The first leg of our journey in Tasmania was no different to any of our travels over here in that we never made the destination we set out for. Our initial plan was to get to the Green Point camping area on the north west coast 200km from Devonport. However we decided to call in to Smithton, a small town 140km from Devonport. After a bit of a look around we ended up staying the night on the foreshore and close to the boat ramp. Freedom camping does not seem to be an issue in Tasmania – in fact they appear to encourage it. We saw a number of advertised free camps during our journey on Monday. We love the place already.
Smithton is on the far north-west coast of Tasmania and lies on the Bass Highway. The town and the region is noted for its natural beauty and its agricultural based economy. Other industries that contribute to the local economy are fishing, aquaculture, crop farming, timber plantations and tourism. A lovely little town with a stunning harbour.
One of the crops that was plainly evident during our drive on Monday was the large concentration of poppy crops along the northwest coast. We did not know it but Tasmania is the world’s largest producer of opium alkaloids for the pharmaceutical market with forty percent of the world’s legal opiate crop grown here. The poppy industry is a major financial contributor to Tasmania’s economy with the area sown in poppies approximately 20 000 hectares and with each hectare producing around 2.4 to 2.5 tonnes of poppy heads.
For the ‘Navy’ lads following the blog, we caught up with Paddy Haddock (ex sparker) and his wife Yvonne in Devonport on Monday morning. Paddy departed New Zealand a number of years ago and after having business interests in Queensland, retired to Tasmania. While Paddy has his health challenges, he has lost none of his wit and humour. We plan to touch base with them again at the end of the month before shipping back to the Aussie mainland.
On Tuesday morning we did the South Arthur Forest drive, a distance of approximately 200km starting from Smithton and finishing at Stanley. The drive allowed easy access to the States north west corner and took us through the villages of Repa, Marrawah, Arthurs River and Edith Creek and treating us to many forest reserves and working forests. With all our stopping on the way, the 200km took us about 5 hours to complete. We are happy that we have explored all the north western corner that we are able to do in the motorhome. Without having the jeep, our journey has changed slightly.
We arrived at Stanley late Tuesday afternoon and decided to make the village our home for the night. We were again parked up on a foreshore and at a free camp. We cannot get much better than this. Stanley is a town on the north-west coast of Tasmania and with a population of around 500, is the main fishing port on that coast. The most distinctive landmark in Stanley is “The Nut”, an old volcanic plug that has steep sides rising to 143 metres and with a flat top. While it is possible to walk to the top via a mesh of zig zagging tracks, we decided to make the journey via the chairlift system. We saw no point in risking life and limb just to climb a cliff.
Today (Wednesday) is our last day in the north west of the State. We will meander back down the Bass Highway as far as Wynyard where we will hook a left and join the Murchison Highway down to Queenstown. The drive is probably around 200km but we are not quite sure how long that is going to take us to get to Queenstown. You know us – we are always deviating from the main road to explore. It could take a few days.
Our first impressions of Tasmania? While there are similarities to New Zealand in terms of flora and the weather (8C in Stanley this morning), the island has its own distinct flavour which we would find difficult to replicate at home. We are appreciating the journey.