Welcome to Tasmania

 

Calling all adventurers! If your idea of fun is hiking through the mountains, immersing yourself in ancient Gondwanaland-like rainforests where some trees are up to 10,000 years old, or swimming at remote, sandy beaches of a thousand blues, then Tasmania will have you foaming at the mouth.

 

With more than 3,000km of coastline and over a third of the state set aside as reserves and national parks (a fifth of Tasmania is World–Heritage listed), this is truly a place where outdoor aficionados can seek seclusion and revel in adrenaline pumping activities. It’s also a place where photographers get repetitive strain injuries on their trigger fingers. As if the fantastic scenery isn’t enough, the nutrient rich soils and unpolluted landscape produces food and wine that’ll have your taste-buds singing. From walnuts to wakame (edible seaweed), mushrooms to mustard, and buckwheat to black truffles, this down-to-earth island is both gourmet and fresh.

 

But it hasn’t always been this way. ‘Gourmet’ and ‘fresh’ certainly weren’t words many convicts would’ve used to describe the world’s 26th largest island. Transported from Great Britain back in the early to mid-1800s, their lives were a living hell (see ‘A Bloody Past’ box). Quite aptly, back then Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land after the Dutch governor of the East Indies. Visitors cruising along the smooth highways today would have no idea how convicts painstakingly eked out every inch of the road with pickaxes, often with wind and rain lashing their faces and blisters on their hands.

Fatigued and malnourished, the promise of the guards’ whip was never far away.

Like the convicts, Tasmania is somewhat of an outcast.

 

When the world de-thawed after the last ice age, sea levels rose and a piece of land roughly the size of Sri Lanka separated from the mainland; the rocky tract that once connected Tasmania to Australia was flooded. Because of its isolation, the island is well preserved (although money-hungry loggers are doing their best to ravage the place) and, on the whole, it’s unpolluted. Tasmania claims to have the purest air in the world, although if Safari Pete’s had a spicy curry and a few beers then the ozone layer may be in danger.

 

Nicknamed the Apple Isle, Tasmania used to be an apple powerhouse. While hippies were getting muddy at Woodstock in the 1960s, true blue Tasmanians were exporting a staggering eight million boxes of apples a year.  There were over 2,000 apple orchards growing 386 varieties of apple. Nowadays there aren’t as many apple orchards and golf courses have popped up everywhere – there are more here than in any other state.

 

So whether you head for the mountain studded wilderness of the southwest, the bleached white beaches along the east coast or the bustling markets of Hobart, Tasmania is sure to etch a little piece of itself into your heart.

 

Tassie General Info

 

Size: 68,332km2 (roughly the same size as the Republic of Ireland).

 

Telephone Area Code: 03

 

Time Zone: GMT plus ten hours. Tasmania operates on Eastern Standard Time (EST) and has daylight savings from October to March (clocks go forward an hour)

 

Population: 510,600

 

Climate: Tasmania has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons.  Summer is mild with a 21°C average maximum and this drops to 12°C in winter.  Despite its reputation, Tasmania isn’t always cold and wet – Hobart, in fact, is the second driest city in Australia.

 

Tourism Tasmania:

Tel: 1300 733 258            Web: www.discovertasmania.com

 

Safari Pete’s Tassie ‘Don't miss’ list

 

Cruise down the Derwent River.

 

Tasmania has two award-winning breweries,

Cascade (www.cascadevisitorcentre.com.au)

in Hobart and Boag’s (www.boags.com.au) in Launceston.

They’re on tap at most pubs and you can do brewery tours.

 

Wilderness wandering is a must if you want to get away from everything and be

humbled by solitude. Head to the southwest for the most remote walks. www.parks.tas.gov.au

 

The Overland Track is one of the world’s best multi-day walks. This six-day trek

takes you through alpine wilderness and past Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa.

www.parks.tas.gov.au

 

Levitate in the trees on the Tahune Forest Airwalk. www.adventureforests.com.au

 

Catch a summer festival. The Hobart Summer Festival takes place in late December early January each year and hosts the Taste of Tasmania where you can choose from hundreds of gourmet Tasmanian foods and greet yachts from the famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.  If you’re in the northeast, be sure to attend

Launceston’s Festival of the Senses.

Hobart

 

Arguably the most picturesque of all Australian state capitals, Hobart is a mixture of traditional and contemporary flavours. Century-old Georgian buildings line the streets behind Salamanca Place, which itself is a hub of trendy modern cafes. Constitution Dock is where the fish ‘n’ chips fry and the yachts are tied. A little way out of Hobart, at Wrest Point, is Australia’s oldest casino – a cylindrical building that resembles a stack of betting chips.

 

Standing over Australia’s second oldest city is Mt Wellington, which, with its flute-shaped rocks, looks spectacular all year round and even better with a dusting of snow on top. Dividing the city in two is the mighty Derwent River, one of Tassie’s largest waterways which flows 187km from Lake St Clair, the country’s deepest natural freshwater lake at over 200 metres.

 

British settlers originally plunged their anchors into the sands of Risdon Cove, some 10km from Hobart, in order to ward off the attentions of the French who were also keen to settle the area. But sourcing fresh water was a problem at Risdon Cove and the land was no good to establish a town, so the Brits moved camp to Sullivans Cove, naming their base Hobart Town after the then Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Robert Hobart.

 

The Derwent River was (and still is) like a gushing artery, the life-force of the city as its waters carried merchants and whalers into Hobart. Battery Point was the early colonial district. Not to be confused with the home of the Duracell bunny, the name comes from a gun battery which stood on the promontory by a guard house. It was all for show, however, as the guns were never fired in anger. During its formative years Hobart was a vivacious maritime village. Over two thirds of the population were convicts (some 180-odd sheep stealers, thieves and murderers). The rest of Hobart Town was home to shipwrights and sailors, merchants and fishermen.

 

 

Which way Cobber ?

 

Tasmania has two main airports located at Hobart www.hobartairpt.com.au

(03 6216 1600) and Launceston www.launcestonairport.com.au

(03 6391 6222).

There are also smaller airfields at Wynyard (20km from Burnie and known as Burnie/Wynyard airport), and Devonport, but flying from these can be expensive.

 

Generally you’ll only need to take a domestic flight if you’re planning a bushwalk in the remote southwest reaches of the state. Cambridge Airport, located next to the main terminal of Hobart Airport, has small planes that fly in to remote places into Melaleuca, the start/finish point of the rugged South Coast Track.

 

There are many ways to cross the Bass Strait, the 260km stretch of water between Tasmania and the mainland. A handful of madcap adventurers have kayaked, windsurfed, kite-boarded and swam across. Thankfully for us mere mortals there is a fourteen-hour ferry service on the Spirit of Tasmania which is a cheaper, if not longer, alternative to flying. Log onto www.spiritoftasmania.com.au (1800 634 906) for more information.

 

The main bus companies are Redline Coaches (www.tasredline.com.au;

1300 360 000) and Tassielink (www.tassielink.com.au; 1300 300 520) which between them cover most of the state. If you’re after a bus tour then you can charter a bus from Tigerline Travel (www.tigerline.com.au).

 

Hobart is serviced by Metro buses and the Busy Bee bus does a convenient loop around the city. www.metrotas.com.au; 13 22 01.

The Devil Inside

 

For centuries people have believed that the devil resides in the burning depths of hell, sitting on a throne beside a lava river, prong in hand and belching fire. But south of mainland Australia there is another devil. So called by early European settlers because of its blood curdling screeches, the Tasmanian Devil was the inspiration behind the Warner Brothers cartoon character, Taz – although a real life Tasmanian Devil doesn’t blow raspberries or move like a whirlwind.

 

They’re actually pretty slow with a top speed of only 14km/hr. But what the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial lacks in quickness, it makes up for in ferocity. It may only be the size of a small dog, but the Tassie Devil’s powerful jaws and teeth are nine times stronger than a canine’s, and they’ll eagerly devour their entire prey – bones, fur, head, the lot. They can eat nearly 40 per cent of their body weight in under thirty minutes.

 

Like the Tasmanian Tiger, the Devils were seen as a nuisance to early settlers and for over a century (from 1830s onward) they were trapped and poisoned and heading for extinction. In 1941 a law was passed to protect them and the Tassie Devil population grew sizeably. Man may not threaten the little tackers today, but the population is in the midst of a natural scourge, namely a deadly facial tumour disease which is ravaging the population. While scientists and conservationists are doing everything to help out the Devil, check them out while you still can. There are a number of sanctuaries around Tasmania, such as Devilworld on the east coast (www.natureworld.com.au) and Trowunna Wildlife Park (nr Mole Creek) where they house the world’s largest captive population (www.trowunna.com.au).

One to Three-day Loop:

Sensational Southeast Tassie

 

This little ripper of a loop will show you the best of Hobart, the Tasman Peninsula and Freycinet National Park. An eerie history lingers in these parts, as well as some natural sites that’ll knock your socks off.

 

Day One

Spend the morning enjoying Hobart. Explore the wharf and Salamanca Place, where the fabulous Salamanca Markets take place every Saturday.

Then it’s onto Fortescue Bay, approximately an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Hobart on the east coast of the Tasman Peninsula. It’s an unsealed road through a dense forest for the last part of the drive, but well worth the bumpy ride. There are amazing bushwalks in this area. Make sure you stop at the visitor centre/national park office to pay the small entrance fee and pick up some walking maps. The campground is right by the ocean, so if you have a van or a tent it’s a great place to spend the night. Otherwise there are a couple of hostels at Port Arthur, approximately a half-hour drive south.

 

Day Two

If you stayed at Fortescue Bay then head to Port Arthur, a former convict settlement that is one of Australia’s richest historical landmarks. It offers a great insight into early colonisation. The entry fee will set you back around $25-$30 but it is inclusive of an informative guided-tour as well as a harbour cruise. From here it’s a three-hour drive north to Coles Bay which you can break up by making a stop at Orford for a quick dip in the sea and a feed. There are a few budget places to spend the night in Coles Bay, including camping in the Freycinet National Park.

 

Day Three

Explore Coles Bay and surrounding areas. A must-do is the hike to Wineglass Bay. You can also spend the day kayaking, fishing or just lazing on the white sandy beaches. From here, it is a two-and-a-half-hour drive back to Hobart. If you make it back before dusk, drive up to the Mount Nelson lookout for a breathtaking view of the city.

Where to crash in Tassie

 

Central Hobart

 

Hobart Hostel – 41 Barrack St; Ph 03 6234 6122

Built in a former pub, Hobart Hostel is situated in the middle of Hobart and close to shops and the bus terminal; these guys have free Internet, fully equipped kitchen as well as relaxing lounge area with comfy leather couches. www.hobarthostel.com

 

The Brunswick Hotel – 67 Liverpool St Ph: 03 6234 4981

With Twin, Double and triple rooms starting from $65 this hotel is not just a great place for a drink, but a nice place to rest your head afterwards too.

www.brunswickhotelhobart.com.au

 

Transit Backpackers - 251 Liverpool St;  Ph 03 6231 2400

Established by a local couple, this hostel is minutes from Salamanca Market and has a range of twin and double rooms as well as four, six, eight and twelve-bed share rooms.  www.transitbackpackers.com

 

Montgomery's YHA Backpackers Hostel – 9 Argyle St; Ph 03 6231 2660

Located one block from the waterfront and the town centre, this is Hobart’s

newest hostel having been built in 2001. There’s an Internet lounge and a pub next door that does cheap meals (and karaoke nights). www.montgomerys.com.au

 

Pickled Frog Backpackers – 281 Liverpool St; Ph 03 6234 7977

These guys are a five-minute stroll to Salamanca Place, Hobart’s Waterfront and the town centre. They have an in-house bar, an Internet café with Wi-Fi and off-street parking.  www.thepickledfrog.com

 

Imperial Backpackers - 138 Collins St Hobart - 03 6223 5215

A cool and funky vibe, this recently refurbished, retro property is right in

the heart of Hobart. Free wifi and parking available and the friendly staff

can arrange for your airport transfer on request.

www.backpackersimperialhobart.com.au

 

The New Sydney Hotel – 87 Bathurst St Ph: 03 6234 4516

With backpacker style accommodation as well as a great menu of lunch and dinner options you’ll never want to leave! Check out the extensive beer list too.

www.newsydneyhotel.com.au

 

Narrara Backpackers – 88 Goulburn St; Ph 03 6234 8801

Located just five minutes from Hobart city centre, these guys provide an airport-to-door shuttle bus service. There’s a choice of twin, double or dorm style accommodation, as well as luggage and bicycle lock-up facilities.

www.narrarabackpackers.com

 

Shamrock Hotel – 195 Liverpool Street Ph: 03 6234 3892

This Irish pub not only has cheap meals & drink specials but offers single room accommodation upstairs.

 

Harrington's 102 – 102 Harrington Street; Ph 03 6234 9277

Located in Hobart's central business district, this place offers a free continental breakfast. All rooms feature Persian marble en-suites. All major car hire agencies are within easy walking distance. (Note: this place is more than $30 a night.)

www.harringtons102.com.au

 

North Hobart

 

Adelphi Court YHA Hostel – 17 Stoke St Ph: 03 6228 4829

Located 2.5km from the city, this place is within walking distance of the restaurant precinct of North Hobart. There is a large games/common room, function room and a courtyard with BBQ.  Sports facilities are nearby. www.yha.com.au

 

Lutana

 

Hobart Apartments – 369 Brooker Ave/Highway Hobart Ph: 03 6272 3399

These apartments are located 5km north of Hobart. All rooms have full kitchen facilities and apartments facing the highway have double glazing. There’s off-street parking and an Austar television lounge area. This is not like a dorm room in a hostel however, for there is a minimum of three guests for each apartment. (Note: this place is more than $30 a night.) www.hobartapartments.com.au

 

Share Houses

A good way to meet locals is to find a share house. This option will suit people who are planning to stick around for longer. Bunking up with Aussies will unlock more of the city’s secrets – after all, local knowledge is best. Check out

www.share-house.com.au/tasmania/hobart or www.easyroommate.com for a list of share houses.

Pete’s Primo Pastimes

 

To get a different perspective of Hobart, grab a paddle and kayak across the waters of the Derwent Estuary. Following Hobart’s shoreline you can explore Battery Point, Salamanca Place and the docks of the city’s waterfront weaving your way between yachts, cruisers and working boats. These guided trips include historic commentary and are undertaken in sturdy sea kayaks which are difficult to capsize. Don’t worry if you don’t know your oar from your elbow because the tours cater for nervy

novices through to pro paddlers. Rates start at $65. There are three main operators so make a splash and log onto www.roaring40skayaking.com.au (03 6267 5000),

www.blackabyseakayaks.com.au (0418 124 072) or www.freycinetadventures.com.au (03 6257 0500) to find the package that best suits you.

 

Ectoplasm alert! As sunlight fades and darkness creeps onto the streets, take a walk into Hobart’s haunted history by embarking on a ghost tour. Spooky storytellers take you into the lives of convicts, whalers, barmaids and prostitutes – spirits trapped between death and the grave. Two-hour walks leave at dusk from Salamanca Square. To send shivers up your spine, log onto www.ghosttoursofhobart.com.au

(0439 335 696) and check out the phantoms in the photo gallery.

Ghosts aren’t the only spirits in town. Head to the Lark Distillery (14 Davey St), situated on the waterfront, to sample an array of fruit liqueurs and malt whiskey.

This traditional distillery produces ten to twelve 100 litre barrels per month.

www.larkdistillery.com.au; 03 6231 9088.

 

Just 15km from the city centre, in Claremont, is the Cadbury Chocolate Factory (Cadbury Rd). You can either catch public transport out there (buses 37, 38 or 39) and do a factory tour, or else combine this with a river cruise. Factory tours

include an audiovisual presentation and comprehensive talk, a chance to buy

chocolate naughties at the Cadbury shop and some chocolate samples. Tours don’t go inside the actual factory. Light lunch is included if you opt to do the seventy-minute cruise; this trip lasts around four hours in total. Chocoholics can log onto

www.cadbury.com.au (1800 250 260) for more information about the tours.

 

To work off all the chocolate head to Mount Wellington for a good walk. Catch the number 48 or 49 bus to Fern Tree, from which you can ascend to the summit by hiking up the Fern Glade Track, Radfords Track and the heart-pumping Zig Zag Track. Once on top there are a variety of summit walks. Trip return times to Fern Tree are roughly five to six hours, although this depends on which summit walks

you do. One of Safari Pete’s favourites is the Organ Pipes walk.

 

Those who aren’t so fit but enjoy the outdoors may want to consider cycling down

Mt Wellington. Three-hour tours depart daily to the summit. From there, you’ll

free-wheel down the mountain, through the outer suburbs of south Hobart and Battery Point, ending up in Salamanca Place. All up the ride is 21km. For the adventurous, there is an off-road section which bumps its way along for roughly 5km.  www.mtwellingtondescent.com.au Ph: 03 6228 0126 or 1800 064 726

 

For the more independent cyclist who enjoy making up their own routes, you can hire a bike. They come equipped with rear panniers, a helmet, a pump, a tool kit, a lock and a first aid kit. Wheel onto www.bikehiretasmania.com.au 0400 256 588 for more details, or else pop into 109 Elizabeth St. Also, Island Cycle Tours hire out bikes. www.islandcycletours.com; (03 6234 9558).

 

Here’s one for the history buffs: an historic afternoon tour of Hobart. Places of interest include Sullivans Cove, Parliament House and Battery Point. After that, you’ll be whisked away on a coach to Richmond, a quaint historic town 27km from Hobart. Richmond has more than fifty 19th century buildings and the oldest road bridge in Australia, built by convicts in 1823. This three-and-a-half-hour tour also incorporates the old gaol before heading back to Hobart at around 5pm. Alternatively, those who want to make their own way to Richmond can catch a TassieLink bus. For updated timetables, log onto www.tassielink.com.au;

1300 300 520.

 

Tasmania’s own Ricky Ponting is one of the cricketing heroes you’ll find inside the Tasmanian Cricket Museum at the Bellerive Oval (Derwent St, Bellerive). Located on Hobart's eastern shore, the museum has displays, videos and interactive technology. You can also peek into the players’ rooms. Weekly ninety-minute tours commence at 10am each Tuesday (except on match days and public holidays), or else you can book a group tour. Email info@tascricket.com.au or call (03) 6211 4000 to make a booking.

The museum is also open for a wander 10am & 3pm Tues – Thurs, 10am & 12 noon Friday. www.tascricket.com.au

 

You won’t find naked hippies rolling in the mud in picturesque Woodstock Gardens, but standing erect is the proud façade of Cascade Brewery (Cascade Rd, South Hobart) Australia’s oldest brew house. They run one-and-a-half-hour tours several times a day, on which you learn how beer is brewed and walk through the gardens.

At the tour’s end there’s a tasting session. The brewery is situated ten minutes from the city centre from which you can catch buses 43, 44, 46 or 49 from Franklin Square. For more information log onto www.carltonbrewhouse.com.au;

(03) 6224 1117.

 

Just down the road from the brewery is the Female Factory (Degraves St). Although it sounds more like a school for would-be models, the women who ended up here probably weren’t very lady-like. From 1828, and for almost thirty years, the factory was a women’s prison. At its peak it held 1,200 women and children. Women spent their days washing, sewing, carding and spinning. Nowadays life is sweeter here, especially with the presence of an onsite fudge factory. Tours are available. www.femalefactory.com.au; 03 6223 1559.

 

Drinking holes are something you won’t have a problem finding in Hobart.

Old Hobart Pub Tours (27 Carr St) combine beer with history. Guides take you around old taverns and tell you stories revolving around the shady characters that once sunk their ales there. One-and-a-half-hour tours depart at 5pm from the main entrance of St. David’s Cathedral, Murray St, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. www.hobarthistorictours.com.au; (03) 6278 3338.

 

For anybody whose parents forced them to go to church when they were younger, you may be able to relate to the convicts who were sent to Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site (on the corner of Brisbane and Campbell sts). Back in 1835 the Lord was compulsory. Tours take you through underground passages and into some of the thirty-six solitary confinement cells beneath the chapel floor before ending (not fatally) in the execution yard. En route you’ll also visit an 1834 tower and two courtrooms. www.penitentiarychapel.com; 03 6231 0911.

There is also a Ghost Tour - Bookings essential; 0417 361 392

 

If you’re not all marketed out, then head north of Hobart to the suburb of Glenorchy, where, on Sundays, you’ll find Tasmania's largest undercover market, the Glenorchy Sunday Market. Held at the Glenorchy Showgrounds, this craft and farmers market runs from 8am-2pm.

Drinking holes are something you won’t have a problem finding in Hobart. Old Hobart Pub Tours (27 Carr St) combine beer with history. Guides take you around old taverns and tell you stories revolving around the shady characters that once sunk their ales there. One-and-a-half-hour tours depart at 5pm from the main entrance of St. David’s Cathedral, Murray St, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. www.hobarthistorictours.com.au; (03) 6278 3338.

 

Top Tucker

 

Tasmania is famous for its fresh food and Hobart is where a mouthwatering blend of different cuisines come to the boil and infuse the city’s suburbs. Whether you’re hankering for hearty Italian veal meal, a spicy Indian curry, a fragrant Thai dish or good old pub grub, Hobart will have you licking your lips. There are lots of great value cafes and restaurants in Elizabeth St in North Hobart. Vegans can rush to the Nourish Cafe (129 Elizabeth St) which is the place to come for a tasty tofu burger. Kaos Cafe (237 Elizabeth St) is a good venue for a waffle breakfast or just a plain old waffle with your mates. Safari Pete’s favourite is the quail egg tortilla with rashers of smoky bacon. Smoking!

 

Constitution Dock is the place to head for a seafood fest, where fresh and cooked seafood is available from local boats. Fish Frenzy (Elizabeth St Pier) is a popular local haunt for fish and chips. For some cheap as Asian eateries you can’t overlook Little India (75 Harrington St), an Indian takeaway with upstairs seating; Vanidol's (353 Elizabeth St), a restaurant offering Indian, Indonesian and Thai cuisine; and Vanny’s (181 Liverpool St) for a cheap Cambodian curry. It’s fair to say that Jackman and McRoss Bakery (57-59 Hampden Rd) is Hobart’s pastry palace.

Gorge on a goat’s cheese tart stuffed with basil, sundried tomatoes and caramelised onions, finished off with a naughty sweet treat. If you’re in need of some quality fresh fruit and veggies go to the Salamanca Market on a Saturday. Salamanca Place also has fantastic cafes and restaurants.

For a full list of restaurants, log onto www.yourrestaurants.com.au.

 

Watering Holes

 

Hobart is a place that likes its pubs. There’s also a bit of live music around if you know where to look. The pubs around Hobart’s waterfront are a good place to start – in particular Irish Murphy’s (21 Salamanca Pl), a backpacker and student hangout where, on Friday and Saturday nights, two bands rock the rafters. Knopwoods Retreat (39 Salamanca Pl), a corner pub that attracts an after work crowd and students is also a good bet.

Also check out the Customs House Hotel (1 Murray St) which is a bar for sports fans. Early in the week you can catch acoustic music; the weekend sees the DJs crank up the volume. Curly's Bar (112 Murray St) is a lounge venue that showcases local music on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Jig down on Wednesdays for live funk and jazz, and bust out the baggy pants for hip hop nights on Fridays and Saturdays.

Halo (37a Elizabeth St) has national and international DJs spinning their wares at a place where they like to “throw a good shindig, have people play great music and get properly bent out of shape”. Not for squares! The Republic Bar (299 Elizabeth St) in North Hobart is somewhat of an institution in this part of town. It’s probably the only pub in Hobart with live music seven nights a week. The bands are varied and there’s a cool beer garden out back with BBQ facilities.

Tasmania brews some of Australia’s best beer. Cascade is Australia’s oldest brewery (www.cascadevisitorcentre.com.au) and Boags, brewed in Launceston, is also one of Safari Pete’s favourite tipples (www.boags.com.au).

 

The Hobart region has wineries and in the city there’s also a whiskey distillery (www.larkdistillery.com.au).  In the north of the state, around Launceston, you’ll find the Tamar Valley in which there are nineteen wineries.

 

Check out Pulse, a weekly entertainment guide in the Mercury newspaper on Thursdays for live music listing. Also visit wots-on.info/whats-on/in=Hobart-TAS-Australia for a list of upcoming events.

 

Tasmanian regions

 

East Coast

 

With its plentiful sunshine, the east coast is the place to top up on Vitamin D by sunbaking on bleached beaches. All along the coast – but especially in the Bay of Fires – the water sparkles with a hundred shades of blue. Sprinkled down the east coast is a smattering of quaint seaside towns punctuated by national parks. For dolerite columns and deep river gorges head to Douglas Apsley National Park – it’s totally orchasmic, cobbers! A few kilometres from Douglas Apsley National Park, Bicheno is a town where fishermen catch crayfish, abalone and Australian salmon.

 

Maria Island was Tasmania’s second penal colony. Today it’s a place of idyllic isolation, and walking around it’s hard to believe this was once a place of pain and alienation. The most popular national park on the east coast, Freycinet, is somewhat of an icon. Chances are you’ll have seen many a postcard of Wineglass Bay before you set on eyes on its sexy shoreline. The Freycinet National Park is a top holiday destination for locals and backpackers. You’ll know you’ve arrived in Coles Bay because of the 300-metre high granite outcrops which dominate the horizon. Like sentinels, the Hazards, as these three pinkish peaks are known, watch over the sleepy hamlet of Coles Bay.

 

Historical Swansea is not only Australia’s oldest rural municipality, it’s also the place to go for a taste of the land – namely the walnuts and olives and the fresh sea oysters. Fans of the cartoon character Roadrunner (meep, meep) will love Triabunna, named after a spritely native hen which can reach up to 50km/hr at the mere mention of Colonel Sanders. Now that’s what I call fast food! Activities here include bushwalking (see www.parks.tas.gov.au for a list of tracks), sea kayaking (www.freycinetadventures.com.au) and boat cruises (freycinetseacruises.com).

 

The Northeast: Launceston and surrounds

 

Undoubtedly the only place in Tasmania where you’re likely to find a three-metre high penguin, the north is a place of vineyards, murals and gorges. Like a plastic guard, the giant penguin guards the foreshore of a town with the same name. Penguin-shaped litter bins ensure the gag is spread all over town.

 

The Spirit of Tasmania ferry docks in Devonport and the area is also home to Australia’s third oldest city – and Tasmania’s second largest – Launceston, a picturesque place where three rivers converge. Once you’ve checked out Cataract Gorge in the city’s centre, head along the banks of the Tamar River where you’ll find a selection of vineyards. Launceston’s streets are lined with colonial Georgian and Victorian architecture and the city’s park contains a variety of orchids and, rather oddly, some Japanese Macaque monkeys. Another town of note is Sheffield whose building facades are covered in gigantic murals. The painting spree began back in the 1980s and was a rescue bid to aid the town’s ailing tourist numbers. Twenty years later and the forty-odd murals splashed around town are the main drawcards for visitors. They depict early settlers, community heroes and historical events.

 

Pete’s primo pastimes include a visit to the wilderness areas of the Great Western Tiers, Ben Lomond National Park and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park (inaccessible by road). Mole Creek Karst National Park has 300 known caves and sinkholes (www.parks.tas.gov.au), and the Gunns Plains Caves contain some of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest limestone shawl formations.

 

Northwest Coast

 

If there’s one word to sum up northwest Tasmania then it would have to be ‘ancient’. Dripping rainforests sprawl across rugged tracts of the Savage River National Park, Australia’s largest area of cool temperate rainforest (and one of few left on Earth). Myrtle trees older than your grandma’s twenty-five grandmothers before that tower out of deep river gorges which carve out the landscape of the neighbouring Tarkine, another wilderness area where rainforest surrenders to sweeping sand dunes. It’s here where you’ll find Arthur River, one of the state’s seven major rivers and the only one that has never been dammed or logged; fire hasn’t ravaged the rainforest here for almost 650 years.

 

Also on the ancient theme, although easily within public reach, the Nut at Stanley isn’t the town loon, it’s a 152-metre volcanic rock some thirteen million years old. And 3km outside Wynyard is where the oldest marsupial fossil in Australia was found; it was some twenty million years old. Aboriginal heritage also has a strong presence in the area – especially inside the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area and Rocky Cape National Park (Tasmania’s smallest) where you’ll find middens and cave art with some drawings dating back approximately 8,000 years.

 

Activities in the area include a seal cruise in Stanley (www.stanleysealcruises.com.au), Hellyers Road Distillery (www.hellyersroaddistillery.com.au) and the 110-metre slide inside Dismal Swamp (www.adventureforests.com.au).

 

West Coast

 

Up in the dolerite mountains of Lake St Clair begins a wondrous journey, a journey spanning 187km over remote and rugged terrain. It’s a trip no human has ever replicated, one reserved for the gushing waters of the Derwent River.

The Americans have the Wild West and Tasmania more than matches its North-Pacific counterpart. Most of this gorgeous area, with its chiselled chasms, untamed rivers and overhanging cliffs, is inaccessible. The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, where the Derwent River originates, contains much of the state’s (as yet) unlogged old growth forests. One of the few ways to sneak a glimpse of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is to take a Gordon River cruise.

you’ve seen the serrated peaks of Cradle Mountain on many a postcard. This iconic mountain is part of the Overland Track, one of the world’s top walks. The 65km trek culminates at Australia’s deepest freshwater lake, Lake St Clair, which stretches for more than 18km. Other activities include a visit to Sarah Island, Tasmania’s first (and harshest) penal colony; head to the harbour town of Strahan to arrange a cruise. This is the best area in Tasmania for wilderness walking. Top tramps include the Arthur Ranges, Federation Peak and Mt Anne. For more information, log onto www.john.chapman.name.

 

Queenstown’s lunar like hills are somewhat haunting as the land has been plundered of its natural resources, namely copper. It was once the world’s richest mining town, not far behind Rosebery just a few clicks north. Its gold, lead, zinc, silver and copper extractions have an estimated yield of $8billion. Pass me a shovel...

 

Safari Pete’s Primo Regional Pastimes

 

The Port Arthur penal settlement on the Tasman Peninsula is regarded as one of Australia’s most significant historic sites. Spread over 100 acres, the refurbished houses and ruins take you back in time to visit Australia’s first prison town. www.portarthur.org.au

 

Mt Field National Park has a few claims to fame. Alongside Freycinet it is Tasmania’s oldest national park. Three-tiered Russell Falls, located a few minutes’ walk from the visitors centre, was Tasmania’s first nature reserve. And there are over 500 caves in this area, and at 375 metres deep, Niggly Cave is believed to be Australia’s deepest. During the winter months, winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy both downhill and cross-country snow skiing. Head up to Lake Dobson for some great alpine tramping.

 

The Tahune Air Walk is situated 29km west of Geeveston and extends for 597 metres. Old growth forest shoots up under your feet, including the world’s tallest flowering plant: Eucalyptus regnans. If walking isn’t giving you much of a buzz then you can always harness up for an eagle glide hang gliding experience, where you’ll zoom along a 400-metre cable that runs from the tree canopy to the forest floor. www.adventureforests.com.au

 

To check out of mainland Tasmania head down to the small harbour town of Kettering and jump onto the Bruny Island ferry. The island is divided into two areas: the north and South Bruny Island National Park. These are separated by a 5km long isthmus called the Neck. Many come here for the coastal scenery, in particular the colossal cliffs, as well as for the wildlife. You can also walk, surf, swim or embark on a coastal cruise.