Sunday 23rd of November 2014 was a beautiful, sunny Tasmanian day, a pleasant change from the overcast and threatening ones preceding and following, and my Russian friend Galiya talked me into a trip down the Huon Valley from Hobart to visit the Hastings Thermal Springs and Cave. She was particularly interested in a swim in the waters of the springs and to enjoy the walks adjacent to it. We hoped to see a platypus on the short 'Platypus Walk' from the springs and were told there were several in the small creek around the spring. We set off from Hobart about 10.30 am with our bathers, towels, some walking shoes and our cameras to see what the Channel and Huon had to offer.
To add a little to the trip I decided we would follow the Channel Highway along the coast through Kingston, Margate and Snug to Kettering where the Bruny Island Ferry leaves taking passengers to and from the island, before backtracking a few kilometres to Oyster Cove and heading across to Cygnet and up to Huonville before joining the Huon Highway south to Hastings. The round trip was some 200 kilometres and took in the large town of Kingston before joining the coast at Margate. The Margate Train is a popular stop as you enter from the north and there are several shops, a market, food shops and a second hand furniture shop. A nice stop before a look around the small township, typical of the coastal villages between Kingston and Verona Sands along the d'Entrecasteau Channel. We stopped and watched the ferry loading at Kettering and were surprised how busy it was. Before leaving we called in to the Visitor Centre next to the terminal and collected some brochures and guides for the remainder of the journey.
The drive across from Oyster Cove through Nicholls Rivulet is through rolling hills dotted with apple and pear orchards and every so often a farm or house stands beside the road, with plenty of dirt roads leading off from both sides indicating there are plenty more set back from the road. The 20km or so passed quickly and we were soon in the pretty township of Cygnet. Cygnet was once the hub of the massive apple industry from which Tasmania earned it's nick-name as the Apple Isle, but there is little visible evidence of this these days from the main road. It is still a substantial township though with three pubs, a bakery and several shops including an art gallery. A major Folk Festival is held here each year in mid January and there is a Regatta in March. There is a large wharf from which fishing is popular there are electric barbecues, toilets and picnic tables in Burtons Reserve. We passed through Cygnet and travelled up the eastern shore of the Huon River and into Huonville, the largest town in the area and the business hub for the Huon Valley. We turned sharp left across the river and headed south towards our destination.
The first place we came upon was Franklin, named after John Franklin, Tasmanian Governor from 1836 - 1843), and the site of the first settlement in the Huon Valley. Franklin is now well known for its Wooden Boat Centre, which will be seen on the left as you enter the town and the fine collection of antiques opposite. The pretty town follows the river and there are always yachts and boats off the shore giving excellent photo opportunities. From Franklin we continued south towards Geeveston, forestry centre of the Huon Valley. Among the major attractions around Geeveston and only a short drive away,is the Tahune Forest Airwalk, a tree-top walk through the forest canopy. Geeveston also has a Forestry and Visitor Centre and there is a 'Heritage Walk' around the town to explore. On this occasion we didn't have the time to visit all the attractions so we headed south towards Dover where we stopped at a cafe for some lunch before the final leg to the Hastings Visitor Centre and Thermal Springs.
Tickets for the spring and cave tour can be bought at the complex which also has information, souvenirs and light snacks. A short walk from the centre leads to the springs which resembles a medium size fibre-glass swimming pool. There are changing rooms with showers and toilets and barbecue and seating areas. There were some 50 people there at the time we were, mainly families enjoying a day out and we got changed and joined some of them in the pool.

Enquiries on 03 6298 3209 or visit the website at www.parks.tas.gov.au/reserves/hastings

The harbour at Kettering

The Bruny Island Ferry

The Springs at Hastings

Along the Platypus Walk

Wildflowers along the Hastings Road
See Area Map and Information.

Column in the Hastings Cave

Stalactites abound

The water was not as warm as we expected, but was pleasantly warm. The day being hot we didn't see the steam rising from the pool as I believe you can on a cold day. However,it was pleasant and we spent a half hour in the waters before getting changed and taking the Platypus Walk. Unfortunately we didn't see any but the walk among the giant eucalypts is spectacular on its own. We then went inside and had one of the best coffees I have enjoyed in my travels, got our tickets for the 3.00pm cave tour, and headed off to the cave some 5 or 6 kilometres further west along the dirt track. There are toilets at the cave parking area and a 5 minute walk up to the cave entrance.
We were the first on the scene and in a little while the previous tour came out from the entrance and we waited some 5 or 10 minutes before others on our tour arrived. Our guide explained what we would see and a few basic rules to ensure everyone enjoyed the experience before leading us into the depths of the cave.
There is not much point in describing all or many of the features of the cave. Suffice to say it is spectacular and most of the features have been discreetely illuminated with soft lighting to illustrate the major points. There are massive stalactites and stalagmites, formations resembling wedding cakes, angels wings, cathedral and organ spires, even an ET finger. It has been formed over thousands of years and in places you can still see drips of water suspended as the process continues. There is much climbing hewn steps up and down and the size is spectacular.
Our guide was well versed in the origins and formation of the cave and parried all questions expertly and clearly. She even encouraged a young German girl to sing a few lines of a song to demonstrate the acoustics of the main chamber. One which, incidentally has also been used as an auditorium and is occasionally booked for weddings. The tour took some 45 minutes and was a wonderful experience I would recommend to anyone.
Put the Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs on your list of things to do while in Tasmania.
By Peter Wilkins 24/11/14