Happy Tasmemianniversary to me! I made it, I really made it! And I couldn’t be happier. Today is a day for celebration.
I wake up in Stanley, on the north west coast of Tasmania. When I did the ol’ campervan trip around the state with Fran back in July 2011, Stanley was a favourite corner for me. Ever since moving down here, I’d resolved to getting back up to Stanley again for a visit… and while this weekend wasn’t entirely planned this way (I’m a lot less regularly spontaneous than you may think), it turns out it’s the perfect way to celebrate one year on the island.
How crazy beautiful is this? Welcome to Stanley. That’s the Nut. It’s not a mountain but a volcanic plug, which means that a LONG time ago (see: 20 to 75 MILLION YEARS AGO) it was an active volcano—A FREAKING VOLCANO—but then the plug was created when magma hardened within a vent on the volcano. From wikipedia: If a plug is preserved, erosion may remove the surrounding rock while the erosion-resistant plug remains, producing a distinctive upstanding landform. Which is what happened to the Nut.
Which you can find out for yourself if you a) trek up the path or b) catch the chairlift to the top.
Of course today I catch the chairlift. I have a collection of reasons for this:
- I love chairlifts
- the chairlift wasn’t operating when I first visited in the campervan with Fran in the dead of winter and I was heartbroken
- I haven’t had any coffee and I didn’t sleep particularly well last night
The ride up in the chairlift also gives me time to contemplate exactly what I’m going to do up the top. The full circuit of the Nut is around 2km and takes around half an hour. I have a long drive ahead of me, so I decide to just walk to the first lookout (around 500m) and then back.
Once I get to the first lookout, the Pinmatic Lookout, I realise that it would be ridiculous to not just walk the full circuit. At this stage, I figure the Nut is going to be fairly similar all over, flat and windy—stunning, too, but flat and windy.
The visitor passport has notes like “Look out for the wildlife! So much wildlife!” and so I keep my eyes peeled on the track around from the chairlift to the Pinmatic Lookout, anticipating my “likely encounters” with echidnas, pademelons, wallabies and shearwaters. Except there are just these shrubs. So I just keep walking and admiring things in general, and it’s around this part of my trek that my camera battery AND my phone battery die, because I forgot to charge my camera battery overnight and my iPhone 5 has a dumb battery life.
But then I get down past the Fisherman’s Wharf Lookout and the scenery changes dramatically and suddenly I’m in this ridiculously beautiful spring grove and there are pademelons and wallabies all over the place eating breakfast and I go to a ridiculous amount of effort to milk a final couple of photos from my camera battery.
From my intrepid adventure guide aka visitors passport: “This is what most of the nut would have been like prior to it being used for grazing land in the 1970s.” There’s even a little picnic table slightly off the path and I wish I had known to bring some takeaway breakfast up here because it’s crazy how magical this is. I’m sorry I couldn’t share more of it with you here.
I finally wrestle myself away from the woods and back up the path to the chairlift. Again, I lament my dead batteries on the chairlift ride back down the Nut, because the view over the town is stunning. So I just take photos with my eyes instead.
Once my feet are on the ground again, I’m back in the car and after grabbing a coffee at the Brown Dog I’m on the road back along the north west coast, with a plan to stop in at a few cafes I’ve had bookmarked to visit for a while. This is like… Ultimate Memily Time.
My first stop is Bruce’s Cafe in Wynyard. I’ve had Bruce’s in my bookmarks for almost the entire year… when I first moved to Tassie, I used twitter to follow a lot of local businesses (and make some friends, too) and @brucescafe was one of them. The owner runs the twitter account and has a very real and down to earth approach that comes across. I’m sorry to say that my first experience in the flesh is not awesome, though. I’m four minutes too late for the breakfast menu, which breaks my heart, and the staff are relentless and not particularly friendly. I’m not ready for lunch yet, so I just have a coffee and a delicious piece of cake.
I do want to note that after I posted a “bummer dude” tweet, the owner got in touch and mentioned they weren’t in on Saturday and were disappointed on my behalf, and passed feedback on to their staff… so Bruce’s is still on my list. Plus, DELICIOUS cake.
Back on the highway, an hour or so down the track I arrive in Burnie and head to Run Rabbit Run. There are so many things I like about this place, and the first is that they have an all day breakfast menu on weekends. I CAN HAVE BREAKFAST! I can also have a single origin coffee! And a delicious smoothie! And everything is so cute including the music and the waitstaff and yes this is a hipster cafe and I am in my hipster element.
Despite it being a deliciously hipster-ish cafe, I note that the demographics of the other patrons on this Saturday morning are all over the place. I actually observe this at all four cafes I stop at today. It’s excellent, because the owners and staff of these places are doing exactly what they want to do, and in these smaller towns people aren’t scared off by feeling like only a particular demographic is allowed to patron a place. Coming from Brisbane, and spending a fair amount of time in Melbourne, I certainly have noticed these demographic-owned places in both those cities. Heck, it even happens a little down in Hobart. It’s really refreshing today to see all different types of people just chilling out, enjoying their company and their meals.
Once I have polished off my delicious breakfast, I’m back on the road—this time to Devonport. I’m hunting down Laneway Cafe, which was brought to my attention back during my work for the Ten Days on the Island festival in March. Each of the ten “festival towns” had a “supper club”, a festival takeover of a local venue, and in Devonport the supper club was at Laneway Cafe.
Laneway is in a laneway (legit name, tick) off Steele St in the centre of town, just down from an adorably-curated vintage store called Mr Wolf. I’m still full from breakfast in Burnie (it’s only half an hour down the road) so I perch at the window bench and have a coffee and a delicious fresh juice. As with Run Rabbit Run, Laneway is brimming with patrons of all ages, enjoying a Saturday lunch out with friends and family. So nice. The space itself is gorgeous, and as well as a cafe this place also markets itself as a delicatessen, and I make eyes at the cheese fridge before reminding myself there’s still around four hours of driving ahead of me.
Devonport was actually the first town I ever stayed in Tasmania, coming down for work for a few days in April 2010. I still remember marvelling over the way the Spirit of Tasmania ferry dominated the port, and I remember holding my breath while watching the ferry pivot in the mouth of the Mersey River, scared it was going to scrape the sides. It’s still a mammoth of a ship, and it’s nice to get the chance to say hello as it sits docked in the river today, exactly twelve months after it delivered me here to my new life.
After my coffee at Laneway, I put my foot on the gas to make it down the highway to Perth for my final cafe stop for the day. I don’t even stop at Ashgrove Cheese, which is remarkable for me.
In Perth (Tasmania, not Western Australia—who knew there was another one?) an hour later, I pull in at ut si cafe, existing within the walls of a picture-perfect beautiful old church. There’s a delicious pulled pork bun on the menu that my stomach has decided looks like lunch, but unfortunately it’s sold out… so I drown my stomach’s sorrows in some more coffee and a slice of decadent chocolate and beetroot cake. The staff are absolute sweethearts and they don’t have eftpos but they do trust you enough to pay via bank direct deposit. Gorgeous.
I have to admit, I’m a little weary by now… I guess it turns out there is a limit to the number of cafes I can visit with enthusiasm in one day! I crawl back into the car and hit the road for the final leg of my journey back home.
From Devonport south, this has been the same journey I made exactly a year ago (albeit a little earlier in the day). The countryside is distractingly beautiful, and I remember the thrill I felt looking out over it twelve months ago. I live here now. I spot golden canola fields and sheep with so many frolicking lambs (yes, I do legitimately spy some frolicking), and peekaboo rainbows, and so much green. Rolling hills, gatherings of trees and stunning cloud formations welcome me back.
Then the torrential rain hits. Oh, spring in Tasmania!
I make it home safely and then quickly get ready for guests. I am exhausted! The guests were planned, but the spontaneous road trip wasn’t! Thankfully the people that show up are all favourites and don’t mind that my hosting skills aren’t on fire tonight. We talk about my adventure, we drink, we laugh, we play Cards Against Humanity, we laugh some more, and I feel really lucky to be here and to be so happy.
It couldn’t be better right now. What a great day.