There are many wondrous walks to choose from in Cradle Mountain National Park but my favourite is Enchanted Walk. Just over one kilometre long, the circuit takes around twenty minutes, depending on how much time one spends admiring the scenery. The trail starts at Cradle Mountain Lodge and follows Pencil Pine Creek as it bubbles along, embraced by mossy banks and majestic trees of the rainforest. On this morning the sunlight danced on the water, highlighting natures artistry.
Tannins from surrounding buttongrass moorland created a startling palette of orange hues amidst the shadows.
As we meandered further into the forest, verdant lichens complemented the russet glow.
At the end of the walk, the creek tumbles over rocks at Pencil Pine Cascades on its way to Pencil Pine Falls and, eventually, on a convoluted journey into the Forth River and Bass Strait.
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.
We had no particular plan for sightseeing on the drive from Motuoapa Bay to Wellington but it wasn’t long before we saw a sign indicating the presence of a historic bridge. Of course, we went to investigate and found the Mangaweka Bridge. Built in 1904, it is the only cantilever road bridge left in New Zealand.
The bridge itself is quite impressive but the views from the centre of the Mangaweka Gorge are truly magnificent.
Across the bridge we were surprised to find Awastone Riverside Haven, comprising accommodation, a campground and café. We enjoyed coffee and cake along with a different perspective of the bridge, rising 17 metres above the riverbed and the vertical white ‘papa’ cliffs.
The Rangitikei River, one of New Zealand’s longest at 253 kilometres, has cut spectacular gorges through the soft clay on its way to the Tasman Sea. The dramatic backdrop and series of rapids along the way make it a popular destination for a memorable kayaking experience.
Since our visit, a new bridge has been built to cross the river at this point because of safety concerns. The old bridge will be retained as a tourist icon for foot traffic and cyclists and those wanting to take in the majestic views.
I recently spent a couple of nights in Launceston, catching up with a special friend from W.A. who was travelling around Tasmania with another two friends. They had booked accommodation at Armalong Chalets and fortunately, there was room for me. I arrived on a very inclement afternoon and we wasted no time seeking a beverage at Stillwater Restaurant, overlooking the Tamar Basin. Across the water, four large grain silos from the 1960s are now Peppers Silo Hotel. Deserted for decades, the Kings Wharf grain silos were rescued and transformed into a stunning $25 million hotel with many of the facilities constructed inside the original barrels. (A weekend stay is still on the bucket list).
After a fabulous meal at The Grain of the Silos Restaurant and a good night’s sleep, I awoke to a glorious sunny day and the most spectacular view through the floor to ceiling windows.
The chalets are situated at Tamar Ridge Cellar Door, perched high in the trees overlooking vineyards and the ever changing Tamar River.
We set off for a day discovering the Tamar Valley and a short drive down the West Tamar Highway, stopped at Brady’s Lookout, once the hideout for bushranger Mathew Brady. A gentleman’s servant in England, he was convicted of stealing a basket with some butter, bacon, sugar and rice and received a seven-year sentence of transportation to Australia. Arriving in December 1820, he wasn’t the most exemplary prisoner and escaped with a group of fifteen in June 1824, spending the next two years on the run before being captured and hanged on 4th May 1826.
The Tamar River isn’t actually a river, it is a tidal estuary into which the North and South Esk Rivers empty, that stretches 70km from Launceston to Bass Strait.
After investigating a couple of wineries and the former gold mining town of Beaconsfield, we arrived at Beauty Point to enjoy a relaxing lunch by the water.
The first deep-water port on the Tamar River was established to service the nearby gold mine and then, after the gold rush, it became the centre for the export of apples. It is now home to the Australian Maritime College training ship, Stephen Brown, a permanently moored neighbour of the Tamar Yacht Club.
We wended our way back to Tamar Ridge where, not only is there a cellar door on site but also a gin distillery, Turner Stillhouse. Arriving within a few minutes of closing time, we were treated to a tasting session of the award-winning Three Cuts Gin with distiller, Brett Coulsen. The unusual name refers to the three cuts of Tasmanian rose that are added to the gin, including some grown near the distillery.
Returning to the chalet as the shadows lengthened, we settled on the deck with a beverage and platter to absorb the breathtaking vista over vineyards and river.
Sadly, the next morning we went our separate ways but not before another magnificent sunrise.
A visit to Florence would not be complete without experiencing the Ponte Vecchio. We strolled a little further west to the Ponte Santa Trinita for a mid-river view of Ponte alla Carraia. Originally built from wood in 1218, the bridge was the second in Florence and was then called Ponte Nuovo, being renamed when it was widened to allow carts to pass. Succumbing to numerous floods over the centuries, the rebuilding has resulted in a few different versions, the current structure was completed in 1948 after the retreating German Army destroyed it in 1944.
Cafes and designer shops occupy the beautiful buildings along Lungarno Corsini on the north bank of the river.
To the east, the magnificent Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno at its narrowest point
and stunning apartments defy gravity at the water’s edge of the south bank.
The Ponte Vecchio dates back to 994AD but became another victim of floodwaters. The present bridge has endured since 1345 and was the only bridge spared bombing during the German retreat.
The Ponte Santa Trinita is best viewed from the Ponte Vecchio.
Similarly assailed by floods, the original wooden structure if 1252 was replaced seven years later with stone. This, too, was lost in 1333, rebuilt with five arches, destroyed by floods in 1557 and reconstructed with the three arches seen today. In 1608, statues of the four seasons were added to greet pedestrians at each end of the bridge. Another casualty of the retreating Germans, the bridge was rebuilt and opened in 1958 with original material salvaged from the river.
East of the Ponte Vecchio is Ponte alle Grazie, originally constructed in 1227 it suffered the same wartime fate in 1944. After the war, a competition was held to create a new design and the modern, reinforced concrete structure was completed in 1953.
In 1565, Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned a secret passageway to connect his residence, the Palazzo Pitti on the south side of the river, with the seat of government, the Palazzo Vecchio on the north side. Designed by Giorgio Vasari, the one kilometre long Vasari Corridor (the square windows above the arches) follows the river to the Uffizi Gallery.
The Vasari Corridor crosses the river above the shops on the Ponte Vecchio.
Initially, butchers, fishmongers and tanners plied their wares along the bridge but the stench was so bad in the Corridor, in 1593 the Medici heir, Ferdinando I, decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers be allowed to own these shops.
A bronze bust of 16th century goldsmith, sculptor and author, Benvenuto Cellini, has pride of place in the centre of the bridge. His most famous work, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, stands in the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria.
From the bridge, we noticed an enticing spot to partake of a riverside beverage.
On further investigation, we found ourselves with Prosecco in hand at Osteria del Ponte Vecchio from where we enjoyed a different perspective of the bridge.