Lavender, Wine and Cliffs – not Devils – in Tasmania

Day 40, Grand World Voyage

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023; Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia.

Tasmania is an island southeast of the main Australia island. This will be the farthest south of our voyage – 43 degrees south latitude. Cape Town, South Africa, is at 34 degrees south. In May, we will be at our farthest north destinations, Bergen and Eidfjord, Norway, both just over 60 degrees north latitude.

Anyway, back to Tasmania, and Port Arthur, today’s destination. It’s a small town best known as an early site of a convict settlement and, unfortunately, as the site of Australia’s worst mass shooting (1996, 35 people killed and the driver of strict gun laws in Australia).

We tendered ashore to the World Heritage property that includes the penitentiary and surrounding buildings. In part because this is a tender port, we signed up for a ship excursion, which got us early seats to go ashore.

Our first stop was the Tasmanian Lavender Company, where co-owner Clare Dean gave us a warm welcome with the history of how she and her husband transformed the five-generation family farm from cattle to lavender. It wasn’t an easy path, but today they also have a popular restaurant and store, expanding their entrepreneurship into multiple business lines.

The highlight of our tour was the snack of delicious scones accompanied by lavender butter, cream, jam and curry.

As we traveled up the narrow peninsula, we got a good look at the small bays, the heavy bush under the tall trees and the other natural elements that made the Port Arthur site such an effective prison. We stopped on a narrow neck of land to see a memorial to the mean dogs that were stationed there to prevent convicts from crossing.

Among our stops was the Tasman Arch, which passengers on boat tours saw from the water, and tessallated rock at Eaglehawk Neck. Millions of years ago pressure caused cracks in the rock, which now look like tiles after ocean and sand erosion.

Our last stop was at a local holiday hotel for a wine tasting. Bream Creek Vineyard owner and vigneron Fred Peacock described his process for growing the best grapes for each wine. Unfortunately, the earlier tour groups had pretty much wiped out his supply, so many people on our tour left disappointed. But when we stopped in the gift shop back at the port, Elaine found a better price for the Pinot Noir she wanted.

We sailed away from Port Arthur mid-afternoon to head to Hobart, just a couple of hours away. The winds picked up as we circled Cape Raoul with its towering cliffs, rock platforms, columns and swirling seas. I pulled out my new Lumix 20×1200 camera for some closeups.

Hobart is hosting the Australian Wooden Boat Festival this weekend, and the harbor is full of everything from traditional tall ships to small and sleek wood kayaks.

Rather than go ashore after our 8 p.m. mooring, we stayed on board to enjoy the Lido-deck concert by Tasmania Uncovered, a local band that combines “traditional, contemporary Celtic, Australian and Roots American folk.” Or, as my sister Eloise said, “They sound just like something from the back hills of the Ozarks except with an Australian accent.”

The evening was capped by a fireworks display in celebration of the festival. Tomorrow we’ll go look at all the wooden boats early, so we can return to watch the 10:30 a.m. Super Bowl kickoff.