At 7.00 on an overcast morning Janine, Andrea, Jenny and myself took to the road and headed to the Coalmines Site at Saltwater River to tackle the 3 hour one way walk. The walk from Plunketts Point to Lime Bay is graded as easy as it is over level to undulating terrain with well marked tracks....hmmm well that's what we had been led to believe, anyway I'll get to that later. To get to the start of the track turn right off the Arthur Highway (A9) onto the B37 road just south of the Tasmanian Devil Park at Taranna. Travel for approximately 9km and turn right, onto the C341 Saltwater River Road near The Old Trading General Store at Premaydena. Follow this road for 9.7km to an intersection, turn right into Coalmines Road and drive for 2.3km and park in the Coalmines car park. This is a one and a half hour drive from Hobart.
Entrance to the Coalmines Historic Site
Walk through the Coalmines Ruins, which if you haven't been down that way lately is really worth a visit. Quite extensive restoration work has been undertaken and the result is very impressive...well worth a look with the added bonus of no admission fee. Head north for 200 metres and at a junction take the right fork. A five minute walk will bring you to Plunkett Point. This is where the coal from the mines was loaded into ships for transportation to Hobart Town. Time for a quick history lesson....
The Coalmines Historic Site was Tasmania's first operational mine, established in 1833 as a much needed local source of coal, but also as a place of punishment for the 'worst class' of convicts. Convicts were sent to work in the dark, hot, damp tunnels of the mines which operated until 1848. The number of solitary cells and floggings indicates a place of severe punishment. With its reputation for harshness and homosexual activity, the place contributed to the failure of the probation system and its eventual demise. This site is the only surviving penal coal mine with remaining surface features relating to extracting and transporting coal. This significant convict site was included in the National Heritage list on 1st August 2007.
The track leaves the clearing on the north side and heads north until it swings left near a small stone ruin.
Unfortunately, there is no signage to indicate what this ruin once was. After a further few minutes walk, the route turns right at a junction and from here is marked with intermittent tapes of various colours. The track is clearly defined with views over Norfolk Bay to MacGregor Peak.
After 10 minutes walk you will pass a small quarry on the right. The marks of the convict picks can be seen on the quarry face. Half finished blocks of stone lie where men abandoned them when they downed tools on the day the mines closed.
The track now leaves the coast and after around 20 minutes intersects a fire trail. Cross over this and continue on the walking track in a northerly direction. There are a number of wild flowers evident along this track.
After 40 minutes walking, the track approaches a small beach to the south of Ironstone Point. According to the walks book there is a short side track down to the beach, unfortunately we missed this so am assuming it is not that evident. It's at this point things got a little more difficult as a bushfire had obviously been through the area in recent times and all evidence of the track had disappeared. While there was no chance of getting lost we did have to make our own way to Monk Bay which according to the tracks book was the next destination. So following the map we had we did make our way onto the shingle beach at the southeast end of the bay.
|Bush fires have been through this area in recent times|
We proceeded along the shore past a headland of volcanic rock and onto two small sandy beaches.
Once again, according to the walks book there is a track at the far end of the northern beach which climbs the bank and continues along the clifftops. While we did follow a track along the clifftop still not sure it was the one described in the book. At times it was quite precarious so we decided to head inland a bit to avoid any injuries. Due to the extensive damage done to the area by fire we could not locate a track so all we could do was head north with the coastline in view. After about 30 minutes we came across a fire track which we decided was probably the most sensible trail to follow. This track did eventually turn towards the coast however we did miss a portion of the walk described in the book. All was not lost though as the route we took was very pleasant and did eventually descend onto the eastern end of Lime Bay Beach. From here it is a further ten minutes walk along the beach to the camping area.
We spent a very pleasant 30 minutes or so having a snack and a cuppa at the camping ground before heading back to the car via the road which was an easy hour walk.
Well this walk showed us that sometimes the forces of nature have to be taken into account when venturing out into the great outdoors.....we were expecting a fairly easy walk along a well marked track, but it didn't turn out that way. Still very enjoyable though. The trip home included a stop off at the Lufra Hotel at Eaglehawk Neck for a bite to eat and a drink, which was a nice way to finish off the day. It was also nice having Andrea and Jenny join us and hopefully they'll be keen to come along again.