Tasmania: 5 things you will love about Australia’s smallest state
Tasmania, or “Tassie” as it’s known to locals, is an ideal self-drive destination with quiet roads and diverse attractions and experiences. Australia’s only island state, it is located off the south coast of Victoria, and is just a short flight from Melbourne (1 hour) or Sydney (2 hours).
Although it is Australia’s smallest state, it is about the same size as Ireland and is the most geographically diverse. Almost 40% of the island is covered by protected national parks and UNESCO World Heritage-listed areas. Needless to say, to truly experience Tasmania, you’ll need to spend a few days on the island, but when you do, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a new part of Australia.
Getting there is easy with various air or sea options to choose from depending on your budget. There are no trains on the island (other than the West Coast Railway tourist attraction), so most visitors drive (bringing their own car or renting one), but travelling between major cities and Tasmania’s parks is also possible by bus. Others choose to see the island on a relaxing coach tour.
If you’re on a road-trip in South Australia and decide to visit Tasmania, you may be able to bring your car or motorhome across by ferry. You’ll need to check with your rental company first as not all of them allow their vehicles on the ferry.
There are five main regions in Tasmania: the South and Hobart, the East Coast, Launceston and the North, the North West, and the West Coast.
Hobart, the capital city and one of the main entry points for visitors, is located on the lower slopes of the magnificent Mount Wellington, on the south of the island, and is within 90-minutes-drive of the state’s most popular attractions.
No matter which region you visit, you’re sure to find plenty to see, do and experience on a 3, 5, or 7 day visit to the island. You don’t have to travel far to experience some of the best features Tasmania has to offer
Recently included in Lonely Planet’s top four regions in the world to visit, Tasmania was noted as being “wild and dramatic, cultured and quirky, isolated yet accessible.” Here are just 5 things you’ll love about Tasmania no matter what your interests. (Of course, when I say 5 things you’ll love about Tasmania, I really mean 50, but I’m going to break it down into 5 specific interests: Landscapes, Wildlife, Heritage, Food & Drink and Activities.)
1. Nature lovers will love Tasmania’s diverse landscapes and abundant wilderness
If you are a nature lover, you will love the vast number of national parks and World Heritage-listed wilderness areas that cover 40% of the island. On a visit to Tasmania, you’ll find mountains, temperate rain forests, stunning white sand beaches, pristine glacial lakes, waterfalls, volcanic plugs and other unique rock forms.
One such feature not to be missed is Cradle Mountain, located in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area in the North West of the island. The North West is also where you’ll find the Tarkine, Australia’s largest, and the world’s second largest, expanse of cool temperate rain forest.
The scenery in the North West, which includes ancient rain forest, alpine heaths, pine-edged glacial lakes, icy streams and rugged mountains, is breathtaking. Nature lovers of all fitness levels have many experiences to choose from including forest adventures and long or short walks.
If you’re visiting the coastal fishing town of Stanley while in the North West, you’ll also be in for a treat. The town is famous for the ‘Nut’, a huge flat-topped volcanic plug that rises up 150 metres from the water’s edge. Here you can walk or take a chair lift to the top and experience a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside and ocean.
In Tasmania’s central highlands, you’ll find Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest freshwater Lake, and, on the east coast, in Freycinet National Park, take a hike to Wine Glass Bay lookout to view this world-acclaimed bay and one of the most photographed beaches in Australia.
Also in Freycinet National Park, which covers about one-fifth of the island, you’ll find the Bay of Fires, voted one of Lonely Planet’s hottest travel destinations due to its stunning scenery, which not only includes the surrounding blue sea, but also white sand beaches and orange tinged boulders on the coast.
Tasman Island, in the south, is also a World Heritage Wilderness area and worth a visit if you’re a nature lover. On an eco-cruise to the island you’ll see the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere and possibly spot rare marine wildlife.
And that brings me to number two…
2. Wildlife lovers will be intrigued by Tasmania’s unique, remarkable and abundant wildlife
As with most of Australia, on a visit to Tasmania, you may see kangaroos, wallabies and wombats in the wild (such as the one seen on a Maria Island walk, in the top photo), but the island is also home to its own unique wildlife, not found in other areas of Australia in the wild. Two such unique species are the Tasmanian devil and the quoll.
Of course, unless you lived under a rock as a kid, you’ve no doubt seen/heard of a Tasmanian devil, which was made famous in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Like many wild animals, they can be found in zoos. But to see this endangered marsupial in its native habitat, you would need to go to Tasmania.
Quite devilish by nature among its kind, the largest living carnivorous marsupial is actually quite timid around humans and may freeze on the spot if you encounter one. However, two males will fight over a female and, it will fight other males to protect its mate for 21 days until she gives birth. Mothers often give birth to 40 babies, and with only 4 teats, the babies also have to fight for survival. Is it any wonder how it got its name?
As well as the “Tassie” devil, Tasmania is also home to another carnivorous marsupial, the quoll. This nocturnal creature, and somewhat smaller than the devil, spends most of the day in a den, so it may be harder to across, but if you’re on an overnight camping adventure in Cradle Mountain you may be lucky to spot one.
Cradle Mountain, which is located in Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area, is also home to an abundance of other wildlife including platypus, echidna and many bird species. The platypus and the echidna, although not unique to Tasmania, are unusual in that they are among only five existing mammals that lay eggs (of which 4 are species of Echidna). The platypus is in fact endemic to Eastern Australia and Tasmania, but the echidna can also be found in New Guinea and other parts of Australia. Still, spotting these enigmatic creatures in the wild in Tasmania is a delight for wildlife lovers.
In the South, Mount Field National Park and Tasman Island are also abundant in wildlife,
but to be sure of spotting some of Tasmania’s more elusive wildlife, a visit to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, near Hobart, would be a worthwhile experience.
And bird watchers will particularly love Bruny Island, home to abundant birdlife, including 21 species of albatross and 12 bird species endemic to Tasmania, many of which are critically endangered and protected. There are too many to list, but examples include Green Rosellas, Tasmanian Thornbill, the Black Curawong and the Black-headed Honeyeater.
3. History lovers will be excited to learn about Tasmania’s colonial heritage and historic (even notorious) convict sites
If you’re a history lover, you will be excited to visit and learn about Tasmania’s rich colonial history, especially its historic convict sites. Two such sites can be found in Richmond and Port Arthur.
Richmond Bridge, which was built by convicts in the 1820s, is the oldest bridge in Australia and is just a short drive from Hobart. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site, a 90-minute drive southeast from the capital city, is a former convict settlement. Established in 1830 with more than 1000 notorious convicts, here you can learn all about Australia’s fascinating convict past.
As well as these two fascinating sites for history lovers, in Hobart itself, you can visit the oldest continually running brewery in Australia, the Cascade brewery, and if you also love art, while in Hobart, you won’t want to miss visiting the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).
A short drive west of the city, in the town of New Norfolk, you’ll discover several antique shops and, if you travel from Hobart to Launceston in the north, be sure to go via the Midland Highway. Also known as Heritage Highway, you’ll see many homesteads and rural cottages along the route that provide evidence of the island’s early colonial history.
Once in Launceston, you’ll discover some of the best early architecture in Australia. Many elegant colonial and Victorian buildings and parks can still be found in Tasmania’s second largest city.
On the west coast, if you take a boat cruise to Sarah Island, not only will you be amazed by the unspoilt temperate rainforest along the Gordon River, you’ll visit and learn about one of the harshest penal colonies in Australia.
Also on the west coast at Queenstown, you’ll find a town rich in mining history, where you can explore underground mines and local history museums, including the West Coast Wilderness Railway Museum. And for a heritage experience with a difference, you can hop aboard a steam locomotive (did I say there were no trains?) to Strahan (pronounced Strawn). Not only will you hear stories of resilience and extraordinary events from a bygone era, but you’ll be treated to delicious fresh local food and beverages.
Talking of food and beverages…
4. Food and wine lovers will delight in sampling the best food and drinks in Australia
If you’re a food and wine lover, you will love Tasmania. Did you know, the island state has the world’s cleanest air? Coupled with its pristine glacial waters and its agricultural landscapes, Tasmania produces some of the finest food and drinks in Australia.
Whether on a road-trip or a city stay, you’ll find roadside stalls and markets selling the freshest local produce, cheap and cheerful pubs and local eateries as well as high-end bars and restaurants serving farm to plate meals and award-winning wines and whiskeys.
If you love food and/or wine tasting road-trips, the Tamar Valley Wine Route in the north, offers 170 km of picturesque vines and cellar doors, orchards, lavender plantations, and berry farms. You’ll also find vineyard restaurants along the route where you can stop for a rest and a bite to eat while enjoying the view.
In the state’s agricultural North West, where the soils are a rich red and the landscape is a patchwork of fields, you can also take the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail to enjoy the best the area has to offer.
As well as wineries, you’ll also find distilleries and breweries on the island that open to the public for sampling some excellent Tasmanian whisky and beer. In fact, Tasmania is home to some of the world’s best whiskey. In recent years, two distilleries, Lark Distillery and Sullivans Cove, have won international awards.
For a real local experience, and especially if you’re a fish lover, head to a coastal town and try the fish and chips, where the fish comes straight from the boat. For the best and freshest seafood, head to Stanley a fishing town in the North West.
Another way to experience local, especially if you’re self-catering, is to visit a farmers’ market where you can sample and purchase produce as well as meet the locals who grow or make it.
One such market is the Saturday Harvest Market in Launceston where you’ll find local growers selling fresh berries, cheeses, flowers and a range of produce. At the famous Salamanca Market in Hobart, which is held every Saturday, you’ll not only be able to find fresh, organic produce but this award-winning market offers a huge selection of locally crafted items, including bespoke jewellery, stylish designs, artworks, leather goods and more. It’s a very popular tourist attraction, so be sure to arrive early!
Bruny Island, which I mentioned earlier, is also becoming known as a gourmet paradise with oyster farms, smoked meats, delicious cheese, berry farms and wineries.
5. Active individuals and adventure seekers will be amazed at the number of trails and activities available
With 19 National Parks and the Wilderness World Heritage Area covering 40% of the island, if you’re an adventure seeker, there is an abundance of trails to suit all fitness levels and activity preferences. In fact, Tasmania has 2800 km of walking tracks where you can immerse yourself in the state’s beautiful wilderness.
Activities for adventure seekers range from hang-gliding to horse-riding, rock climbing and exploring underground caves. At the coast and along the rivers, you can enjoy fishing, jet boating, sailing, diving rafting and kayaking.
Cradle Mountain for example, provides many options including an easy walk round Dove Lake, a more strenuous hike to the summit, horse-back riding and canyoning.
Cataract Gorge Reserve (a 2-minute-drive from Launceston) is not only a popular picnic and recreation spot with swimming pool for locals, it has an expansive bushland, walking tracks, suspension bridge and the world’s longest single span chairlift for the more adventurous.
Golfers can find two award-winning courses in the north of the state. Located near the coastal town of Bridport, you can enjoy a round or two of golf at Barnbougle Dunes or Lost Farm, both providing stunning views over Bass Strait as you play.
Did I mention, Tasmania is also a photographer’s paradise?
As you can see from the above there is something in Tasmania for everyone – from nature and wildlife lovers, to adventure seekers and golfers, to food and wine lovers, and not forgetting history and culture lovers.
But with so much fantastic scenery to explore, unique wildlife to discover, and historic sites to tour, Tasmania is also a photographer’s paradise – both professional and amateur. So, if you decide to travel to Tasmania, be sure to take your camera with you and take plenty of photos; you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Is the Australian state of Tasmania on your bucket list yet?
If Australia is on your travel bucket list, you should think about adding Tasmania too. But don’t just dream about visiting…start planning your visit. Kaz Custom Travel can help you plan, create and arrange everything needed for an experience of a lifetime in Australia’s smallest yet most diverse state.