Earlier this year my husband and I travelled with AAT Kings on the seven-day Tassie’s Parks & Nature holiday. We had taken a short guided holiday some years ago and even used a backpacker coach ticket once, so I had an idea of what to expect: an opportunity for hubby to hang up his car keys, relax and take in the sights; and a chance for me to really enjoy a holiday that someone else has planned, without the hassle. It turned out to be much more than I expected!
Day 1: From home to Hobart
We arrived in Hobart to find a driver waiting to meet us and a couple of fellow travellers. The Hotel Grand Chancellor in Hobart was in the perfect location, directly opposite the beautiful harbour and within easy walking distance of shops and the museum, which we explored before the trip started.
Our AAT Kings trip officially started that afternoon and with formalities out of the way we boarded our coach and headed to the outskirts of Hobart to see the Botanical Gardens and the most amazing views of Hobart from Mount Nelson.
During the evening we enjoyed the first of many wonderful dinners and got to know some of our travelling companions from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Canada and America.
Day 2: Alcohol and wallaby burgers
Our Travel Director, Margaret, had made it clear that it was her job to take the stress out of the holiday, so our only dilemma was to decide which option to do the next day. We chose the “Alcohol Walking Tour” which turned out to be an excellent decision. A small group of us discovered how convict labour had reclaimed the land upon which we stood, and we gazed at their signature marks on the sandstone bricks of the old warehouses before making our way to the various tasting stops.
These included Tasmanian wines, Lark’s Whisky Distillery and a gin and cider stop. By the time we finished off our Tassie cider in the Jack Greene bar near the Salamanca markets, we were ready for lunch so stayed put.
The Salamanca market was huge with local producers, craft persons and artists selling their wares. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll back to the hotel spotting all the statues that depicted the Antarctic adventurers and convict history of Hobart.
Day 3: The winding road
After another delicious breakfast we boarded the coach (our cases had been magically transported onboard for us) and commenced the journey from the second driest region in Tasmania to the second wettest. We sat back in comfort as our Travel Director told us all about Tasmania and the sights that passed by. The journey was broken up by several stops – the beautiful Russell Falls, the tranquil Lake at St. Clair and the unique wood sculpture panels known as the “Wall in the Wilderness”.
That evening we arrived at Strahan and a quaint hotel where guest rooms were formed from buildings and chalets reconstructed to form a village setting. Our chalet faced the Macquarie Harbour from where we sailed the next day.
Day 4: Hell’s Gate and heavens opened
We loaded up on yet another scrummy buffet breakfast before heading onto a catamaran which took us up the Gordon River and through Hell’s Gate – the treacherous stretch of the harbour which would have struck fear into those poor convicts years ago as they headed for Sarah Island. Landing on the island we were taken on a tour by local guides who brought its convict history to life.
Day 5: Wilderness, wallabies and wombats
After breakfast we headed off to the Cradle Mountain National Park. While there was a chill in the air, the rain held off for the most part. After an introduction to the history of the park and the foresight of Gustav Weindorfer to promote and preserve the area, we visited the Waldheim Chalet before going on a short walk around the Dove Lake with Margaret, Tour Director. From here, we could make out the magnificent outline of the Cradle Mountain named after its similarity to a miner’s cradle.
From here our group could choose whether to relax at the hotel or to do one of the several walks around the park. We chose to do one of the longer walks and almost as soon as we stepped onto the boardwalk at the start of the track, we spotted the back of a wombat… with plenty more evidence that this was wombat country!
Day 6: A taste of Tasmania
This day was all about tantalising the tastebuds with local Tassie products. What better way to start than the Hellyers Road Whiskey Distillery. Next stop was Sheffield, a fascinating mural town where Margaret managed to persuade many of the group to try curried scallop pies but her top tip of the day was to visit the fudge shop (a carrot cake fudge that truly tasted like carrot cake).
The murals were terrific, covering a variety of themes and popped up all over the town. Back on board we travelled through the lush country side and on to 41 Degrees Salmon and Ginseng Farm.
Our last food stop, and one of my favourites, was Ashgrove Cheese Factory and shop. Brightly painted plastic cows greeted us as we ventured in and heard the firm’s story before trying some of the cheeses. Both myself and an Australian lady with family roots in Lancashire marvelled at the best “Lancashire” cheese we’d tasted in years. Next, we headed to Launceston and our final stop. Tom and Margaret helped us get our bearings before dropping us at the hotel in time for dinner.
Day 7: Launceston, Lamborghinis and a leavers’ lunch
Despite being our last morning, we still managed to pack in the sights and saw the stunning Cataract Gorge from what’s believed to be the longest single chairlift span in the world. Then enjoyed a leisurely walk back across on the suspension bridge while spotting the cutest little Bennett’s Wallabies and peacocks that roamed about.
As usual our coach was ready waiting for us and whisked us off to our final tour activity – a delicious Be My Guest Lunch at Josef Chromy Wines. With just an afternoon left, we decided to see the Japanese monkeys in the park and wander across to the National Automotive Museum of Tasmania where we were amazed to see a car exhibit about the Tasmanian bridge disaster that Margaret had spoken about a couple of times on the tour. We also took up another of her top tips that afternoon and can confirm that the $2 milkshakes in town are delicious!
The week had flown by and looking back through our photos we realised just how much we had seen, done (and eaten) in Tasmania. Thanks to Tom our driver, Travel Director Margaret and the lovely group on board, we really did have the fan-TAS-tic time with AAT Kings that I’d hoped for.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in organising this wonderful trip and to our lovely tour group who made it all so enjoyable.
- Richard and Julia B
To discover more of Australia’s local secrets for yourself, visit aatkings.com, phone 0800 456 100 or see your travel agent.
As a Grownups reader if you book by 31 December 2018 you’ll receive an exclusive $200 per person discount on all AAT Kings Australia guided holidays of seven days or longer. Conditions apply, use code PPGUAAT200 at time of booking.