On our way to Cradle Mountain, Queenstown offered our first sight of civilisation since we left St Claire Lake National Park. Queenstown stuck in our mind from the night before, when Tasmanian farmer, Nick, who we had dinner with at Pumphouse Point, gave us recommendations on the best way to drive on our final three days in the state. His certainty around how long each section of the road trip would take was backed with enthusiasm and pride, the hallmark of a Dad who knew the roads well and never once considered the use of Google Maps.
He was quick to tell us where not to bother visiting. “Stanley is overrated” he said, followed by a checklist of three other places that had lost its way to mining or that had just “gotten tired”. Queenstown wasn’t on the blacklist, in fact, it received his full endorsement to visit on our journey to Cradle Mountain.
From a distance, on the winding, icy roads, it looked promising. A bunch of houses, even a main street with shops; it was a contrast to the wilderness we’d come from and a great opportunity to grab a bite to eat and to stretch our legs.
Parking in these smaller towns can feel strange. There’s no parking signs and we’re constantly doing double-takes to make sure we’re not in a restricted parking spot. I guess having the prime parking spot only two metres from the local IGA is like hitting the jackpot in Melbourne. In Queenstown’s main street, there were only around half a dozen cars parked along the 200 metres of street.
There’s no opportunity to be a niche shop in Queenstown. From my observations, each shop was a general store, made up of products that had been accumulated over many years of operation. The pie shop, for instance, was a Frankenstein of a VideoEzy rental store from 1995 and a local footy club canteen. It had been a while since I’d seen the cost of DVD rentals. $7 for a seven day rental, apparently (at that point, surely you own the DVD.) The glass fridges at the back of the store had a hodgepodge of chocolate bars—one box of Crunchies and half a box of Turkish Delights, which I’d argue shouldn’t be in the fridge in the first place and a surefire way to break a tooth. It seemed even more unnecessary, given the temperature at the time was just above zero degrees. My guess is that the chocolate bars were placed in the fridge on a hot day four or five Summers ago, and they’ve just never moved them since.
As we looked at the options of pies and sausage rolls, there were a surprisingly large amount of hot food options. Food that I hadn’t seen since year 7. (At the end of year 7 I spearheaded a healthy food campaign for the Student Representative Council, which saw all fried food removed from the canteen menu. A bit rich coming from a kid who had a hotdog for lunch everyday, but I digress). Fried chicken, wedges, every type of pie; this place had it all, along with enough cookies and cakes to just about feed the whole state of Tasmania, for four or five years.
As I began to order our lunch, Bree quickly changed her order from a pie to a sausage roll. Unsure with what just happened, I panicked and did the same. Bree later told me in the car that she saw the lady microwave one of the pies. And you know the rules, soggy sausage roll trumps soggy pie.
After we devoured our sausage rolls, which were less about giving us energy and more about defrosting our insides, we walked along the main street looking at properties for sale in the real estate windows. Curious as to what it’d cost to buy a piece of paradise in a pretty weird little town.