NORTH-WEST TASMANIAN COAST

We had chosen to do a long day’s drive on our 10th day in Tasmania and visit Stanley, a good distance along the North coast road, 224 kms away from our B&B in Launceston. Given that on Day 11 we planned to head for Cradle Mountain, we decided we would book a night in a B&B in Devonport to save us the 100km return journey tomorrow. We had a very interesting night in the ‘Grand on Macfie’ (see right) at the end of our day’s coastal drive.

TABLE CAPE…Tulips

Our first destination was Table Cape Tulip Farm just outside Wynyard. We were lucky to be visiting the region at this time of year as the farm is only open to visitors and customers from late September to late October before it returns to normal farming operations. On the day we were there, a lot of other visitors were there, coming to buy tulips as well as take in the multi-coloured views of long fields of tulips in full bloom.

Table Cape is a vaguely circular extinct volcano with a northern face rising steeply out of the waters of Bass Strait. It is the territory of the First Nation clan, the Tommeginer people. In nearby Freestone Cove can be found ancient stone, tidal fish traps. The Cape itself was named by Matthew Flinders on his 1798 voyage with George Bass as well as naming other features along this coastline. The image to the left below shows Table Cape from Fossil Bluff, on the western side of the Inglis River at Wynyard.

The other feature of Table Cape Tulip Farm was that apart from the glorious fields of colour, the view looked across at the Table Cape Lighthouse. Despite Matthew Flinders care with his mapping of the coastline, a number of shipwrecks occurred along this coastline in the first half of the 19th century. As a result, a lighthouse needed to be built on Table Cape and was completed in 1888. It was particularly needed for shipping entering the Inglis River delivering goods to the town of Wynyard.

Like most other visitors, we bought a bouquet of Tulips at the farm that lasted for the next week in our various accommodations around Tasmania. We were lucky when we left Table Cape that we didn’t have to return immediately to the main highway west but were able to take a smaller coastal road for quite some way, thus experiencing views like the one below.

One of the sad aspects of our day’s drive along this coastline was that two days earlier, a group of three young people had left Wynyard in a half-cabin boat and were last seen at Boat Harbour, 12 Kms along this coastline. After a wide and intensive sea and air search, two bodies were found on the shoreline near Table Cape on the same day as we were heading west to Stanley. The local news that night put quite a dampener on our day.

STANLEY…The Nut

A quick look at the map shows that the small town of Stanley is situated on a peninsula, 8kms long, reaching out into Bass Strait from the main coastline. It is famous for its prominent volcanic plug called Circular Head or the ‘Nut’. An English company was granted land in the area in 1825 for sheep farming. The town of Stanley began being built in the 1840s but was only connected to the rest of the island by sea. Ssettlers took the risk of moving to such an out of the way part of Tasmania, the railway line didn’t arrive until 1922. A coach road was built in the 1880s. The most famous citizen of Stanley was Australia’s pre-war Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, born there in 1878.

The above image of the Nut is from the road as it enters the small town. We were able to get a park in the main street and it immediately hit us that, although this town had remained isolated for nearly a century, the locals took great care with the style of buildings they erected. The main street was very picturesque with its ‘pre-Federation’ cottages. We decided we needed to lunch and there wasn’t much choice of food outlets, but the one we chose, Touchwood Gallery Café, provided great food and service as well as excellent views of the town and surrounding farms.

We weren’t the only folk to consider that this was a town that had preserved its architectural heritage from the 19th century, Dreamworks Pictures had thought the same when they chose Stanley as the setting for their 2014 film, ‘The light between the Oceans’. Although the story was set in a small fishing town off the south-west coast of Western Australia, this town was perfect as the setting as it had retained so many of its original buildings.

After lunch we set out on a walk around town which was basically a walk down hill to Godfreys Beach. The map to the right illustrates the small number of streets in town and the ‘Nut State Reserve’. There is a walk that starts at a car park not far from the main street, circles the Nut and gets you to the great view up top. We decided that we needed the time for the drive back to our B&B that night so we decided to save the Nut walk for next time we were in town! The image below of the Nut from the park near the beach shows that there are great views everywhere in Stanley.

From the park at the back of the beach, our walk took us over to the shoreline where the ground rises up to be part of the extinct volcano. At the back of the rocky shoreline the ground is covered with low growing bushes that disguise the fact that this is home base for Little Penguins. Their burrows are protected by the vegetation, ready for their return from a day’s fishing. In order to ensure the penguins are not disturbed by visitors, there is an excellent fenced walkway along here that tries to maintain the best of both worlds for penguins and visitors alike. The signs are very informative but I noticed there was one warning that reminded me of our trip yesterday to the Penguin colony north of George Town. Dog are Penguins’ worst enemy, here at Stanley as well as at Low Head.

We returned to our car and drove to the other side of the Nut along Wharf Road. There are some houses here looking west but the area is mainly given over to the fishing boats that serve the local processor, Stanleyfish Pty Ltd with large amounts of fish, lobster, abalone etc. Apart from fishing industry buildings, there is a ‘Marine Park’ here that has a memorial in it that was particularly moving. It concerned the tragic loss of life at sea on 11/5/1986 of Patrick Hursie (Kermie). The map above right was part of the memorial, pin-pointing where the tragedy occurred.

We had enjoyed our time in Stanley, a very interesting place both geographically, geologically as well as a town with a long curious history. We decided that on our drive back east to Devonport we would do a quick visit to one last place, the small seaside town of Penguin, half way between Burnie and Devonport.

PENGUIN

I had watched an ABC program earlier in the year that featured the small coastal town of Penguin which is situated between Burnie and Ulverstone on the Bass Highway. It was quite an interesting show so I decided that we needed to have a quick look at the actual town as we were passing. Unsurprisingly, the town emblem is the fairy penguin who lives in burrows along the beach front. To commemorate the centenary of the naming of the town, the large ferro cement penguin found today in the park in the centre of town was erected in 1975. As can be seen in the photos on the left, it is apparently regularly dressed up to advertise contemporary causes.

The plaque to the right can be found near the Big Penguin today announcing that the Penguin Area was first settled in 1861 by Edward John Beecroft. It curiously makes no mention of the aboriginal people who have lived in the area for significant millennia. The colonisation of Northern Tasmania was a brutal process to convert the land to ‘European’ economic needs of timber cutting and sheep farming. As a passing tourist I get concerned that such history isn’t acknowledged in public commemorative shrines. Appreciating the tourist attractions of the North West Coast of Tasmania doesn’t require cultural amnesia.

We left the Bass Highway not long after passing through Burnie on a road that took us close to the coastline. I was very impressed with the wooden Uniting Church on the right as we entered town. It was built in 1903.

We found ourselves a car park near the big penguin and wandered the main street on both sides of the road. As a town it clearly promotes itself as a friendly, cheerful place that is very happy to invite visitors to linger. It apparently likes to attract weekend visitors to its street market which it claims is the largest in Tasmania.

You get the sense that the locals are happy about their proximity to the penguin colony on their sea-front. Apart from the giant penguin statue, there are penguin portraits in lots of places, even on the local litter bins. I was impressed by the mural on the side wall of one of the main shops that presented whales and penguins living in harmony. An official looking penguin with a jaunty hat is keeping an eye on a ‘Penguometer’ on the wall, presumably measuring the numbers of penguins in town, not the electricity passing into this shop. An ABC news article from 2017 suggests that Penguin is one of the best places to spot the little penguins; nightly tours available from September to March

With Tasmania’s proximity to Antarctica, it is no surprise the island state is a popular posting for penguins. But the only species to breed on Tasmania is the world’s smallest penguin, the eudyptula minor. Known as the little or fairy penguin, an estimated 110,000 to 190,000 of them are thought to call Tasmania and its islands home. Little penguins are sedentary; in fact, they build a burrow and return to the same spot night after night after spending the day in the ocean feeding. (Courtesy: abc.net.au).

The above cheerful mural, installed in 2020, greets travellers to Penguin. On the way out of Penguin, if you continue along the coastline towards Devonport, there is a series of rocky islands to look out for just off the coast. They are called the ‘Three Sisters’ but one of the sisters avoided my photo below.

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