Travel to Tasmania to discover a quaint world on the southernmost edge of civilization. 150 miles south of the Australian continent this fascinating island often affectionately referred to as “Tassie”. With its vast, mountainous landscape, chunks of untouched terrain, abundant wildlife, and its newfound reputation as a center for arts and culture, Tasmania will be an unforgettable addition to your Australia vacation.
Although Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, it is also the most geographically diverse. Over a third of the state lies in reserves, national parks, and World Heritage sites. The landscape varies from rainforest valleys and highland lakes to long white beaches all within the span of a 90-minute drive. Once dismissed by mainlanders as a backwoods, remote region, greater accessibility to the island has brought on a cultural renaissance and new appreciation for the area.
Nestled on the southern tip of Tasmania is the state capital Hobart, a city that combines heritage and charm in a setting of extraordinary beauty. Within 2-hours drive of Hobart are a range of attractions, from the pristine waters of Bruny Island to the well-preserved site of the old penal colony of Port Arthur. With the River Derwent running through the city center and Mount Wellington soaring above the horizon, the tranquility of a bygone era coexists with the vibrancy of a pocket-sized, modern metropolis, exceptional for its real estate, restaurants, history and the famous Salamanca Market held every Saturday.
Hobart’s European beginnings are evident everywhere, from quaint settlers’ cottages to the lofty porches of colonial mansions, to the 19th-century sandstone warehouses which now serve as dockside cafes, artist’s studios and shops. Founded in 1804, Hobart is the second oldest city in Australia behind only Sydney.
On Tasmania’s northern coast is Launceston, the state’s other major population center, characterized by its contrast of fine Victorian buildings with elegant, contemporary architecture. Cool climate wines and fine dining are the essence of the new Launceston experience and the city is a perfect base from which to explore the surrounding region. The steep, rugged cliffs of Cataract Gorge are only a 15-minute walk from the city center, while the tidal River Tamar flows north from Launceston to George Town and the Bass Strait, past forested hills and pastures, lavender plantations, vineyards, strawberry farms and orchards.
Often called the ‘Island of Inspiration,’ Tasmania abounds with natural riches. The East Coast Escape is a spectacular coastal highway running from Maria Island to the Freycinet Coast Bay, and on to the Bay of Fires, north of St. Helens. Freycinet National Park is a peninsula of pink granite mountains, pure white beaches, coastal dunes and dry eucalyptus forests on Tasmania’s east coast. Explore the park on foot, following a steep but well designed ascent to the view from Wineglass Bay Lookout.
Wineglass Bay, along with the ragged slopes of Cradle Mountain, is recognized across the world as one of Tasmania’s most iconic sites. The area is so naturally stunning and blissfully pure that it’s easy to feel like an early explorer discovering virgin land. Keep an eye out for its plentiful wildlife, including sea-eagles, quolls, wallabies, wombats and the aptly-named Tasmanian devils.
Just north of the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast is Bicheno, a town known for its laid-back lifestyle and outdoor activities. Take a Bicheno Penguin Tour to catch sight of the smallest and rarest penguins in the world. Marine life and seabirds abound on Governor Island Marine Reserve where sightseers can explore in a glass-bottomed boat or scuba dive amid sheer rock walls, deep fissures, caves, sponges and sea whips. Tasmania is considered one of the best temperate-water dive sites in the world.
You have a range of options when it comes to accommodations in Tasmania. In Hobart there is the upscale Henry Jones Art Hotel offering a fascinating combination of art, culture, design and service. For a waterfront view, try Wrest Point, Somerset on the Pier, or Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart. Mercure Hobart is another option, located right in the city center.
For those staying in Launceston, there is the Hotel Grand Chancellor Launceston and The Sebel Launceston. The historic Clarion Hotel City Park Grand has been in business since 1855 and is an award-winning boutique hotel originally converted from stables.