Tasmania has a well-deserved reputation for not being the balmiest of Australian states, but anyone who uses that as an excuse for not visiting it is missing the entire point. And anyway, the weather is still better than Britain’s.
There are a lot of benefits to travelling to Australia’s bottom bits in winter. You could snuggle up in front of the fire, there aren’t many other tourists around, so no problems finding beds or spots on tours (not like summer where you have to book weeks in advance), hot chocolates, brisk bright clear days perfect for photography. And then there’s the scenery…
In winter, white snow falls thickly and silently on highlands and mountainsides, waiting to be laced with a delicate tracery of animal tracks.
In the high wilds of central Tasmania, a walk through the national parks will leave you wondering if you’ve somehow managed to stumble through a magic wardrobe.
I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if a unicorn or some sort of stumpy little gnome had sauntered up and started making conversation.
In fact at one point I thought they were, but on closer inspection the stumpy little gnomes turned out to be a group of shy, knee-high pademelons – a type of small wallaby – rustling about in a pocket of undergrowth.
The vast Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is one of Tassie’s best-known wildernesses and home to the famed Overland Track, a six-day bushwalk through World Heritage-listed scenery.
In winter the track is out of action, but there are plenty of shorter walks in the vicinity, ideal for a bit of snow stomping that’ll put the roses in your cheeks.
When we stopped off at Cradle Mountain itself, you would have needed crampons and a pack of sherpas to climb it. So we set off around the less-taxing Dove Lake Circuit, which loops the glassy waters beneath the mountain’s lowering crags.
Trying to follow the boardwalk covered in deep snowdrifts provided hours of hilarity, as every few minutes someone would misjudge the path and sink into soft snow up to their thighs. There were also plenty of raucous and impromptu snowball fights and ambushes.
I’m sure the walk would be quicker in summer, but it was absolutely stunning and we had the whole lake to ourselves, with only our own shrieking and whooping echoing through the lonely crags above.
Not far from Dove Lake we stopped at the log cabin of Waldheim, built by eccentric German naturalist Gustav Weinberger nearly 100 years ago.
It’s free to enter and on this occasion was deserted. Stamping the snow off our boots in the wooden porch, we stepped into another time.
The cabin was simple and folksy, with several fireplaces and stoves built to combat the cold, and a recreation of Gustav with his long-suffering missus and domestic paraphernalia.
He rather liked it up here in this lonely spot, cooking up possum stew winter after winter, as snow piled up against the tiny window-panes.
Waldheim is built on the edge of a tall forest, and it’s here things got really Narnian. We followed the snowy path over icy brooks, slippery boardwalks and broad forest trails, wondering how the local Aboriginals managed to live in this winter wonderland, keeping their bodies warm with animal grease and fur cloaks.
We saw neither wild men of the forest nor talking lions, but there was definitely magic in the chill air.Tasmania in winter? I’d never have had it any other way.
With its water setting and red-roofed houses perched on hillsides overlooking the yacht-strewn harbour, there’s a bit of a mini-Sydney feel about Hobart.
There are some pretty big differences between the two cities,
of course, but while the Tasmanian state capital might not have Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, neither does it have Sydney’s garish skyscrapers or traffic problems.
It’s a great little place, and probably the most underrated state capital in Australia.
The nation’s second-oldest city (after Sydney), has some impressive Georgian architecture, more than its fair share of cafes, restaurants and bars, a casino, a beautiful harbour, some great festivals, and every Saturday a colourful market at Salamanca Place.
It’s part of the beauty of Hobart that the centre is so small and can be covered on foot. The best views of the city, however, are from a little further away.
It’s a 20-minute drive to Mt Wellington, and the summit offers a great perspective on the city.
When the sun goes down, Hobart’s pubs, clubs, theatres and restaurants ensure that the nightlife here is excellent.
There’s a buzz around town, and plenty to do, but you don’t usually have to worry about crowds.
It’s the kind of city a person could settle in for a long while.