Melbourne and Tasmania

20 October 2012
Melbourne and Tasmania

Flying South for the winter (well two weeks of it)

Its the time of year the birds fly south for the winter. So the sensible thing to do is follow them to the warmer climates.

I'm in the process of planning a trip to Melbourne and Tasmania. Tassie is a place I have never visited before and so i am looking forward to it. A lot of our clients visit this Australian Island every year and I want to see what brings them back time after time.

Flights all booked so just waiting for the final parts of the itinerary to fall into place and then we are off.

Friday 16th Nov

The day has arrived at last, at work and then on the 1730 train to Manchester Airport. Staying at the Radisson Blu hotel overnight. This is an excellent location in the airport and is connected to the railway station and airport terminals by a covered walkway.

Saturday 17th Nov

Very early start, alarm call 5am and then to check in to meet the rest of the gang. A big surprise is the tour leader  is Jan , someone I have met at Australia a few years ago. She turns out to be an excellent leader and a credit to her company APT tours.

Nice breakfast at the airport and then onto to first of many flights. The flight to Abu Dhabi passed very quickly as four of us stood at the back of the plane  and caught up on things.

Abu Dhabi is a nice airport (a little expensive on drinks!) and very good value duty free shopping. A very compact terminal and user friendly.

Sunday 18th Nov

Where has the time gone, 14 hours later we have arrived in Melbourne. After transferring to the Sofitel (excellent position in centre of city) the girls have retired to their rooms and the lads are repairing to the nearest local hostelery.It has been 5 years since I was last in Melbourne but my "bar compass" still works perfectly and we are ensconced in the local pub  within minutes.

Monday 19th Nov

A beautiful morning and one of the best breakfast views in the world from the Sofitel. We are up and about early to go on a walking tour of Melbourne. Sun is so strong , I had forgotten what is was after our UK washout summer.

Tour ends at lunchtime and another tip is go to Melbourne Southbank where you can dine "al fresco" with lovely views along the riverfront.

it must be the summer air, but we decide to visit the Eureka Skydeck which is the southern hemispheres largest viewing platform. Two of us then decide to go on "the edge " which is a glass cube which projects you out 3 metres from the building and suspended 300 metres above the ground. Not for the nervous! 

Back to the hotel to get ready for APT Tours 85 birthday bash which turns out to be a beach party down at St Kilda which is a suburb of Melbourne. This is fancy dress and you can imagine the looks we get from other hotel guests, mind you we get some great comments.

The theme is you have to go as places/people where APT tours go.

I'm a tad "un pc for Australia" as I'm in full New Zealand All Black kit......  others include , a convict(the winner) , cowgirl, cheer leader, Rolf Harris, Dame Edna  and one girl was even dressed as Kylie in that iconic white dress!

On arrival at the beach location we were challenged to a beach cricket match which I'm happy to report we won!

Tues 20th Nov

I knew we would pay for the party somehow, after a brilliant night it is a 4am alarm call as we have to be at check in for 6am for a flight to Tasmania. I must say Virgin Blue were excellent.

After a short flight we arrived at Hobart and went straight out on a city tour. Hobart is a lovely little city with at lot of charm. try Salamanca market and even up the mountain to look over the views.

Driving around we pass through lovely countryside , reminiscent of New Zealand . We then rock up to Tahune Forest Skywalk near Geeveston. This is a small forest walk and then out on a metal gantry 45m above the forest floor with superb views over the Huon river.

Dinner that night is on the harbourfront in Hobart.


Wed 21st Nov

A long day ahead of us as we are packed and out at 7am for a full day tour. We are visiting Port Arthur which is the old convict settlement and world heritage site. 

Our tour leader, Jeff (who is beyond shadow of a doubt one of the best tour directors ever) informs us that we have 4 hours here. After the initial groans we set off. In the end this place is so engrossing that 4 hours is nowhere near enough time we wished we had longer. As well as the history there are harbour cruises, walks etc. 

This place which has seen so much human sadness/misery and human achievement turns out to be the highlight of our trip. So much so that 5 of the girls go back for the ghost tour of the place later that night. The lads I must say went to another local institution...........the pub. This turns out to be not as easy as it looks. In the south of Tassie you drink Cascade and in the north you drink Boags (even though they serve both in the pubs)

Thursday 22nd Nov

Another early start and we are off on our travels again. This time we visit the tessellated pavement (a beach in Tassie) and through the pretty village of Richmond (loads of English names in Tasmania from the early settlers) . Just a few days previous this was where Charles and Camilla stopped off on their Jubilee Tour.

In the afternoon we arrive at Freycinet national park. Jeff our leader is taking us on a 1.5KM walk to see Wineglass bay. Two of us set off like an express train only to find an exhausting climb but once at the top it was more than worth the effort

Although Wineglass Bay has been voted in the top 10 deserted beaches of the world it didn't always have such a beautiful history. Before it was a national park (1916) this place was a whaling station and it got its name from the colour of the water due to the whaling station. Happily this practice was stopped in the 1800s and today the only things being shot are photos.

We stay the night in the national park at one of the lodges and are rewarded with a stunning sunset as we sit outside at another Aussie staple, the barbie!

Fri 23rd Nov

Yes you have guessed right, up early again. This time we are transferring to the second city of Launceston. A brilliant day as we wind our way along the coast passing through Swansea and stop at East Coast natureworld to see the Tasmanian Devils (amongst other native creatures)

i have a snake phobia and so the park are very good in keeping me away from them. We are followed in our little train by the kangaroos which we get to stop and feed. We see the Tasmanian Devils and learn about their program. Tassie Devils have been hit by a cancerous tumor disease in the past 16 years and so far there is no cure. The park is rearing "clean" devils in order to release in the wild so these lovely creatures can eventually come off the endangered species list

After passing through some wonderful countryside we arrive at Launceston. We are made more than welcome by the Mercure hotel and have a few drinks with the lovely manageress before we go into town for dinner.


Sat 24th Nov

YES!!! no early start as we are not leaving until 11am

However we are up early as 8 of our group are leaving this morning back to Heathrow (they came out day before us) and we are there to wave them goodbye!

We bid farewell and then its time for us to depart on our days journey. We head off up the coast to visit the old gold mine at Beaconsfield (site of a mine collapse in 2006) where one miner was killed and two miraculously rescued after 14 days trapped underground. As my uncle was killed down a coal mine this was a particular poignant visit for me.

We set off again through the countryside and eventually come to a winery for a wine tasting an lunch. After a pleasant couple of hours we come back into the city to visit Cataract Gorge. A large parkland area which has the longest single span chair lift . To think this wilderness is only 15 mins walk from the city centre.

In the evening we go to visit the Tasmanian Symphony orchestra for a little bit of culture.


Sunday 25th Nov

Thought it was too good to be true, you guessed it back to the early start. Leave the hotel at 7am and wind out to the centre of Tasmania. Enroute we stop at a little village for morning cuppa and the bikers are in town for a rally. Really good guys and are proud of their bikes and they are more than happy to show us around and talk about them

We then start climbing into the mountains to go and see the great lake and the central highland. After visiting Poatina hydro electric scheme we descend back down to the plains and visit the historic little town of Ross.

We are set a competition to find 3 numbers which my team win (mainly because we can translate Roman Numerals) and again to to sit in the pub garden to catch the last few rays on our final afternoon in Tasmania.

All too soon we are at Launceston airport and have to say goodbye to our brilliant driver Pete.

Another short Virgin flight back to Melbourne where we say goodbye to Jeff the tour director.

We all check in for our long haul back to Abu Dhabi and then a four hour wait for our 7 hour flight back to rainy UK!

On arrival at Manchester I get the train home. Due to inclement weather and trains being canceled en route, it takes me longer to get from Manchester Airport home than it did from Abu Dhabi to Manchester!



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