On the north west coast of Tasmania, my birthplace was Burnie. While the small town of Ulverstone is less than 30 kms east, I never knew it well; to me it was an impediment to be driven through on the way to somewhere. Over the past weekend I discovered the pleasantness of its central streets and more.
Overcoming many bussing challenges, I travelled from Hobart via Launceston and Devonport to arrive in Ulverstone late in the day as the clouds hung leadenly and the first rain fell. It is easy, on a sunny day, to forget why the paddocks of the north west coast are bright lime-green – the rich lushness grows from the frequent rain and the moderate temperatures. I shouldn’t have been surprised when the rain fell and then RAIN fell and the pattern of soft and hard rain alternated all night. Dramatic. Cleansing. Next morning the sky was bright blue dashed with a few of the cleanest puffiest clouds. Buildings, the streets, the vehicles all look washed by the deluge and everything sparkled in the sun.
My first discovery was a new $10.5 million complex, known as The Hive. Completed only 6 months ago, this state of the art building houses a Visitor Information Centre, a retail outlet, a variety of studios for artists, a woodworkers workshop, a planetarium, science centre, a museum, an art gallery and a cafe. Each Saturday, The Hive offers a small market for the sale of work by local artists. I was particularly impressed with the simplicity and elegance with which museum artefacts were displayed, and with the restraint used in hanging an exhibition of one person’s paintings. Classy. Accessible. Professional.
From The Hive I meandered through local streets, past an AFL football ground where a game was underway, and headed towards Button’s Beach. Autumn leaves decorated the footpaths and needed to be scuffed into the air with a purposeful toe. The Beach Hut café, where I found the best ever veggie burger, was a recommendable discovery!
I watched as rain fell over Bass Strait, from a mushroom cloud, and never moved to wet Ulverstone.
After a leisurely stroll along the beach I wandered through further streets eventually finding myself along the Leven River edge redevelopment, with Pedro’s fish outlet and Buttons Brewery offering booze and food in an upmarket venue.
Ulverstone’s streets are graced with stately 19th century buildings.
My afternoon was filled with the joys of sensational music and scintillatingly beautiful singing as a fresh new production of Rigoletto was performed in sophisticated sets that helped tell the story. In the presence of great musicians the experience can be so thrilling that I almost stop breathing and I feel my heart wants to do a somersault in exaltation. I am delighted that post Covid, such performances / screenings are again possible and more newly presented operas will be screened in the coming months. I may have more to say about Ulverstone in the future!
Back on 19th August 1950, my parents married: the first night of their honeymoon was spent at Ulverstone in the then glamorous Lighthouse Hotel. This hotel still exists and so, of course, I booked in. With its art deco curves I suspect the building may date from the early to mid 1940s as were others sporting art deco features around town. The most outstanding feature of the hotel was a lighthouse which stood prominently on the roof, despite the hotel being in the centre of the business district and no-where near the river or the sea.
Over the years, the hotel has suffered a number of refurbishments and renovations and, I am sorry to say, the lighthouse was removed in 2017 and replaced with an uninspired colorbond style steel roof and ceiling indoors. The Advocate newspaper reported the hotel owner’s comment; “The dome is well past its use by date, we are installing a new roof”.
Looking up the street towards the Hotel, clearly this once impressive building seems slumped and ordinary with a tiny pokey configuration on the roof where the lighthouse once beamed. The whimsy of the past has been obliterated.
Overall, there is plenty to do in and around Ulverstone if you like to take casual walks and simply see how others live. Perfect for a short and gentle holiday.