Starting Along the East Coast of Tasmania

Before leaving our overnight stop at Eaglehawk Neck, we did one last piece of exploration.

The small sandbar connecting the Tasman Peninsula is only 30 metres wide and was protected by a pack of dogs stationed in a line who would bark and alert the guards to any movement, thus preventing anyone from crossing the line. Today, a dog statue marks the spot where the line was cut out of the dunes. The words on the information board say something like “These dogs would have won a prize for the ugliest and most ferocious mutt in any dog competition”.

The Officer’s Quarters is claimed to be the oldest timber-built military building in Australia. At the busiest point in its colonial history, the Eaglehawk Neck station had an officer, sergeant, and 25 soldiers. Today, the Officer’s Quarters houses a museum that tells the area’s history, the semaphores’ importance in conveying information about convict escapees and, of course, tales of those who made it past or attempted to pass the dog line.

Our GPS showed that the most direct route to Swansea was back through Nugent to Bucklands. I remembered that the service station there had a coffee machine and we were hankering for a decent coffee all the way. We drank it in the large parking area behind the pub. The oldest remaining house in the town dates from 1826 and the Buckland Inn was built in 1841 from local hand cut sandstone. The Inn was the first overnight stop for the original horse drawn coach service from Hobart to the coast during the 1800’s.

Today was a routine travel day – just passing through a couple of small towns to get to our overnight stop at Swansea. Not nuch spectacular scenery today, so not many photos.

The first major town that we came across was Triabunna. It sits at the edge of the sheltered Spring Bay and is fringed by beaches, coastal reserves, hills and forests. Originally established as a garrison town for the penal settlement on Maria Island, Triabunna is now the departure point for passenger services to Maria Island National Park. We did a circuit oif the town looking for a place for lunch. The harbour was cowded and with no room at all in the car park I assume that it was because lots of people had taken the ferry to Maria Island.

The only place with food was the fish and chip shop. Our tour notes had described this shop as Triabunna’s main attraction. We did stop at a fancy looking place up the road at Freshstone point thinking that some oysters and a glass of wine woould be nice but this wasn’t their style and they didn’have any oysters anyway.

We have noticed three main differences in driving in Tasmania comapared to back home on the mainland.

Firstly, the roads here in excellent condition. No potholes and well maintained. Even the unmade roads that we have driven on have all been very well graded and smooth.

Secondly, there is road-kill everywhere. I’m beginning to wonder how many animals may be still alive in this state.

Thirdly, there is a dearth of roadside stops with picnic tables and / or toilets. I guess that the towns in Tasmania are close enough not to need rest stops that prevent fatigue.    

After leaving Triabunna, we came to the town of Orford. This town bills itself as the gateway to Maria Island which is visible off the coast. Maria Island is a mountainous island located in the Tasman Sea, off the east coast of Tasmania. Accessible only by ferry, the island (a national park) is a native wildlife sanctuary surrounded by peaceful bays, rugged cliff faces, and sheltered by tall eucalypt trees.

Maria Island has a long and rich history, going back well before the colonial era. In fact, remnants from the Aboriginal people of the Tyreddeme clan of the Oyster Bay tribe can still be seen today. In 1642, the island was named by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman after Maria van Diemen, wife of Anthony van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies in Batavia. However, the island is largely known today as a previous convict settlement for two periods in the first half of the 19th century. The island’s first convict era took place between 1825 and 1832 and its second – the probation station era – was between 1842 and 1850.

Near the bridge across the Prosser River in Orford, the next town up the road, an old Convict Road  follows the Prosser River for a kilometre. It was created by an enormous amount of hard manual labour (there are points where it is easy to see the brick and stonework of the convicts). The road was built some time between 1841 when a Probation Station for new convicts was established at Buckland and 1855 when the Probation Stations in the area were closed down. 

A nearby quarry opened up in the 1800s. Stone from the quarry was used to build nearby Hobart and much of Melbourne. The historic Melbourne General Post Office, for example, was built with stone from this area. I knew that this was the case, but I wasn’t quite sure where the stone came from. It’s difficult to image cutting and loading big blocks of stone onto ships in the days of horses and carts.

The rest of our day to Swansea was along the coast with various acces roads and turn-offs leading to beaches and bays along the way. The sandy beaches were in great contrast to the riuggedness of the Tasman Peninsula.

Just before reaching Swansea, we came across the Spiky Bridge. It was built by convicts in the mid 19th century on the east coast about 7 kilometres south of Swansea. The bridge is made from field stones laid without mortar or cement and the parapet features upright stones, giving the bridge a spiky appearance. On the nearby hill are the remains of the governor’s cottage which overlook the bridge.

One thought on “Starting Along the East Coast of Tasmania”

  1. The beaches look so peaceful, in a storm, made not so. The dog looks terrifying if just a statue

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