This morning we are in the capital of Tasmania, Hobart. The state has a population of 512,000 people and about 100,000 live in Hobart. If you add in its suburbs, about half of the island’s population lives here. As you enter the harbor, all the land is covered in homes. It looks like every house has either a view of the mountains (Mt. Wellington), the water, or both.
Dutchman Abel Tasman first sailed into Marian Bay in Tasmania in 1642, naming it for his commanding officer Van Diemen. It was known as Van Diemen’s Land for many years and original land grants bear that name. Since 1855 the island has been known as Tasmania. Abel Tasman didn’t think much of it and never came back. It was not until 1804 that the English established the first successful colony in Hobart.
We took a brief ride through Hobart, although there wasn’t a lot to see in this relatively young city. The most beautiful park used to be a burial ground. The City has tried to maintain many of the original sandstone buildings. The large bridge we can see from our ship crosses the River Durban separating the east and west sides of the city. A captain who preferred to take his ship under the bridge closer to the shore one night knocked out two bridge piers. The ship was loaded with zinc that became concrete-like underwater. That ship still sits at the bottom of the river. Periodically, unsuccessful salvage attempts are made.
At the time of the accident there was no lighting on the bridge. Cars passing over the bridge didn’t realize sections of the bridge were out and drove off the edge. The damage to the bridge meant that suddenly a large portion of the population was cut off from their jobs and vital city services. In the three years reconstruction took, government funds were used to develop the isolated east side of the city. The designers could not simply replace the piers with the ship sitting under the roadway, so a new structural design emerged. Today the bridge is secure, but lacks a symmetrical look.
©Jean Janssen Australia’s oldest Bridge, Richmond, Tasmania. The bridge was built by convict labor in 1823.
Tasmania’s Governor is not elected, but rather named by the Queen on the recommendation of the local officials. The current governor is a woman, the country’s first. She enjoys a lovely stately home on a hilltop. Leaving the city behind, we passed the hilly, dry landscape hope to wine and whiskey producers. The flat land provides the ground for grain production.
Our first stop is Richmond, a historic town that used to do a bustling business with its mills until the River Pitt became too shallow. The enterprising townspeople reinvented the area years later when they discovered tourists liked the charming, historic village. Today it is filled with gift shops, bakeries, restaurants, and an alarming number of ice cream parlors. The local “lolly shop” will even put your sweets into ice cream.
Richmond is also home to St. John’s Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic Church (1836) in Australia. To reach St. John’s you cross the river on the oldest bridge in Australia built by convict labor in 1823.
After viewing the church and taking photographs of the bridge, we parked in town. I walked around a bit and took a few pictures. I thought the Richmond Arms was charming until I read their chalkboard menu and realized they were serving marinated kangaroo fillets. I did do a little shopping and finished my visit at the post office where I sent a few cards back to the states. Boris shopped and toured the gaol (jail).
We retraced our route and made our next stop at the Coal Valley Vineyard, a small family winery. They ship to mainland Australia, but since 9/11 are no longer able to ship to the UK, Canada, and the United States. We tried a sparking wine, two Rieslings, a Pinot Noir, and a Merlot/Cabernet blend. Although she told us the area is perfect for growing the grapes for the Pinot-in fact they pulled out the vines used in the Merlot/Cab production to put in more of the vines for the pinot grapes-my personal opinion was that the Pinot Noir was the weakest offering. Generally I am not a Riesling fan, but both these offerings-one dry, one sweet-were pretty good. My favorite was the sparkling pinot noir chardonnay and I bought two bottles. Not sure if these will both make it home; there may be a cabin party on the ship.
The winery has a lovely sitting along the Pitt. They also offer meals and a beautiful terrace to enjoy the view of the vineyard and river while you enjoy your food and wine. A tasting flight is $5 and you can add a cheese plate for another $10 if you prefer just to snack. There were other wineries along the route and you could make a day of tastings if you had a driver.
Our final stop was back in town, Rummymede, a traditional Tasmanian home. This was not a two-story upper crust establishment, but a single story regency style sandstone villa for a family who wanted a weekend home outside the city-at least it was outside the city when it was built in 1840. It has been operated by the national trust since 1964. Original efforts were to make it into a stately home, but a later revision thought to bring it back to what it was like for the Bayley family, the third owners of the home, that lived here for 100 years.
We were rushed to finish on time, but we had a fabulous guide Ian with a cheeky personality. Master mariner, Captain Charles Bayley was prominent in the whaling industry, primarily exporting whale oil to the American market. He renamed the property Runnymede after one of his whaling ships, a portrait of which hangs over the fireplace in the museum. The home has been added on to a few times. It has very clever shutters for the windows and French doors covers that dropped into the floor. The steps leading up to a high bed also served as the enclosure for a chamber pot. Ian also showed us a wonderful high chair that converted into a stroller.
I loved the dining room table leaves that were crescent moon-shaped, expanding the oval table at the ends rather than in the middle. The enterprising Mrs. Bayley found that while decorating she had run out of wallpaper. Rather than reorder from England and end up with a different die lot and experience delays, she painted in the unfinished area. It was a detailed and remarkable likeness. You could tell now that they are not all wallpaper only because the color had aged differently on the wallpaper and on the paint. Mrs. Bayley’s painted portion was more vibrant.
The period artifacts they had collected added a great deal to the tour. 60% of the collectables and furnishings in the home were original to families that lived there. There were wonderful gardens and outbuildings to tour, but we didn’t have time. If period home touring is something that you like, visit Runnymede and be sure to ask for Ian; he “made” the tour.
After dropping off the wine bottles and other purchases and a nice lunch on the ship, Boris and I returned to the cruise terminal for the crafts market. There is a special market each Saturday in Salamanca Square near Battery Point, just one of the many areas in town with free wi-fi. The booths came to us since we were not docked on a Saturday. Boris and I found some cute local crafts and used up our Australian Dollars. Next stop is New Zealand.