Tamar Valley

Our Silo Hotel package was for two nights so we had tagged today for exploring aspects of the Tamar Valley that we did not have time for on our 2016 trip. We expected that might include a winery or two but were open to other possibilities.

With only 50 km to drive to Greens Beach at the mouth of the Tamar we had no reason for an early start. It was approaching 8:00 by the time we were up and getting ready. We settled for coffee in our room before heading out, planning to find breakfast along the way. There were clouds in the sky but also sizeable patches of blue letting through direct sunlight here and there. That pattern continued through the day.

First stop was Grindelwald, a pretend Swiss village built as part of a resort in the 1980s. The instigator was a Dutch immigrant who had made his fortune with a string of supermarkets, was inspired by a holiday in a Swiss village, and had to do his best to replicate the experience in Tasmania.

There were two places in the village offering coffee and snacks. We opted for a bakery where we had coffees with ham and cheese croissants. Although we expected they would be served warm we were a bit surprised when they appeared flattened like cheese and ham toasties. They tasted the same but looked unlike croissants.

From Grindelwald we headed further along the valley, aiming for Beauty Point, a little way beyond Beaconsfield which was the limit of our travel on that side last time. We took the scenic Rosevears Drive and stopped along the way to enjoy the mirror like reflections in the glassy Tamar. Some way short of Beauty Point we spotted a sign to the York Town historic site and deviated there.

York Town was the site of the original British settlement on the Tamar in late 1804. At that time there was concern about possible French incursions so settlements were established at York Town and Port Phillip on the other side of Bass Strait in what is now Victoria. 

The latter site proved unsuitable and that party moved to the site of Hobart. We discovered yesterday in Ross, at the 42nd parallel boundary between the northern and southern Tasmanian ‘settlements’ that there had been (and still is to a degree) intense rivalry between the two.

York Town also proved unsuitable for several reasons including difficulty of access for shipping in the shallow bay. Within a few years the settlement had moved to the current site of Launceston. We spent some time to wander the site which has no visible ruins though some relics have been found by archeological digs. There was some descriptive signage but little real development as a tourist site.

From there we drove on to Greens Beach on the western side of the Tamar mouth. We had been to Low Head on the eastern side in 2016. We followed signs toward a lookout but discovered it must have been within a national park and balked at paying $40 for a day permit for a car to enter the park. Instead we drove down a short lane way for a view of strait and later to the beach closer to the headland. The sea was remarkably calm in stark contrast to what we had seen on Tasman Peninsula yesterday.

By then it was lunch time and Beauty Point beckoned. We found the River Cafe along the waterfront there and went in for lunch. Majella had battered scallops, which she enjoyed, but I did not want a large meal and settled for eggs on sourdough.

A little way on we visited Goaty Hill Wines where we enjoyed tasting the range from sparkling (white and rose) through Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay to Pinot Noir. Majella was driving and quit after the Riesling though she did sniff and sip a couple more. We came away with a nice bottle of 2018 Pinot Noir which, based on the 2013 which I also tasted, should last well if it survives long enough to go home with us.

By then the sun was a little lower and the reflections on the glassy water were sufficient to have us stop a couple of times for photographs. As we approached Launceston we stopped to visit the Tamar Island wetlands. Majella did not read the sign on the way in. If she had, we might not have walked the 1.5 km each way on boardwalks to the island and back. The waterways we crossed had an abundance of water birds including swans and the reeds that filled the marshes supported a lot of wrens and other small birds.

There had been rain in that area this afternoon and the boardwalk was wet in places. Majella had taken her umbrella but I did not bother. Fortunately there was no rain while we were there other than a very fine sprinkle as we got back to the car. While we were out at the island there was a rainbow in the distance. It was unusual with what appeared to be two additional rainbows crossing it, like a hashtag. 

Back in Launceston we looked in at the Penny Royal where we had stayed in 2016. The cliffs behind now support a series of walkways and rack climbing areas with a zip line overhead and other attractions below. A stay there could be much more exciting now than last time. We also paid a very quick visit to the Cataract Gorge area where the South Esk River was running strongly after the recent rains.

Neither of us wanted a large evening meal so we drove into town to see if we might find something light. We may have picked the wrong area because there was not much on offer among the shops. After a bit of walking around we settled for pies at a bakery. I had a Cape Grim beef, bacon and cheese pie. Majella continued her theme and had the Tassie scallop pie.

Then it was back to our comfortable room in the silo for an evening of quiet relaxation.