From Bruny Island to Port Arthur.
Oh no it’s raining, the wind had blown stronger throughout the night but we didn’t hear the rain. “Le Frog Box” is so well insulated that we hadn’t realised that it was raining until we opened the door, and it was freezing! Our plan today is to drive closer to Port Arthur sampling wines and produce all the way along. No set plan had been made on where we would pull up stumps for the night. Karen had marked a number of free campsites along the route we would just see how far we travelled.
Our first stop was Get Shucked for a dozen of the mixed oysters for breakfast! Yep oysters for breakfast, the best (cheap) beautiful fresh oysters for breakfast.
So fresh we could hear them being unloaded this morning as we stayed right next door last night at Bruny Island Landscaping. So good in fact there was a dozen natural purchased to be taken away. Next a double back to Bruny Island Cheeses yep we know we were there yesterday but we know they have fresh Sourdough sticks just about ready to come out of the wood fired oven.
After we collected these essential items and secured them safely it was onto the barge for the return trip to the mainland. TIP: Just a reminder here, if you catch the ferry from the mainland to the island at the “Supersaver” time slots it costs a lot less, you can return at any time to the mainland even at peak times and it won’t cost you anymore.
As mentioned our plan was to taste Tasmania on this leg. We were going to be passing a lot of distilleries, wineries, cheese makers, fresh produce shacks and we intended to try everything, well as much as our bellies could take. Also remembering drinking and driving is very much frowned upon, so Karen will be drinking and Rob will driving.
In the harsh early days of the colony, convicts, soldiers and free settlers all favoured a drink or two as well. Presented with an abundance of pristine mountain water and land perfect for growing barley, the colonists were soon producing their own spirits, with sixteen legal distilleries and countless small-scale farmhouse operations by 1824.
In 1838 a new governor by the name of John Franklin decided that spirits were a bad influence on the colony, (BOOOOOO!) and banned distillation outright. (Double BOOOOO!!) This prohibition would last for over 150 years. But in 1990, Bill Lark managed to get the law overturned and established Lark distillery in 1992, launching the modern Tasmanian whisky industry.
Sullivans Cove Distillery was established in 1994 at its original location at the old brickworks at Sullivans Cove, making it the second oldest whisky distillery in Tasmania. In the early days, the reputation of Sullivans Cove was poor to say the least, but in 1999 new ownership vastly improved the quality of the whisky being produced.
This was the first distillery of our choice to visit, located now in Cambridge it was on our foraging trail today. Tasting took place in their beautifully appointed cellar door where you are asked to take a seat in leather wing-backed chair or on a Chesterfield lounge, very boys club.
We were guided at leisure by one of the knowledgeable cellar door staff members who talked us through the various whiskies on offer and answer any questions we had. We of course had many. After your chat about the Whisky they ask, you to choose from three different tasting flight options which include 3 x 10ml samples (approx. 1.2 std drinks): Karen chose the whisky flight with three of the core range/cask variations. Karen is a scotch drinker and likes a fine drop, but in her words “these are out of this world”.
The attentive staff member answered all of the questions she had and then offered her a special tasting of a limited edition trail barrel that had just been bottled. Did this have something to do with us filming for YouTube or did Karen’s charm work a treat on this young man. Whatever the case we paid for Karen’s tasting $30 and left empty handed, Karen only really liked the $400 bottle, typical.
On existing the tasting room we find, thankfully that the skies have cleared. Onto our next destination and “Le Frog Box” led us right there. Frogmore Creek. The highly acclaimed Frogmore Creek wines are from the genuine cool-climate of southern Tasmania, where grapes benefit from a long growing season amongst a pristine environment. These slowly-ripened grapes develop pure fruit flavours, fresh natural acidity and are perfect for making world class cool-climate wines. We were truly looking forward to trying these wines.
This winery is home to both the Frogmore Creek and 42 Degrees South wines, the vineyard is situated in the produce-rich Coal River Valley wine region. The tasting room and restaurant is set amongst the vines, with breathtaking views over the surrounding valley and waterways. It is a perfect place to get acquainted with some of Tasmanian award winning wines.
Our Sommelier guided us through a variety of wines encouraging us to try various varieties that we would not have normally tasted. With her guidance we found new and exciting wines that could well become our favourites.
Well on this occasion we didn’t leave empty handed. Where to store all this wine? You can always store wine right! We didn’t stay for lunch as much as Karen would of loved to try a number of the menu item’s. We had a few more discoveries to make along the way.
With wine goes Cheese. High on Karen’s list to visit was Wicked Cheese Co. Wicked Cheese are boutique cheesemakers based just outside Richmond. They have emerged, in a few short years, to gain recognition as one of the most impressive, high-quality, hand-made cheese ranges in Australia.
They have won numerous awards including best Brie in Australia, champion goats cheese two years in a row and Supreme Champion cheese at Royal Melbourne Show. Not only do they showcase their own produce but they have teamed up with other small local produces, making their destination a one stop shop.
It is an amazing outlet to find, jams, small goods, chutney, sauces, Australian native spices and herbs. After a generous cheese tasting experience, Karen filled her basket and we were off to find a place for lunch, to try some of her purchases.
Timing was right for us to enjoy Richmond and maybe have a lunch stop at the popular Richmond bridge. Richmond is rich in history and architecture, with more than 50 historic buildings, mostly from the 1820s. This is a wonderful town to explore and to learn about Tasmania’s past while enjoying visits to galleries, museums, cafes, retail therapy in gorgeous historical landmarks.
But in it’s past it was an important convict station linking Hobart with Port Arthur, and Richmond is known for housing fascinating landmarks, such as Australia’s oldest intact jail (1825) and Australia’s oldest remaining Catholic church, St. John’s, built in 1836.
The most photographed landmark in Richmond is the oldest bridge in Australia that’s still in use. Built by convicts in the 1820s, it is made of sandstone and was completed in 1825 when Richmond was the 3rd largest town in what was then called Van Diemen’s Land.
We doubt that the convict builders ever envisioned the types of vehicles that now use this historic bridge, let alone the weight it carries. But here it stands testimony to their great engineering skills. This is where we decided it was time to eat, into the galley Karen went and a cream of Mushroom soup made from some wild fungus that she had purchased along the way, served with a sourdough stick fresh from Bruny Island this morning accompanied by cheeses from Wicked Cheese Co and a shared bottle of Pagan Cider, life is good.
After that feed it was time for a tour around town and to catch up on some history lessons. The Richmond Jail, is the oldest gaol in Australia. Built in 1825, it was in use until 1928 and gives glaring insight into the difficulty of convict life in the 19th century. It’s open for self-guided tours daily, and as you explore the cells you can learn about the stories of some of the notorious inmates, including the famous convict “Ikey Solomon”, who many say was the model for the character of Fagin in Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist”. you could wander this beautiful town for days, photographing every building, it is so picturesque.
Our thoughts turned to where are we going to rest for the night. As mentioned we had earmarked a couple of potential free and low cost campsites for the night. Tomorrow is our first day to explore Port Arthur so we certainly wanted to be close enabling a full day at the historic site which opens at 8am. We drove into the Dunalley Hotel, which if eating and partaking in an ale camping is free or they ask for a donation.
There were quite a few already in for the night and still plenty of room for us. However the wind was howling up there. Affording fabulous views also sometimes means if the wind is coming from the wrong direction you don’t have shelter. One stop to keep noted for another time with much more favourable weather conditions.
We both looked at each other and said “we are so close to Port Arthur let’s just go on through”. We had booked at the NRMA caravan park in Port Arthur for two reasons, there is no close free camping and we wanted to be close to the historic site to take full advantage, and we needed to know our site would still be there after touring all day. We called in to see if they had room for us tonight…. No sorry we will see you tomorrow. So what do we do now. There is a free camp spot on a gravel/dirt road 20klm away or we could try the other caravan park. Trying the other park was a wise decision. A non powered site set us back $30. The park is right on the beach and the amenities were spotless. We pulled in made dinner and fell into a deep sleep with the sound of the waves washing up on the beach …. Perfection.
Join us next time when we explore the Historic Site of Port Arthur and surrounds.
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