One of the nice things about northwest Tasmania is that there are a number of interesting places to visit within a short distance of home. Mostly we’ve stayed along the coast visiting Devonport, Ulverstone, Penguin and Burnie or going west to Stanley. However there is plenty to see inland as well. My volunteer job is at the Wynyard Visitors Centre (commonly known as the WOW). This means that I am surrounded by brochures about local attractions which naturally I want to visit myself.
One of the places I had heard about was the Emu Valley Rhododendron Gardens which is just a few kilometres inland from Burnie. Initially I thought that there would not be much to see there outside of the peak Rhododendron flowering season but on reading the brochure and later visiting their website I discovered that it was much more than that.
While I was at WOW last week I saw that there was to be an “Autumn Spectacular” . I love to see the autumn colours nearly as much as I love seeing spring bulbs and with the added attraction of market stalls how could we not go?
Naomi was keen so we set off on Saturday morning and after passing through Upper Burnie, a suburb we hadn’t seen before we found ourselves at Romaine, the location of the gardens. We were directed to park in a large paddock and taken by shuttle bus to the entrance. There were plenty of volunteers around directing the traffic, driving the shuttle buses and little golf carts to ferry disabled or elderly visitors around as well selling entrance tickets and serving snacks and lunches. Once we had paid we were given a brochure and a large map showing the various walking trails and main features of the gardens. The place is massive, about 11 hectares according to the brochure although I’m sure I saw at least one sign that said it was 13ha. The paths were designated as a short loop, an easy walk, a medium length walk and a long walk, the latter would take an hour to an hour and a half to go all around the park. Although all the paths were dirt tracks the main one was flat and wide enough to take the golf carts. Other paths were narrower and some were a bit hilly but not excessively, two fat ladies could still puff their way around without risking a heart attack.
As is our usual habit we used the map for a guide but took random paths. The weather was dull and threatening rain so we wanted to get to all the outdoor stalls first in case it got too wet. As it happened all we had was a few very light showers and our jackets were fine for that. There was a guide taking a group around and we took an alternative path to avoid getting stuck behind them.
According to the website there are over 24,000 rhododendron plants, the peak flowering time is September-November but it is also very pretty in autumn (May and June are the best times). The area is laid out to represent the geographical origin of the plants. We started in North America where we had a nice chat with a lady selling homemade soaps from a gazebo by a lake(Lake Pearl). There are three ornamental lakes in the park where if you are lucky you may spot a platypus.
From North America we took a path that lead us to Asia passing by plants of Korean, Chinese and Japanese origin and arriving at the Sea of Japan, the second lake. I especially liked this part of the park with its Chinese and Japanese themed structures.
We continued our exploration and came across the children’s area which had a wooden teepee, an old fashioned swing and hopscotch.
That’s a lot of walking for people of our ages and shapes so we decided to take a break and treated ourselves to Devonshire Tea and later to a delicious ice cream from a van. As well as the lunches inside the building there were vendors selling BBQ, coffee, ice cream and Olliebollen, a Dutch treat. After a good sit down we were ready to walk a bit further and set off to see Lake Grebe where the bubbling water indicated that a platypus was swimming around. I didn’t manage to see him myself but Naomi caught sight of his head.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Emu Valley Rhododendron Gardens and we plan to visit again before the end of autumn and again in the spring to see the flowers in bloom. We especially liked all the winding paths and that there were many places where you could sit and just enjoy the tranquility.