Tasmania, an isolated island state off Australia’s south coast, is known for its vast, rugged wilderness areas, largely protected within parks and reserves. Tasmania is slightly larger than Ireland, and with almost half of the population residing in Hobart, large regions of the island are virtually uninhabited.
With just 6 days in Tasmania, we designed a circuit which took us through the two largest towns, the famed Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park and also the Freycinet and Tasman national parks. The easiest way to see Tasmania’s stunning scenery is on foot, and with so many national parks there is a plethora of walks to choose from. Our favourite was a tricky scramble up beautiful pink granite slabs to the top of Mt Amos. From the summit you are rewarded with stunning views over Wineglass Bay, generally assumed to have been named due to its shape. We later discovered that the name actually derives from the time when this was a whaling station, and the blood stained sands made the bay look like a glass filling up with red wine. We were really lucky to manage any walks at all in the Freycinet National Park, as on arrival the area was experiencing high winds, torrential rain and power cuts; I felt like I had been transported back to my homeland of North Yorkshire!
Hobart and Launceston are the main settlements on Tasmania, and were the two urban stops on our loop. Launceston reminded us of Bristol with a gorge running through it, however with kangaroos and pademelons on the path that is where the similarity ended. The water was also a beautiful blue, in stark contrast to the sluggish brown of the Avon. In Hobart our time was spent visiting the museums and galleries, and exploring the pristine botanic gardens.
Tasmania is bursting with the usual strange Australian wildlife, including some animals not found even on the mainland. The most famous is the Tasmanian devil, which until recently was a common sight in the wild. However a facial tumour disease, first identified in the 1990’s, has since wiped out 85% of the population. The best way to see a Tassie devil is by making a visit to one of the wildlife reserves which play a vital role in protecting native species.
Not so long ago Tasmania lost one of its iconic native species – the thylacine, more commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger. These resemble large dogs with distinctive tiger stripes above their tails, but have strange marsupial features such as a backward facing pouch to carry their young. Intensive hunting encouraged by bounties is generally blamed for its extinction, and the last thylacine died in captivity at Hobart Zoo in 1933.
On our final day we paid a visit to Bonorong wildlife reserve on the outskirts of Hobart, where we saw Tassie devils, wombats, koalas, a 100 year old sulphur-crested cockatoo, and hand fed some of the kangaroos roaming the park! It was markedly different from a zoo, and we felt like our entry fee was going towards an important cause.
After a whirlwind tour around the island we are now back for an overnight stop in Melbourne, before heading up to sunny Brisbane.