Swansea, Tasmania

Swansea, Tasmania, is on Tasmania's east coast, on the north-west shore of Great Oyster Bay and overlooking Freycinet National Park. Indeed our reason for staying here was to visit Freycinet National Park. Swansea was not settled until 1821 when George Meredith, his family and workers arrived from Pembrokeshire, Wales. Meredith obtained a grant from Lieutenant Governor William Sorell to farm in the area around Oyster Bay. The land was developed and made suitable for seasonal crops and grazing stock and a tannery and flour mill were established by the Meredith River. Whaling stations were also set up on nearby islands to enable the export of whale oil. There are other important buildings in the town including Morris’ General Store which has been owned and run by the Morris family for over 100 years. The Swansea Bark Mill which processed black wattle bark was used in colonial times in the tanning industry and is now a museum. Schouten House is a fine early Victorian colonial house built in 1844 and is now a hotel.

En route from Launceston to Swansea we spent a rainy windswept day in the mountains and along the coast. An interesting diversion were the Legerwood Memorial Trees. In October 1918 a ceremony was held in the railway reserve at Legerwood. 9 trees were planted to honour soldiers killed in World War 1. As the names of the fallen were called out, a relative or near relative came forward to hold the tree until it was planted. Douglas Fir – Alan Andrews, Giant Sequoia – Thomas Edwards, Deodar —William Hyde, Giant Sequoia - Robert Jenkins, Deodar– John McDougall, Douglas Fir - George Peddle , Deodar - John Riseley , and a Weymouth Pine at each end of the avenue for Gallipoli and the Anzacs. In 2001 a report on the condition of the trees showed that they were no longer safe and the community were devastated that their memorials would be lost. In 2004 it was suggested that the stumps be carved into a likeness of each soldier. Eddie Freeman, a chainsaw carver from Ross, was employed by the Legerwood Hall and Reserves Committee to sculpt the interesting sculptures you see today.

Another stop was at Derby, an old mining town that has seen boom and bust that is typical of the mining industry. We chanced upon the Derby Schoolhouse Museum - an eclectic gathering of items from yesteryear illustrating life in an industrial village and everyday domesticity. It has displays of mining and everyday goods including scales, cross-cut saws, old butter churns, old telephones and documents from the Briseis Mine. The enthusiastic curator showed us some fascinating Gallipoli photos that had been donated to the museum.

Our accommodation at Swansea was at Redcliffe House B&B. We stayed in the now called Oak Room. It is a separate little annex to the main house and was built by convicts 200 years ago. Comparatively small, it comes with microwave, kettle and toaster, but no sink!!. We were very comfortable here and Gail was charming. The B & B is obviously period piece, with a period garden. There are quite a number of eateries in town, but most close by 7pm. It took us about an hour drive to Freycinet National Park.

We had two dinners at the The Salt Shaker Cafe, Swansea - let us be clear, this is a cafe, rather than a restaurant. The staff are friendly and the view from the front tables is sensational. There is nothing wrong with the food, but it certainly is not gourmet. My reheated curried scallop pie, had been patchily reheated - that is warm in parts. and curry is not actually a good ingredient to put with the delicate flavour of scallops. Their wine list is extremely good, and includes a selection of bin ends that the owners brought from their own cellars. My view is that if you want to eat in Swansea, then this is the place to eat there. The view is magnificent, the wines are good, and they offer some reasonable dishes.

Probably the most interesting building is Morris' General Store - still a store today, it operates as an IGA branded Supermarket with adjoining General Store - IGA being a franchise chain of independent supermarkets in Tasmania. The Morris family bought the business in 1868 and still own the business today.

Sticking out into the sea on Tasmania's mild east coast is the rugged and beautiful Freycinet Peninsula. Freycinet National Park, founded in 1916, is Tasmania's oldest park and takes up most of this peninsula. It consists of knuckles of pink granite mountains, surrounded by azure bays and white sand beaches. The dramatic peaks of the Hazards welcome you as you enter the park. Freycinet is effectively two eroded blocks of granite - the Hazards and the Mt Graham/Mt Freycinet sections of the peninsula - joined by a sand isthmus. The Freycinet Peninsula was named after French navigator Louis de Freycinet. There is a small settlement at Coles Bay, but the closest town is Swansea.

We took a walk to the lookout point on the pass overlooking the eponymously shaped Wineglass Bay. We took our photos from here and avoided, or rather, passed on, the hike right down to the bay

After Wineglass Bay, back into the car and on to Cape Tourville: The 6.4 kilometre sealed road to Cape Tourville leaves from the main road just after the Freycinet Lodge. From the car park, we took the short, board walked, track around the cliff line to the lighthouse. Along this fenced track are sweeping views along the coast.

On to Port Arthur

Australia 2013/2014