Ten Steps To A Shackadelic Holiday

January 24-27, 2023

The shack. “Goin’ to the shack.’ “Have ya been ter the shack?” The shack is a very Tasmanian feature and a Tassie cultural icon really. Many Tasmanians have a “shack”. This is the modest house / cottage / converted shed / not so converted shed / that many Tasmanians have as a place to which to go for holidays or weekends or just to escape the hum-drum or demands of everyday life. These are often located around the coast so as to have a break by the beach, or others are found in the midlands, for those preferring to “go fishing at the Lakes.” Tasmania is home to, and quite possibly the inventor of, the lifestyle of “the shack.”

Steve’s mum and dad have been coming to the same spot at the Bay of Fires for more than fifty years, camping in a tent, taking baby Steve and his baby sister Lara, then toddler Steve and Lara, teenage Steve and Lara and now big Steve, Lara and grown up grandkids, continuing the tradition of getting away from it all to the beach on the East Coast. Over the years the tent camp graduated to a caravan and then eventually a shack was built by Steve’s dad, in a spot that looks down on the same beach and camping area where those first family tents were pitched decades ago. A top spot it is too and Steve and I decided to hit the road for the four hour drive to tootle off and spend a few days with Len and Pauline, to chillax at the shack. The days were leisurely and lazy, simple and serene and just delightfully shackadelic. In suitable, shack-time fashion, there were no grand plans or action-packed days, so I will simply outline what a couple of days of “goin’ to the shack at the beach” can entail in ten easy steps, or “How to Be Awarded the Stamp of a Ridgy-Didge Shack-Dwelling Tasmanian in 10 Easy Moves”.

1. Ensure breakfast is supremely leisurely

We enjoyed our usual breakfast of porridge and muesli “on the deck” and at a leisurely pace, looking down on the beach, with the turquoise water and granite rocks that the Bay of Fires is renowned for, blazing in the morning sun. “There’s people in swimming!” announced Steve. There were indeed brave souls standing waist deep in that gorgeous clear water, but don’t be fooled! This is Tasmania! The water may LOOK tropical, but be assured there’s a 99% chance it will FEEL like it’s just flowed straight up from Antarctica! The brave swimmers were without wetsuits and that bare, bather-clad skin was feeling the full brunt of the bracing, goose-bump-raising waves. Their hands were tucked under their chins, elbows out of the water in that “brrrr, it’s freezing” pose, until one of them must have done the 1-2-3 countdown, because under they went, with a full body dive under the wave and emerged looking like they weren’t too sure if that had been a good idea or not! Their companion clearly read their expression as, “that was #@^&* freeezing!” and decided to retreat to the beach without taking the plunge. Well done folks, you are braver souls than we!

Easy to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with such a view

2. Insert some puzzles to extend breakfast and enjoy a breakfast activity for which there is never the time in real life and so completes the sense of “we’re on holiday”

We followed breakfast with alfresco brain gym, with a four-person team to solve multiple variations of Wordle, Dordle, Quordle, Octordle and Contexto, exchanging strategies and employing stellar team work to collaboratively pummel the puzzles into submission. “Got it!” cried Len, solving Contexto in 3. “Phew, got it,” followed Steve, as the team got Octordle with a row to spare. High stakes puzzling, but the team prevailed!

Team Bambridge resting the grey matter after an epic puzzle-fest of brain gym

3. Some leisurely activity is allowed, but nothing too strenuous

Off we went for a stroll down the track to the beach, along the beach and up a little bush track, to stand on the granite boulders and watch the waves crash onto the rocks. Someone had constructed a traditional looking dome shelter from branches and rocks, sitting neatly under the trees in the bush. It looked very snug and very cleverly crafted indeed. The things you discover on a leisurely amble.

Don’t be fooled by that tropical looking water!
The things you discover on a bush track – very cleverly made
Sentry 1
Sentry 2

4. If one beach is not enough, move on to the next one

We continued to the end of Jeanerette Beach, walked over the dune and down to the neighbouring beach. Long, white, clean Swimcart Beach could rival the best of beaches anywhere, with that crystal clear water crashing onto the sand. “Where else,” I asked Steve, “would you find a beach like that, in the middle of summer, with no one on it?” That is one of the many attractions of Tasmanian beaches, you will not have to contend with shoulder-to-shoulder cramming in of bodies on the sand. You can sit on a beach or stroll along a beach and barely see another soul. A glorious location can be found and you can have it all to yourself. It still amazes me.

White beach, turquoise water, sunshine and not a soul…another Tasmanian feature!

5. If there is a golfer in the team, this activity must be indulged at all costs

Heavens above! Exercise has been had! A beach walk has just warmed things up enough for…of course…golf. I walked nine holes of golf at St Helens Golf Course, while Steve chased the small white ball around, under trees, behind trees, sometimes on the fairway, sometimes on the fairway that just happened to be the wrong fairway. Expletives were cursed, clubs were hurled in exasperation. “Why is it doing that!!??” cried the Big Fella as yet another ball curved an arc that rivalled the bend David Beckham could achieve on a soccer ball. I thought he was playing rather well and the score was nothing to hang one’s head about, but apparently a curving, slicing golf ball is not a good thing and not worthy of putting a shirt over one’s head and sliding on one’s knees in triumph towards the flag. Still, in searching for sliced balls, we did unearth two others that had been lost by some other poor, wayward golfer, so at least we ended up with a net positive in the golf ball department.

The calm after the storm, but no knee-sliding triumph into the flag

6. When the sun continues to shine on another day, choof off for another beach walk.

This was more of a rock hopping expedition as we headed for Taylor’s Beach to investigate the Mermaid Pool, a small, but very deep hole in the granite rocks, creating a deep pool that the waves flooded into. Getting there was a reasonably simple rock hopping affair for someone with Steve’s extension. For someone with legs a foot shorter, it was an exercise in bum sliding and feet dangling into rock abysses, unable to reach across the divide that longer appendages managed with a stride. The final reward was reaching the pool and then standing atop the enormous boulders, looking out to sea, with the turquoise waves crashing before us. Poetic.

The “mermaid pool”
Sloop Rock
The rear-end is an essential tool for rock hopping expeditions
As are long legs, or short legs that stretch across rock chasms!

7. Make friends with the local environment, even if that involves beach boulders and bush bashing in order to “go on an adventure”

After rock hopping down to a destination, it is then required that a return is made back up the enormous, steep rocks.

“Come this way,” said Steve, “it’s not as steep.”

I followed and clambered and climbed up the rock face, while Len and Pauline were smart enough to discover a less Everest-like ascent and the four of us emerged onto a bush track.

“Is there a way through?,” Pauline asked her son, as he climbed over a tree trunk, hunched under another branch and set off into the scrub that did not look like a track at all.

“We’re on an adventure,” Steve replied with the grin of someone ready and willing to guide unsuspecting family members into the unknown. We ploughed through trees and scrambled over branches, until our intrepid leader stopped, turned and declared, “We can’t get through there.”

Hmmmm… [insert eye roll here]. “I’ve learnt from experience to always be scared when Steve says, ‘we’re on an adventure’” I said, “we usually end up lost or on a goat track.” Len took over the lead and ploughed on through grass and trees, with Pauline and I bringing up the rear, hoping those in front were successfully stomping enough to announce our arrival to any snoozing snakes and alerting them to clear the area before we got there. We eventually emerged onto a visible track that we could follow back up to our starting point. Adventure indeed.

“Come this way, it’s not as steep.”
The familiar result of Steve’s “where on an adventure”! I mean really, is there a track here!?
Track or no track, plough on my friends…plough on!

8. Swimming is optional, paddling is encouraged

After adventurous bush bashing and rock hopping, time to cool off with a paddle. We took ourselves to a lovely little cove and walked into the clear water. As the waves rolled in around our legs, Steve and I simultaneously stopped short, turned to each other with mouths open, in that ‘no words are needed’ expression of “Man, that’s COLD!”. The beautiful, blue, inviting water was of course, bracingly, chillingly, freezing! After pulling a few faces, breathing rapidly and shallowly “oooh, ooh, aah, aah” as the skin acclimatised to being plunged into a watery fridge, we were eventually able to stand in the sun and enjoy the chill of the waves washing into us. Very refreshing and very Tasmanian!

Pelicans flying over us, no doubt laughing at the faces we were pulling in the freezing water

9. Always schedule recovery from intrepid activities.

On our return, we settled back on to the deck with a cuppa to begin the recovery process of…have a brew…read a book…have a snooze…play cards…eat. “Fifteen, two…fifteen, four…fifteen six and two is eight…” counted Steve in the Bambridge vs Bambridge game of father and son Crib. I have no idea what any of that means, it’s just random numbers and matches stuck in holes to me, but there were cards shuffled and placed in jovial high spirits, with laughs abounding from the card table behind me, as I simply wondered what on earth “peg in, peg out” could possibly mean and what in all things aces and spades is the crib anyway!? A mystery to me, but a means of merriment and convivial competition for father and son.

10. Never let the gratitude fade.

As we sat and strolled and played and paused in magical surroundings, I reflected again on what a terrific little part of the world our Tasmania is and how lucky and privileged we are to be able to enjoy it in this way. We may have seen a lot of different places in our travels, but we never lose sight of how special our own backyard is as well. Places like this, with pristine beaches, clear water, open space, peace and safety are things we are lucky enough to have and enjoy and I am endlessly grateful for that.

It doesn’t take much. Just ten easy steps. Ten steps to a terrific couple of days in a top spot with special people. I think I have the starting word for our next Wordle puzzle-fest…MAGIC.

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