Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Derwent River Walks: Shag Bay Track

[Part 3 of a series featuring short walks along Tasmania's Derwent River]

What do you do when you have a free morning, but the rest of your day is busy? For the two of us the Shag Bay Track looked a good choice, given it’s one of the shortest walks along the Derwent. But if we were expecting the walk to be short on interest, we soon found otherwise. It may be less than 2km long (each way), but this walk packs a great deal into a short distance.

[Near the start, above Geilston Bay] 
We parked at the start, in suburban Geilston Bay, on Hobart's Eastern Shore, and walked up a well-marked and easy track. Through the sparse trees we looked out at dozens of colourful yachts that bobbed at anchor in sheltered Koomela Bay.

Just a few minutes up the track we started to get broader views across the Derwent. To the south the Tasman Bridge, almost side on, looked particularly impressive. To the west we had glimpses of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, its exotic and deciduous trees a contrast to the muted colours of the drier Eastern Shore bushland.

[View downstream to the Tasman Bridge] 
As we turned north we could hear and see the Nyrstar Zinc Works across the Derwent. For nearly 100 years the factory has processed minerals from Tasmania and beyond, turning them into zinc for use in galvanising. If a century old factory seemed ancient, we were in for a surprise when we got down to Shag Bay itself.

[The Zinc Works across the Derwent] 
A steepish track led us to the narrow, bush-enclosed bay, where we found remnants of old industry, including a rusty boiler. Shag Bay was once the site of a mill that transformed bones into fertiliser. But it was also the scene of a tragedy. A high-pressure boiler exploded in 1915 killing two workers and destroying the factory. Today’s peaceful setting seemed at odds with that sad story.

[Remains of a boiler at Shag Bay] 
We soon found a far deeper story. Aboriginal middens, with shell and bone fragments from thousands of years of food gathering, still sat there alongside recent industrial ruins. Given the whole area’s panoramic setting, its proximity to the shortest crossing point of the lower Derwent, and its access to rich marine resources, we weren’t surprise that it was favoured by Aboriginal groups.

[Aboriginal midden alongside industrial remains] 
We sat awhile to contemplate the many generations of Aboriginal people who must have known and loved this place. Their long history was changed forever by the arrival of Europeans in 1803. The first British settlement at Risdon Cove, only a short walk from Shag Bay, was also the site of the first violent Aboriginal deaths.

[An ideal spot for quiet contemplation] 
With our minds full of deep time and sad stories, we were quiet on the return walk. As we ambled slowly down the track, it took the sharp call of some honeyeaters to bring us back to the present. We soon found ourselves back in yacht-dotted Geilston Bay. We were surprised it had taken us barely an hour to do a walk that truly spans thousands of years of history.

*This series was prepared for the Derwent Estuary Program and Greater Hobart Trails 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Derwent River Walks: Cornelian Bay to the Botanical Gardens

[Part 2 of a series featuring short walks along Tasmania's Derwent River]

Are you suspicious when you hear the words “suitable for all ages”? I usually am. But I must say it’s actually true for the walk from Cornelian Bay to the Botanical Gardens. 

[Looking upriver from the Botanical Gardens] 
 Still dubious? Consider these attractions:
  • Easy waterside walking
  • Two quality cafes
  • A children’s playground
  • Colourful boat sheds
  • Boats on the water
  • Wildlife
  • A superb botanical garden
  • Extensive and ever-changing river views

[The Derwent from the Boathouse Restaurant, Cornelian Bay] 
We chose a warm morning to try out the walk. The Derwent was silky and shimmering, the breeze just a whisper.  Testing out the “all ages” theory – our group ranged in age from two months to over sixty – we started our walk near Cornelian Bay Point.

[Our toddler enjoying the ducks at Cornelian Bay] 
The pram-friendly track soon led us to Cornelian Bay itself, where the playground was a magnet for the group’s two year old. The adjacent Boathouse Restaurant would have been the same for the adults if we hadn’t just had a coffee.

[On the shady, pram-friendly path beside the Derwent] 
At the city end of the bay sits a huddle of quaint, multi-coloured boat sheds. As we walked past them along  the undulating gravel path, we welcomed the shade of she-oaks. From the path we had views of the Derwent, the Tasman Bridge, and a lone white-sailed yacht, which barely kept ahead of us in the calm conditions.

[Walking towards the Gardens from near Cornelian Bay]

[Cornelian Bay's boat sheds] 
By the time we’d reached the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, both children were asleep. That left three adults to enjoy the green tranquility of the gardens, surely among the best in Australia, if not anywhere. Boasting everything from huge trees to tiny blooms; and wide lawns to intimate themes gardens, it could have held our interests for hours. 

[Parental peace in the Botanical Gardens] 
But the sleeping children would soon need wrangling, so we decided one adult should go back for the car. That left the rest of us to buy lunch at the kiosk and keep exploring the gardens.

[There always some colour in the Gardens] 
Allowing for toddler stops and photographic pauses, it had taken us about an hour to walk the 2km from Cornelian Bay to the Gardens. Onward options from there include walks to central Hobart via the Garden and/or the Cenotaph, but for our group two hours out was enough. There would always be other days for further walks.

*This series was prepared for the Derwent Estuary Program and Greater Hobart Trails 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Derwent River Walks: Alum Cliffs Track

[Part 1 of a series featuring short walks along Tasmania's Derwent River]

What’s the best direction to walk the Alum Cliffs Track along the Derwent? That’s what I was wondering when a fine afternoon seemed to invite me to try the walk for the first time. As I was doing it by myself, a neat solution occurred. I could walk it both ways! That would not only solve the transport issue, it’d give me twice the walk distance.

[Alum Cliffs above the Derwent Estuary near Taroona] 
That sorted I drove to the end of Taronga Road in Bonnet Hill, not far past Taroona’s Shot Tower. The track here is around 100m above sea level, and it wasn’t long before I was getting glimpses of the Derwent between the trees. After about a kilometre of easy undulating walking, the glimpses turned into a full-blown view. From a cleared and fenced lookout I was looking straight across the beautiful, broad Derwent estuary towards South Arm. An old tall ship, a modern yacht and a cargo vessel slipped slowly past, reminders of the continuing maritime story of the Derwent.

[Views toward South Arm across the wide Derwent Estuary] 
The track wound up and down, weaving inland through damper gullies before returning to the drier cliff tops. At various points fences protect unwary walkers from the steep cliffs that give the area their name. The “Alum” part of the name derives from the alum compound that was found in the local rocks.

[One of the wetter gullies along the track] 
The track was now trending downhill as it curved south-west towards Kingston. I tried to ignore the fact that my return trip would be mostly uphill. The views were a good distraction, with a large part of the Derwent estuary and Storm Bay stretching out before me. Below a group of sea kayakers hugged the shore, heading towards the cliffs.

[Looking out to Storm Bay from the track]

[Sea kayaks near Kingston Beach] 
Less than 3km into the walk I could now see Tyndall Beach, best known as the Kingston Dog Beach, below me through the trees. Right on cue a couple walked by with their dog. Two more dogs weren’t far behind. With the popular dog beach below, and parts of the track open to off-lead dog walking, it’s no surprise that the track attracts dog owners. (Some sections of the walk are for “on-lead” walking: signs clearly indicate requirements.)

[Dog walkers on the 'on-lead' section of the track] 
Above the dog beach I again had a choice. One steep track wound down to the beach, while another more evenly graded track lead to Tyndall Rd carpark, and Browns River. I took the steep track down to the beach, where a good number of humans and dogs seemed to be having some relaxing fun. But for me it was time to turn around, and do the walk in reverse.

[Dogs and their people enjoying Kingston Dog Beach]

[Steep steps lead to/from the Dog Beach] 
In total the walk there and back was just shy of 6km, and it had taken less than 2 hours. And which direction did I prefer doing the walk? To be honest each direction has its attractions, and I’d probably do the same again. But if I was walking with children or a group with mixed abilities, I’d be inclined to leave cars at both ends, and do the one-way, mainly downhill walk from Bonnet Hill to Tyndall Beach. If that wasn’t enough, a walk along Kingston Beach – with a cafĂ© stop and a swim – or an even a longer walk on the Boronia Beach Track, would be good add-ons.

*This series was prepared for the Derwent Estuary Program and Greater Hobart Trails