Low Head

There are so many beautiful places to visit along the Tamar River, and a scenic forty minute drive from Launceston, the most sublime can be found as the waters empty into Bass Strait. It is impossible to feel anything other than calm when arriving at Low Head, surrounded by the blues and greens that only nature can bestow. This fabulous old Queenslander can be rented as holiday accommodation, with a view like that I don’t think I would ever want to leave.

In 1798, explorers George Bass and Matthew Flinders circumnavigated Tasmania in their vessel, Norfolk and proved the existence of a strait separating the island from Australia (apparently, it took a long time to dig that ditch). With much difficulty, they located the mouth of the Tamar River and made landfall seven kilometres up river at Port Dalrymple, now called Georgetown. Ten years later, the crew of Hebe found the entrance more than ‘difficult’ and came to grief on the treacherous reef, the first of nine shipwrecks to come. Consequently, convict labour set to work to construct Tasmania’s second (Australia’s third) lighthouse from local rubble with a coat of stucco to help with durability and a lantern room built of timber.

First lit in December 1833, the structure slowly deteriorated and was replaced in 1888 with the double brick version still standing today. Originally painted solid white, the red band was added in 1926 to improve visibility during daylight.

The initial four-roomed lighthouse keeper’s quarters were attached to the base of the tower, as seen in this illustration that is exhibited at the site.

A new Head Keeper’s quarters was built in 1890 (now available as holiday rental) and an Assistant Keeper’s quarters followed in 1916.

Tasmania’s only foghorn was installed at Low Head in 1929. For those who might understand, it is one of the largest Type G diaphones ever constructed and is one of only two of the type functioning in the world today. Decommissioned in 1973, it was restored by a group of volunteers and became operational again in April 2001.

The foghorn is sounded at noon each Sunday and can be heard up to thirty kilometres out to sea.

The area around the lighthouse encompasses Low Head Coastal Reserve, home to little penguins, the smallest of all penguin species. Also known as fairy penguins, they are the only species of penguin that are dark blue and white rather than black and white. The Penguin Tour experience sees them waddling back to their burrows after a day in the sea under cover of darkness. We were fortunate to spy this lovely creature settled on the nest, apparently accustomed to human presence.

Lillico Beach

There is one of those, “I must go there one day” places along the Bass Highway between Ulverstone and Devonport. I am ashamed to say it took me eight years in Tasmania before I pulled off the highway to explore Lillico Beach Conservation Area. The reserve is home to a colony of the world’s smallest penguins, aptly named the Little Penguin or Fairy Penguin. I entered the walkway and immediately spotted little concrete shelters scattered through the vegetation.

1.penguin burrow2.penguin burrow

The artificial burrows are used when there is a lack of natural burrow habitat and offer protection from predators such as feral cats.

3.penguin burrows

I wandered along the viewing platform, distracted by the spectacular panorama of Bass Strait at low tide.

4.looking west5.looking north6.looking east

The burrow designs are quite innovative and seem perfectly sized for a penguin who is only 30cm high and weighs around one kilogram.

7.penguin burrow

This important wildlife corridor hugs the coast for 2.5kms,

8.Bass Strait

the shingle beach and rock pools make for stunning scenery.

9.on the beach

If I were living at Lillico Beach, this would be my choice of home,

10.penguin burrow

if only for the location.

11.penguin burrow

There were no penguins to be seen on this day, they were all out fishing in the beautiful blue ocean. We will visit one summer evening to watch them waddling back to their burrows. I won’t wait another eight years.