Voyage Log: Coastal Wilds Of Tasmania – Coral Discoverer

Hobart to Hobart   |  06 February 2023 – 16 February 2023

This trip diary was compiled by: Guest Lecturer Lyn Wallace and Anne O’Dea

Jump To: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 |  Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6Day 7Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

Day 1: Depart Hobart

06 February 2023

On a clear afternoon with cool balmy winds, guests gathered at the Macquarie Wharf in Hobart to take our final COVID RAT tests and board the Coral Discoverer. With all passengers and crew testing a big negative we all boarded, the ship and headed down the River Derwent leaving behind a view of Hobart’s Mt Wellington – known to the Palawa people as kunanyi – and our voyage of discovery began…

Soon after we were called to the Bridge Deck lounge for a safety briefing with Purser Bonita and to meet the crew. Our Expedition Leader Dave introduced his team Marie, James and Guest Lecturers Anne and Lyn who, between them are responsible for expeditions and sharing information about the destinations en route.

We enjoyed our first pre-dinner drinks and a delicious meal in the evening, which was made a little bit exciting as we cruised along the Tasman Peninsula with a 4 to 8 metre swell and a curious and fun loving pod of dolphins.  The sun setting on the dolerite cliffs of Cape Raoul was a spectacular sight.

Day 2: Freycinet National Park and Schouten Island

07 February 2023

After a delicious breakfast, we boarded the Xplorer, bound for Freycinet National Park.  We saw lots of birds on Promise Rock including the Black-faced Cormorant and the Great Cormorant.  We learned that ‘seagulls’ in Tasmania can be BIG and that there are 2 types: the Pacific gull (recognisable by a smear of “lipstick” on the beak tip) and the kelp gull (with “lipstick” only on the lower bill).  Anne provided a demonstration of how little penguins turn the corner, which was very informative!   We were lucky to see a White-bellied sea eagle – flying over Refuge Island and a lone fur seal sunning itself on the rocks. We heard about how seals were hunted almost to extinction for their blubber in the early 1800s, but that happily they have recently been found to be breeding on Ile des Phoques, which is great news. We landed on Hazards Beach and quickly disembarked and regrouped at the start of the walking track.  We saw huge quantities of shells in the dune, testimony that the palawa people have enjoyed harvesting and eating shellfish in this area for thousands of years and that it was only the women who could swim and dive for shellfish.

Some of the group hiked up to the lookout whilst others enjoyed a slower walk across the isthmus to Wineglass Bay, observing many birds (including the Tassie Thornbill), flowers (including the Rosie hyacinth orchid) and numerous animal scats, including the cube like wombat pooh.  It was fascinating to consider how and why wombats excrete square pooh! It was a beautiful day for a swim and after a luxurious dip for the hardy amongst us, we were picked up from the beach and rejoined the Coral Discoverer for lunch. After lunch, we were off to Schouten Island and marvelled at the extent of the resource extraction and agricultural activity on the island prior to it becoming a National Park in the 1970’s. In the evening we enjoyed a Wilderness film.

Day 3: Darlington, Fossil Cliffs and Maria Island

08 February 2023

After a delicious breakfast with blueberry pancakes, we signed out, walked through the shoe cleaning station and on to the Xplorer for the short trip across to Maria Island. At the Commissariat, Lyn talked about the various phases of use, occupation and management of Maria Island, starting with the palawa people who accessed and managed this island for around 40,000 years. From the 1800’s there were two eras of convict settlement, followed by two eras of agricultural and industrial activity.  In 1884 Diego Bernacchi was granted a lease over a large part of the island for only 10 shillings per year to grow grapes for wine and mulberries for silk neither of these endeavours were particularly successful, and neither was the large cement factory that followed. In 1972 the entire island was protected in the Maria Island National Park, providing a safe haven for a multitude of wildlife including Cape Barren Geese, Wombats and, more recently, a healthy disease-free population of Tasmanian Devils.

We separated into two groups, with one group walking to the fossil cliffs and the other taking more time to absorb the fascinating history of this island through the extensive interpretive material available at Darlington. After our walk, we returned to the ship, where Anne delivered a fascinating presentation on the Tasmanian Devil.  We learned about the fantastic research being undertaken to ensure the survival of this threatened species and how one cheeky animal joined bible class and developed a taste for cupcakes! We had a relaxing afternoon cruising past the fossil cliffs. Anne described what we were seeing, and Guest Bob supplemented the commentary by sharing his extensive geological knowledge. After a delicious dinner, some retired to the Bridge lounge to watch the Tasmanian Terrors film.

Day 4: Maria Island Painted Cliffs and Reservoir Walk

09 February 2023

After another hearty breakfast, many of us set off in the Xplorer and cruised along the colourful Painted Cliffs before heading for the jetty where guests could head off for the Maria Island reservoir walk. We traversed some beautiful forest and saw a number of plants in flower including the Bursaria Spinosa; a lovely little shrub, which we learnt, produces green honey which is luminescent under a UV light! Wandering through the remains of the original cement works established here, we all admired the beautiful brickwork and the gorgeous arched brick ceiling of the Engine House, part of the lime kiln.  The builders of this fine old building clearly took pride in their work and built it to last! Some of us were lucky enough to spot a few birds along the walk, including a Scarlet robin, Green rosellas and a 40 spotted pardalote nesting in a high hollow.

Anne’s talk entitled ‘Tasmania’s Biogeography – A Recipe for a Special Place’ provided an incredibly condensed story of the origins of Tasmania spanning several million years to the present day.  Our minds were boggled and our heads spinning with depth and richness of the information presented.  We all came away knowing a lot more about many aspects of Tasmania than we knew an hour before! Cruising along Tasman Peninsula a huge pod of dolphins performed acrobatics and formation swimming.  We were lucky enough to see albatross, some seals sunning themselves on Tasman Isle, huge flocks of shearwaters and quite possibly … a penguin! John the Captain expertly navigated the Discoverer between Tasman rock and Cape Pillar, which was very exciting and dramatic.

Day 5: Port Davey and Melaleuca

10 February 2023

An early start today as we entered the beautiful Port Davey for a breathtaking sunrise over the mountains of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  It was stunning! After breakfast, we piled into the Xplorer for a very scenic and cool trip to Melaleuca.  We split into 3 groups to ensure that we didn’t overcrowd the bird hide and to give ourselves the best chance of seeing the elusive, critically endangered Orange Bellied Parrot.  Walking the long way to the bird hide, we traversed the Needwanee boardwalk and considered the beautiful artifacts and artworks of the connection to the country project, which recognised, celebrated, and acknowledged the Needwanee people. At the bird hide one group was lucky enough to see 5 orange-bellied parrots at the feeding table! That is, remarkable when one considers that only 74 known birds returned to Tasmania this year. Back to the jetty and after a big slab of chocolate and orange cake, we boarded the Xplorer bound for a scenic trip back through the Narrows to the Coral Discoverer. We were surprised to see a tiger snake swimming alongside the Xplorer.

The afternoon saw us heading off for an excursion to Bathurst Harbour and Clayton’s Corner.  Some people chose to remain on the Discoverer and enjoyed a beautiful sunny afternoon.  The remainder split into two groups and either hiked up Mt Beattie to gain some height to enjoy even more awe-inspiring views or took a short walk from Clyde and Win Clayton’s hut to TV Hill – Clyde’s favourite vantage point. Wandering around the old home built by Clyde and Win Clayton was a fascinating experience and provided a very personal insight into the lifestyle of these two icons of the Port Davey area.  Particularly interesting to some were the sticks placed in the plugholes of the bath and kitchen sink to enable the occasionally curious pygmy possums to escape!  The old Arga type stove is now home to a little brown Tasmanian skink who perched on the control panel looking like a bronze ornament.

Day 6: Port Davey and cruising the southwest coast to Ralphs Bay

11 February 2023

We awoke this morning to a beautiful sunrise as the Coral Discoverer navigated through the Bathurst Channel to Bramble Cove.  After breakfast some of us stayed on board to do some kayaking, some of us boarded the Xplorer to be dropped off for a hike up Mt Milner and some of us stayed aboard the Xplorer to cruise and circumnavigate the Breaksea Islands.  The conditions for our exploratory cruise were perfect and Adam the Bosun expertly manoeuvred the vessel up close and into some amazing, awe-inspiring sea caves and other rock formations. One of the highlights was seeing the waves breaking over a kelp laden rock ledge creating a small kelpy waterfall.

After rejoining the walkers, we returned to the mothership to link up with the kayakers where we enjoyed a sumptious morning tea. Lyn fascinated us with a talk about World Heritage, which opened our eyes to the values of the wilderness area and other places in Tasmania and beyond that have World Heritage status.  After lunch, we enjoyed the cruise back along the coast past the captivating Maatsuyker Islands to Ralphs Bay.

Day 7: Australian Wooden Boat Festival Hobart

12 February 2023

Hooray for Sunday with a sleep in and a relaxing start to the day!  After a leisurely breakfast, we boarded the Xplorer at 9.00am for the 10 minute trip across the bay to Hobart. After a short walk through the historic Battery Point, we arrived at The Australian Wooden Boat Festival, which had every kind of wooden boat imaginable! Held across Hobart’s vibrant and bustling waterfront, the four-day festival brings together the largest and most beautiful collection of wooden boats in the southern hemisphere. From its humble beginnings in 1994, it has grown to become the most significant event of its kind in Australia. Along with the exhibition of these beautiful boats, both afloat and ashore, the festival delivers a lively combination of incredible local food, live entertainment, music, demonstrations and displays.

Whilst the weather held out once again and we had no rain, we did experience a ‘hot, cold, jacket on, jacket off’ day, which we are all used to by now!  The trip back to the Discoverer was rather bumpy for some but smooth as glass for others. We reminded ourselves that this is Tassie and both the swell and the weather are unpredictable and can change rather rapidly! After dinner, some of us enjoyed watching the film “Light Between Oceans”, an adaptation of the book written by ML Stedman.  Based on a true story, the film was made in Stanley northern Tasmania and transported us to another era.

Day 8: Grandvewe, Art Farm, Woodbridge, Labillardiere Peninsula, Bruny Island

13 February 2023

Another civilised start to the day with an 8.45am trip across to Woodbridge, where two coaches transported us to the Art Farm and the Grandvewe Cheese Factory and Gin Distillery. Nicole of Grandvewe greeted us warmly and shared some of the history of their cheese and spirit making enterprise.  As well as gaining an understanding of what drives this brother, sister and mother team and how they embrace their quirkiness, we learned that you can tell the difference between goats and sheep because goats tails are always up and sheep have their tail down! In the beautiful café with a view, we sampled some sheep cheese and spirits made from the whey from the cheese.  Botanicals in the gin included pepper leaf, myrtle, and a range of other flavours.  Nothing goes to waste in this company and the rind on the Gin Herbalist Cheese is made from the by-product of the gin botanicals. It was delicious and some people preferred this one to the Old Man Cheese, which was described as ‘semi-hard and a bit smelly’. We also learned about maturation science, which is critical to cheese making as one can change the nature of cheese during the maturation process.  We finished our tasting session with a whey looking drink – Vanilla Whey Liqueur- deliciously creamy and sweet.

The next stop was the Art Farm and Pepperberry farm.  Chris met us and provided an overview of his native pepper enterprise.  Native pepper grows in disturbed rainforest – increasing disturbance of the forest can mean that pepper berries take over – it is a pioneer species.  Chris no longer grows pepper berries on his farm, as he has multiple growers around Tasmania who supply the pepper berries which are dried for consumption. Next, we wandered out to the garden and met Jordan who is looking after the veggies.  Jordan said that he is happiest when he has his hands on the earth, tending to plants, which (in his view) are always looking for attention!  Jordan shared his recipe for a natural fertiliser:  chook poo and worm casting, diluted with water and left to mature for a month.  Plants love it! After walking around and admiring the many sculptures associated with the Art Farm, we boarded the bus and headed back for lunch. After lunch, some of us did the 4km loop track on the Labillardier Peninsula where we admired some tiny Trigger plants, while some of us stayed in the Xplorer for a cruise around the Bruny Island coastline.

Day 9: Adventure Bay and Bruny Island

14 February 2023

This morning we split into several groups. Whilst some people kayaked around Adventure Bay, others did some relaxing on the beach, another group walked the 4km to Grassy Point and a small group of hardy hikers trekked around the magnificent Fluted Capes track. The weather was, once again very cooperative and we had perfect weather for walking, kayaking and relaxing. Some of the walkers saw a couple of Bennett’s wallabies and some were a bit excited to see three yellow-tailed black cockatoos right at the end of the walk on the beach.

After another delicious lunch, we boarded the Xplorer and separated into smaller groups to complete a number of activities. This included a cruise around Penguin Island into some sea caves and a magnificent view of the Fluted Cape from the sea, a trip to the Bligh Museum and a stroll along the beach where we were lucky enough to see a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers with chicks.  Aaww so cute!!  We also saw Hooded plovers, a couple of adolescent Pacific Gulls and some Kelp gulls. Back to the boat for a relaxing afternoon at our leisure and pre-dinner drinks in the Bridge Deck Lounge. After dinner James and Marie hosted the renowned Coral Expeditions Quiz in the Bridge Deck Lounge. La Triviata won the night on a tie-break question, closely followed by Dolerite Demons who were helped along by their Group Name points. “Dis-Abel-ed Tasmans” received a special mention for their very clever name.

Day 10: Port Arthur

15 February 2023

Those who were up early this morning were treated to a spectacular sunrise over the beautiful hills of the Tasman National Park. Cruising around Carnarvon Bay, we saw Port Arthur’s infamous Isle of the Dead where prisoners and Officers of the Convict settlement were buried and Point Puer where convict boys as young as 9 years old were sent for reform until they turned 16. Harsh conditions and punishment, including 40 lashes and solitary confinement, were doled out to those who bucked the system. Sitting in the cool air, we could still barely imagine what these children went through over years in this exposed locality. Before lunch, we enjoyed a presentation by Anne about the many strong and resourceful women that have shaped Tasmania we know and love today.

After lunch Xplorer took us across to Port Arthur where some enthusiastic local guides gave us a unique ‘Commandant’s Tour’ that the general public does not get to see. We then had some time to independently explore the extensive World Heritage site to learn more about the history of convicts at Port Arthur. Dolphins and tall ships accompanied us during Captains Drinks.  Returning to bed after a photo recap of the trip we were treated to a magic display of luminescence at our anchorage in Ralphs Bay.  A fitting end to a wonderful trip!

Day 11: Port Arthur

16 February 2023

Early in the morning, the ship weighed anchor and proceeded up the River Derwent for the last few miles of passage to the port of Hobart. During our shared adventure, Coral Discoverer had steamed around 674 nautical miles in ten days. Guests rose early to make their way to the dining room for one last breakfast on board the Coral Discoverer. The ship berthed at Hobart’s wharf and the Coastal Wilds of Tasmania cruise was at an end. Captain John and his team mustered at the gangway to farewell guests as they set out for their next adventures.

Your crew on this voyage have been:

  • Captain John
  • Chief Officer Joanne
  • Second Officer Andrew
  • Chief Engineer Patrick & his team Mick & Terry
  • Bosun Adam and deck crew Logan & Robbie
  • Expedition Leader David
  • Expedition Crew Marie and James
  • Purser Bonita assisted by Lillian
  • Chefs Ruth and Kumar assisted by Jesse and Trevor
  • Cruise Attendants Josh, Madeline, Macey, Ash, Ashley and Kealla
  • Your Guest Lecturers were Anne O’Dea & Lyn Wallace.