Day 24 (December 2, 2017 – Launceston, Tasmania, Australia): “Savoring Our Last Full Day”
Both Julie and I awoke at 5:40am to a chilly morning. It was still cloudy outside, but the weather had calmed down considerably from yesterday. Still, the forecast had called for more rain so I wondered how our touring experiences for our last full day in Tassie would be.
We took some time to get all packed up and to ensure that we didn’t leave anything behind. By about 7am, we loaded up the car for good (so we didn’t need to return to our cabin), then we drove over to the reception area so we could have the included breaky one last time.
We once again stuffed ourselves with the breaky buffet where we loaded up on kimchee and congee, bacon, hard boiled eggs, and a chia seed smoothie. Other stuff that I was able to get included the corn fritters, sausages, mini pancake with nutella, mushrooms, and tomatos as well as fruits like watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe.
By 8:05am, we were back in the car, checked out of the Pepper’s Cradle Mountain Lodge, and we were on our way to tour the last waterfalls of the trip before eventually ending up in Launceston for our last night.
The drive out was pretty uneventful though there were some moments of light rain along the way. By about 8:45am, we arrived at a viewing area for the Waratah Falls. This was the familiar lookout spot that we had experienced the first time around, and the falls this time around was just as impressive in terms of flow and the flowery bushes in the foreground.
From examining the other side of the gorge, I noticed that there was some kind of road or path that appeared to lead right to the bottom of the Waratah Falls. The weather seemed to be unable to decide if we were gonna get rained on or if it was going to sprinkle and mist here and there then stop. Either way, the rain was light enough and infrequent enough to let us experience the falls without needing a rain poncho.
After having our fill of this spot, we then drove back across the bridge and onto a side street to get to that trailhead for the path leading to the base of the falls.
By 9am, I got started on the short walk to the base while Julie stayed in the car. This path to the bottom of the falls was something I hadn’t done the first time around. But doing it this time around allowed me to be a bit more aware of some of the quarrying that was going on as I saw a bare mountain across the gorge containing the Waratah Falls.
At the bottom of the falls, there was also what appeared to be a floodlight. That suggested that they indeed light up this falls in the evening (though we could never corroborate that since we never stayed here late enough to prove that point one way or the other).
Once I had my fill of the bottom of the falls, I then hiked back up to the parked car. On the way up, I noticed some deeply scarred mountains in the distance, which I’d imagine was some blasting and quarrying done for some industrial purpose. Funny how you notice these things upon a second visit when we missed such observations the first time around.
And by 9:20am, we made a brief stop at a junction where we almost went the wrong way. Luckily, I knew something was off, and we readjusted course and then we were finally driving out towards Burnie.
By about 10:15am, we arrived at the Burnie Park. We actually took what appeared to be the main entrance, but it turned out that it was merely a short “car park” for some war memorials at the foot of Burnie Park.
Regardless, we parked off the side of the road, and then checked out the war memorial briefly. We didn’t spend too much time down here, but we did take advantage of the toilets nearby.
Afterwards, we walked across some bridged creek where we saw ducks and a fake waterfall in Oldaker Creek. Beyond the pavement and some kind of performance amphitheater, Julie and I made the 340m walk on a gravel or dirt trail.
Contrasting the lawns, picnic tables, and playground jungle gyms in the lower end of Burnie Park, the trail was flanked by tall trees and it looked more like we were in a bush trail as opposed to a neighborhood park. In fact, if it wasn’t for the glimpses of homes surrounding the park and the channels funneling Oldaker Creek through the park, we could have easily thought we were walking in the bush in some remote reserve.
It didn’t take long on the uphill path before we went around an intermediate cascade (aided by some channel walls) before we arrived at the familiar Oldaker Falls, which had a small drop then some cascades dropping into a pool before flowing down to the intermediate tier we had went around.
Unlike the first time we were here, the falls had pretty good flow. Undoubtedly, the rains that inundated Burnie yesterday must have boosted the flow of the falls. There were also purple flowers flanking the creek like before. But the presence of the road bridge above (which wound up being Oldaker Street) and some of the walls surrounding the falls made me wonder if this was a legitimate waterfall where thing were built around it or if it was a fake waterfall.
There was also the possibility of the falls being “enhanced”. But regardless of what it would wind up being, I couldn’t really tell.
Anyways, after we had our fill of the falls, we made our way back down to the car. Along the way, I made a detour towards the old car park that we stopped at the first time. Now, I saw that it was a much larger car park and we probably should have parked there as there were plenty of formal parking spaces. There was even an interesting Burnie Inn, where I wasn’t sure if it was a real accommodation or a historical relic for all to see.
At 11am, we were back at the car. With the cell reception being strong in town, Julie did some research and decided to eat at this place called Palate. She said it had gotten good reviews, and it was also open whereas other restaurants like Fish Frenzy and Bayview weren’t open until noon.
During the drive to the restaurant, we saw a lot of people walking on a boardwalk along the Esplanade. We weren’t sure what the fuss was all about since we were here yesterday and didn’t think the beach was particularly that impressive to warrant that big of a crowd. Could it be because there was a huge cruise ship docked in the port here? Who knows?
Anyways by around 11:15am, we would finally park where we thought the Palate Restaurant was, but we had a lot of trouble trying to figure out where it was. We also wasted $3 as the parking meter ate $2 then we unnecessarily paid $1 as the ticket was only good for about 30 minutes away from the car, which wouldn’t be enough time to eat.
But during the course of finding the Palate Restaurant (which wasn’t on the main street as according to TripAdvisor), we also saw there was a parking structure that allowed the first 90 minutes of parking to be free!
So we wasted money on the parking, and I promptly drove into the parking structure to score one of the 280+ free spots though it was filling up fast.
Once we were finally in the restaurant, we each got mains. Julie got a duck confit and I got a pork belly. When the food came out, we saw that the duck confit was creatively done as it wasn’t the typical duck leg with crispy skin and soft insides. It was more like a circular arrangement with tasty duck material within that circle. The pork belly had crispy skin but really soft shredded meat beneath.
The bread and the oil with sea salt was also a good holdover for us as Julie got a gluten free version of that bread.
Well, it turned out that this restaurant was quite the find, quite literally! We were glad we figured out where to find it as it was situated in a back street and only visible to people walking from the arcade or the parking structure’s payment machine.
We not only paid less money than the two prior lunches, but the food was next level.
When we reached the vicinity of Ulverstone, we then took an exit for the Gunns Plains and followed the B17 for a ways before the GPS told me to leave the B17 and remain on Preston Rd. After passing through the small town, we then saw a sign pointing to the right onto Raymond Rd saying “Waterfalls 1” as it pointed to the right.
By 1:05pm, we arrived at the familiar pullout for the Preston Falls, where there was one family coming back from their excursion. It looked like the wooden sign we had seen the first time we were here was gone. Now, there was a purplish more modern looking sign as well as an interpretive sign as well.
We then promptly walked down the steps and the ramp before following the fences, which skirted a cliff edge before crossing the creek, then ending up at the familiar lookout peering right down at the plunging Preston Falls.
Unlike the last time we were here, the falls had even lighting as threatening clouds were headed our way. So there weren’t shadows from the morning sun like the first time essentially splitting the falls in half. The falls also had much higher flow than before thanks to the rains from the last few days (with more to come).
Julie enjoyed this falls (deserving of a 2 in her mind), and we gladly documented and took a few selfies before the falls. Then, by 1:30pm, we were back at the car. The skies hadn’t quite opened up and rained on us during our time at the falls, and that made for an easy experience. But we knew it was just a matter of time before the bad weather would come.
As we drove back towards the Bass Highway, I took the 5km route north towards the B17 at the Gunns Plains. Then, we followed the B17 eventually back towards the A2, and we’d ultimately follow this highway all the way to Launceston.
By about 3:05pm, we parked at the Penny Royal, which was some kind of multi-use dining and adventure spot as well as apartments right at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge. The last time we were in Launceston 11 years ago, this area was shut and looked abandoned. But now, it looked like it was buzzing.
Of course, the main reason why we were here was to check out the waterfall even though we knew it was fake. It was well-situated and I recalled it was even visible from other parts of the Launceston CBD so long as you had a line-of-sight towards the cliffs flanking the mouth of the Cataract Gorge.
Julie stayed in the car while I went to do a little exploring of the complex. It turned out that Penny Royal was free to enter, but it costed money to do the activities like ziplining, rappeling, rock climbing, boat rides, ghost tours, etc. And this doesn’t even include the wine tasting and the dining.
All this was taking place behind the apartments fronting the activity. So this kind of gave new meaning to this kind of commercial/residential mixed zone.
Despite the light rain that was falling in the area, I still persisted in documenting this apparent “shopping mall” for lack of a better term. The waterfall was merely decoration as a backdrop to all this ambience.
At 3:15pm, I was back at the car and was quite glad I checked out this place. But with Julie managing to score restaurant reservations for two at the Stillwater Restaurant (due to a 6pm cancellation that we claimed), we had some time to kill. We did want to go to the Cataract on Patterson for dinner but they were closed again for a private function. So Stillwater was the backup but even that was hard to get.
Regardless, by 3:50pm, we made it to the Mantra Charles Hotel, which was the last accommodation of this trip. We wound up using this time to get our belongings organized so we could be up and out the door after a cold breaky first thing tomorrow morning.
While this was going on, the weather outside looked like it worsened as it was raining harder and it was raining sideways as the winds were blowing pretty hard. If this was the situation tomorrow, we would be in a world of hurt as I’m not sure they’d fly the smaller twin propeller planes under such conditions. And that would jeopardize our connecting flight back to LA from Melbourne, where we already had a fairly risky 3-hour layover.
It wouldn’t be until about 5:45pm when we left the hotel and drove to the Stillwater Restaurant. By the time we got there 5 minutes later, it was raining still and I doubted that we were going to have a post dinner walk into the Cataract Gorge like 11 years ago.
The restaurant experience was very pleasant as we were chatty with our server Breana as we talked about various random topics like the food (of course), Triple J, our American accents, and even what the P and L plates mean on some of the cars we saw rolling around during our travels.
As for the food, we had a total of 8 Tassie oysters from St Helens in the northeast of the island. We actually had originally ordered 4, but Julie wanted more as these were possibly the best oysters we’ve had on the trip and maybe ever.
The beef tartare appetizer was also quite good. But when it came to the larger dishes, we loved the scallops salad. As for my main, I got their most expensive dish which was the rack of lamb at $80 AUD. But that dish was stellar (it better be for that much money), and it was so good that even Julie had two pieces of my rack of lamb and she doesn’t even like lamb!
The dessert was this very interesting mix of eucalyptus ice cream with mint and mint creme, chocolate ganache, dark chocolate sticks, and vanilla cream. It was different yet very memorable and something I wouldn’t have had if I only relied on the menu descriptions. But given how kick ass the chef had been for the entire meal up until this point, I had to see what the dessert was like, and it didn’t disappoint. Even Julie risked her candida outbreak to have a bite or two.
In the end, we spent $200 AUD for this meal (which included a tip for Breana as we really enjoyed her service and the chatter), but this late meal splurge was as perfect of a finale as we could ask for.
Afterwards, we then made a quick stop at Woolworth’s, where we knew they stocked good stuff. But this time, we only got one more plain kefir and a blueberry container for our last breaky in Tassie before going to the airport.
By 8:10pm, we were back in our room after braving the rain and the biting cold winds from the car park to the interior of the hotel. And so ended our touring of Tassie, where we pretty much did everything we had targeted at the outset of this trip (especially since we tried to make up for the drought complications from back in November 2006) as well as getting to experience new things like Dip Falls.
We pretty much spent the rest of the evening killing time (watching Food Network) and blogging or processing photos. But we’ll have to wait and see how tomorrow goes as far as whether we’d get home on time or have to put up with more delays, missed connections, or other unforeseen circumstances…