A Ten Day Exploration of the Gardens of Tasmania - from Van Diemen's Land to Paradise
Fly into Hobart, Tasmania's state capital.
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart (RTBG)
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in the state capital of Hobart, often Australia’s driest state capital city, is a nineteenth century botanical garden. To walk around here is to understand that Tasmania was founded as a British colony. RTBG reminds visitors of Kew, the great grandmother of all such botanical gardens, as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow, Glasnevin in Dublin and no doubt many others. The botanists who fanned out over the countryside are part of Tasmania’s common cultural tradition.
Where to stay:
Corinda’s Cottages in Glebe, a peaceful area of Hobart. These restored convict built cottages come with their own delightful gardens. A lovely historic base from which to explore Hobart.
Take a day trip along the Lyell Highway to Hamilton to see the beautiful Prospect Villa & Gardens (pictured - and featured by Robin Lane Fox in the Financial Times) - a thirty year labour of love by Helen Poynder. If you are staying longer in Tassie, this is a good opportunity to head towards the West Coast Wilderness. Otherwise return to Hobart tonight to continue your ten day Tasmanian Gardens Odyssey.
Inverawe Native Gardens, Margate
Just 20 minutes from Tasmania’s state capital Hobart are the magnificent Inverawe Native Gardens, owned by Bill Chestnut and his Scottish wife Margaret, also featured by the FT's Robin Lane Fox. The result of decades of hard work by this one dedicated couple, Inverawe is based on the English Landscape movement that seeks to go with nature, and sits softly on the landscape. Few gardens around the world have the view down the Bay that is Inverawe's most characteristic feature, and which links Inverawe to the wider world; it is an outward-looking garden. Inverawe has seen no fewer than 99 species of birds here and according to Bill, anyone who doesn't get at least 20 species in a couple of hours has either picked a very bad day or isn't really trying. Bill says: "UK visitors will see some plants they grow at home but in a naturalistic setting and some plants they have never imagined."
Where to stay:
Stay just a few minutes’ walk away at the picturesque Margate Cottage Bed and Breakfast with breathtaking views across forested valleys and its own river, perfect for swimming. Your hosts are Adam and Sue. You will enjoy exploring the Huon Valley and possibly even Bruny Island from here.
The Gardens of The Port Arthur Historic Site
This world famous UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Tasmania’s most popular tourist attractions but the gardens are always a stark contrast to the horrors that lie within. Visitors are drawn like magnets by the gruesome history that is a confronting reminder of our less honourable past. The Government gardens at Port Arthur also point to another tradition; the garden that was open only to ‘people of the right class’. This is the site of Australia’s most notorious penal settlement where young boys and men, transported to Van Diemen’s Land from the UK, were sent upon re-offending. This is where punishment by ‘cat o’ nine tails’ flogging was changed to psychological torture by solitary imprisonment, based on London’s Pentonville. Surrounded by some of the worst felons in the Empire, it was important to keep up appearances. On Sunday afternoons ladies of the right class would promenade, dressed in their Sunday best. Visitors should remember that these were normal people just like us, who found themselves in an extraordinary circumstance.
Where to Stay:
Stewart’s Bay Lodge is a short walk from the Port Arthur Historic Site, in lovely waterfront log cabin accommodation with a view over Ladies’ Bay where the ladies who walked in the gardens bathed in privacy, far from the view of the convicts. The Tasman Peninsula has wonderful walks and the highest cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere.
Woolmers Estate & National Rose Garden
One of Tasmania’s five UNESCO World Heritage Listed Convict sites, together with neighbouring Brickendon, Woolmers Estate boasts the most perfectly preserved and priceless convict records and history in Australia and is also home to the National Rose Garden, which not only displays all the recognised rose families but also represents one of the finest collections of historic roses in the Southern Hemisphere, ranging from the earliest European and China roses through to the roses of the twenty first century. The plan of the National Rose Garden is formal and symmetrical and acknowledges the 19th Century context in which it sits. The central parterre garden, 117 metres long and 35 metres wide is planted with sculptured beds and grassed pathways. The Rose Arbor, a modern steel structure running south to north is 80 metres in length and 5 metres wide, planted with 72 Westerland climbing roses, with stunning views of the historic village of Longford.
Where to stay:
Visitors can enjoy accommodation here, or in neighbouring UNESCO World Heritage listed Brickendon, which has lovely gardens of its own, and is a working farm that is still in the same Tasmanian family, now in its seventh generation. Your hosts are Richard and Louise Archer.
The Tasmanian Arboretum
In a wide valley at Eugenana, the Tasmanian Arboretum can be found in the hills in northern Tasmania, a short drive from Tasmania’s second city of Launceston. The lake focuses the landscape and there are a many short and long walks. A popular spot for birding, this provides a habitat to the egg-laying mammal the Duck-billed Platypus, which can often be easily spotted by eagle-eyed visitors. The Arboretum is run by a not for profit volunteer organisation. Visitors will find themselves wondering how a committee of volunteers, working in their spare time, can achieve such a remarkable outcome.
Where to stay:
Visitors will love Beauty Point Cottages, which have their own delightful gardens with stunning views over the Tamar Valley. The B&B, run by Colin and Barb, is a short drive to nearby Narawntapau National Park dubbed ‘the Serengeti of Tasmania’ for its abundant wildlife, day and night, and the nearby wineries of the Tamar Valley.
Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden
Also on is set in a rounded valley in the hills behind Burnie. Emu Valley is a world class Rhododendron garden, built and maintained by a not for profit group of enthusiasts. The boldness and scope of the vision together with the élan with which it is being delivered is a marvel to its visitors.
Where to stay:
Enjoy a little piece of French gourmet luxury with Gini and Remi’s B&B accommodation and beautiful cottage gardens at Glencoe Rural Retreat (Remi was once the chef at the Ritz Paris); or escape to The Winged House, a magnificent award winning self-catering property cantilevered over the Bass Strait at Table Cape with 180 degree views and albatross soaring outside. If you spend a couple of days here you can explore the far north west which also has the cleanest air in the world and the Tarkine Rainforest and Arthur River Cruises.
Kaydale Lodge & Gardens
In stark contrast this garden is hidden deep in the valleys of Tasmania’s north west, on the road to the powerful and little visited Leven Canyon, and close to the hamlet of Paradise. Kaydale imposes itself on the landscape, a stunning garden designed, constructed and maintained by a visionary family. With an elevation of 500 metres and a rainfall of 80 inches, Kaydale’s alpine rockery, complete with waterfall, is easily world class and one of the best garden experiences in Australia. Whereas UK gardeners grow tree ferns in pots to be wheeled indoors during winter, at Kaydale a dozen or more grizzled veterans inhabit the old tennis court garden, shrugging off annual snowfalls.
Where to stay:
Kaydale also has B&B accommodation. However, a short drive away, nature enthusiasts will love mountain Valley Retreats, a B&B on a ‘Land for Wildlife’, the only place in Tassie where wild sightings of Tasmanian devils are commonplace for guests. A stay here with owners Pat and Len includes a free wildlife tour which will reveal many of Tasmania’s endemic species including platypus, devils, quollsGard and Tasmanian pademelons. You are only an hour's drive from Cradle Mountain
A visitor might imagine that sometime around 1800, he or she is a small child in the country, peering through iron bars that surround the park of a great house, knowing that this child can never aspire to such things. Then the child suddenly finds himself n Van Diemen's Land, transported as a felon perhaps, or with the army, and suddenly it's all possible; the great house can be his. Clarendon and houses like it were created from that imagined memory and can be found all over Tasmania.
Where to stay:
Spend your last night at Launceston B&B Retreat, a private property on the outskirts of Launceston set amidst wildlife rich gardens with river views. Enjoy the antics of the local nocturnal wildlife courtesy of strategically placed camcorders.
Depart today from Launceston Airport, or continue yourTasmanian Odyssey.