Australia consists of several states namely, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and last but not least, Tasmania. The city of Hobart is the capital of Tasmania, and is the second oldest city in Australia. Built at the mouth of the Derwent River with the backdrop of the 4000 foot Mt Wellington, it is quite a picturesque city. It is full of artist’s studios, cafes, parks, churches, museums, and shopping. However, it wasn’t always this way.
Back in the 19th century, Hobart was a rough and rollicking place – a whaling and sailor’s town, rum-fueled, grubby and dangerous. This is according to one of the more interesting pamphlets we gathered onshore. The slums housed tanneries, a dairy farm, iron smelters, churches and pubs. Convicts milled grains and distilled grog, while whalers rubbed shoulders with British marines, whose ships were being built in town. Nearby brothels kept the men happy, while the women of the town worked in the fruit canning and jam factories. Whale oil was their most valuable export, and the locals kept their vessels working with shipyards, sail repairs, and chandlers. This area became known as Battery Point with fortified artillery emplacements, underground tunnels, and stores of ammunition for the big guns.
Also included in this mix, were some nice estates of the wealthy. Some of them have been preserved over the years. This huge harbor was well-protected by invaders back then. The only invaders these days are the tourists , who are most welcomed by the friendliest Aussies.
Shore excursions offered 17 tours here. They ran from $30 to $250 for 2 to 8 hours. They included a city tour, gardens, wildlife, wineries, kayaking, and even a prison tour in Port Arthur, our intended, but cancelled port for tomorrow. As for us, we have always done tours here, but they took us out of the area. We would get our chance to explore the town on our own today.
There was no shuttle needed here, since we docked right in the center of the business district. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to get about town is taking the double decker red bus, or as we like to call it: the Ho-Ho bus (hop on, hop off). Their price for 20 attraction stops in 24 hours was only $35 per person. Of course, it is impossible to take in that many sites in a day, but you could choose the most popular ones. The bus would return to each stop every hour to continue on to the next venue. Or you could simply stay onboard, and get the drive-by version, complete with narration.
We left the ship before 10am, and found the terminal information kiosk had many maps and info. The terminal also had many tables of nice souvenirs, and some rather expensive jewelry of the area. Maybe we’ll check it out later on.
One of the places we wanted to visit was the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Getting printed directions from the info gal, we found our way with the help of a map. It was not an easy direct walk, since we could not use the main road to get there, as there were no sidewalks.
So we had quite a hike to enter the Queens Domain by way of an underground tunnel. However, the Botanical Gardens were not close to here. We found our way, with the help of a local fellow, to the trail that led us past the Hobart Aquatic Center, to a World War I memorial trail called the Soldiers of the Avenue. There were hundreds of cement markers with names of soldiers that died in WWI. Each marker had a tree planted behind it. In time, these rolling hills will be a truly mature forest, and a wonderful monument to the fallen members.
The views of the bay and the Tasman Bridge were fantastic from up here. And as the song goes – on a clear day, you can see forever.
We followed the rocky path for what seemed like miles, taking note of the markers with directions to the gardens. Eventually we came across a huge sports stadium with rest rooms. In the eucalyptus groves, we could hear some parrots and Australian magpies. Besides a few silver and herring gulls, we saw few other birds today.
Finally a narrow trail led off of this main path, and we headed downhill until we reached the Royal Botanical Gardens, a 200 year old display of exotic and native flora. The entrance was free , but donations were gladly accepted. This 14 hectare garden is considered a premier cool climate garden. We did recognize many types of trees that grow in our area in California, even the giant redwoods at the entrance. Summer-blooming bedding plants and vines filled the displays.
With the park map, we followed the many paths that led us through the heart-shaped property lined with native and foreign plantings, arches, ponds, waterfalls, bridges, and a restaurant, café, and shop. A conservatory built in 1939 had orchid displays and ornamental plants. The Subantarctic plant house had the winds and harsh landscape of remote Macquarie Island, complete with sound.
We could have spent more time here, but we would have to begin back towards town, if we were to find lunch somewhere. There happened to be two buses outside the gardens. One was Gray Line, and the other was the Ho-Ho bus. Just out of curiosity, we asked the Gray Line driver if he offered a paid ride back to the pier. He said no, and he did not believe the Ho-Ho did either. There was no other form of public bus that stopped here.
So we headed back the same way we had arrived…..up the steep trail, and back to the memorial walk. Once at the junction, the hike did not seem as far as it did coming here. Wonder why that is? At this point, we ran into a Dutch couple we have seen on many world cruises, but have never really met. Recognizing us, they inquired if we knew where the gardens were. Happy to give them directions, they admitted that high rise buildings and the hustle and bustle of a busy city was not their cup of tea. Fresh air and country scenery appeals to many of us.
Knowing we needed to stay on Liverpool Street, we simply made our way into the CBD of Hobart. This time we had researched restaurants where we could find pizza. An Italian restaurant called Cultura popped up. HAL even recommended it in their map. So we were happy to find they served all types of pizza as well as typical Italian favorites. The local beer was Cascade Draught, in bottles. Their brewery is located in town, and they offers tours there. Anyway, a good indication that the food was great here, was the fact that mostly locals filled the place. Of course, anything “fish” is the top cuisine in this town, so most cafes and restaurants advertised that.
Heading back downhill, we passed some more historic buildings such as St David’s Cathedral, the old prison, treasury, and Parliament. The Salamanca and the Battery Point districts were other places of interest to explore, but we did not have the energy to walk it all.
Back at the cruise terminal, we took another look at their souvenirs and decided everything was nice, but we could live without any more treasures.
The Amsterdam was scheduled to be here originally until 4am Wednesday. At that point, we would have “floated” to Port Arthur, a tender port. Due to high winds and rough seas, the Captain deemed it unsafe to attempt a stop there. Now the plan was to leave here after 9pm, and head back up the east coast of Tasmania, and reach the shores of the mainland. No matter the change, we bet it will be rough sailing.
Our table numbers were reduced to five, as four were missing. Barb invited Ray, her former dance host friend, and his roommate Beverly to join us, as they were sitting at a table for two by the window. They said OK. Tonight’s theme was Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, where everyone is invited to over-indulge in preparation for Lent, and the start of fasting before Easter arrives. To commemorate this occasion, each of us had a different color top hat, with a pile of purple, gold, and green beads to wear. Oh my gosh, more hats? This has to be the Year of the Hats. From what we saw, many folks left them on the table, not taking them home. Our waiters had multi-colored sequined vests with matching jester hats and big bowties. Our guests asked for some jester hats and bow ties, and our kind waiters handed some over to them.
Shortly after 9pm, we watched the sail away from the comfort of our seats at table 311. What a beautiful view we had of the Tasman Bridge, all lit up, as it got smaller and smaller while the ship slowly left the spacious bay.
A Mardi Gras Party was held in the Crow’s Nest from 9 to 11pm. Busting at the seams, they offered snacks and a Hurricane drink special for $6.75, while listening to the tunes of the Station Band. Barb says their music is the best on the ship.
Right before we left our room for dinner, the temperature had begun to climb towards 80 degrees. Something was wrong. It remained hot through the night, when we found out something had broken. At least, they were working on fixing it, except we spent a pretty uncomfortable night. Good thing we had the benefit of the rotating fan, which we ran all night.
Wonder what kind of weather we will have tomorrow?
Bill & Mary Ann
PS As we are writing this, Wednesday AM, Captain Mercer just advised everyone to batten down the hatches, as we are in for a rough sailing as the ship makes the turn into the Banks and Bass Straits, north of Tasmania. The apparent winds are recording up to 77 knots across the decks, and it will get worse as the afternoon progresses. Not particularily liking this at all.