When you think of road tripping in Australia, the first thing that comes to mind is probably driving a Land Cruiser through the Outback or taking a cruise down the Great Ocean Road. The first place you think about probably isn’t Tasmania. But it definitely deserves great consideration. So for this post I’m going to give Tasmania the attention it deserves because as far as I’m concerned, it can rival any place in Australia as an amazing travel destination. But first! Lets set the scene…
Welcome to Hobart!! Exclaimed the pilot as we touched down near Tasmania’s capital after a long, long…. long flight from Edmonton, Alberta. It had been over 20 hours of travel time to get there. We were tired, and pretty beat from the flight, but so very excited to kick off our Australian adventure. And what better place to start than in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania.
From the airport terminal, we headed over to the rental car area to pick up the high performance machine that would be capable of tackling Tasmania’s mountainous roads and unpredictable climate. We needed something with excellent handling, an exceptional power-to-weigh ratio, and space to haul all of our gear. We chose… The 2015 Hyundai i20 (think Accent, but even less exciting)… because it was the cheapest thing with four round wheels in the parking lot. Horsepower, handling, and performance? Not really this car’s strong points, but we are normal people on a budget. This car had lots of cargo space, so it would do just fine.
Of course, the first thing to get used to was driving the car from the wrong (right) side. Little reminder stickers and brightly colored signs adorned the dashboard and sun visors of the car. Just a friendly
reminder that “In Australia, we drive on the left side of the road. Please drive safely and enjoy your stay”. We took a spin around the parking lot, then nervously hit the open road. Luckily, we had a few kilometers of highway to get used to this sort of driving and it was surprisingly easy. Of course, you had to concentrate that little bit extra at certain times, but we soon found it enjoyable. Now to the list…
Brief History Note
Tasmania was inhabited by Aboriginals roughly 40,000 years before Europeans arrived in the late 1700s. Their numbers declined rapidly soon after as a result of conflicts with the Europeans, and contracting diseases for which they had no immunity. This was a dark chapter in Tasmania’s history, one that isn’t usually displayed, but should be mentioned. Britain laid claim to the island in the early 1800s, and set up several penal settlements. One in particular, Port Arthur, a World Heritage site, is located on the southeast corner of the island. It’s a vast open air museum that gives you a genuine feeling of what life was like for both the prisoners and the people that settled here 150 years ago. Plan to take a full day to explore and appreciate this area. The Richmond Bridge is also an interesting site to check out. Opened in 1825, it is the oldest bridge still in use in Australia.
Wildlife under… The Land Down Under
Tasmania is home to many interesting animals. Wombats, koalas, echidnas, kangaroos, penguins and of course, Tasmanian devils all call the island home. You could spend days trying to find some of these animals as most try to stay clear of human activity or you could stop into a wildlife sanctuary along the way. Only 30 minutes north of Hobart, near the town of Brighton, is Bonorong Wildlife Refuge. This place is dedicated to the conservation of some of Tasmania’s most vulnerable animals. They also rescue and care for critters that may have been injured and wouldn’t have survived otherwise. There is also an area that, for a small fee, people can feed and hangout with kangaroos (they love getting their necks scratched, oddly enough). It was well worth the visit.
Another excellent place to visit is Devils@Cradle, located in the Cradle Mountain area. It’s a Tasmanian Devil sanctuary that is operated by a passionate group of people, who are helping the devils rebound from near extinction. They run tours of the facility, plus a chance to witness a feeding. Very interesting and informative, and definitely one of the biggest highlights of our trip!
The most fun you can have in a car… with your pants on
To be quite honest, to say that the roads in Tasmania were great driving roads, would be an understatement. They were incredible. We’ve driven many places in Canada, been through Europe, Nepal, and toured the Great Ocean Road on Australia’s south coast. But my most memorable place to drive in the world is by far Tasmania. Our route took us across the island from Hobart to Strahan, and then north to Launceston, and many stops along the way. What made this road trip more special than most wasn’t necessarily our daily destinations, but the route taken to get there. Once you leave the larger centers, the roads in Tasmania are narrow with twists and turns in every mile. The speed limits (by Canadian standards) were high. We actually found it a challenge to reach the speed limit before the next hair pin! Very little traffic, great scenery, and roads that were in excellent condition. All of this made for an exceptionally fun drive. Both of us couldn’t wait to get back in the driver’s seat. It’s an area of the world that would probably never be thought of for a great road trip, but should be on top of the list!
Adventure is Calling
Roughly 40 percent of Tasmania is protected by parks and reserves. This is great news for both the environment and for adventurous people looking to explore vast untouched wilderness. We spent a few days in the Cradle Mountain area hiking around, and attempted to climb to Cradle Mountain. It was quite cold that day (early spring) with high winds and heavy snow at times. We made it to the plateau about 1 km away from the mountain. The skies cleared up just long enough to get some great shots of the mountain and the surrounding area. Then we took the steep route back down to the car to warm up for a bit. This area also has a terrific back country trail. The Overland Track is said to be Australia’s best backpacking excursion. It’s a 65 km alpine hike through some of the most stunning wilderness in the country, cutting through both Cradle and Lake St. Clair National Parks. Though it gains some international recognition, it still may not get the attention it truly deserves. Throughout the trip we found several areas to turn off of the highway and check out waterfalls, beautiful rugged coastlines, dense rain forests, beautiful beaches and even a few mountainscapes that could match the Rockies in beauty any day. A couple of areas that we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to explore were Mount Field National Park and Southwest National Park. We’ve heard great things about these areas but seven days isn’t nearly enough time to explore this amazing island.
Scenery that can’t be beat
For this section, I’ll let the pics do the talking…
The “Gnome House” in Queenstown. An odd bunch of trinkets and whatnot that made me come to a complete stop and scratch my head.
Tasmazia! A collection of hedge mazes, miniature building and other oddities, this would be a great place for the kids… And for some reason, despite all the other wonders in Tasmania, this was my wife’s favorite stop.
Mole Creek Caves. A guided tour will take you deep underground into a cave system that contains thousands of glow worms and interesting rock formations.
Hobart. I didn’t even talk about it! The capital and adventure hub of Tasmania. Very chill city, the waterfront has many great places to stop and eat, several art galleries, it’s very clean, and a drive up to the top of Mount Wellington is a must.
Tasmania could be compared to many top travel destinations in Australia. Unfortunately, it seems to be ignored by many for whatever reason. Maybe it’s a little “out of the way” for some, or a little too expensive to get to for others and Australia has a countless number of wonders to enjoy and explore. Whatever the reason, it shouldn’t deter you from planning an Australia vacation and putting Tasmania on the TOP of the list. Once you get there, you’ll find that accommodations are cheaper than on the mainland, the people are incredibly friendly, the tourist traffic is never overwhelming, and the landscape will captivate you at every turn. Skip the “GREAT OCEAN ROAD” (I’m serious), skip Melbourne, skip Adelaide. I guarantee you will enjoy Tasmania far more and fall in love with it! There are very few places that we’ve traveled and said to ourselves “I would love to go back there”. But Tasmania is just that place.
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