Tasmania is, simply speaking, completely unlike anywhere else in Australia. The cities and towns, the landscapes, the climate and even the people are unique to this little green island floating in the frigid waters of the deep south.
Tasmania’s grim convict past, with all of its bloody tales of death, cannibalism and horror are reason enough for history buffs to visit, whilst the brilliant local food and wine to be found in the unique regions hold their own distinct pleasures.
Once considered somewhat isolated (and backwards) by mainland Australians, Tasmania has pushed itself to the forefront of Australia’s artistic and cultural landscape. The Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) in Hobart rivals anything to be found on the mainland, or even in the world, with contemporary and classic artworks, sculpture and installations to dazzle the eye and reward the soul.
In fact, the city of Hobart recently caught the attention of the world with Lonely Planet rating Hobart as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2013 – the only Aussie city to make the grade. Something Tasmanians have been saying for years.
Speaking of top 10’s, we’ve picked out our 10 favourite things to do in Tasmania. This might not be a definitive list but it’s a start, a beginning to try and surmise this wonderful and beautiful state which you simply have to experience for yourself.
The row of four heritage-listed sandstone warehouses marks Salamanca Place’s history, which dates backs to the 1830s when Salamanca served as the centre of the city’s whaling trade and its overall commercial hub. While the area fell into ruin and disrepair throughout much of the 20th Century, the revival of Tasmania’s sense of “heritage” in the 1970’s saw the area become redeveloped. Now the east end of Salamanca Place has become the subject of a number of expensive and large redevelopments, and is the centre of a large and vibrant art crowd. The non-profit run Salamanca Arts Centre occupies several of the old warehouses and is home to over 70 works of art. The well renowned Salamanca markets also operate every Saturday and play host to, not only the regions beautiful natural produce, but also its growing community of alternative artists and new-age hippies.
Museum of Old and New Art
Since first opening its doors in 2011, this huge gallery conceived as the brainchild of an eccentric millionaire has become Tasmania’s single largest tourist attraction. MONA, described as a “subversive adult’s Disneyland” is a three level monolith hewn into the living rock around the Berriedale peninsula, and is almost a work of art in itself. Inside, the art is predominantly showcased underground, where ancient antiquities rub shoulders with new works from young, contemporary artists from all across the world. The museum has been compared favourably with Bilbao’s famous Guggemheim Museum as being a truly world class attraction in a small city. MONA is a must-visit regardless of whether you’re a serious fan of art or whether you’re just keen to experience something unique and wonderful.
Australia’s second oldest city is also one of its most picturesque. With the historic city dappled between the snow-capped peak of Mount Wellington and the harbour, Hobart has enough activities day and night to keep everyone entertained. With delicious seafood and fresh dairy products, as well as award-winning wineries and breweries, the foodies will love Hobart’s quaint restaurants and café’s, particularly those found around Victoria and Constitution Docks, while there are plenty of pubs, cool bars and nightclubs to whet one’s whistle after dark. The city also has a host of beautiful heritage-listed buildings to visit and is minutes away from nature, with wonderful trekking provided by the dominant Mount Wellington. Hobart was recently voted the 7th most recommended city in the world to visit next year by Lonely Planet and it comes as no surprise given that the Tasmanian capital is unlike any other city in Australia.
This beautiful curve of dolomite rock jutting above a glacial lake is considered something of the jewel in the crown of the 1262 sq-km Lake St Clair National Park. Towering 1545 metres above sea level, this rugged series of peaks perhaps best captures the allure of Tasmania’s rugged alpine heart. Despite being less than a two hour drive from Devonport, one of Tasmania’s larger regional centres, the mountain itself takes the best part of seven hours to get up and down and is exposed to the elements and the wild weather that can often change quickly and without warning. Despite this though, the breathtaking views offered at the summit, the beautiful natural scenery of the area, and the national park in general make this another hugely popular tourist attraction and another unique opportunity offered by Australia’s southern island.
This is a six to eight day journey through Tasmania’s incredible Alpine wilderness through the Lake St Clair National Park. It is a wonderfully challenging, yet definitely achievable, odyssey for anyone stout of heart and possessed of a solid pair of hiking boots. The 65-80 kilometre hike has become perhaps the most definitive bushwalk in any of Australia’s states. Hikers must traverse sheer mountain terrain, temperate rainforest, wild rivers and snow-capped alpine plains in the protected World Heritage Area. In the warmer summer months tour groups and large numbers of experienced walkers tackle the track, whilst in the colder, winter months, the numbers of people walking the track lessen due to the frigid temperatures and low levels of sunlight during the day. (This actually makes the walk longer and more difficult.) Yet, even in summer, don’t expect the walk to be all sunshine and t-shirt weather – the region is well known for its unpredictable storms and cold snaps.
Freycinet National Park/Wineglass Bay
Half way down the east coast of Tasmania you’ll find this beautiful area, described as a laidback, salt-tousled holiday town. Coles Bay sits at the foot of the Granite Mountains known as the Hazards, and on the edge of the world-renowned Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay (about two and ½ hour’s drive from Hobart and Launceston). Famous for the pink granite mountains rising straight from the sea. Also famous, according to the travel bible Lonely Planet, for Wineglass Bay which was named one of the top 10 beaches in the world. If you’re game enough, a very quick dip in the aqua blue clear sea is a must-do. It all looks rather tropical until you remember you are almost at the southern end of the globe! The Wineglass Bay Walk is one of the most popular routes in Tasmania, you can make the steep climb to Wineglass Bay Lookout to get magnificent views over the bay and peninsula. If you consider yourself a bit of a Bear Grylls wannabe then you will be spoilt for choice with bushwalking, fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, snorkelling and surfing – the activity list is endless. AG
Bay of Fires
The Bay of Fires is a 29km sweep of powdery white sand, crystal clear seas and granite splashed with orange lichen. It has been called one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In 2009, this area was named one of the world’s hottest travel destinations by Lonely Planet and once you experience it first hand, you’ll understand why. Amongst the ‘Fires you’ll find quaint villages that are popular for fishing, boating, swimming and kayaking. The bay was named by Captain Tobias Furneaux in 1773 in response to the many Aboriginal fires he saw burning on its shore. People visiting the area today often believe that the name refers to the play of light on the water. It’s a good guess – the light in Tasmania has a crystalline quality which contrasts well with the white sand on the shores. AG
The home of the beautiful South Bruny National Park, Bruny Island provides the ultimate Tasmanian wilderness experience. On land, you can venture into the wilderness on one of the many Bruny Island bushwalks. On sea, you can catch an eco-cruise exploring the stunning coastline of the island. Bruny Island is home to fur seals, fairy penguins, and white wallaby and provides excellent opportunities for Birdwatching. This Island is actually almost two islands, joined by a narrow, 5km sandy isthmus called ‘The Neck’. Brunny’s coast can be described as magical and there are endless amounts of swimming and surfing beaches. Bruny is a brilliant island for touring, you can drive north to the sheltered beaches of Dennes Point and Killora; head south to Adventure Bay, the Cape Bruny Lighthouse and Cloudy Bay, where there is a great surf break. Bruny Island is building a reputation for top quality, local produce food and premium quality wine. You will find handmade fudge, chocolate, truffles, berries, cheese and fresh oysters, so get your taste buds on standby when you get off the ferry. Bruny Island Cheese Company is a great first stop. Another brilliant food experience will be had at Get Shucked Oyster Farm; you can wash down half a dozen oysters with a bottle of nonalcoholic chilli beer, which will defiantly help warm you up. And to satisfy your sweet tooth, Island Berry Farm where you can ‘pick your own’ or enjoy the farms juicy seasonal produce with ice-cream, scones or pancakes.
This small settlement has a very interesting history. In 1830 Governor Arthur chose the Tasman Peninsula to confine prisoners who had committed further crimes in the colony. A ‘natural penitentiary’ – the peninsula is connected to the mainland by a strip of land less then 100m wide – Eagle hawk Neck is where ferocious guard dogs and tales of shark infested waters deterred escape. It was hell on Earth for the 12,500 prisoners who served hard, brutal time between 1830 and 1877. Australia’s first railway literally ‘ran’ the 7km between Northfolk Bay at Taranna and Long Bay near Port Arthur, where convicts pushed the carriages along the tracks. Many say that Port Arthur is a quiet a somber place, with most sights carrying this darker theme. Convict history is well documented throughout many of the landmarks, including The Port Arthur Historic Site, which is one of Tasmania’s busiest tourist attractions. Downstairs is an interpretative gallery where you can follow the convict’s journey from England to Tasmania. The Port Arthur Museum contains many displays; it was originally an asylum, housing patients from throughout the colony. Another fascinating place to visit is The Separate Prison which was built as a place of punishment for difficult prisoners, following a decision to ‘reform’ prisoners by isolation and sensory deprivation rather than flogging. If you enjoying getting spooked and things that go bump in the night then Port Arthur offers a range of ghost tours as well as the Isle of the Dead Cemetery Tour, Point Puer Boys’ Prison Tour and a Paranormal Investigation Experience. AG
Tasmanian Food and Wine
The food and wine in Tassie is so good it deserves a special mention. Visitors are treated to prime cheeses, mouth-watering berries, crisp apples, stone fruits, herbs, premium beef, specialty honey, mushrooms, cool-climate wines and some of Australia’s leading boutique and production beers and whiskies. Quench you thirst in Hobart, where you can tour the historic Cascade Brewery with its magnificent sandstone Georgian facade, located at the foot of Mount Wellington. Moorilla Estate, to the north of Hobart, creates boutique beers based on classic German traditions – the best hops, pure water and no preservatives. In Launceston, James Boag’s Premium Brewery, on the banks of the Tamar River is also open to visitors. Tasmania now produces such elegant cool-climate wines as pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and sparkling wines. You would be mad not to visit the Cadbury Visitor Centre in Claremont and enjoy tasting some of the raw materials. Tasmania’s cool clean waters grow Atlantic salmon as the clean waters mean their diet is natural, free from antibiotics and hormones. You will find the best oysters, abalone, mussels, scallops, crayfish, snapper, blue-eye trevalla, and much more at punts and direct from trawlers at many places around the state. There is also several food and wine festivals and markets held throughout the calendar year, like Taste Tasmania in late December, while beer-lovers will be spoilt for choice with more than 100 boutique beers on offer during Tasmania Beer Festival. AG