Tasmania, Australia (Hobart, Tasman Peninsula, Huon Valley, Port Arthur, Freycinet...)

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Tasmania is the island state off the south east coast of the Australian mainland and is one of Australia's best kept secrets. The island is separated from mainland Australia by 240 km (150 miles) of water called Bass Strait. Tasmania is a state of Australia even though it is an island. Largely uninhabited, with deserted beaches, mountains, 17 national parks and rugged coastlines, Tasmania has become a favorite for hikers from the world over.
The Capital City of Hobart, Tasmania
The Capital City of Hobart
Russell Falls in Tasmania, Australia
Russell Falls in Tasmania

Tasmania has over 2,000 km (1,250 miles) of hiking trails. Approximately 30% of Tasmania is protected wilderness. The population of Tasmania is only 472,000 with 195,000 living in the capital city of Hobart. The other main cities are Launceston (99,000) and Devonport (25,000). Tasmania is approximately the same size as West Virginia.

Tasmania is renowned as having the purest air in the world. Much of this is due to the sparse population and the fact that Tasmania is surrounded by Bass Strait, The Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea. When the wind blows across Tasmania, pollution is not blown in from surrounding countries or states as happens in the United States and Europe. There is also little industrial pollution as Tasmanians are often very sensitive to their environment and political pressure has been placed on companies trying to start up business.

One of the main industries that is strongly opposed by many is the logging industry. The conservationists have gained support from people from all over the world who come to visit, protest and to tour these untouched pristine areas that are targeted for logging. At one point, there was even a plan to damn and flood part of Tasmania's south west, which led to protests as far away as Paris, France. To learn more about conservation issues in Tasmania, please log on to the Sustainable Forestry in Tasmania forum.

Tasmania has something for everyone. In the Central Plateau region there are hundreds of lakes stocked with trout. This is a fly fisherman's paradise and there are tours available to take you on a highland-fishing trek. There is also a rapidly growing wine industry and the boutique vineyards are plentiful. Please see our Tasmanian Wine Country Page to get a feel for the wine industry in Tasmania. Many of these wines are very good but they are not produced in large enough quantities to ship to Europe and the United States. You will find them in other Australian cities however.

Whether it's trout fishing, cycling tours, hiking, scuba diving, exploring historic buildings, or just visiting the friendly local restaurants and pubs to try the popular local wines, Tasmania has a lot to offer, especially if you are looking for a more relaxing vacation. The Tasmanian climate can fluctuate wildy. The best time to go is during the Tasmanian summer and the best months are January and February. The winters can be wet and overcast.

Getting to Tasmania is quickest by air. Domestic carriers such as Qantas fly regularly throughout the day but you may have to change planes in Melbourne. Hobart Airport is only 17 km (11 miles) from the city and the trip should take 20 minutes to get into Hobart. There is also a ferry service from Melbourne to Devonport in the north of Tasmania. This is the best way to get to Hobart if you are driving but Devonport is a 3 hour drive from Hobart.

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Hobart is the picturesque capital city of Tasmania with a greater city area population of approximately 195,000. Hobart is steeped in it's convict history because, like the Sydney area, it was originally settled as a penal colony in a nearby settlement, Port Arthur. Hobart is situated on a natural deep water harbour surrounded by mountains such as Mount Wellington. Mount Wellington rises steeply from sea level to over 4,000 feet. For a great view of Hobart and the surrounding area it is possible to drive to the summit but beware that the roads may be closed in winter due to snow fall. Another good way to see Hobart is by water. Try one of the local river cruises that will take you up and down the River Derwent.

If you are interested in history, you will enjoy Hobart. Battery Point is one of the earliest areas to be settled and many of the original buildings are still standing. In fact, most are private homes. Battery Point can be reached on foot or by taxi depending on where you are staying.

Very close to Battery Point, you will find Salamanca Place, which is home to many of the old port warehouses. These old buildings have been converted into shops, art galleries, restaurants and pubs and this is often the best area to eat and socialize. Every Saturday morning there is a large market held in Salamanca Place where hundreds of vendors peddle the local wares such as art work, wood products, wool products, lavender, local foods plus much more. To get a real feel for the culture in Hobart, the market is a must.

A good time to go to Hobart is the Christmas-New Year period. This is when the Taste of Tasmania takes place where you can sample the local food, beers and wines. It is also the time when the famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race finishes. There are sometimes more than 100 ocean racing yachts in the harbour and there is much celebration.

The Tasman Peninsula is approximately a 2 hour drive from Hobart. It is home to a rugged coastline and many spectacular geographic features such as Devil's Kitchen, Tasman Arch, The Blow Hole and Remarkable Caves. These are definite sites to be seen.

If you go further you will come to the historic settlement of Port Arthur which was an English convict settlement in the 1800's. Many of the ruins are somewhat in tact and you can walk around them at your leisure and get a good feel as to how convict life was in the colonies. In Port Arthur you can also get an excellent view of the surrounding landscape by taking a tour in one of the seaplanes.

A little further on from Port Arthur you will arrive at the Remarkable Cave. Here you will see some of the best coastline in the state of Tasmania. This is a popular site for some of the young surfers.

To get to the Tasman Peninsula, you can drive or take a tour bus. A day trip may be long enough for some but there are hotels and bed and breakfasts to stay at if you would like to stay longer.

Richmond is the oldest historic town in Tasmania. It is about 20 minutes from Hobart and therefore is a good day trip from Hobart. You can walk around at leisure and see the old buildings such as the Richmond Jail. The Richmond Bridge is the oldest in Australia and the Church is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Australia. This village may be of interest to history buffs.

The East Coast of Tasmania is a ruggedly beautiful area. It is a mix of thick eucalypt forests, deserted beaches, sleepy seaside towns such as Swansea and Coles Bay, boutique vineyards and rugged rocky peaks such as the Hazards. The real highlight is the 3 national parks, which are Maria Island, Douglas-Apsley and Freycinet.

The Freycinet National Park is a highlight of the Tasmanian wilderness. It is located very close to the sleepy seaside village of Coles Bay. The Park is a rugged rocky peninsula that is full of excellent hiking trails for all levels of fitness. These hikes typically take from 1 hour to 8 hours but there are some overnight hikes for the more serious hikers. Before embarking on the overnight hikes, you should check with the local ranger for advice about the condition of the track and what equipment and supplies are needed. Some of the shorter hikes can be demanding also as you have to hike up and over the Hazards which are Granite Peaks that separate the 2 sides of the peninsula. The key sites to see in the Freycinet Region are Wineglass Bay (a must see), the Hazards, Hazards Beach, Sleepy Bay, and Honeymoon Bay.

The best way to get to Freycinet is to drive or take a tour by bus. If you plan to hike, you may want to stay a night or two at the lodge to give you enough time to fully enjoy this beautiful region of Tasmania. The drive from Hobart should take 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on how many stops you make along the way. Keep your eyes open for logging trucks. They move quickly and take up a lot of space.

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Huon Valley and Bruny Island: South of Hobart, you will find the lush green valleys and mountains of the Huon Valley. This area was once one of the major apple producers in the world but the apple industry gradually died, unable to compete with some of the apple producers in the Northern Hemisphere. However, you will still find some apple orchards and berry farms where you can stop and buy fresh fruit that has just been picked.

All through the Huon Valley there are small galleries and workshops where the local craftsmen work with the rare and expensive wood called Huon Pine. Huon Pine is very old (up to 2,000 years old) and only grows in Tasmania. It is dredged from the bottom of rivers where it has lain for many years. Woodworkers use it for sculpture, decorative bowls, salad bowls, salt and peppershakers, furniture plus many more items.

Further south you will find the rugged country around the towns of Southport and Dover. These towns are the home of many of the local fishing boats. In this area, you will come upon Hastings Caves and Thermal Pool. You can bathe in the hot pools and also take a tour of the caves. If you go too far south the roads become tracks and you may need a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Bruny Island is an unspoiled island off the south east coast of Tasmania. You can get there by driving and catching the car ferry at a town called Kettering. The ferry takes about 15 minutes to cross the channel. Once you are on Bruny Island, you are treated to a spectacular selection of beaches and bays. Adventure Bay, Cloudy Bay and Cape Bruny are three of the popular sites to see.

The Huon Valley can be seen by driving or taking a tour bus. You can see the Huon Valley as a day trip but it can be nice to stop a night and really enjoy the area.

Mount Field National Park is approximately a 90 minute drive from Hobart. There are several walks that you can take. The shortest is around 15 minutes round trip and will take you to the Russell Falls, which are stunning waterfalls surrounded by large Man Ferns which are often taller than the hikers. If you want to take the longer hike, it will probably take you about 2 or 2 and half hours to complete. On this hike you will see some of the tallest trees in the world and several other waterfalls such as Horsehoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls.

On you return to Hobart you may want to consider stopping for a short visit at Salmon Ponds. This is an interesting venue to learn about the salmon and trout industry in Tasmania. You can actually feed the fish and there are some different breeds such as an albino salmon. If you look very hard around the ponds you may be lucky enough to see a Platypus.

Cradle Mountain guarding over Dove Lake maybe one of Tasmania's best-known images. Cradle Mountain is at the northern end of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park and is a jutting dolerite peak. This area is a rugged mountainous area with cold streams, button grass and deciduous beech trees. There are excellent walks in the area of varying lengths. Before setting off on one of the longer hikes, it is strongly recommended that you contact the local Parks and Wildlife Service. The weather can change quickly and begin to snow, even in summer. You will be informed as to whether or not you are well enough equipped for the longer hikes. Deaths of hikers have occurred at times in Tasmania because of rapidly changing inclement weather. Recently, at Christmas, during the Australian summer, there was a snowstorm in this area that led to a fatality.

The West Coast of Tasmania has a rugged beauty that you may not see anywhere else in the world. It has been battered by the winds called The Roaring Forties for thousands of years. Much of this area is uninhabited and there is impenetrable forest.

Strahan is a nice play to stay for an evening if you are driving. It is a small seaside village that has dramatically improved its amenities over the years to attract tourists. Many years ago, it was a small town with a pub and a lot of fishing boats. Strahan is a good place to base yourself to see some of the west coast such as the Gordon River and Sarah Island. You can take a cruise down the Gordon River and it is a good way to see the thick untouched forests and all of the natural beauty that the West Coast of Tasmania has to offer. Sarah Island is the location of an old convict prison and is of interest to history buffs.

The South West National Park is a hikers dream with walks of all duration and experience level. Hikers come from all over the world to hike through this pristine wilderness. Some of the trails include the Eliza Plateau (5 to 6 hours return), Lake Judd (8 hours return) and some will take you several days to complete. It is strongly recommended that you contact the local Parks and Wildlife Service before taking on one of the longer hikes. The weather can change quickly and begin to snow, even in summer. You will be informed as to whether or not you are well enough equipped for the longer hikes. Deaths of hikers have occurred at times in Tasmania because of rapidly changing inclement weather. Want to learn more about what to see and do in Tasmania? Learn more about Tasmania from people who have been there or live there @ Tasmanian Experiences.

A Yank's Guide to Life in Tassie: A Yank's Guide to Life in Tassie is an interesting account of what life is like in Tasmania (Tassie) written by an American living in Tasmania. It explains many of the differences between these 2 countries and many of the similarities. Much of this commentary about life in Tasmania is also applicable to life in other areas of Australia. Enjoyable reading! (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

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