Despite being naturally beautiful Tasmania still struggles to throw off its backwater image and the shackles of its penal colony history. Although it should definitely not be overlooked, it’s a rare gem filled with vast amounts of unspoiled natural environment. In fact almost 37% of the land lies in reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites best explored by independent travel. Tasmanians will probably tell you it takes a month to explore the island properly, and they’re probably right but to get a taste of what the island state offers pick an area and stick to that – you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied. Here’s my choice for the island’s highlights:
Most journey’s to Tasmania will start with its colourful capital Hobart, not only is Hobart the state’s capital, it is also the home of Australia’s convict history. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney. It’s a capital city with a lot of small town charm with calendar of year round festival events and a selection of fine restaurants and excellent organic produce. Looking for more things to do? Scope out the colonial buildings, fishing boats and bright sails of the boats on the waterfront, the thriving Saturday market at Salamanca Place and the gorgeous seven mile beach (located in Lauderdale on the outskirts of Hobart).
Narawntapu National Park
You can find this beautiful national park on the island’s north coast, it’s also known as “Tasmania’s Serengeti” because it’s home to a huge amount of wildlife. It’s a peaceful place filled with grassy plains, eucalyptus forests, marshes and heathlands. Bird watchers will be in their element here and you are likely to see sea birds and ducks and if you’re lucky rare black cockatoos and brilliant green rosellas (the melaleuca has a bird hide and there is an observation at the lagoon). Aside from birds you’ll also likely to find cute wombats, Forester kangaroos and wallabies grazing on the grassy plains at dawn or dusk.
This area is a perfect stop on your Tasmanian journey – especially for wine lovers. It’s a 50km long picturesque valley filled with lush landscapes and more than 20 vineyards, orchards and cute B&B’s. Follow the Tamar Valley Wine Route and be sure to visit wineries like Clover Hill, Pipers Brook, Bass, Ninth Island and Delamere, especially if you like Pinot Noir wines.
The Huon valley lies just south of the capital city of Hobart and is where you will find impossibly beautiful scenery of vineyards, waterways and the Tahune Forest AirWalk (a walkway taking you high above forest canopies). The valley is at the center of the town of Huonville, which is on the Huon River and is also where you can find antique shops, vineyards, wine cellars, take a jet boat ride and try some local cuisine at the country cafe. Visitors to the area should always try to explore the ‘Huon Trail’ which includes Huon Valley, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Bruny Island and the remote Far South. If you do, expect scenery ranging from towering sea cliffs and caves to dramatic mountain peaks and ancient forests.
The ghostly town of Port Arthur can be found around 60km from Hobart. Officially Tasmania’s top tourist attraction, it was a former convict settlement, which opened for tourists as an open air museum and a “Model Prison” in 2008. Of course the huge prison is the main attraction and the huge complex is home to a Gothic Church, hospital, guard tower and barracks. The prison is where over 12,000 convicts served time from 1830 to 1877 and makes for interesting – if dark – viewing.
Nearby Eaglehawk Neck – a narrow isthmus connecting the Tasman Peninsula to the mainland – is another spot of interest. Chillingly it was once where a line of dogs was chained to posts across the neck to warn of any convicts attempting to escape the prison at Port Arthur but today it’s a well known beauty spot. Filled with gorgeous surfing beaches and naturally unique terrain – this is where the islander’s like to spend their summer breaks. Head for the incredible Tessellated Pavement, an area of flat rock naturally formed by erosion.
Freycinet National Park
This is another spot you’d be foolish to miss, this is a beautiful national park on the east coast of Tasmania and an unspoiled wilderness. One of the most popular attractions is Wineglass Bay, known for its pure white beaches against the turquoise sea and pink granite mountains. Take a four wheeler car to Cape Tourville Lighthouse for incredibly scenic views, go kayaking next to dolphins in Honeymoon Bay or just relax in a cosy lodge with views of Great Oyster Bay.
Considered to be one of Tasmanians’ best wilderness experiences and holiday destinations Cradle Mountain/Lake St. Clair National Park is where you’ll find the imposing Cradle mountain composed of dolerite columns and also ancient rainforest and the glistening Gordon River. If you’re lucky you’ll also meet platypus and the famous Tasmanian Devil. This area is Australia’s most glaciated and here you can breathe some of the cleanest air in the world.
The Franklin River lies in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park at the mid northern area of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage. As well as seeing an area of outstanding natural beauty its known for its thrilling white water rafting and for being the most remote river in the world that offers rafting – perfect for adventurous types. Raft here to experience expansive rainforest, quiet pools, deep gorges and of course an exhilarating ride.
Written by travel writer, adventurer and Tasmania fan Susie Hunt. Click on image for photo credit.
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