tasmania route hobart swansea port arthur

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Tasmania is an island state, part of the Commonwealth of Australia, 150 miles south off the Australian continent, separated by the Bass Strait. Tasmania measures about 200 miles both north to south and east to west, and is the 26th largest island in the world. The state had a population of 500,000 in 2012, of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart area. About 45% of the land area is national park or reserves. The net result is a lot of empty space with little or no population

Tasmania was discovered in 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. Tasman named the island "Anthony van Diemen's Land" after his sponsor Anthony van Diemen, the Governor of the Dutch East Indies. The name was later shortened by the British to Van Diemen's Land . It was officially renamed Tasmania in 1856, as an attempt by the government to improve the image of the island- in order to attract more colonists, the association with "demons" not being considered good for business.

Captain James Cook landed at Adventure Bay in 1777, with a young William Bligh aboard. Bligh returned in 1788 (HMS Bounty) and again in 1792 (HMS Providence), with a young Matthew Flinders aboard. Numerous other Europeans made landfalls, adding a colourful array of names to topographical features. Matthew Flinders and George Bass first proved that Tasmania was an island in 1798–99.

Tasmania was inhabited by the Tasmanian Aborigines when the Europeans arrived. At the time of the first British settlement in 1803, the indigenous population was estimated at between 5,000 and 10,000 people. Through the introduction of infectious diseases, to which they had no immunity, war, persecution and intermarriage, the population dwindled to 300 by 1833. Almost all of the indigenous population was relocated to Flinders Island by George Augustus Robinson. A woman named Truganini (1812–1876) is generally recognised as the last full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigine.

The early settlers were mostly convicts and their military guards. Their task was to develope agriculture and other industries. A number of convict-based settlements were made, including secondary prisons, such as the particularly harsh penal colonies at Sarah's Island in Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast, followed by Port Arthur in the southeast. In the 50 years from 1803 to 1853, around 75,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania. Van Diemen's Land was proclaimed a separate colony from New South Wales, with its own judicial establishment and Legislative Council, in 1825.

Tasmanians voted in favour of federation with the largest majority of all the Australian colonies, and on 1 January 1901 the Colony of Tasmania became the Australian state of Tasmania.

We landed in Hobart in the late afternoon, picked up a Hertz car and headed for our first nights B&B, not far from the airport. Orana House Heritage Bed & Breakfast, was as it says on the packet a heritage house, but there is a fine dividing line between "heritage" and "tired". Things did not look good as we arrived and parked. The parking area is beginning to be encroached by weeds and piles of dead leaves from last autumn, the grass has been left uncut for weeds and was a foot high, with the best weeds even higher. Later the view from the breakfast room was spoilt by weeds. Our reception was fine, the room was fine, but everywhere I felt that maintenance was failing. We saw no sign of any afternoon tea mentioned by another review, and there was no fire in the small lounge.

There are a limited number of places to have dinner within walking distance - namely two. On balance, if we were in the area again , I would look further afield for accommodation. We dined at the Aproneers as the better looking of the two options for dinner - the other had pokie machines in abundance. The Aproneers close at 7pm, which means they have put the food away by 6.30 pm. Basically you have to know what you are letting yourself in for here. There is not conventional table service, nor is there a conventional menu. You go up to the deli and order from what is on offer there. Very little hot food, but a good, and indeed high quality choice of salads. We ended up paying about 70 dollars for 2 main courses, pudding and coffee, plus a decent bottle of red wine. I thought that the quality of the food, and the friendliness of the service, was very good. But if you had entered expecting a restaurant, then you would have been sorely disappointed. Me? I liked it, but for others they have to consider what they are looking for!

Next morning we had an all day drive to get to Strahan. Once you leave Hobart there is very little civilisation, and even places marked on the road map are barely inhabited. It rained most of the day, so we were not tempted to stop much en route.

Spotted our first kangaroo through the driving rain, and as a bonus, there was a little joey poking out of mummy kangaroo's pouch. We passed our first "Thirsty Camel". The Australian drinking laws are somewhat Victorian, and one cannot buy alcohol in a supermarket, but have to go to a so called "bottle shop". Inevitably these are now mainly large chain owned, there only seemed to be two or three chains, one of which was the Thirsty Camel.

Our only real stop en route was at Queenstown whose history has long been tied to the mining industry. This mountainous area was first explored in 1862. The discovery of alluvial gold at Mount Lyell, prompted the formation of the Mount Lyell Gold Mining Company in 1881. In 1892, the mine began searching for copper. The town in its heyday had a collection of hotels, churches and schools that have all significantly reduced since the demise of the Mount Lyell company. The population has fallen from 5000 in 1900 to 2000 today. It was, you might say, "quiet" when we passed through, but you could see what it had been from the beauty of the old buildings

It was but a short drive to Strahan from Queenstown, following the track of the old railway, which is still working as a tourist attraction (well should have been working but was undergoing substantial maintenance! )

And on to our stay at Strahan

Australia 2013/2014