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Old 11th September 2023, 14:28   #1
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One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

There's nothing to see or do in Tasmania. It's all forest or beach, and only people who love to trek or go off-road, enjoy going there. What are you going to do there for a week? And you don't even like trekking!

This was the first thing I was told when we were toying with initial plans of going to Tasmania, during our visit to our daughter in Australia. Sure enough, the plan and the trip turned out to be quite different from our expectations, and here is our mega travelogue, the longest I have ever written!

Planning: So I began to look up travel sites and seek the help of the newest fad, ChatGPT. As I was told, there are dozens of trekking trails through Tasmania's forests (or parks, as they are known), and you even need permits to go in there! If trekking and a lot of time outdoors, away from crowds and cities, is what one is looking for, the best resource is to visit the website of Tasmania Parks and Wildlife (https://parks.tas.gov.au/explore-our-parks).

But there are so many other things to see and do - and we did them without needing to trek or go off-road!

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We are really not the trekking kind, truth be told. But we are the driving kind! So, to explore Tasmania thoroughly, we needed a car there. Two options: we could either ferry our daughter's little Toyota Yaris 2-door hatchback on the Spirit of Tasmania, or we could fly from Melbourne and rent a car there.

Since the flight fare for the 3 of us to Launceston, plus the price of renting a car there for a week, worked out to be substantially cheaper than the Spirit of Tasmania (SoT) option, we decided to fly and rent. Since the SoT sailings are only at night during winters (yes, June is the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere), it would have been a boring few hours. Also, with her Australian driving licence, Darsh, our daughter, was getting an excellent deal on rental cars on this website - it cost me more if I were to book on my credentials.

So the dates (Tuesday, 27th June to Monday, 3rd July 2023) and a rough itinerary (based out of Launceston and Hobart) were set, the flight tickets and car rental bookings done, and we were ready.

Sunrise over the Bass Strait, 27 June 2023
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Old 11th September 2023, 18:18   #2
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

27 June 2023

Our Jetstar flight to Launceston from Melbourne Tullamarine departs at 6AM. We have the benefit of being able to park our car at the airport hotel where Darsh works, and we are on our way aboard the A320-200.

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It is a short 65-minute flight. Launceston Airport is rather small (well, what are we expecting, considering that the city has just 77,000 people living in it?). Each Australian State has stringent biosecurity laws, and Tasmania is no different.

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Once outside the airport, we place a call to the car rental people, and they send a Toyota Hiace within a few minutes, to pick us and our luggage up for a 5-minute run to their parking.

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The formalities do not take long, and we are soon on our way, in one of the most popular cheap cars in Australia, an MG ZS petrol CVT. The rental agency is Bargain Car Rentals, and our experience with them has been excellent. The weather report on the screen makes us happy - no sign of rain, and the temperatures are not too low.

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Our companion for the next 7 days
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Odo reading
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Old 12th September 2023, 14:06   #3
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

27 June 2023, continued...

It's not even 8AM, and we need to spend the morning doing something productive, before we can check in at our hotel. The first place on our list of things to do is a visit to the Cataract Gorge - but the short drive there proves futile, since the place opens at 9AM. So, it's time to find some coffee and an early breakfast.

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Finally, we find ourselves a nice little coffee shop. Coffee in Australia is more than just a beverage; it's a cultural phenomenon. Australians value high-quality coffee. Whether you're a coffee connoisseur or just looking for a good cup, Australia offers a rich and diverse coffee experience. And we love it. Almost all coffee shops serve coffee that is excellent, and prices vary between A$4-5. By Australian standards, Indian Starbucks is yuck!

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Cute pair in a pram
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Old 12th September 2023, 14:54   #4
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

27 June 2023, continued...

We are back at the Cataract Gorge by 10AM. It's a weekday, and there's hardly anyone there. You pay a machine for your parking, it spits out a ticket, and you display the ticket on your dashboard for an inspector to check occasionally.

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The tranquillity of the place in the crisp and cold morning air is rejuvenating. The sun is bright, and the extreme chill we had felt on stepping out of the aircraft isn't there any more (or is it the coffee doing its work?).

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Manicured lawns and pathways lead down to the First Basin, with a view of the Esk River and the Alexandra Suspension Bridge in the distance. There are walking and trekking trails of various levels of difficulty (we try walking down one track for some distance, as you can see in the video below), but it's nicer to just loiter around and enjoy the view.

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The Gorge Scenic Chairlift takes one to the other side of the river, and Darsh decides to go for the ride while we spend some time walking around on the near shore. This single-span chairlift over the South Esk River takes about ten minutes to go across Cataract Gorge and First Basin. Top speed is a sedate one metre per second, but usually, the chairlift runs slower than that to afford passengers a longer ride. It is about 457 metres (1462 feet) from station to station, with a central span between two pylons of 308 metres (985 feet), and is believed to be the longest single span of any chairlift in the world. Since its opening in 1972, the chairlift has established a 100 per cent safety record.

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Gorgeous view of the Gorge from the Chairlift!
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Two hours later, as our parking ticket is about to expire, we make our way back to the car park. That's as many visitors that have come to visit the Cataract Gorge on a weekday at noon - ours was one of 3 cars there when we'd come in the morning!

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Old 12th September 2023, 16:48   #5
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

27 June 2023, continued...

Our hotel is in the centre of the city, with its own car park, though one pays a fee to avail of the facility at locations in / near the CBD (unlike the concept of free parking at every high-end hotel that we see in India, irrespective of location). At least, the fee is reasonable at Launceston, but will turn out to be quite steep at Hobart.

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Comfortable room for 3
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View from the window. Spot our rental car parked below!
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Time for lunch, at this Japanese eatery across the road

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Some dessert after lunch
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Street views in Launceston
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Old 12th September 2023, 19:16   #6
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

27 June 2023, continued...

A quick afternoon siesta, and we are out again for some sightseeing. We are curious to visit the Launceston Tramway Museum nearby, though it is nearly closing time there. We've grown up in the city of Kolkata, and I have gone to school and college aboard trams; a few trams still ply there. And then there are trams still operating in the city of Melbourne too. So, yes, trams fascinate me, though I am not very knowledgeable about their history.

The tramway network served the city of Launceston from 1911 until 1952.

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Tram no. 29, a fully restored machine, is used to offer visitors short joyrides. Since there is no overhead catenary system to run the tram, it tows a large generator on a separate trolley behind it, to provide the electricity!

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Tram no. 29 showing the generator being towed behind it (PC: Internet)
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The Museum workshop, where we see the restoration and rebuilding activities in progress. At present, the workshop houses Launceston's first tram, no.1, as well as tram no. 26.

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We are welcomed inside the museum by this august gentleman, with whom we are to have a subsequent conversation about how we have grown up riding trams in Kolkata. He is surprised that Kolkata still has an operational tramway service.

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Inside, we are greeted by numerous items of display, film footage, photographs, stories and fascinating items in the museum's collection. There's the history and heritage of Launceston's tramway service, as well as a large-screen presentation on how Launceston has changed since Victorian times.

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Old 12th September 2023, 22:13   #7
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

27 June 2023, continued...

Dinnertime in Launceston is early. Restaurants close down by 8PM or so, and by 9PM the city goes to sleep!

So we set off (not far, just across the road again) to Yorktown Square, which has a number of restaurants, from Indian to Chinese to Thai to Turkish to Italian.

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No, we are not keen at all to eat Indian food regularly in Australia - but the prices are quite an eye-opener for Indian visitors who pine for the desi taste!
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We decide on the Schnitty Bar, because we love that kind of food!
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And we'll be back to Yorktown Square the next day too!
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Old 13th September 2023, 12:10   #8
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

28 June 2023

If dinner was schnitzels and burgers, brunch has to be gözleme and halal snack pack, washed down with strong and flavourful Turkish coffee!

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Not sure what he is trying to say, with his tongue stuck out like that!
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Old 15th September 2023, 12:57   #9
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

28 June 2023, continued...

Our destination for the morning is a visit to the James Boag's Brewery and Experience Centre.

Quote:
Boag's Brewery (J. Boag & Son) is an Australian brewery company founded in 1883 by James Boag and his son, also named James, in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. In 2000, San Miguel Corporation acquired J. Boag & Son (previously a publicly listed company) for $92 million. The existing Tasmanian management was retained to continue running the company; production had increased annually for the previous 3 years and this growth was planned to continue. In 2004, Boag's Brewery was expanded to occupy the complete block enclosed by William, Tamar and Shield Streets and The Esplanade. San Miguel sold J. Boag & Son to Lion Nathan Ltd in November 2007 for $325 million.

As of 2010, J. Boag and Son employed over 150 people and produced over 76 million litres of beer annually. All of the company's beers are produced in Launceston.
The area occupied by the various office buildings and distilleries of James Boag is huge, stretching to over 2 city blocks.

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The Experience Centre & Museum is in this 3-storeyed red building, which used to be the Tamar Hotel.
Quote:
Opening in 1826 and originally named The Lame Dog Hotel; the building would go on to be known as The Golden Lion, The Prince Albert, The Prince Alfred, and finally The Tamar Hotel. The building was bought by The James Boag Brewery in the late 1990s, and restored to house the James Boag Brewery Experience (previously Boags Centre for Beer Lovers); from which the James Boag Brewery run daily tours, 7 days a week; as well as running a function centre, café, and beer garden.
Beer kegs used as street furniture!
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Inside, there is a cosy atmosphere, with a fairly extensive display of old equipment, photographs, and details of the history of the brewery. One can also enjoy different James Boag's products, and even purchase products and branded merchandise.

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The family tree of the man who founded the brewery!
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Looking around
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A dispenser from a long time ago
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Different types of beer kegs and barrels described
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The James Boag Meteorphonium made its debut in 2015 at the ‘Symphony of the Melbourne Cup Carnival 2015’ on special request of the Victoria Racing Club. The revolutionary instrument – the only one in existence in the world – takes cues from its environment to self-play a stunning, ever-changing symphony. The James Boag Meteorphonium converts live weather data into complex, layered music; a realization of the journey James Boag takes to refine natural ingredients from the rugged Tasmanian wilderness into its premium products. The resulting music is completely unique, not only to each day, but each minute of the day. The Meteorphonium has been tweaked to incorporate the unique sounds of Flemington, which combine with site-specific readings such as temperature, light and wind speed. Changes in luminosity, such as the sun appearing from behind a cloud, strengthen the sound in complexity and volume.

1.7meters in diameter, the Meteorphonium features nine bronze singing bowls and a central tongue drum that will react to meteorological readings. Sounds recordings taken from Flemington – including clip-clopping hooves, starter gates, the thunder of horses on the track and the celebratory clinking of glasses – will create ambient noise outputs from the instrument’s quadrophonic speakers, creating a symphony unique to the location.
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How the meteorphonium works, in the video below

Malt shovels
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Merchandise
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Vermin Eradication Machine!
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View from the window
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Old 15th September 2023, 14:44   #10
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

28 June 2023, continued...

Next, it's time to see some cars!

First, a quick look at the Chevrolet truck on display behind the James Boag Experience Centre.

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Then we are off to visit the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania, which you can read about in detail in this thread (The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia).
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After this, we visit the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery at Inveresk (QVMAG), for some more cars (apart from many other displays).

1923 Alfa Romeo RLS. This is one of the best regarded cars of its day, and is one of only 5 in the world. It is the only one with its original body. It was bought by Launceston businessman Gordon Fysh for the princely sum of Ł795 (about $250,000 to $300,000 today, based on average wages).

Imported cars in the 1920s were supplied with only the engine and chassis, and owners had the coachwork made locally. Fysh used the firm of AA Denton. This car became the first car in Tasmania to reach 100mph (before the bodywork was added), and was the first Alfa Romeo with a racing victory outside Europe.
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A collection of bicycles and horse-drawn carriages
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A vintage caravan
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There's more to see in the QVM beyond cars!
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Old 15th September 2023, 20:44   #11
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

28 June 2023, continued...

More pictures (and a video describing what to see as well as a coverage of the photography gallery) from the QVMAG

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The Jurassic Park-like display in the centre of the hall is undoubtedly interesting, but the rare and sometimes extinct fauna found in Australia (and especially in Tasmania) is of greater interest to us.

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Diprotodon (Diprotodon optatum): This was the largest marsupial that ever existed, often compared to a giant wombat. It roamed across mainland Australia and Tasmania during the Pleistocene epoch and went extinct around 25,000 years ago.
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Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus): Also known as the Tasmanian Tiger, this carnivorous marsupial was one of Tasmania's most iconic animals. The last known thylacine died in captivity in 1936, and it was officially declared extinct.
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Though the Tasmanian Tiger is also known as the Tasmanian Dingo, it varies greatly from an actual dingo (Canis lupus dingo) (below) both in terms of appearance and anatomy. This has been highlighted in the displays.
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Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii): The Tasmanian Devil is perhaps the most iconic Tasmanian animal. It's a carnivorous marsupial known for its aggressive temperament, distinctive black colouration, and strong jaws. Unfortunately, the species has faced threats from a contagious facial tumor disease, but conservation efforts are underway to protect and preserve this species. We would be seeing the live Tasmanian Devil in the flesh and up close in a couple of days, near Hobart.
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Tasmanian Native Hen (Tribonyx mortierii): While not entirely extinct, it's worth mentioning that the native hen experienced a significant decline in numbers due to habitat loss and hunting. Conservation efforts are underway to protect and restore populations.
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A display of the smaller creatures
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A museum is never complete without a display of weapons, but...
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...but a bedpan from the beginning of the 20th century isn't something we've seen in a museum earlier!
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Seashells and some unique fish species
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A connection to the city of my birth, Kolkata, always fascinates me!
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The gift shop
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Unfortunately, we run out of time browsing some of the displays, and it is already closing time.

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Old 15th September 2023, 22:26   #12
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

29 June 2023

We wake up to a cold morning, and the weather predicts rain in the afternoon. Our itinerary is to leave Launceston for Hobart this morning, but not before a lavish buffet breakfast at the hotel.

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Our first stop today will be at the Port Arthur Historic Site, before proceeding to Hobart to check in.

Port Arthur, a small island off the coast of the island of Tasmania, was a former convict settlement, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But instead of taking a shorter inland route, we decide to take the longer (but less travelled) road along the east coast, via Swansea and Orford.

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It is a beautiful road, a beautiful morning, and the weather is dry too.
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Road train thunders past
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This rest stop run by the Council of Orford & Triabunna has signage in English and Chinese, with an explanation of the association of this area with Chinese people over two centuries.
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After Orford, the road narrows, until we turn on to an unsealed road (IIRC it is about 10 km) through quite dense forest. And true to the weather prediction, it starts drizzling, making the wheels spin at times over a few muddy stretches.
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This is a logging road, and heavy trucks carry away wood from the forests here. A swath of land where the trees have been cut down.
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Back on tarmac, it is a short drive to Port Arthur...
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...and soon we are there!
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

29 June 2023, continued...

For the last hour or more, the bright weather had turned gloomy, and it has been drizzling steadily. We are comfortable in the car, but as soon as we step out at our destination, the chill wind hits us in the face. Mercifully, we are wearing weatherproof clothing, and after the initial shock, we carry on with our exploration of Port Arthur.

Port Arthur Historic Site (PAHS) is, to put it simply, a historic jail! Much like the Andamans, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was once a brutal penal settlement, where convicts endured harsh conditions. The only difference was, the British jailed their own nasty citizens here, while they incarcerated Indians at the Andamans.

Numerous historically significant structures can be seen, that provide insights into the history of the penal colony and the lives of convicts and settlers who lived there. Some of the relevant structures at the PAHS, visible behind us in the next picture, are:
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The Penitentiary is one of the most prominent buildings at the site. The Penitentiary was once a three-storey structure that housed hundreds of convicts in separate cells. It was the heart of the penal settlement, and today, visitors can explore its ruins and learn about the harsh conditions endured by convicts.
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The Separate Prison was designed to implement a system of punishment and reform. It featured individual cells where convicts were kept in solitary confinement, often in silence and darkness. The idea was to encourage reflection and reform, but it was also extremely psychologically taxing. The Commandant's House was the residence of the commandant, the person in charge of the penal settlement. It is a well-preserved Georgian-style building that offers insights into the lifestyle of the colony's administrators. The Convict Church, also known as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, is a beautiful sandstone building that served as the place of worship for both convicts and free settlers. It stands as a testament to the efforts to provide spiritual solace to those living at Port Arthur. The Asylum, also known as the Hospital, was a facility for convicts suffering from mental illness or physical ailments. It provides insights into the medical care provided in the colony.

To the left of the picture above are:
Penal Settlement Dockyard: This was where ships were built, repaired and maintained. It's a reminder of the colony's maritime activities and the importance of the sea for transportation and trade.
Point Puer Boys' Prison, located on an island across the harbour from the main site, housed juvenile male convicts. The prison's ruins and structures offer insights into the lives of young offenders in the colonial era.
The Port Arthur Cemetery, on the Isle of the Dead, adjacent to the Point Puer, is where many convicts and free settlers were buried. It contains approximately 1100 graves, and provides a sombre reflection of the lives lost at the settlement.

Included in the ticket price is a boat ride to visit the Point Puer and Isle of the Dead, as well as a view of the dockyards from the water. This was what we set off to do first, and the video is self-explanatory, including captions of the guide's words. Long video, but worth watching till the end.

Back from the boat tour, we explore the main site, not necessarily in the sequence of the photos below.

A scale model showing the overview of the site as it existed in the 19th century
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The map helps to orient the buildings better
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View from the Commandant's House
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Inside the three-storeyed Penitentiary building - the floors have gone, and only the external walls and windows remain.
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Giant steel supports hold up the outer walls of the Penitentiary from the inside
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Inside the Guard Tower
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History lessons on plaques!
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The persistent drizzle and cold winds have sapped our enthusiasm to explore in greater detail, and we head to the Visitor Centre to thaw out with a hot cup of coffee beside a crackling fireplace.

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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

29 June 2023, continued...

Despite the coffee, we are a little tired after the day's drive as well as visiting PAHS. The drive back to our hotel is another 95 km and over an hour away.

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The area near the hotel is crowded in the early evening. The hotel provides valet parking for a steep charge, but we do not have much choice in making alternate arrangements to park the car safely overnight. No choice but to hand over the car key to the valet desk, and we proceed to our room, which is really comfortable, after the long day.

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Our happiness diminishes after an hour, when the hotel calls to announce that our vehicle has been fined for wrong parking!

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It appears the valet service did not remove the vehicle for a long while after we checked in (about 45 minutes), and a part of the car was on the yellow line (and partly on a continuous white line, where stopping is allowed) alongside the kerb. Part of the fault lies with me due to my own ignorance and carelessness, but that does not mean the fine is excused. The yellow line rule in Australia:

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Anyway, the car has now been parked, and we take a stroll to enjoy the empty streets and grab some dinner.

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Deserted streets already
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Winner winner chicken dinner!! Despite the traffic fine, our trip is progressing well.
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If there's chicken, there's got to be a gentleman from Punjab nearby!
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VW Transporter decor!
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re: One week in Tasmania - More fun than we thought!

30 June 2023

Common refrain from friends once we returned: You visited Tasmania? Did you see the Tasmanian Devil? And the Tasmanian Tiger?

The Tasmanian Tiger aka Thylacine is long extinct, the last known animal having died at the Hobart Zoo in 1936, so we do not hope to see a Tasmanian Tiger at all. But the Tasmanian Devil is what we want to see, with a guided tour where we can watch them up close.

So our research says the best place to go and see the Devil is at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, which is 80km and an hour's drive towards Port Arthur, from where we had come last evening (Unzoo was closed then).

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So here we are, back on the same road, and we have reached!
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Before we enter, some reading up to do
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Renault Minibus parked in front. For a second, I thought it is the Kangoo - that would have rhymed with the name of the place!
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We're about to watch you!
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Direction boards everywhere, very well-marked!
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Animal art!
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A section dedicated to the Tasmanian Tiger (aka Thylacine), with a video playing back inside for those interested to watch! One hopes that there still may be a few of these animals hiding away somewhere in Tasmania's unexplored wilderness!
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Another animal that we have not heard of or seen earlier is the Pademelon.
Quote:
Pademelons are small marsupials in the genus Thylogale, found in Australia and New Guinea. They are some of the smallest members of the macropod family (Macropodidae), which includes the similar-looking but larger kangaroos and wallabies. Pademelons are distinguished by their small size and their short, thick, and sparsely-haired tails. Like most other marsupials, they carry their young in a pouch.

The word "pademelon" comes from the word badimaliyan in Dharug, an Aboriginal language spoken near what is now Sydney, Australia. The scientific name Thylogale uses the Greek words for "pouch" and "weasel."
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Time to meet the Devil! (Click the picture to enlarge and read)
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At first sight, Tasmanian Devils appear to be cute little animals that one would love to pet...
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...until they open their mouths and snarl!
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Watch through the video (turn on the captions - click the CC button) to find out how they behave, what they eat, and whether you'd still like to pet them after watching this! Also, it is saddening to learn that a disease called DFTD is killing off the Tasmanian Devil population, and the guide talks about how research and the animals' own behaviour is circumventing the problem.


There is a bird show too, but the best photo we can capture is of this one!
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There are plenty of kangaroos, wallabies and Cape Barren Geese roaming free around the Unzoo, and one is encouraged by the guide to touch and feed them. We take pictures as well as film the interaction, which can be seen in the video above!
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Cape Barren Geese can drink seawater by filtering out the salt! Unbelievable!
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Abandoned and rusting away inside is also this Austin (I suspect it's a Princess from the mid- to late-1960s). Please identify the car if you can.
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A stream flows through the property, making its own music, which you can listen to in the video.
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And finally, the Tasmanian Devil-themed gift shop!
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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 25th September 2023 at 18:27.
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