Penguin…On the Road Around Tasmania.

 

After so many early starts what with driving to Melbourne and boarding the Spirit of Tasmania, we slept in past midday on our first full day in Tasmania and decided to have an easy day and stay local. We are staying with friends in bushland outside Devonport most of the time. Therefore, a 30 minute drive to nearby Penguin made sense.

Yet, for us, Penguin is so much more than a tourist destination, or random spot on the map.

Geoff’s father was born and raised in Penguin. He was born in the late 20s and much of his childhood was during the Depression. Obviously, times for most were incredibly tough. However,their struggles were seriously compounded when his mother died when he was only 9. That’s dreadful for any kid but his father was often away for work, leaving the two boys to pretty much fend for themselves. I can’t even begin to understand what this was like, but my father-in-law was always a cautious man. Not that I ever met him. He passed away when my husband was 16.

geoff-on-the-rocks-penguin

Geoff retracing his father’s footsteps.

So, our trip to Penguin was much more of a pilgrimage. It was a heartfelt effort to do the very best we could to put ourselves into his father’s shoes and walk with him for a bit.

Of course, this “we” also included our kids. This young boy grieving for his dead mother, was their grandfather. While they’ll never be able to know him, go fishing, do the things you do with grandparents, we at least wanted them to have a sense of him. For them to know, that he was just as real as you and I and should never be left out of our story simply because he left too soon.

Not unsurprisingly, when it came to retracing the family’s steps, we had so little to go on. An address where they used to live up the West end of town, which we found out is called Mission Hill. They farmed up there and that’s apparently where Geoff’s uncle was bitten by a deadly snake and his Dad had to get him to safety. I don’t know if his views on snakes were defined by that moment. However, I’ve been told that he was renowned for saying: “the only good snake is a dead snake!”

Unfortunately, the houses on Mission Hill have been cleared and new housing has taken its place.

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Penguin had a drive to collect 2000 penguins.

However, we stopped in at the Visitors’ Centre asking about where they lived after leaving the farm, when times got really tough after Geoff’s grandmother’s death. Apparently, they lived above a bakery. Fortunately, there was only one option there and we were put onto HG Brown’s old bakery. Apparently, it was rebuilt in 1912 after a fire destroyed the bakery in 1911. A homeware’s shop is now located on the ground floor. They were lovely letting us take photos and as I was sticking my camera lens down the side of the building, the guy living upstairs introduced himself and I asked if we could have a look. He agreed and I can’t tell you what that meant to us. We were so stoked. Overjoyed to actually get inside where Geoff’s Dad had once lived. Indeed, our son said it was one of the best things he’d done on our first days here.

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I had quite a heavy heart walking around Penguin. We crossed what has become a rather omnipresent railway track and went onto the beach. Our son climbed a huge rock projecting out of the sand and then we headed over to the rocky point.

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This is when I switched gears entirely and turned on my photographic eyes and started viewing the rocks in 6 x 4. All my senses switched on and I was on full alert. There were these rugged, black,  basalt boulders protruding out of the sand, many painted with bright orange algae. It was so WOW!!! The shots were fantastic!

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Penguin’s Lolly Shop.

At some point through all of this, we took the kids to the Penguin lolly shop. It was like they’d been lured away by the pied piper. It was a great place where they could fill a plastic cup up with lollies… the sensational Jersey Caramels being their faves.

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Given our late start, it wasn’t long before we were thinking about dinner. We ended up buying fish and chips. They were really good, although I was struck by the colour. The batter was bright orange and I’ve never seen batter that colour before. We have since had discussions about what makes it orange, considering such things as the type of flour, perhaps a different type of beer. I later found out that many of the fish and chip places around here add orange food colouring to the batter. They also mentioned they can accidentally add too much food and it goes a really bright orange. We avoid colours so wasn’t real happy about that but I survive. Didn’t get too OTT.

As we went to go home, we realized that we’d almost left Penguin without taking our obligatory photo with the fake Penguin. I swear this Penguin looks like he’s had way too much caffeine, drugs or something. Definitely looks odd!

I’d definitely recommend a day in Penguin with its friendly locals, great food and stunning coastal scenery.

Tomorrow, we head for Penguin’s Ferndene and a drive West to Wynyard.

xx  Rowena

PS While we’ve been enjoying lovely mild Summer temperatures down here, Sydney is sweltering at around 40ºC. Our houseminders have been taking particularly good care of our dogs and we’re so grateful!

13 thoughts on “Penguin…On the Road Around Tasmania.

  1. TanGental

    I was at Uni back in the 70s when Dad took the Archaeologist to the town he was brought up in until he was 7. They went in the butcher’s shop and the man behind the counter did a double take looking at dad. ‘Your not a Le Pard are you?’ He had been at school with dad and saw my grandpa in my dad. They had an amazing day after that. Those memory lane trips are priceless. It was only after I wondered what made my grandpa so memorable!!

  2. Rowena Post author

    Kath, you and the family would love it down here. There are so many quiet places off the tourist trail. Aside from Salamanka Markets and Port Arthur, we’ve largely been mixing with locals and it’s been great.
    One difference I’ve really noticed down here, is that shops close bang on 5.00PM. The days are really long at the moment and we always seem to have late starts and we have to watch those closing times. Even some of the shopping centre supermarkets close then and it’s easy to get caught out.
    You’d also love all the artwork and creativity down here and free thinking spirits. We have run into quite a few local characters.
    Hope the holidays are going well!
    xx Ro

  3. Rowena Post author

    That trip sounds epic, Geoff.
    What I have noticed with these small, country towns is that they have very long memories and NEVER forget. We met a real character who owns an art gallery in Hobart and he visited Geoff’s home town back in the 60s and there was think family renowned for getting around and he and Geoff both knew them…by reputation only I’ve been assured.

  4. Minuscule Moments

    Sounds fantastic Rowena I will get there one day. We have had to cancel our trip to Phillip Island in March as my husband started a new job on a new farm and we are moving, so big changes even if its just up the road. Holidays will have to wait now as we get our priorities in check. Soak up the serenity we are use to country shop hours here but it took me awhile to remember that some things don’t open on Sundays etc.

  5. Rowena Post author

    Sorry to hear about your cancelled trip. Hope all goes well with the move, especially with settling the family in. I imagine that change could be a big thing.
    In Tassie, it’s not just the country shops which close at 5.00PM. It’s Launceston and Hobart. It’s hard to understand how longer trading has by-passed the place but there seems to be a general consensus that lifestyle and family are more important.

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