My initial thought on Tasmania and Australia since I have just a short amount of time here was to walk as much as possible and stick pretty close to where I was staying – my explorations would be as far as walking would carry me.
The only problem with that method was that Launceston isn’t that big of a place and I’d already walked the riverfront, walked the Gorge, explored the museums, gone on a brewery tour, and generally seen what I wanted to see. There were attractions I didn’t hit – like a pretty cool looking amusement park called Penny Royal which seemed like a sort of zipline pirates adventure park, there were wine tours and wine cruises on the river, there were monkeys in enclosures in the park – but none of that really hit me where I wanted. My flight didn’t leave from the Launceston airport until 8pm which meant that I had a full day of exploration and I had to arrange getting to the airport. Just about every tour/experience was in the 80-90 Aussie dollar range. It would cost me $15 to get to the airport.
I knew I should rent a car – but I’ll be honest, I was terrified of driving on the other side of the car and the other side of the road – but finally, I realized it was the most fun, coolest, most exciting, and least expensive way to spend my day. A full day car rental cost me $74, I bought lunch at a grocery store for $5, and filling up the tank at the end cost me another $30.
Getting in the car and driving was akin to the time I went skydiving or my first bungee jump – a total sense of panic. Within a minute I had made a tight right turn into the oncoming lane – which was mostly empty with a distant police car coming at me – I changed lanes and he gave me a wave. It wasn’t as hard as I had feared, but odd – the oddest part being that the turn signals were where the wipers usually are and vice versa – so every time I signaled, I turned on the wipers.
I did a lot of driving. I drove to Mole Creek and the Tasmanian devil wildlife sanctuary there – I spent another $30 AUD to meet the devils, scratch a wombat, and feed and get nuzzled by a kangaroo – they are so soft!
Next I went to a honey farm with a glass beehive where the queen died because of the climate change and fires this year. Still, the honey was amazing and the ice cream delicious. I drove the long, treacherous and windy road to Cradle Mountain – and when I got there realized I didn’t really want to go for a hike, so I drove back down. I made my way to Devonport where I sat by the beach and then drove to Beauty Point where I had a little picnic and called my family. Tazzies and Aussies know how to make bread, by the way, the rolls and loafs are crusty and perfect. I had a little cheese, a roll, some Vegemite, and ginger beer.
And that was about all the time I had – I drove back up the Esk River to Launceston and thence to Launceston Airport which has one of the more beautiful and affordable airport restaurants I’ve been in. I had a Wizard Smith’s Beer (James Boag) and a Tasmanian sampler plate with smoked salmon, blue cheese, brie, pickles, and a jelly I can’t remember…
After that I boarded the plane where I was sandwiched between a husband and wife – she likes the window and he likes the aisle – and I was between them as he helped her get Netflix on her tablet etc, but they barely talked to each other and were quite nice.
After my day of driving around, I was able to confirm my suspicion that Northern Tasmania (and possibly all of Taz) is the Australian version of Oregon. Great rivers, farms, logging, sheep, cows, farming, mining, great beer, honey, and more. I was just glad that I didn’t see any chainsaw carved statues of Donald Trump during my day.
If I were to compare Launceston to any city it would probably be either to Coos Bay. I’m guessing that Hobart would be more like Astoria or a smaller version of Portland.