Our second outing for the trip was down to the Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs. I’ll cover the caves and springs themselves in the next post, but the travel there and back warrants some mention, so I will discuss that first. Caves next week.
I didn’t take any photos on the actual travel part of the journey. As I mentioned in the previous post, the usable length of a day in the middle of winter in Tasmania is very short compared to what we’re used to around Canberra – a combination of being so far south and quite hilly. As a result, I was rather more keen to focus on driving there (and back) rather than stopping and taking photographs along the way. I will need to go back some time and remedy that error. So let me be clear – the photos in this post are from elsewhere around the Huon Valley and surrounds. The photos in this post come from about three weeks previous, when I drove around the Channel Highway from Kettington around to Cygnet.
Travel to Hastings Caves
The Hastings Caves are about 100km from Hobart, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can do the drive in less than the hour and a half that your navigation app will suggest. Like many roads in the Huon Valley, the speed limit is a largely theoretical thing and attempting to drive at that speed for any period of time is best left to people trying to kill themselves and others. Don’t get me wrong – it was quite a good road in the most part. It certainly didn’t have the degree of potholing that many roads in the Canberra region demonstrate after even a modest amount of rain, but nevertheless the almost constant rain do make the road surface slippery in places, and the sometimes sudden and unexpected windy bits make it a more adventurous drive than what you’d experience on a mainland highway.
Hastings is on the road down to Cockle Bay, which is the Southern-most point in Australia reachable by public road. Hastings itself is a collection of maybe half a dozen houses (if that). We saw nothing that resembled a shop or business of any kind as we passed through. Cockle Bay is only 24 km by road from the Caves, but we did not travel further south. Google suggests it is another 35 minutes driving, and I saw no reason to disbelieve that. The satellite imagery indicates that the road is unsealed from only a few kilometers past the turn-off to the caves. Cockle Creek itself is basically just campgrounds, although it is the starting point for some walks, including a walk to the actual southern-most point of Australia. It is on my list of places to go to, should I ever get back to Tasmania.
The turn-off to Southport was on the road between Dover and Hastings, and as it is further south than Hastings, it seemed worthwhile dropping in to see what was there on our way back from the caves. There really isn’t much in Southport although it is significantly larger than Hastings. The younger Sprites had a brief run around on the beach at Southport, then we jumped back in the car to head off to Dover for food. At the time I figured Southport was probably going to be the furthest south we were going to get on this trip, but as it happens we did make it a few km further south on our trip to Bruny Island. But that’s a story for another post.
If you’ve read my blog previously, you’ll probably have worked out that I have coeliac disease. This means I really don’t want to eat anything with even a hint of gluten in it. Unlike some coeliacs, my felt reaction to gluten is just unpleasant rather than anything more serious, but it’s still something to be avoided at all costs. The food options at the Caves Visitors Centre were limited. Please don’t take that as a criticism – they did have some options suitable for me, and significantly more options that would appeal to non-coeliacs. They were also (as is not always the case) understanding of the difference between gluten intolerant and coeliac and were able to suggest suitable options (including cooking arrangements to avoid cross-contamination) when we had morning tea. It is, however, just a small cafe in the Visitors Centre and you should remember that – especially if you have fussy eaters or particular dietary requirements. There are barbeques and tables down by the thermal pool, and (with entry fee) you could always take barbequeables or a picnic lunch with you. We were not that organised, and having had morning tea there before our tour, we decided to go elsewhere to find lunch.
As mentioned above, there is nothing at Hastings itself. There is a pub at Southport, and it might have had food I could eat, but I wasn’t convinced and as the afternoon was getting on, we decided not to stop and find out. If you don’t have dietary complications or have time to stop and check it out, it may be worth dropping in. We certainly had a pretty good experience with pub food in Tasmania.
So ultimately, we ended up back at Dover for food. Dover is the largest population centre south of Geeveston, and has a couple of cafes, pizza and probably other options as well. The first cafe we spotted (there appear to be two or three in Dover) was Dover Top Shop. They were still open despite it being 3pm in the middle of winter, and happy to feed us. The food was good. They were also very coeliac aware. They’d run out of gluten free buns and gluten free bread for their burgers after an unexpected busload of people earlier in the day, but were extremely happy to make me up a “bunless burger” on a plate, which ended up coming with quite a collection of goodies that I’m sure they couldn’t have actually fitted on a burger bun, plus a huge pile of salad. I’m sure I got better value from my “bunless burger” than I would have got if they’d had buns still! The younger Sprites got food to their tastes as well, and no-one was complaining of being hungry after.
We were full fee-paying visitors to the Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs Reserve and other places mentioned in this post. We did not advise the management of our visit at any time before, during or after our visit and received no sponsorship or reward for producing this post. This post has not been reviewed or endorsed by the management of the Reserve or any other party. Any information in this post is gleaned from my own research and observation, and my recollection of the information provided during the tour. Any opinions expressed are entirely my own.