The two towns have similar histories, having prospered – boomed, in fact – because of mining in the late nineteenth century but dwindled during the twentieth. In this they resemble Charters Towers and Ravenswood in the Townsville hinterland, and all four towns have public buildings out of all proportion to their current population.
A North-South line through Hobart and Launceston divides Tasmania fairly accurately into the settled East and the wild West. The West is wetter and far more mountainous, and much of it is wilderness (and long may it remain so!). Macquarie Harbour opens onto the middle of the West coast and was one of the most isolated outposts of the early colony. Its main township, Strahan, did well enough from fishing and timber-getting to survive but is still a tiny spot of humanity in a world of mountains, water and trees.
Strahan is now a pretty little town strung along the northern coast of Macquarie Harbour. Fishing and timber are still important but tourism, exemplified by day-long harbour tours on big catamarans, has become a major activity.
Cygnet is a pretty little town south-west of Hobart (map). It’s on a sheltered bay so it’s a yachting town as well as a farming town. It welcomes tourists, of course, and I know it as the home of a very good post-Christmas folk festival (still going ahead this summer although in a much reduced format).
There aren’t many campervan sites on Freycinet Peninsula (previous post) and over-casual visitors are bumped out to free camping areas on the Friendly Beaches or near Moulting Lagoon, or to commercial van parks around Coles Bay. I therefore spent one night at each of the National Parks locations before heading North to Bicheno and then South again to the Three Thumbs and the Tasman Peninsula.
Lurking quietly between Coles Bay, Bicheno and Swansea is a large shallow estuarine area, a RAMSAR-proclaimed wetland and bird sanctuary. As Wikipedia says,
It comprises two adjacent and hydrologically continuous wetlands – Moulting Lagoon and the Apsley Marshes – at the head of Great Oyster Bay, near the base of the Freycinet Peninsula, between the towns of Swansea and Bicheno. Both components of the site are listed separately under the Ramsar Convention as wetlands of international significance. Moulting Lagoon is so named because it is a traditional moulting place for black swans.
The Freycinet Peninsula (map) is one of the most beautiful parts of Tasmania, which I think makes it one of the most beautiful parts of the world. Nearly all of the Peninsula, plus some nearby coastal areas, is National Park. There are access roads, camping grounds and day-use areas within the park but nothing else man-made apart from a network of walking tracks.
I admit that beauty is somewhat subjective but it’s hard to resist the claims of scenery like this: