holders into heat-safe cases for your hair tools.

Pot holders and oven mitts not only protect your hands from the heat of an oven, but they also can be good for storing hair straighteners and flat irons. Adaptable for all sorts of heated products, these kitchen staples are great for keeping a hot or warm hair straightener away from the clothes and other items in your luggage.

More Information About Shene Estate

Tasmania is going through a boom right now with new distilleries opening up each week and still makers running waiting lists. Shene Estate is a family run business channeling a rich history into a new premium product, Poltergeist Gin.

We tagged along with Hobart and Beyond’s recent Heritage Highway instameet to see what we could find with a trusty Pentax Sportmatic and a few roles of Fuji Superior 200.

Shene Estate is a historic homestead located at Pontville north of Hobart. The estate is one of the oldest in Tasmania being established in the 1800’s. The buildings were designed by Francis Butler who was the architect for many of Tasmania’s oldest buildings in the early colony and much of the labor was provided by convicts.

Walking around the grounds you get a real sense of just how old these buildings are with their narrow entrances and hand carved stone. The buildings are so old there are even signs of pagan religions with symbols carved into the stone itself.

During the colonial days of the British Empire Shene was one of Tasmania’s wealthiest estates and a prized symbol of power, today it stands as a relic of a bygone era with a new found purpose.

In addition to the distillery Shene Estate also doubles up as a perfect spot for holding a unique wedding with heritage charm. Only a few weddings are held here each year making it a sought after location.

Poltergeist Gin

If you love Gin then you absolute must include a trip to Shene in your visit to Tasmania. Poltergeist Gin is an award winning product having won a Gold Medal at the World Gin Awards and the San Fransisco International Spirits Competition in 2017. Poltergeist is made using Tasmanian produced Copper pot stills and local ingredients.

If you want to take a bottle home with you make sure to check out the cosy road side stall (open sundays) where you can purchase direct from the manufacturer.

Amazing A Launceston Getaway

A few weeks back myself and Yasmin were granted the rare luxury of two days off… TOGETHER. This miracle required action, so without haste, we chose a new location to explore and booked ourselves into a hostel.

We packed weekend bags and plenty of car snacks for Yas (she gets cranky without a constant supply of food to occupy her). I updated my ever-growing Spotify road trip playlist and by 8am we were smugly waving sayonara to Strahan.

Our destination? Launceston. Tasmania’s second largest city, a leisurely 3.45 hour drive away. As well as constant toilet breaks (we like to stay hydrated whilst driving), there were plenty of unplanned stops along the way, to marvel at the mountains and lakes which dominate the West Coast.
We opted to take the more scenic route, cutting through Cradle Mountain national park in a series of twists, bends and stomach flips. As we climbed ever higher, we found ourselves blanketed by misty, white clouds, reducing visibility to just a few feet ahead at times and were confronted by the familiar smell of the recent bushfires.

Back out the other side and the scenery changed once more, to craggy mountains ranges, rolling hills, quaint, quirky towns, farms, deep greens and even a little sunshine peeking through from time to time.
Later down the road we dropped in to Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm for a sweet treat and a little break from the drive. Being unashamedly English, we couldn’t help ordering scones and clotted cream with some of their deliciously fresh raspberry jam. I also thought that it would be fun to branch out and try a raspberry latte, but this was a step too far.

A short while later we checked into our accommodation for the next two nights, Arthouse Hostel; circa 1888, creepy as hell and most definitely haunted by the ghosts of Launceston’s past.

We ‘treated’ ourselves to a private room – consisting of one double bed. Sleeping together doesn’t really phase us these days, almost 17 months into our trip we have shared most things.
That evening we splashed out at Cataract on Paterson restaurant. We were in our element, indulging on lethal cocktails, the best steak we have ever tasted and ogling the beardy barman.

We rolled into bed, exhausted by the long day and proceeded to have the worst sleep in months. It turned out, we had both become a little too used to our sleeping arrangements back in Strahan. We are spoilt with our own rooms and double beds, so the combination of Yasmin’s deep snoring and my irritable wriggling did not go down well.

Nevertheless, we were up early and after a short walk across the river into the city and a bloody good coffee with some banana bread at Sweetbrew, our grumpiness subsided.

It was then on to Cataract Gorge. The river gorge is just a 15 minute walk from the city centre and one of the region’s top tourist attractions. I can see why; I was in awe. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting much. The word ‘gorge’ never particularly conjures images of beauty in my mind, but this was simply gorge-ous. The sun was warm but the air cool, making it the perfect temperature for ambling, it was a wonderfully quiet weekday morning and for once, we were in no rush whatsoever.

We took the King’s Bridge Cataract Walk pathway and moseyed along the riverbank, stopping frequently to appreciate the interesting rock formations, wildlife and tranquil sounds of the water.

We eventually reached the basin, a haven with manicured gardens, a café and peacocks roaming around freely. We crossed the water and hopped onto the chair lift, to give ourselves a different perspective of the gorge – and because when you are presented with the option to ride along in a chair lift, you never decline, obviously.

We stopped for a cup of tea at the café, I tried to touch a few peacocks and then we slowly headed back along the path we had come and into the city once more. Another thing I loved about the gorge was how accessible it is from the heart of Launceston, making it a perfect escape for anyone residing in the hustle and bustle, craving a dose of Tasmania’s stunning wilderness. It was almost like stepping through a portal.

Post lunch, we stuck our heads into City Park after word on the grapevine informed us that there would be some monkey’s there. Again, I didn’t expect much. I envisaged a few sad cages and a couple of bored, sleeping primates. I was proved wrong again. The enclosure was large, interesting and filled with macaques. Big ones, teeny weeny ones, angry ones, horny ones… we spent a good half an hour watching them play, fight, groom, jump around and sexually harass one other. All that was missing was a comfy chair and a big ol’ tub of popcorn.

For our final evening in Launceston, we headed to the Prickly Cactus for my favourite cuisine: MEXICAN! Nachos and margaritas galore.

Although our visit was incredibly brief and work was ever looming in the back of our minds, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Launceston. Like all the other cities I have visited in Tassie, it felt a lot more like a large town. I loved the old buildings and historical feel, it is a nice place to just amble around and there are plenty of spots for good food and coffee.

The following morning, we checked out early and hit Coles supermarket to stock up on essentials. Our drive home was filled with laughs, music and sunshine.

We even had time for a last minute detour to a little seaside town called Penguin, where we contently sat on a bench overlooking a gorgeous little beach with a takeaway coffee and muffin.

Since our trip, it has been back to 50+ hour work weeks. Tourist season is in full swing here in Strahan and visitors come by the bus load – literally. But time is flying, our bank accounts are looking beautifully healthy and more adventures await us very, very soon.

Know More Aout Snug Falls

Just a 40 minute drive from Hobart is the delightfully named coastal town of Snug. So the story goes the town was named for the snug and agreeable seclusion of the inlet by European explorers –whatever the truth is – Snug is home to one of the most impressive and accessible waterfalls close to Hobart.

Once you reach central Snug, the drive up the hill to the Snug Falls track is a mix of dirt and sealed road, but was easily managed by my teeny-tiny car. Be aware that as you drive up Snug Tiers Road you will need to take a left fork into Snug Falls Road: otherwise you will end up on a 4WD track or at someone’s house. Top tip – take the drive up Snug Falls Road slowly – the road is very narrow and so passing can be difficult – and no-one wants to end their adventure tumbling the car down the side of a hill.

The carpark is clearly signed, has room for about six cars and the track starts about 150m further up the road. At only 45 minutes return the track is an easy four kilometre walk. Allow an additional 30 minutes for photos and exploring (especially if you are learner photographer like me and spend all your time changing lenses and then changing them back).

The track itself slowly descends from forest down into a gully and there are benches and a small shelter along the way if you need to stop to admire the view (or change a camera lense). We came across a mix of people walking the track: families, groups of friends and dog walkers (the trail is accessible by dogs on lead) and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face or a stick in their mouth.

When we reached them the Falls were in full and noisy flow due to recent snow and rain in southern Tassie. When you get to the Falls make sure you take a moment to take it all in and put your camera away for a bit. The gully is framed by ferns and mosses and provides ample opportunity for further exploring over the rocks and down the river. If it had been a little warmer we may have gone for a paddle at the base of the Falls, but we saved that adventure for the slightly warmer summer months.

We took the walk back up the hill from the Falls at an easy pace and reached the carpark just in time to drive back down into Snug as the pink evening light fell.

Bring:

  • Shoes you don’t mind getting dirty
  • A friend (or some random stranger to take your photos / carry your stuff)
  • Water
  • Clothing layers (it got colder as we descended into the gully)
  • Camera / smartphone (because waterfall photos obviously)

Other things nearby:

  • The Snug Tavern – there’s beer – need we say more?
  • The Beach – a bit chilly for swimming in the winter, but a pretty walk along the coast in the evening.
  • Drive on to Kettering and catch the ferry to Bruny Island – the fabled land of cheese, oysters and did I mention cheese?

Best Things To Do in Tasmania this Spring

Spring is a magical time of year to visit Tasmania and signals the start of the mean tourism season in Tasmania that starts in October and runs to around Easter. If you are planning a trip for next spring in Tasmania then here are a few suggestions from us for things to do.

Raft the Franklin River

Rafting season on the Franklin River starts in October and runs through to April. The spring months on the river tend to be quite interesting with snow melt from the high plains around Lake St Clair creating higher water levels and more exciting rapids. On the lower sections of the river you can often see a huge array of bird species including the huge Sea Eagles that nest high up above the river. If you are looking for a company to go down the ditch with check out Tasmanian Expeditions or Franklin River Rafting.

Explore the new trails

During winter the local trail fairies get to work building new trails and upgrading old ones. Recently we have seen some amazing tracks and new trail networks pop up from the new Blue Derby trails in North East Tasmania to the amazing Clarence and Meehan Range trail networks. If you really want a challenge make sure to sign up for the Meehan Monster race happening on the 25th of October.

Explore Maria Island

Maria Island off the East Coast of Tasmania is a virtually untouched national park with heaps to see and do. The Island has no motorised vehicles so the only way to get around is on foot or by bike which you can hire or bring your own. There is also very little accommodation on Maria Island so if you plan to stay overnight or for a few days then best bring a tent. The easiest way to get to Maria Island is by the ferry which runs multiple times a day between Triabunna and Maria Island.

Bloomin’ Tulips Festival

The Bloomin’ Tulips Festival is a one day event happening on the 10th of October and celebrates the vibrant colours of the tulips that grow throughout the region around Table Cape. The festival features everything from art, music and great food to more interesting events like a colour run along the beach.

Walk the Three Capes Track

The new Three Capes track on the Tasman Peninsula opens in November 2015 and is set to become one of the most popular and spectacular walks in Australia. The walk is a multi-day 46km trek taking in Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy along the huge dolerite cliffs that tower above the water. The walk also uses huts and dedicated camp sites for accommodation that include mattresses which also means you can make the trip with a lot less gear.

Explore Bruny Island

Bruny Island is always a popular destination all year round but spring is a great time to visit with slightly cooler weather and some great sunsets. Spring is also breeding season for marine life such as whales and fur seals with Bruny Island attracting both. Last year whales were spotted almost daily in Adventure Bay and you can also take a boat cruise that will take you around the cliffs and to the seal colonies.

Wine Tasting in the Tamar Valley

The Tamar valley is one of Tasmania’s largest and best known wine producing regions with a number of large wineries including Jansz and Josef Chromey Wines being based in the region. Many of the wineries offer tours as well as cellar doors and tastings so you can easily try a great variety of our local wines. There are also a number of bus tours from Launceston if you feel like getting a little tipsy over the day.

Road Trip on the East Coast

The East Coast has some of the best driving in Australia with the coastal roads providing some spectacular views. Driving from Hobart north you get to take in some amazing spots including Freycinet National Park and Coles Bay. Further north at St Helens you can explore the amazing Bay of Fires and see the famous red and orange lichen covered rocks. The beaches are also perfect for swimming though maybe wait till November if you don’t want a cold shock.

Visit the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are some of the oldest in Australia and contain a wealth of Tasmanian horticultural heritage. During spring many parts of the gardens come to life with many parts of the garden coming into bloom. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of gardening or gardens this is a great spot to take a picnic or just relax in the spring sun.

Visit the West Coast

The West Coast is an awesome road trip to make from Hobart taking you over the high planes along the Lyell Highway to Queenstown and Strahan. If the drive doesn’t wow you then make sure to take a cruise on Macquarie Harbour and up the Gordon River which is absolutely stunning to see. You can also jump on the West Coast Wilderness Railway and explore the forrest up close in a restored steam train.