The Edge of the World lies on a rocky windswept coast and we were headed to its stormy shore. But first, we made a few stops along the way.
Along the north coast of Tasmania is a town called Penguin, aptly named for the many penguins that nest in the area. The tuxedo-clad creatures who call this home are the smallest of the penguin species. Their name is just as pragmatic as the town’s name: They are called Little Penguins (or alternatively, Fairy Penguins). They are shy and only come ashore at night.
One night we waited along the shore at dusk near a rookery to see the adult penguins come to feed their young who come out from their homes after the sun goes down. We placed a red film over our flashlight so that we could see the penguins in the dark. Their retinas do not have L-cones so they can not see the red light and are not bothered by it. We stood quietly and waited so as not to scare them.
After a while, we heard the adults calling to their young and the young answering, the chatter becoming more excited as they neared each other. We watched the reunion and nightly feeding with our red light.
Due to the darkness when viewing the penguins we were unable to get any great pictures to share. Instead, here are a few photos of the fields of flowers in Wynyard. The landscape was beautiful but the tulips were not yet in bloom. We were about a week too early.
A Town Reinvented by Art
Cover Photo is artwork by Marc and Debbie Spijkerbosh from New Zealand. This piece is called Promenade “Stepping into an artistic promenade – a journey of discovery and inspiration where nature’s beauty surrounds us.”
Sheffield, Tasmania was a town suffering from a declining population and revenue. The rural town was booming at the time that the dams in the Tasmanian Wilderness were being built. Once the dams were completed so were many of the jobs that gave this town its boom. After years of decline, the town was becoming tired and old.
In 1985 the town council decided that a change was needed and proposed ideas that would reinvent themselves as a tourist destination by creating a “town of murals.” By the following year, the first commissioned mural was completed. The mural began with the artwork of locals but soon it grew in popularity and drew artists from all of Australia.
Each year they hold a mural contest. The new artwork is displayed in a park where everyone from the public can vote on their favorites. This contest now draws in artists from all over the world.
We walked up and down the streets turning in all directions catching art in every corner of town. It’s a great place to enjoy the afternoon. They have definitely succeeded in their reinvention.
Related: A City Transformed
When people grow tired of the current state and join together to make a change beautiful things can happen. This small change made such a big difference in the town.
Our first view of the West Coast of Tasmania was Hell’s Gates, located at the mouth of the Macquarie Harbour. It has hazardous tidal currents but this danger is not the origin of the name. In the early 1800s, this was a place of “extreme physical and mental torture” . Convicts which included Aboriginal people who defended their homes were imprisoned here. They were subject to hard labor and extreme weather. It was the prisoners who named the entrance to Macquarie Harbour Hell’s Gates.
We strolled along the fine white sand and pulled our jackets in close as the cold wind caused us to shiver, its strength taking our breath. The waters that lapped on the shore within this shallow harbor are dark, stained almost red by the tannin of the button grass so prevalent here.
This is a beautiful but wild shore. I contemplate as the reddish waters lapped the white sands. The wind whistled a tale of madness. Was this a tale of convicts blood against the pure innocence on the sand?
We enjoyed a few childish jokes and laughs on our way to Stanley. We were on our way to see The Nut, a big rock outcrop on the coast in Stanley. There is a short but steep paved path up to the top of this rock that looks over the entire town of Stanley. At the top, a 2 KM loop encircles the plateau. Winding through forests and following the cliff edge the loop is a beautiful scenic hike.
The views from the top are amazing. If you prefer to skip the steep walk up, you can take a ski lift to the top.
The Tarkine Drive
The Tarkine Drive is a 130KM scenic drive through Tasmania’s Northwest wilderness area.
Our first stop along this drive was Bluff Hill Point. We slowly made our way over the washboard road headed to the rocky coast. Near the end of the road, a few houses clustered around. We parked and started hiking along the trail.
A dog started barking. The owner called him back, we waved and he asked how we were doing then came out to greet us, welcoming us to this end of the island.
He told us that camping/access was no longer allowed in this area because the land had been given back to the Aboriginal people.
“They haven’t done anything with it and I see no reason you can’t explore it. There are some great places to camp just over the hill. I’m the only one here tonight so feel free to enjoy,” he said.
He gave us a few tips and then wished us well on our walk. The rocky shore was raw and untouched. Seaweed lay where it washed ashore and waves crashed against the jagged shoreline.
The Edge of the World
After making our way back to the Tarkine Drive sealed road we followed the coast south. A vast plane of button grass surrounded us just before a small turn to the left appeared. Another viewpoint lay at the end of this gravel road.
We took the turn and everything inside Lil’ Beaut including us began to vibrate over the washboard surface. Trin dodged the largest potholes and eventually pulled up to a small parking area on the desolate edge of Tasmania.
A signpost welcomed us to The Edge of the World. This Edge of the world is not to be confused with the End of the World in Ushuaia at the lowest end of Patagonia. Both do have that same feel as if nothing lies beyond their shores.
Deep thunder and frozen tears at the end of the world
Here at the edge of the world, a storm threatened. We got out of Lil’ Beaut into a cold wind and light rain. We shivered and jumped making our way towards the beach. This was no calm beach with the rhythmic lapping of the water.
The salty spray was thrown far into the air as currents hit the jagged rocks all around our basalt ridged vantage point. The deep thunder of the waves growled their warnings while churning waters displayed evidence of undertows and rip currents. The gray sky cried frozen tears and the angry wind drove through us forcing us to pull our jackets close in around us and we shivered as we stood transfixed at the Edge of the World.
I’m no flat-earther and a round object like our planet has no defined edges but still, the name seems to be fitting. There is no land between this point and Argentina more than halfway around the planet. Laying in front of us as far as the eye could see is the longest uninterrupted expanse of ocean on the earth.
The End of the Road
We continued our journey across the Tarkine Drive. The rain continued intermittently, we dodged one tree that hung precariously over half the road.
Suddenly Trin stopped Lil’ Beaut and I looked up to see why he was stopping in the middle of the road. A fallen tree blocked the entire path. It was not a large tree, I could almost circle the trunk with my hands, but not quite.
I got out to see if it could be moved. Unfortunately, the roots were still firmly attached in the soil keeping us from being able to swing it either way. The smaller branches easily broke off but the trunk that reached across the entire diameter would not be moved and we did not have a saw.
It seems that the Edge of the World would be the end of our exploration of Tasmania, at least for now. We turned around and drove back the way we came. We spent one last beautiful and chilly night just outside Devonport before taking The Spirit of Tasmania ferry to Melbourne the next day.
Adventure awaits and the mainland calls our name.