The Wild Island of Tasmania
Tasmania is a breathing island of jungle and rock. Seemingly endless alpine ranges race up jagged mountains, while swathes of old-growth eucalyptus stand defiantly along rock-strewn coastlines. Wherever you are on the island, wilderness is within reach, with most as unspoiled as it was in the Gondwana days. More than a third of the state is protected in national parks and a World Heritage Area, creating a primordial refuge of rare plants and animals and a mecca for bushwalkers, roughly 150 miles off the Australian coast, it is an Australian state.
When you fly over the island, you wonder if there are people living on it at all. But then you land in a surprisingly picturesque capital city and find not only people, but a vibrant culture as unspoiled as the wilderness. For this small, heart-shaped island 150 miles south of the Australian mainland still hangs on to its 19th-century roots, creating an atmosphere that at times feels provincial and relaxed.
Tasmania was ‘founded,’ in the European sense of the word, 350 years ago by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman. Ever since, the inhabitants of Tassie be it English settlers and outcasts, Aboriginals or a slew of wild and interesting creatures have spent their lives exploring, charting and generally trying to tame the island. But taming an island filled with hundreds of miles of steep dolerite cliffs, cool-drenched rain forest and glacial valleys proved to be as difficult as hand feeding a Tasmanian devil.
Luckily for travelers worldwide, they failed to tame the entire island, leaving an unrivaled outpost of wilderness and adventure. Yet travel agents know that Tasmania has more to offer than simply whitewater rafting and extraordinary hiking trails. The mountainous landscape and unbridled forests create a land so beautiful and air so pure, it rejuvenates your soul like no other destination in the world.
Nearly half of Tassie's 500,000 rejuvenated residents live in the capital city of Hobart, Australia's second-oldest city. A colonial town with Soho highlights, Hobart is seemingly drenched in sunlight that glances off the Derwent River. To truly appreciate the cityscape's beautiful brushstroke onto the land, take a drive up either nearby Mt. Wellington or Mt. Nelson. Both sport spectacular views, while the latter has a restaurant at its summit where you can enjoy a tasty, butter-and-jam slathered scone with that view.
Hobart's heritage, culture and vibrant scenery blends best along its 19th-century waterfront warehouses, which once bustled with whalers but now houses trendy boutiques, outdoor cafes and art studios. Each Saturday, the Salamanca Market takes over this area, where you can buy every souvenir you promised friends back home, including hand-knit wool sweaters, huon pine carvings and intriguing fashions.
As you leave Hobart, head straight for the Tasman Peninsula to experience Port Arthur, one of the most visited and haunting locations in all of Australia. Port Arthur is the site of a sandstone prison on the shore of a beautiful bay, where nearly 12,500 convicts were shipped from 1830-1877. Guided tours, both in the safe light of day and the lurking darkness of night, take you inside the ruins of the isolation cells, the flogging yards and the asylum, where the details of convict life echo like rusted ankle chains.
About Port Arthur
While the natural beauty surrounding Port Arthur is enough to give a convict hope, true nature lovers head further up Tasmania's eastern coast to the Freycinet Peninsula. Jutting twenty miles into the Tasman Sea, Freycinet is covered in sea cliffs and thick forests. Yet among this tenacious wild lies one of the world's most beautiful beaches at Wineglass Bay, a perfectly curved half-moon of white sand that settles snuggly inside a jagged range of pink and grey granite outcrops known as the Hazards.
About Wineglass Bay
Some visitors are surprised to discover that there are no roads leading to Wineglass Bay. Access is granted only to those who can handle the vigorous, three-hour hike up and over the Hazards, which makes the beach a blissfully deserted getaway for those who successfully navigate the trail. While some may find this trek inconvenient, Aussies simply find it a delightful little hike. Regardless of how you view the journey, the unsurpassed beauty of the Bay is well worth any blisters you get en route.
The same can be said for all of Tasmania. The island itself, along with many of the attractions within, is not the easiest to get to. But once you arrive, once you behold the awe-inspiring beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness, then it immediately becomes worth it. Whether you cross the Overland Track to Cradle Mountain, a spectacular peak inside a World Heritage site; tour the lush Tamar Valley, the country's premier wine-growing region; or take a ferry to Flinders Island, where cozy cabins dot the dramatic remains of the land-bridge that once connected Tasmania to the mainland, it's worth it.
It's also worth it to turn to the trusted advice of a travel agent before you go. Travel agents know when to transfer flights through Sydney rather than Melbourne, so you won't have a devil of a time getting to your destination. They also make special arrangements, like scheduling a cruise to Port Arthur's Isle of the Dead, taking your vacation to a whole new levelâ€¦a Tasmanian level!
So go wild in Tasmania. Contact a travel agent today and soon you'll be bushwalking in the stunning surrounds of nature's favorite island.