After last night’s storm and accompanying wild winds, we woke up with very low expectations for the today – think rain, rain and more wild winds. We were thrilled to discover blue skies, and while the winds hadn’t settled too much, that wasn’t enough to stop us venturing out of our room at Areca Hotel, Launceston, and head north.
Having travelled up the western side of the Tamar River to Beaconsfield and Beauty Point a few days ago, we wanted another visit to Beauty Point to visit a little coffee shop, River Cafe, that had a lovely view over the river and a perfect spot for a hot cuppa and croissant for morning tea. Heading back south, we crossed over the Batman Bridge, part of the Batman Highway which connects the East Tamar Highway to the West Tamar Highway. It’s named after John Batman, a Launceston businessman and one of the founders of Melbourne. Built between 1966 and 1968, the bridge was the first cable–stayed bridge in Australia and among the first such bridges in the world. The main span is 206 metres long, suspended from a 91-metre-high steel A–frame tower. There is plenty of day parking on the western side of the bridge, including picnic tables, but sadly overnight camping isn’t allowed.
Just 25km further north is Georgetown, which really surprised us in terms of it’s shops, facilities and gorgeous water views. Even on such a windy day with whitecaps on the river, the town itself is beautiful and clean, lawns are green and well-kept, and the marina and boat ramp are very convenient with good public toilet facilities. We really enjoyed driving around the town, and there is plenty to do here including the Bass & Flinders Centre, George Town Watchhouse, and Mount George Lookout, with great views across the town, the Tamar River and across to Beauty Point.
A short 5-minute drive further up on the very tip is Low Head Lighthouse. It was just the third lighthouse to be constructed in Australia, and it is also Australia’s oldest continuously used pilot station. While it’s now unmanned and automated, it is beautifully maintained and definitely worth the visit, not just to see the lighthouse itself but to see the amazing coastline surrounding it. During the course of their circumnavigation of Tasmania in the Norfolk in 1798, George Bass and Matthew Flinders made landfall at a place they named Port Dalrymple, which is now Georgetown. In doing so, they proved the existence of a strait between Australia (the mainland, anyway) and Tasmania, so it was rather a significant event in our country’s history. While the lighthouse has obviously saved hundreds of lives throughout this time, it hasn’t prevented all of them, with the most recent being a BHP Shipping charter, MV Iron Baron. On 10 July 1995, nearing the end of its voyage and with a load of manganese ore, the ship ran aground on Hebe Reef. All crew were safely evacuated but the accident resulted in the worst oil spill in Australian history.
If you are visiting the lighthouse at the right time of year, and prepared to brave the cooler weather at night, this is also where you’ll find the penguin tours taking place. We weren’t keen to stick around in this wind though, so headed back to our new accommodation at the Waratah on York, Launceston.