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Home > Virtual Cruises > Statendam: Auckland to Sydney
Statendam: Auckland to Sydney
Day 1: Auckland
Day 2: Auckland/Christchurch
Day 3: Dunedin
Day 4: Milford Sound
Day 5: At Sea
Day 6: At Sea
Day 7: Burnie
Day 8: Melbourne
Day 9: Sydney
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Day 7: Monday, Burnie
BurnieBurnie, the fourth largest city in Tasmania, has been one of the most controversial ports of call on this itinerary -- at least on Cruise Critic's Australia/New Zealand forum -- because it's not all that well known.

The island of Tasmania itself, off the south coast of Australia and part of the state of Victoria, is more familiar as an eco-destination than an urban one (the only cities most people have heard of are Hobart and maybe Devonport, which handles the ferry traffic from Melbourne). It's pretty obvious, too, that cruise ship calls are still a novelty to the people of Burnie; even the mayor was on hand to greet us as we came off the gangway.

Certainly as we trundled in our motorcoach out of the industrial port (chock a block with mini mountains of wood chips because Burnie is a major exporter of wood and paper products), there wasn't much to see other than a pleasant small town with the usual services (McDonalds, shops, newsstands). And that's the point I think that some folks missed: This stop isn't so much about the historic or cultural attractions of Burnie as it is about the gorgeous countryside of molded hills, small farms, lush forests and wildlife that are within easy day-tripping distance. Tasmania, in general, is known as a habitat for farming, due to its volcanic soil, and the area around Burnie is no exception.

Our shore excursion today began with a visit to the 106-acre Wing's Park. Fantastic. This place, a labor of love for four generations of one Tasmanian family, is home to island wildlife who have been rescued (and often, once rehabilitated, returned to the wild). Though the animals range from rabbits (there are even some available for sale) to parrots and other species with which most North Americans are quite familiar, the stars of the show were far more exotic to us. We met wallabies -- kangaroo-like creatures that are the most common native animal to Tasmania. Housed in a waist-high fenced-in swath of farmland, they can easily leap over the boundary and often do (Wing's Farm staffers told us they are free to go -- and yet they always seem to return). They're tame, too; they eagerly ate a mixture of corn, grass, wheat and hay right out of our hands.

Our favorite was the mama wallaby who was carrying a 7-month-old baby around in her pouch. You could only see the "kid" if you looked closely -- his black feet peeped out of the top while he was apparently, er, breastfeeding below. Ultimately he did turn himself around and poke out his head. Babies can live inside their mothers' pouches until they turn about 18 months at which point they've either grown too big -- or have gotten kicked out by a younger sibling.

Another fantastic surprise was meeting up with a kangaroo on the other side of the farm. This fella runs completely wild (though he's not shy about slurping from your hand the chunks of sliced white bread put out by farm workers) and at one point came right up to me, nudging my camera as if it were something delicious to eat.

An experience less warm and "fuzzy" (though no less interesting) was the chance to watch the Tasmania Devil in action. You've heard of 'em -- they're known for their menacing look (somewhere between a rat and a possum) and eerie screeches. In Wing's Park there were at least two of these endangered animals; during our visit they were preoccupied (one had somehow obtained the carcass of a rat while the other was chasing him round and round their pen trying to steal a taste). The most interesting thing about these guys is the fact that the inside of their ears are a bright red -- really, really red, like a garnet. That is apparently nature's way of warning off predators.

After this experience we headed on, albeit reluctantly, to our second of two stops. When you arrive at the nearby Gunns Plains Cave the site is quite unprepossessing. It's just a mounded hill surrounded by farmland. But go down inside, via lots and lots of steps and then, once deep within by climbing down a ladder, and you can spy interesting formations (shapes that range from lions to strands of spaghetti). Because of the low ceilings (most of us, even shorter folks had to duck way down to get through various channels), the narrow passageways and the minimal lighting necessary to protect the formations this is only an outing for the spry -- and the non-claustrophobic.

That was the essence of our half-day tour and both experiences, particularly the trip to Wing's Farm, whetted our appetite to see more of Tasmania's lush countryside. It reminded me, strangely and definitely not literally, of Canada's Prince Edward Island in that in some places it seemed almost untouched by 21st-century civilization.

The rest of the day, far more laidback than yesterday, involved a quick trip into Burnie via free shuttle to explore and buy staples, such as water and magazines, before heading back onboard.
Day 6: At Sea red arrow Day 8: Melbourne

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