“The Complete South Pacific”

Part 4

Melbourne and Tasmania


Where we are:

Once again, we’ll look at the tour map to see where we are and where we are going.

Darwin to Melbourne to Hobart (Tasmania)


We are starting from Darwin, in northern Australia, flying to Melbourne at the southern edge of Australia, and then to Hobart which is in Tasmania, even further south of Australia.




Monday, March 4 (continued): It was a long flight to Melbourne, over three hours, and was the longest flight as part of our tour.  Australia is a big place!

The day we headed to Melbourne there was news on the TV of a major wildfire in the Melbourne area.  Turns out that, while northern Australia was suffering from flooding in some areas, Melbourne was going through a drought.  As we approached Melbourne, I did notice several rain showers in the area so perhaps the drought was about to break. 

A rain shower as we approach Melbourne.





This was the second time we had landed in Melbourne; but this time we were to leave the airport via bus rather than by another airplane.  Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia and historically tends to have a bit of a European flavor, although it appears that these days, it also has quite a bit of an Asian flavor. 

Melbourne’s Chinatown was a short distance from our hotel.


It turned out that one of the major “industries” of the Melbourne area is higher education and many Asian students flock to the area’s colleges and universities.  When we walked around Melbourne, we saw many young people of college age walking on the streets.


The coach driver pointed out some of the highlights of the city on the way to our hotel, the Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure, was in the middle of the city which was convenient, but was also a bit awkward because of the cramped spaces and somewhat unusual arrangement of the hotel.  After checking in, Evan gave some of us a short walking tour about a mile down to the river that flows through the city.

The river on this side of the bridge looks almost like a country park.


 We walked back to the hotel and, after cleaning up and a short rest. six of us got together and walked down to the river again and then along a pleasant walkway with lots of restaurants and entertainment places. 


The same river, from almost the same place, but looking in the other direction.


We decided to stop at a place with what looked like good burgers and a good selection of beers and it turned out to be an excellent choice.  By the time we were done eating, it had gotten dark outside, the lights of the city had come on, and there was no shortage of electricity here!


Everything was lit up with plenty of lights making pretty reflections in the water.


We took our time going back to the hotel, stopping to look at the lights and all the sights of the city and the sights along the riverfront.


Tuesday, March 5:  We started the morning with an extended bus tour of Melbourne, going past historically important and pretty small parks, large ornate government buildings, and several large churches or cathedrals. 


This cathedral was large and the grounds beautifully landscaped.


One stop was at the Fitzroy Gardens, a large and probably the best-known city park in Australia.  I roughly equated it to New York’s Central Park, considering the difference in the size of the cities themselves.  It had several interesting features, such as “Captain Cook’s cottage”, which was actually constructed in England for Captain Cook’s parents and moved to Melbourne in 1934.  There was also a “Dwarf’s Village”, a Conservatory, and multiple ponds and fountains.


The conservatory was closed for repairs.



Captain Cook’s (parents’) cottage.


A part of the Dwarf’s Village



There were also lots of open spaces and large trees creating shady areas pleasant to walk or relax in, as shown in this video of Fitzroy Gardens.


Like all Australians, the Melbourne population seems to be very sports oriented and several of the sports venues were concentrated in one section of the city, including the rather interesting football (soccer) stadium and pitch.  The domes shaped like soccer balls actually only cover the seating areas and the pitch itself is open to the weather.


The AAMI soccer stadium has an interesting design.



As the last stop on our city tour, we visited the Queen Victoria open-air market, which was really huge.  Open air markets appear to be popular in Australia and this is the largest permanent such market in the country.  There were vendors selling almost everything, from furniture, to souvenirs, to all kinds of clothing, lots of food, and even some appliances.

There were 6 buildings like this, each about 300 ft. long.


The fresh food and produce buildings were separate and were even more colorful and interesting than the other goods.

The fruits and vegetables looked fresh and inviting.


After leaving the market we returned to the hotel for a couple of hours to find some lunch and rest until our next departure.  Susan and I walked almost next door to the hotel to a small Korean restaurant.  Their service procedures seemed a little strange, but the food was pretty good at a good price, so we were happy.


At mid afternoon we boarded the coach again and headed out, this time to see some penguins as well several other animals.  We were headed to Philip Island a little southwest of Melbourne but it required circling around a large bay to get there, so it was a fairly long ride.  Not long after getting to Philip Island, we stopped at the “Koala Conservation Center” for a look at some Koalas in the wild, or almost so.  In the conservation center, the koalas are protected from predators and are provided with food and water, so they have no reason to leave the area. 


The Koalas did not move very much or fast.


Although the koalas look furry and friendly, their natural demeanor is not so friendly so everyone knew to keep their distance.  There was an elevated walkway through some trees where the koalas hung out, so we could get close enough to take a close look.  Occasionally they even moved a little, as in this video of a koala.   There were also quite a few Wallabies in the conservation center, pretty well running loose.

The wallabies watched us, but did not seem concerned.


After watching the koalas and wallabies for a while, we loaded up the coach and headed for dinner.  We stopped in the town of Cowes next to a small park, ferry dock, and beach.

It was a very pretty little beach and park, with the usual ANZAC memorial.


The driver said there was several restaurants but did suggest one, Isola di Capri, an Italian restaurant.  The food was excellent, the accompanying Chianti wine was good, and we left happy. We were still a little early for our final destination so we took a ride to the very western tip of Philip island and several very beautiful scenic overlooks.


The setting sun created some very photographic images.


This was the from the same location as above, but opposite direction.


Now we headed to our real destination, a bunch of penguins returning to the shore from the ocean.  Every night, between sunset and full darkness, hundreds of small penguins come up out of the ocean where they have been feeding and “waddle” back to their nests in the sand dunes along the beach.  No photos are allowed since the lights would distract and upset the penguins.  We were among probably several thousand onlookers, but we had some of the preferred observation positions, thanks to Collette.  It was so dark when the penguins emerged from the water that it was difficult to see them until they got fairly close to the viewing platform.  The name of this penguin type is actually “Little Penguin” and they are the smallest of all penguins, only about 12 – 13 inches high and weighing about 2 pounds.  This is called the “Penguin Parade” and I cannot show you any photos, since I didn’t take any, but here is a short video showing the penguins.


We stood and watched them quite a while, until it was so dark we really could not see much and finally boarded the coach for the long ride back to Melbourne and our hotel, arriving at almost 11:00 PM. 



Wednesday, March 6:   This morning we had a leisurely breakfast and then some of us were led down the street a block or so to the Opel Store/Museum.  They had a nice video and talked about the many types and preparations of opals as jewelry.  The staff were very nice so, in return, we contributed a little to the Melbourne opal industry.


Just a very few of the many opals on display and for sale.


We got our luggage and made sure it was loaded on the coach before we got on and headed to the airport.  This time our 12:45 flight would take us to the airport at Hobart.  Hobart is on the very southern part of Tasmania, which is across the Bass Straight from Melbourne and is the southernmost area of Australia. 


Crossing the northern coastline of Tasmania: don’t let the beautiful weather fool you!


As we approached the airport to land I could see some rain showers in the area: not as heavy as we encountered in Cairns, but I knew this rain would be much cooler.  After we landed and taxied up to our gate (roll-up stairs only, no jet-way) the captain announced that there had been some lightening and thunder in the area a couple of minutes prior so the ground crew were not allowed onto the tarmac for 20 minutes after the last lightening in the area. 


This was our view for quite a while at the Hobart airport.


About 15 minutes later, when the 20 minutes was about to expire: FLASH – BOOM and we waited another 20 minutes on the plane. When we did finally get off the plane and were waiting for our luggage, we saw the first of many bronze (I think) statues and sculptures.  The sculptures seemed to be almost a trademark of Tasmania, or at least Hobart.


These were just sitting in the middle of the baggage claim area, like they were waiting to be claimed.


Some of them were done by a famous artist (Stephen Walker), but I think many were more recent and done for fun. 


As usual, we got a short tour of the small city before being dropped off at our rather old but recently remodeled hotel, the Hadley Orient Hotel.  On the way through town I saw a sign in one store window that I liked.


I bought my husband

a “Get Better Soon” card.

He is not sick, I just think

he could be better.


Perhaps that says something about Tasmanian humor.


We had time to take a walk before dinner, so we headed down toward the harbor and wharf area.  There were several old (or, perhaps, not so old) sailing ships tied up at the dock.


Not sure if this is old, or not so old, but it is a beautiful ship.







The color of the water and the color and clouds in the sky made for some pretty photos.


This is just one of several bronze sculptures by Stephen Walker.


That evening we were to have a buffet dinner as a group in the hotel so some of us gathered early in the bar.  Since we were in Tasmania, we thought we should have a Tasmania wine and we settled on a Cab Sav + Merlot blend from Frogmore Creek Winery and their 42 Degrees South label and it was quite good.  Our dinner was in a part of the restaurant that was next to the somewhat stylish section seen below.


I think this part of the hotel was more for decoration: I never saw anyone sitting there.


The meal was OK, but nothing special: I think the wine was better than the food.


Thursday, March 7:  After breakfast at the hotel we loaded into the coach and headed to our primary destination for the day, Port Arthur.  Most people know that Australia was largely settled by England for use as a penal colony, getting some of England’s worst prisoners.  From what I could determine, the prisoners who mis-behaved on mainland Australia got sent to Port Arthur, at the southern tip of Tasmania.


It would be about a 2.5 hour ride to Port Arthur but we would make some stops both going and returning to break up the trip a little.  On the way out, we stopped at the “UnZoo”.  They call it an unzoo as the animals are not really caged at all but allowed to run free over a wide area.  There sere some limits on how far most of them could go, but it was almost like being free.  


The first animals we saw were some more Wallabies, but these were quite a bit smaller than the ones we had seen previously. 


Not obvious here, but about half the size of previous wallabies.


There were a number of birds, including a couple of the white parrots we had seen in the Kakadu park.  We next went into the Kangaroo area.  We had been in Australia almost two weeks and had not sees a live kangaroo yet, but that was about to change.


The kangaroos saw our group and started heading our way.


 Our unzoo guide had brought a bucket of kangaroo food with him and it was in the form of pellets which you could hold in your hand and the Kangaroos would eat out of your hand: they knew what we had.


The kangaroos did not hesitate to come up to us and accept the handouts.


For some reason the ladies really seemed to like the wallabies and kangaroos, as you can see and hear in this video of the kangaroos.  Perhaps it has something to do with the idea of carrying their young in their pouches for so long.


When we left the kangaroos, our next animal encounter was not so friendly. 


The Tasmanian Devil was not so friendly. No eating out of your hand here!


The Tasmanian Devil did not spin around like the cartoon character, but he did make some grunting sounds and had some fearsome teeth.


The devil has poor eyesight but seemed to display his teeth to scare others.


It had good enough eyesight to try to come out of its enclosure at me.


We said good-by to all the animals. Loaded back into the coach, and headed for Port Arthur, arriving a short time later.  We had a guided tour conducted by a woman who joked that she was actually a professional pointer, pointing out all the different things in the historical site.



Our guide is doing a very professional job of pointing.


Most of the site was in ruins, some of which had been reconstructed to show how they used to look and be used, while most of the buildings had just been stabilized so we could walk among them.


Some of the larger buildings in the complex.


Some of the single person isolation cells had been completely rebuilt.



After the guided tour, which lasted about 30 minutes, we walked around much of the complex, spending time in the mostly restored building where there were quite a few isolation cells for single inmates:  they were not allowed to speak to other inmates or even the guards without getting permission.  For some years the treatment of the inmates, both physically and mentally, was very harsh and they were somewhat part of an experiment.


At 1:30 we were scheduled to take a tour boat ride around the bay where the prison was located. In the middle of the bay was a small island named the “Island of the Dead”.  Everyone who died at the prison, workers or inmates, was buried on the island: workers on one side, prisoners on the other.


The view of the complex from out on the bay, not far for the Island of the Dead.


After the cruise we loaded back up on the coach and headed out, with a couple of stops to make on the way back to Hobart.  The first stop was at the Tasmanian Arch, what we might call a “natural bridge” but also like some of the arches we saw in Arches national park in Utah last year.


As you can see, there is a walkway across the top of the arch.  Not sure that is a good thing.


The Devil’s Kitchen was close by and was somewhat similar, but did not have the arch or bridge over the opening, making just a deep gulch to the ocean


Standing at the edge of this, looking down, is a little unnerving.


You might get a little better idea of how deep and imposing it is from this video of the Devil’s Kitchen.


We made one more stop, this one at an overlook and blowhole. 


The overlook was pretty, with the ocean beating on rocks in both directions.


The blowhole would probably have been more impressive on a day with more or larger waves, but at least we saw enough to get the idea.


This was about as high as the water would get blown on this day.


We got back to Hobart and our hotel in time to go get something for dinner, with everyone being on their own tonight.  We ended up at a very casual seafood restaurant which suited us fine, especially since they also carried the 42 Degrees South wine label.  This time we tried the Pinot Grigio:  very good!   We would have an early morning wakeup, so we called it a night.


Friday, March 8: We had set the alarm for a 4:00 wakeup for a 6:50 flight from Hobart to Sydney.  Everything went as planned and it was an uneventful flight this time.



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