Tasmania: Australia’s Island State
Tasmania is bursting with wonderful surprises. A winding country road can suddenly reveal a colonial village, a boutique vineyard or a breathtaking ocean view. From landscapes and history to food and culture, Australia’s island state is a feast for travellers.
Belying its small size, Tasmania has a remarkable diverse landscape that contains glacial mountains, dense forests and rolling green hills. Its wilderness is one of only three large temperate forests in the southern hemisphere; it is also home to many plants and animals unique to the island, including a ferocious marsupial, the Tasmanian devil. Tasmanians are fiercely proud of their landscape and the island saw the rise of the world’s first Green political party, the “Tasmanian Greens”. One-fifth of Tasmania is protected as a World Heritage Area.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal population was almost wiped out with the arrival of the Europeans in the 19th century, however, more than 4,000 people claim Aboriginality in Tasmania today. Evidence of their link with the landscape has survived in numerous cave paintings. Many Aboriginal sites remain sacred and closed to visitors, but a few, such as the cliffs around Woolnorth, display this indigenous art for all to see.
The island’s early European history has also been well preserved in its many 19th century buildings. The first real settlement was at the waterfront site of Hobart in 1804, now Tasmania’s capital and Australia’s second-oldest city. From here, European settlement spread throughout the state, with the development of farms and villages, built and worked by convict labour.
Today, Tasmania is a haven for wildlife lovers, hikers and fly-fishermen, who come to experience the island’s many national parks and forests. The towns scattered throughout the state, such as Richmond and Launceston, with their rich colonial histories, are well worth a visit, and make excellent bases from which to explore the surrounding wilderness.
Part, and yet not a part, of Australia, Tasmania‘s distinctive landscape, climate and culture are largely due to its 300-km (185-mile) distance from the mainland. The isolation has left a legacy of unique flora and fauna, fresh air, an abundance of water and a relaxed lifestyle. More than 27 percent of Tasmania’s land surface is given over to agriculture, with the emphasis on wine and fine foods. The state also benefits from vast expanses of open space, since approximately 40 percent of Tasmanians live in the capital, Hobart. Tasmania, therefore, offers the perfect opportunity for a relaxing holiday in tranquil surroundings.
There are places and natural features in Tasmania as familiar and evocative as any in the country. Port Arthur, Cradle Mountain, Wineglass Bay and the Franklin River are names that conjure up purity or hardship, or both. Squeezed into an area the size of Ireland, Tasmania is the proverbial good thing in a small package.
Top Reasons to Visit Tasmania Australia
THE AMAZING OUTDOORS
Tasmania boasts a renowned coastline, numerous national parks and pristine wilderness which make it a mecca for nature lovers. If you love the outdoors, make a beeline for Tassie’s wild places.
Australia’s smallest state contains some of the country’s greatest natural treasures. Framed by flour-soft beaches in the east, and surging Southern Ocean swells in the west, it’s a tiny grab-bag of mountains, lakes, waterfalls, coloured cliffs, glacially carved valleys, sandy isthmuses, trout-filled rivers, lichen-smothered granite and tall towers of dolerite.
Raw wilderness is one of Tasmania’s keystones – around 20 per cent of the state is designated as World Heritage Area, blanketing much of its western region. Vast areas of this remote and rugged area are inaccessible to all but the hardiest hikers and rafters.
Tasmania’s outdoors is best explored on bushwalking trips through its national parks, white-water rafting or boating in its pristine rivers, abseiling and rock climbing over its towering mountains or simply cycling around the countryside. Whichever activity you choose, you’re promised a fun-filled time in Tasmania’s wilderness.
Top outdoor activities:
Tasmania has some of Australia’s best walking terrain making it one of the top places in Australia for bushwalking. So, grab your hiking boots and backpack and take a walk on the wild side.
Huge parts of Tasmania still remain relatively untamed, making it a hiker’s delight. Twenty-eight percent of the land is preserved in national parks, where impenetrable rainforests and deep river gorges cut through the massive mountain valleys. The coastlines are scalloped with endless desolate beaches – some pristine white, fronting serene turquoise bays, and some rugged and rocky, facing churning, choppy seas.
The stunning mountains and coastlines of Mt Field, South West, and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers national parks are a mecca for serious trekkers; while less strenuous but equally stunning walks can be taken around Cradle Mountain or on Freycinet Peninsula.
Not-to-be missed hiking experiences:
WONDERFUL FOOD & WINE
While Tasmania’s unspoiled surrounds make it hiking heaven, its superb local produce and excellent wines makes it a world-class gourmet destination. So, foodies put on your chomp-chomp hat and bite into the Apple Isle’s goodness.
Although two-thirds of the land is too harsh for farming, Tasmania has a growing reputation for boutique agriculture and aquaculture. More than 27 percent of Tasmania’s land surface is given over to agriculture, with the emphasis on wine and fine foods. Thanks to the island’s many microclimates, you can grow or harvest virtually anything from superb dairy produce to wonderful meat, and its clear seas abound in wonderful seafood.
A highlight of any Tasmanian trip is sampling the local gourmet fare, especially fresh seafood, juicy berries, luscious stone fruits, outstanding dairy products and cheeses, beers of international reputation and, of course, cellar-worthy cool-climate wines. There are sumptuous culinary experiences to be had all over Tasmania. Enjoy a great feed from north to south, by the roadside, the bayside, or a romantic fireside.
Top food & wine experiences:
INTRIGUING COLONIAL PAST
Bound to a savage industrial, convict and indigenous past, Tasmania’s history is worth uncovering. Travel to historical sites which will make you ponder, reflect or send a shiver up your spine.
Tasmania is a place of wild beauty coloured by a tragic past. Tasmania made its mark as a dumping ground for British convicts, who were often transported for petty crimes. The brutal system of control, still evident in the ruins at Port Arthur and elsewhere, spilled over into persecution of the native population. The last full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigine died in 1876, 15 years after the last convict transportation.
The island’s tumultuous history is on obvious show – from the convict stations at Port Arthur and Maria Island to the soft sandstone bridges that span its rivers, and the Georgian architecture that line its streets. Spend some time exploring Tasmania’s colonial past and recount the stories that shaped this island state.
Best historic sites to visit:
History of Tasmania
Human habitation of Tasmania dates back 35,000 years, when Aborigines first reach the area. At this time it was linked to continental Australia, but waters rose to form the Bass Strait at the end of the Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman set foot on the island in 1642 and inspired its modern name. He originally called it Van Diemen’s Land, after the governor of the Dutch East Indies.
Abel Tasman was closely followed by French and British explorers. The British – never keen to be outdone by the French – acted in 1803 to establish a presence on the River Derwent. With the arrival of the British, white settlement got off to a rollicking and violent start as a penal colony for the first 50 years.
In more recent history, Tasmania is home of the world’s first ‘green’ political party. Local environmental politics captured international attention in the 1980s when the No Dams campaign saved the Franklin River from being flooded for a hydro-electric scheme.
The busiest and best time to visit Tasmania is in summer (during the months of December to February). With average temperatures around 21°C, it’s almost warm enough to hit the beaches. There are a variety of fantastic festivals and events during this time including the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the wonderful food festival ‘The Taste’.
Autumn brings beautiful colours and mild temperatures, but towards the end of the season the days are usually quite cold and windy.
The winter months are generally cold, wet and cloudy with an average temperature of 12°C. The days are often clear, crisp and sunny – ideal for sightseeing and short bushwalks.
Spring tends to be windy and snowfalls can still occur in the mountains, but by spring’s end the weather is improving.
Map of Tasmania Australia