Our plan for today was deceptively simple. We were to drive to Port Arthur to visit the historical site. We finished with a few interesting side excursions.
Our drive to Port Arthur was expected to take a bit more than an hour after allowing for coffee along the way. We had agreed to leave around 9:00 am and drove out just before that time. It was my turn to drive as we headed east and south through Sorrell and Dunalley. We recalled the latter name because of the terrible fires that had razed much of it in January 2013. The road wound about a little but was mostly smooth going.
Soon after we passed though Dunalley we saw the sign for Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed. We were not interested in stopping at that point but made a note for later in the day.
Our first target was Doo Town, a small town on the south end of Pirate Bay at Eaglehawk Neck. Its claim to fame is the inclusion of ‘Doo’ in the names of houses, a custom started by an early resident and taken up as a feature of the town. A couple of our group who had been to Port Arthur previously recalled going there and Colleen had heard about Doo-Lishus, which she recalled as being a coffee shop in Doo Town selling excellent coffee perhaps with a view of the water. That was our target for morning coffee and the group were not going to be deterred from that target.
Along the way we had advice from Fay that we should not miss the tessellated pavement, an interesting coastal rock formation near the northern end of Eaglehawk Neck. We found the turn to the lookout at the top of the hill north of Eaglehawk Neck.
We had left Richmond wiht overcast skies and had thought that we might have rain during the day. Along the way we had driven over some wet road though we had not actually had rain. It had also been cool enough when we left that we were all wearing jackets of one sort or another. Soon after we turned off the main road we found a lookout with a view across Pirate Bay to the south with some interesting rocky headlands that were just beginning to benefit from sunlight coming through breaks in the cloud cover. We opted not to stop but to drive the 4 km to the tessellated pavement lookout. We parked there and walked down a short path for better views of the rock shelves. The formations were interestingly different from anything we had seen previously and the signs explained how the effects of sea and salt produced the effects on siltstone.
We had thought of stopping at the first lookout on the way back but the breeze had been cool on our short walk and the vote was against stopping before Doo Town and coffee. We drove on across Eaglehawk Neck.
It seemed that, although some had been to Doo Town previously and several were keen on the idea, nobody really knew were where it was. I had googled it last night and found it was at the southern end of Pirate Bay but imagined it was on our path to Port Arthur. Since nobody knew any better we rolled on toward Port Arthur expecting to find Doo Town around each corner. We didn’t and eventually arrived at Port Arthur without having had our morning coffee.
I dropped my passengers at the entry to the visitor centre and drove back to the level 3 parking lot – 2 levels were already full. Once we had purchased our entry passes that included a walking tour and short cruise around the harbour we were able to relax and enjoy coffee and treats. We had time to visit the downstairs display and find out what happened to the convicts allocated to us on playing cards before our walking tour was to begin at 11:30 am. By that time the sky had mostly cleared and we had blue skies with sunshine and just a few scattered white clouds. It would have been difficult to imagine better weather for our tour.
Our guide on the walking tour, John, was excellent. He was assisted by a portable amplifier that made it easier for us to hear him. His routine was probably well rehearsed but delivered with a degree of spontaneity and a collection of interesting anecdotes that gave life to the history of the site. That history is mixed, with some dark episodes and some success in developing a productive settlement out of difficult circumstances.
The guided tour did not stray far from the starting point but was mostly in the clear space at the bottom of the basin in which the settlement developed so we were reasonably well oriented when it was done by about midday. Our cruise was schedule for 1:00 pm so we decided to walk around some of the buildings until then and find lunch on the cruise or afterward. We followed the road up toward the row of houses on the higher ground and spent some time in the parsonage before moving on to look at the church.
The church was built from stone and appears to be still solid but it has been unroofed for a bit more than 100 years. It is a beautiful old building and the weather conditions made for some interesting interplay of light and shade on the creamy stone and brick construction.
From there we walked down through the formal gardens, which have been restored to a condition similar to what existed in convict times, to the bottom of the site and then to the wharf where we boarded for your cruise.
The cruise took us out past Point Puer, where boys as young as 9 were imprisoned and made to work, and around the Isle of the Dead which had been used as a cemetery for about 1000 people who had died at Port Arthur. We thought about buying lunch on the cruise but decided against it because obtaining and eating lunch would have consumed much of the 20 minutes of the cruise. Instead we waited until we returned from the cruise and then went back to the restaurant in the visitor centre where we were able to find lunch and eat it in comfort.
After lunch we arranged to meet back near the centre and wandered off to explore in couples or smaller groups. It was 3:00 pm by the time we had all returned and were ready to head back toward our accommodation at Richmond.
Our Doo Town enthusiasts were still determined to check it out on the way back and had done some further investigations that established its location south of Pirate Bay on the east coast road we had not taken earlier. Even then there were doubts from some as we drove further around the bay than they thought we should need to without encountering any ‘Doo’ houses. Eventually we did spot some but then passed by most of those before we reached the parking lot near the blowhole and boat ramp. There was more nervousness about having missed it but then we spotted the van in the carpark that is Doo-Lishus. We were lucky to arrive just ahead of a rush. In the end nobody had coffee but we mostly had ice-cream. Majella had the Berry Doo-Light – a dish of vanilla ice-cream with cream and fresh berries. I had a soft serve ice-cream with raspberries chopped into it. It was all good if not quite what had been expected. We checked out the blowhole briefly before heading off but tide and weather conditions rendered it relatively peaceful.
Just before we reached Dunalley we stopped at Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed. It was a very upmarket ‘shed’ with great views over the bay. Warwick and Colleen bought oysters for dinner but the rest of us passed on that.
We stopped briefly at Sorell for some essential supplies, including fuel, before continuing to Hatcher’s Manor. We ate in the restaurant here again. What we had last night had been good so some ate on the basis of recommendations from that and others tried something different. Tomorrow we will be back in Hobart for the day.