There’s no shortage of weird, wonderful and often downright dangerous creatures that call Australia home.
It’s a country where you can go swimming with Jaws, share the water with deadly crocs or settle for the cute option and cuddle a koala. But there’s only one place where you can come face-to-face with a crazed devil. And not just any devil at that, but a celebrity one with his own cartoon.
Forget Aussie celebs like Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman or Karl Kennedy – yes, even Dr K – Taz is who I’m searching for.
Having been known to enjoy a little reckless abandon myself since an early age, I’ve always secretly enjoyed the fearless Taz tearing around in a whirlwind, a furry bundle of hyperactivity eating everything in his path.
And so it is that I’m heading to the Apple Isle to find the devil. Setting down in the capital, I immediately feel at home.
Hobart is so laidback and friendly it’s as though the town’s design brief asked for just one quality – the ability to mooch.
After doing some devil research in the excellent (and free) Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, I fill my days fulfilling the dreams of those founders, by having a good mooch, strolling around the lively harbour and losing afternoons in cosy pubs around Salamanca.
But great as it is, I’m unlikely to spot Taz sailing into town with his yachtie mates. I need to widen the net.
Luckily, being about the size of Ireland, you don’t have to drive for 10 hours to get anywhere in Tassie, so I give myself six days to tear around the state in search of my hungry hero.
First up though, I take advantage of the clear skies to drive up Mt Wellington, the peak that lords 1,271m above Hobart, offering glorious views across the land I’m about to explore.
The next morning I set off into Tassie’s World Heritage-listed wilderness, an area comprising a huge chunk of the state’s western side, which boasts some of the best preserved and least explored rainforest in the world – thicker even than the Amazon.
The lack of roads means almost nobody ventures too deep within the lush vegetation.
If the believed-to-be-extinct Tasmanian tiger really does still exist, then this is where it would be found, lurking in the shadows with who knows what else.
The search takes me on, passed the depths of Lake St Clair and the snow-capped Mount Olympus, until I reach pretty Strahan on the west coast. But still no dealings with thedevil.
So I take a brief sojourn from my mission to visit the Henty Sand Dunes.
There’s only one way to truly experience this desert-like expanse of ever-moving dunes stretching to the Southern Ocean – on a quad bike.
I’ve never ridden a quad before, so as I roar off across the sand it feels like it’s not just me on an adrenalin high, grinning into my helmet.
It’s as if all the adrenalin has been drained out of the nearest naked bullfighting team, put in a bottle and poured into my bike’s fuel tank. It’s absolutely awesome.
Sadly back in a proper car, I head back inland until the imposing sight of Cradle Mountain looms into view.
Surely these hills, with their Castle Dracula-like feeling of foreboding, would be the perfect devil’s lair?
However before starting my climb, I realise I’ve stumbled on something as cool as my ultimate goal – I’m surrounded by wombats!
It feels like I’ve been transported to my own personal zoo, as the miniature bear-like marsupials munch away all around me, with the fading light shimmering off their fur.
Some inquisitively paw at me while others merely snort in disgust as I distract them from their dinner.
After sitting mesmerised for a while, I leave the grumpy furballs to it – they’re no Taz after all.
The next morning I resume my search and climb to Cradle’s summit.
Scrambling up the boulder-strewn 1,545m to the peak, it feels like the whole island lies before me. Breathtaking it might be, but there are no devils in sight.
I venture north-east, passing through attractive Launceston before emerging on the east coast at the rugged Bay
After a quick stop to ooh and aah at the unbearably cute little penguins at Bicheno, it’s south to Freycinet National Park, home to Wineglass Bay (pictured).
I’m not sure whether it’s the hour trek through the rocky forest to get there, the dolphins frolicking in the surf or the fact that the only other people I can see are the two backpackers heading towards me from the secluded campsite at the far end of the beach, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever appreciated a stretch of sand as much as this one.
There’s no doubt that the best beaches Down Under are up there with the world’s most beautiful – Wineglass Bay makes it into that exclusive club with ease.
Almost completing my circle back to Hobart, I lose a day exploring the historical treasure trove of Port Arthur, before realising I’ve run out of time.
I accept I’ve failed my mission and head to a Tassie devil wildlife centre. And there the pesky players are. Romping around, screaming hellishly as they fight over food, playing dead.
They’re smaller than I imagined, and I can’t spot any whirlwinds, but they’ve got all the energy and cheeky playfulness of Taz. Brilliant.
I’m just going to have to look harder next time.