Looking at a map of the world, Tasmania is the small island under mainland Australia. Don’t let its small size convince you that this is a one or two day destination. Tasmania is jam packed with friendly wildlife, delicious food and wine, award-winning whiskey, stunning scenery and some of the freshest air on the planet. Add to that it was named Lonely Planet’s fourth “Top 10 Regions in the World to Visit in 2015” and then ask yourself ‘Why have I not visited?’
Tasmania is separated from the mainland of Australia by Bass Strait and it can be reached by plane or by ferry. Its capital city, Hobart, is Australia’s second oldest capital and has a rich convict past. While its historic charm is prominent, splashes of modern architecture round out this compact city with a vibrant energy. The best place to take in the views over Hobart and the Derwent River is the top of Mount Wellington, just 20 minutes from Hobart with 18,000 hectares of natural beauty and wilderness.
Back in the city you can wander past colonial architecture and through cobblestone streets at Salamanca Place. Explore the boutiques, galleries, theaters, bars and restaurants that are now housed in the 1830s warehouses. On Saturdays this waterfront area comes alive with the exciting Salamanca Markets where you can meet local produce growers, find unique arts and crafts and lose yourself in the friendly bustle.
Step back in time at Port Arthur and learn what life was like as a mid-19th century prisoner. It was described as the ‘inescapable prison’ as it was separated from Tasmania by a narrow section of land surrounded by shark-infested waters. Take a guided tour through the many buildings, ruins and restored houses that the 1,100 prisoners built. Cruise to the Isle of the Dead, where everyone who died at the prison was buried and hear about the eerie apparitions and ghostly screams that are regularly reported at both sites.
For something a little lighter, be sure to take a trip to Maria and Bruny Islands. Maria Island is a natural wildlife sanctuary that is home to many wombats, kangaroos, wallabies and Tasmanian devils. The waters around the Island include a Marine Nature Reserve where seals and whales are regularly seen and clear water makes for spectacular snorkeling and diving.
Bruny Island has some of Tasmania’s most beautifully preserved natural wilderness with an abundance of wildlife and towering cliffs with picturesque views of long sandy beaches and coastal landscapes. Explore the Island from the many amazing hiking trails or take to the water to discover the stunning coastline and see the fur seals and fairy penguins that call this place home.
One fifth of the State, 1.4 million hectares, is designated Tasmania Wilderness Heritage Area that is made up National Parks and a number of reserves and conservation areas including the National Parks of Freycinet, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair, Southwest, Mount Field and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers.
Make the time to see some of these remarkable sites on your travels. Popular sites include Freycinet National Parks’ Wineglass Bay, considered to be one of the top ten beaches in the world. Here you can swim, snorkel and scuba drive from the scenic white sand beach that contrasts with the jagged pink and grey towering granite peaks. Mount William National Park features the jaw dropping Bay of Fires with its turquoise-colored water, stunning white beach and huge orange boulders framing the landscape. The crystal clear lagoons, bays and inlets offer scenic reefs, underwater caves and an array of marine life to discover.
Again, contrary to its size, Tasmania is a giant in Australia’s rich food and wine scene. Experience its incredibly produce and sophisticated culinary offerings as you make your way through Tasmania. Its small scale production levels, rich soil, organic farming practices and fresh, clean air combine to inspire growers to produce authentic food and drink experiences.
Pair your dining experience with one of the many cool climate wines, ciders or craft beers, or for something a little different taste one of the award-winning peak-distilled whiskey offerings. Take your love of liquor on the road and discover the many trails across Tasmania that take you on a journey through scenic landscapes and quaint towns stopping in some of the most prominent and boutique wineries and distilleries where you can meet the passionate people behind these labels.
While Tasmania is the smallest State in Australia, this by no means dictates the variety or quality of options for visitors.
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Editor’s note: Down Under Answers is a sponsor of Budget Your Trip.