Many people come to Australia to lie on a beach and cook their pasty skin to a cinder. But let’s face it, the beach is rubbish. It’s where dirt meets water. If you want to get something different from your trip Down Under (as well as a breathtaking beach or two), then head south. Tasmania is one seriously beautiful little island. The Apple Isle is a taste of ye olde England with a fascinating past. As well as being covered in very familiar architecture, it is the birthplace of 1930s Hollywood heart-throb Errol Flynn (who played Robin Hood, multiple swashbucklers and was rumoured to have a massive schlong). Tasmania also has a rich Aboriginal history – before the settlers wiped them out – and you’ll find Devonport has a number of enigmatic reminders of the area’s original inhabitants. The island still retains a strong, independent culture compared to the mainland. And a “map of Tassie” has even become Aussie-wide slang for a lady’s front bottom. The world’s first Green Party was born in Tasmania, so it’s no surprise the small state has a well-developed sense of what is important. Of course, this doesn’t stop the government continuing to chop down many of the ancient forests, and logging remains a touchy subject for many locals. But for now, the land is still dominated by a huge swathe of unbroken greenery. This is the Tasmanian World Heritage area, made up of four national parks: Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair, Walls of Jerusalem, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers and South-West. This vast wilderness is about as far away as you can get from human activity. So get down there, explore, and most of all, make sure that camera is fully charged, because you’ll be snapping away like a demented paparazzi stalker. Not convinced? Well maybe these 37 reasons will help…
The landscapes, the people, the cities, the climate… They are all markedly different to the rest of Australia. You haven’t truly experienced Oz until you’ve been to Tassie as well.
The western half is dominated by a huge swathe of unbroken greenery – the Tasmanian World Heritage area, made up of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair, Walls of Jerusalem, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers and South-West. Parts of it have never been explored. Around a third of Tassie is national park.
INTO THE WILD
Not carefully manicured “wilderness areas” with concrete paths through the middle. Proper life-changingly spectacular, genuinely untouched and remote wilderness.
ESCAPE THE CROWDS
Many travellers are too busy getting pissed on the Gold Coast to make it down here. Wahey! More room for the rest of us.
It’s hardly surprising then that the world’s first Green Party was born here. As well as the active Wilderness Society.
RIGHT ON TRACK
Sure there’s no bungy jumping – the mainland can keep all that. Tassie is more unique. Though our feet still grumble about it, the 80km Overland Track is an exhausting yet exalting walk through stirring gothic landscapes. It rivals anything New Zealand can offer.
WALKING THE WALK
And there are plenty more less famous – and less crowded – trails, too. Tassie is a hikers Valhalla. Look into the South Coast Track.
Visit Port Arthur for the best, and often quite moving, insight into the hellish existence of convict life – the worst of the worst were sent here. Ideally do an evening ghost tour.
THE GREAT DIVIDE
Tassie is an odd place – in a fascinating way. The isle is split into greenies versus people who want to cut down magnificent ancient hardwood trees (the tallest in the world), mash them up and ship them to Japan to be turned into paper. See them before they’re cut down.
With the table manners of Ridley Scott’s alien (they like to eat carcasses from the inside out), these ferocious furballs manage to be both endearing and repulsive.
NORTH VS SOUTH
It has a north-south divide. Try saying that your favourite beer is Cascade – the Hobart-brewed beer – whilst on a Boags brewery tour, in Launceston. Great tour. Let’s just say we seemed to get less beer than the others. These divides make Tassie the most interesting state in Oz. See p38 for more details.
Many of the introduced mainland pests haven’t made it down to Tasmania, so native fauna flourishes. Pademelons (the Tassie wallaby), wombats, duck-billed platypusses and fiesty Tassie devils run rampant.
Mmmm, beer. Partly because the water is so pure down here, Cascade and Boag’s are some of the best beers you’ll taste in Australia. There’s also plenty of very tasty, locally-produced boutique beverages to get your lips around.
These perky, tuxedo-clad little fellas can be found around much of Tassie’s coastline. In the town of Penguin (no really), they clamber out of the sea at twilight for a night of partying and passing out in their burrows. Other top spots include Bicheno and Bruny Island.
To them the mainland is “North Island” – they live on the “mainland”. People are so friendly and unassuming – we were offered a spare beenie and somewhere to stay. They are easily the friendliest Aussies we reckon.
THE WORLD’S CLEANEST AIR
The Roaring Forties weather system passes over the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans, and no grubby polluting land masses, before hitting Tassie shores.
KEEP IT WHEEL
We’ve also done some fantastic cycling along the east coast, stopping off every hour or so for a quick dip in the sea. Bombing down Mt Wellington, Hobart, is another pump-action fave.
We could name so many spots – incredible forests, islands, rivers, beaches – but Wineglass Bay is possibly our favourite spot in the whole of Australia.
Hobart is plain lovely. It’s old fashioned and cosy, with great pubs (and we’re not talking those ugly generic sports bars – proper pubs). Hobart is easily Australia’s second most picturesque city. We met two ex-Sydneysiders who had come on holiday and never returned.
Tassie’s answer to Uluru, The Nut juts out into Bass Strait, near the town of Stanley. This solid mass of basalt is a staggering 500ft high, and there’s a chairlift to the top if you’re too lazy to walk up to see the amazing views of the northern Tasmanian coastline.
RIVERS RUN THROUGH IT
The Arthur River cruise through the wonderful Tarkine region (in the north-west), complete with brandy-tea and Banjo Paterson poem recitals, is well worth your time. Tassie is awash with wild, roaring rivers.
A seductive curve of dreamy white sand, with bush on one side and the turquoise sea lapping the other, where dolphins can be seen. Camp at the end of the beach and find yourself surrounded by curious pademelons.
Snow-capped in winter, this lofty peak towers over Hobart. From the summit, on a clear day, the views are breathtaking.
Launceston isn’t half bad either and Cataract Gorge is well worth a visit. Also, we love monkeys. Monkeys are skill. In City Park, you can go and hang out with them, for free.
It’s a little known fact that there are scores of places to dive in Tassie. Indeed, it’s home to some of the best temperate water diving in the world. You can navigate submerged caves, giant kelp forests and shipwrecks dating back to the 17th century, all while getting acquainted with dolphins, seahorses, sea dragons and countless other cuddly creatures. Top spots include Bicheno, Rock Cape, King, Maria and Flinders Islands and EagleHawk Neck. You can even dive close to Hobart.
Loads of ‘em. Stepped ones, tall thin ones, low, wide ones, freefalling ones, trickly ones… The highest is Montezuma’s Falls near Strahan.
JUST PLAIN RAFT
One of Australia’s greatest adventures is rafting the Franklin River. It takes from five to 10 days and goes through one of the most rugged and inaccessible places on the planet.
As well as the dark colonial history there’s the great is-it-isn’t-it tiger debate. The dog-like Tasmanian tiger was hunted to “extinction” by the 30s, but numerous sighting claims make it the equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster. A few years back a German tourist took a convincing photo that was never officially verified or discredited. Check out last year’s Willem Defoe film, The Hunter, which is all about looking for the illusive thylacine in Tassie’s south-west.
The curious double-headed, gothic Cradle Mountain towers above tranquil Dove Lake in the midst of highland heath. Make sure your memory card has lots of space.
In the central and south-west areas they seem to be everywhere you look. Very pretty with the sun setting, when they turn a fetching shade of baby-pink.
ADAM AND EVE IT
Not sure you want to do “the Sydney thing” on New Year’s Eve? Well, Tassie is a great alternative as Hobart comes alive after Christmas as the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race crews cross the finish line. Head to the stunning Marion Bay to catch the likes of the Arctic Monkeys playing the Falls Festival before heading back to town for the Taste Festival.
While you’re there venture out to the ever-moving, desert -like expanse of the Hefty Sand Dunes – ideal for flinging yourself down on a board or zooming over on a quad bike.
THE WILD WEST COAST
It may be wet, wind-swept and rugged, but it’s wonderfully, lusciously green too. Proper edge of the world stuff. Make sure you call in at the cosy fishing village of Strahan, too.
Hobart’s famous waterfront hippy bazaar is full of buskers, stripey leggings, Indian saris, 1930s bric-a-brac, comics, curry, crystals, candles and stuff made from spoons…
There are many more islands off Tassie worth exploring. Gorgeous Bruny Island, near Hobart, and Maria Island (entirely national park) come highly recommended.
APPLES CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE
It’s not nicknamed the Apple Isle for nothing. With its English climate, Tasmania was once the world’s major apple producer – we’ve never tasted better. Tassie is also dairy country, meaning they make great cheese as well as the good stuff. Little factories – many with tastings – and shops dot the isle. Seafood is exceptional – and cheap – too.