The island of Tasmania lies south of Melbourne and is considered to be of extraordinary, untouched beauty. It is not terribly big, altogether 300 km from one side to the other. But its landscape is extremely varied, with a rich, fertile coast line, green hills, impressive mountains, and virgin forest being listed among the United Nation’s world treasures. You can reach Tasmania by direct flight from Australia’s big cities or by ferry from Sidney and Melbourne to the northern town of Davenport. Tasmania got its name from the Dutch captain Abel Tasman, the first European to land there in 1642, but initially it was called Van Diman Country after Holland’s General Governor at the time. It was first settled in 1803 in the Hobart region, which served as a penitentiary colony for Britain’s worst criminals. Only in 1856 these did these shipments stop, and the island’s name changed to Tasmania as part of an attempt to change its image.
Besides flying to Tasmania, you can also get there on a pampering cruise, an experience it itself. The Spirit of Tasmania is the leading company for such a trip, and offers worthwhile deals from Melbourne or Sidney. Its luxurious ships include restaurants, bars (including one on deck), a casino lounge, a playroom for children, cinemas, TV sets in many public areas of the ship for your enjoyment, reading rooms, and a dining hall. This is a romantic option for reaching Tasmania, but it is also a very practical one in case you want to take your car with you.
The historic site of Port Arthur lies 90 km south of Hobart and contains vestiges from long-gone convict colony days. It is situated on a peninsula whose only connection with the mainland is a narrow, 100 m wide coastal strip.
It can only be reached by ship, with an eight-hour voyage from the capital. Between 1833 and 1857, the British Kingdom sent more than 12,000 convicts to the new colony. The place was considered hell on earth for most convicts, who were cut off their families and sent to a wild and unsettled region. Some even died on the long journey. Yet the colony led an orderly life style that included agriculture, brick making, and wood processing. Today, remnants of a magnificent church, a prison, and soldiers’ quarters bear silent testimony to the convict period of the continent. You can take a guided tour, a boat trip on the river, and a visit of the impressive museum for an inexpensive fee.
Freycinet National Park
The park is situated on the east coast and considered one of the most popular parks on the island because of its impressive granite rocks and untouched beaches on a narrow land tongue. A round track of the park is 27 km, another circular 5 hour route goes between both coasts and climbs up to a spectacular look out. In nearby Cull’s Bay you will find large camping grounds, hostels, and fancy homes for rent. This is also where you can rent kayak boats and join organized groups.
Cradle Mountain National Park
One of Tasmania’s best-known landmarks are the Cradle Mountains, which connect Cradle Valley and St. Claire River. This nature reserve is an excellent place for taking breathtaking walks of the area. A 5 km long path connects the nature reserve with Dove River. At the entrance to the park there is a visitors’ center, a “rangering” station, an information center on the area, weather reports, and tips for the hiking paths. It should be noted that locals recommend taking along waterproof gear, even in summer, because rain is always possible.
In Cradle Valley, there are a variety of accommodations, from camping sites to prestigious hotels. The area also offers barbecue and picnic areas, a souvenir shop, and toilets. Important, you will admit.
Bridestowe Lavender Farm
If you are a lavender fan, you should not miss this site. Bridestowe Lavender Farm was established 1921 and is considered one of the biggest farms in the world on which Lavender oil is produced. Its flowers are considered among the finest in the world. During the months of December and January, the lavender farm is one of Tasmania’s most popular tourist attractions. During that period, the purple flowers are at blossoming height and their smell as well as the amazing beauty of the area attracts droves of visitors.
During these months, you can participate in guided tours and check out the souvenir shop, where you can buy everything associated with lavender, from oils to creams and perfumes. There is also a coffee shop with excellent tea and coffee.
Inverawe Native Gardens
These authentic Tasmanian gardens are located 15 minutes by car from Hobart, and contain over 4,000 carefully chosen plants. Major criteria of the plants’ selection were that they require a minimum of water, a minimum of care, and minimal use of chemicals.
The gardens were established only a few years ago and include large gardens, an open forest, and various trees. Hundreds of eucalyptus trees were planted and, as in every garden, here too you can enjoy a plethora of interesting birds and authentic Australian animals. There are informative signs and notifications that point out things worth paying attention to. You can walk around, sit under the trees and relax, take in the nature, or have a tasty picnic.
The Tamar River is about 76 km long and between 250 m and 4 km wide. It is considered one of Australia’s most beautiful rivers. If you like, you may join a pampering and informative cruise, which will give you an opportunity to enjoy a beautiful view of the river and its surroundings, with animals and green peaceful landscapes. Most cruises include a description of the area’s history, teaching about Australia’s famous discoverers. One of the most interesting stories is that of Jon Batman, who traveled from Tamar to Hiara River, where today Melbourne is located. During the voyage, you can watch many special animals, such as black peacocks, wild geese, sea gulls etc.
Bird watching, hiking virgin forests, boating, fishing, 4x4 driving, diving, and relaxed walking in nature – all this and more can be done on Flinders Island, an attraction for many of Tasmania’s visitors. If you are a bird aficionado, take note that the best time for coming is between November and March, when many of the nesting birds’ eggs hatch. The tours offered here will acquaint you with interesting sights and unique phenomena. You can take many organized tours on the island, from fishing trips to trips for groups with specific interests, such as seeing wild flowers, hiking the Australian bush, and taking exclusive boating trips.
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
If you want to learn in depth about Tasmania and its unique history and art, one of the places we recommend is the Tasmanian Museum, south of Hobart. Exhibits include models of extinct animals on the island, aborigine art, an exhibition on convict colony days, an exhibition of unique minerals, glass objects, and jewelry. There is also an exhibit of the equipment used to explore Antarctica, south of Tasmania. There is also a place for kids to play, and an informative audiovisual show.
Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs
The Hastings Caves were formed 40 million years ago, but only in 1917 did people discover this natural marvel. The caves are a 1-hour drive from Hobart and were discovered by loggers, who by accident saw the entrance of the cave. They called their treasure “Nudget Cave” after Tasmania’s governor at the time. The cave is one of the most visited in Australia.
Thermal springs are close to the cave (5 km away). Virgin forests surround the springs; you can make a picnic there and use the toilets, changing rooms, barbecues, and sunshades on site. It is interesting to note that the water keeps its temperature of 28degC throughout the year. If you come with children, it’s nice to know that there is also a kiddies’ pool.
The caves are spectacular. They have sufficient lightning, and, for those concerned about it, the passageways are not frightfully narrow. You will get a little exercise while visiting the caves, by climbing the 240 steps inside. But don’t worry— you have to climb only a few at a time, and can rest in between.
We’ll end on a sweet note, with a visit to the popular Cadbury chocolate factory. In Australia it is the best-selling chocolate brand and includes lots of different kinds. A visit to the factory includes watching the different machines, and seeing how the brown, sweet liquid is turned into squares. Free chocolate tasting is offered as well. You will be hosted at the visitors’ center, where you can watch an audiovisual show on Cadbury’s history and select products. In addition, the visit allows you to purchase chocolate at factory prices, with special discounts on many different products, such as shirts and other gifts. You must make reservations before you come, as the number of visitors per tour is limited.