Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tasmanian Beaches

I suppose if Tasmania were a little bit warmer, it would be overrun and as popular as Tahiti, Bali and Hawaii. They have amazing beaches here! White sand, clear turquoise-green waters, beautiful surroundings. And that's not just my opinion. Since we've been here, we've visited a beach that was voted in the top ten beaches of the world and another beach that someone else listed as the second best beach in the world last year.

After Port Arthur, we headed north along the coast to the Freycinet Peninsula, famed for the Freycinet National Park and for its oysters. Despite my love of seafood in general and sushi in particular, I haven't had enough oysters to be a true lover. I blame my first experience for delaying my development in this particular area. While living in Austin, I went to dinner with some friends who were originally from the east coast and eating a big platter of oysters with great gusto. At my initial show of trepidation, they suggested that maybe I should try one first with a saltine. I think that had to be the worst suggestion ever, as I was then stuck trying to chew up a dry cracker along with the oyster. I had oysters again once during a happy hour in Seattle, and while I thought it was alright, I hadn't developed the love and fanaticsm that others sometimes have. But after reading about the local delicacy as a sweet-salty treat, reading about MFK Fisher's first experience with oysters, and my friend Jody's ode to them, I had to give them another try. And I'm glad I did. They're very similar to mussels, mostly just tasting fresh and of briny sea. While they don't lead me to wax rhapsodic as, say, sashimi scallops--which are possibly the most deliciously smooth and sensual thing I've ever eaten--they were quite good. I just wish that, like wine, I could have tasted a few different kinds at one time to better appreciate the differences between different varieties. (I should also imagine the shockingly good backpackers we stayed at in Swansea--modern, new, clean, a great respite from our past few accomodations! Definitely stay there should you find yourself in this neck of the woods.)

The next day we headed to the peninsula. On our way there, we were quite amused by these road signs:

However, we found out later that they only put these up where there are multiple animal fatalities. Actually, we've seen much more roadkill than live animals since being here, so it really is a problem.

But then it was time for the hike. We decided to do an 11 kilometer loop which would lead us past the Hazards, granite mountains that line the park, to an overlook of the famed Wineglass Bay, down to Wineglass Bay Beach, across the peninsula to Hazard Beach and back to the carpark.

The first stretch to the overlook was up, up, up along some neat granite steps and past the Hazards.

Steps to the Wineglass Bay Lookout

The granite Hazards

Then the bay. It lived up to its reputation, with beautiful blue waters and soft white sand.

Wineglass Bay from the overlook

Wineglass Bay Beach

I got a bit obsessed with trying to capture the color of the water

After the hike, we drove a short way to see the lighthouse with more views of the coastline.

The lighthouse, mostly referred to on its signs as a "Marine Vessel Navigation Aid"

One nice thing about Tasmania compared to New Zealand is that it's a much smaller landmass, so it's been quick and easy to get from one point of interest to another. We made our way to St Helens for access to the Bay of Fires. I hadn't heard about this beach until we read our inflight magazine to Tasmania and decided we had to go. It talked about amazing water and beaches (this is the number two beach in the world according to someone), with rocks that glowed in the sunset. It was amazing, even though you can see the weather only half cooperated by not actually raining on us. My only regret was that it wasn't a good time of year for camping. For $25 a day, we could have had a free camping spot and hired everything we needed to stay right on the shores of these amazing waters.....

Bay of Fires at Binalong Bay

Bundled up at the beach!

Tyler camoflagued amongst lichen-covered rocks

Who knew Tasmania would be filled with such great beaches? If only we had been here a bit earlier to better enjoy them.

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