Surrounded by sea, Tasmania is only an hour’s flight from mainland Australia but a world away when it comes to lifestyle, culture and resourcefulness.
At 315km (189 miles) west to east and 286km (175 miles) north to south, Tasmania is comparable in size with the Republic of Ireland, West Virginia (USA) and Hokkaido (Japan). The area of Tasmania is 68,331 square kilometres (26,376 square miles).
Tasmania’s location as the southern-most state of Australia and washed by the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea gives it dramatic coastline, the world’s cleanest air and a clear light that draws painters and photographers from around the world.
The remoteness of the island in its early years led to the development of an inventiveness that thrives today and has made Tasmania’s mark internationally. The island’s natural attributes and the resourcefulness of its people have given it a leading edge in industry sectors that include food and beverage, aquaculture, marine manufacturing and training, forestry and timber products, art and crafts, Antarctic services and goods, and mining technology.
Tasmania is a haven for maritime activities, from sailing, cruising and fishing to festivals that celebrate the island’s long-standing maritime traditions and links with the sea. These include the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, which features traditional boat-building skills and vessels, including the work of the Shipwright’s Point School of Wooden Boatbuilding.
The annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is one of the world’s great ocean racing classics and attracts participants and spectators from all corners of the globe. It culminates in a summer festival that includes a week-long dockside indulgence in fine food and wines, the Taste of Tasmania.
Cruise options include the beautiful D’Entrecasteaux Channel or the wide reaches of the Derwent River in the south; the Tamar River near the major northern city of Launceston; alongside a pod of dolphins off the Freycinet Peninsula on the east coast; or up the Gordon River into the south-west wilderness.
In ports like Hobart in the south, St Helens on the east coast, Stanley in the far north west or Strahan on the west coast, chat to fishermen while they unload their daily catch.
To get close to the water, hire a sea kayak for a more personal exploration of the coastline, with or without a guide.
Tasmania is the last stop south before the Antarctic and has strong historic and scientific links to the frozen continent. Its Tasmanian Polar Network provides a wide range of goods and services for expeditioners, scientists and Antarctic vessels that use Hobart’s deepwater port.
Tasmania is Australia’s most mountainous region, with 1144 named mountains that include the nation’s toughest climb, the daunting Federation Peak in the south-west wilderness. Tasmania’s rugged mountains are a mecca for bushwalkers and ’peak baggers’ from around the world.
At the same time, the mountain grandeur has strong appeal for visitors, with road access and gentle walking trails making it easy to access many of the summits, including Mt Wellington – only 10 minutes from the centre of Hobart. Local folklore has it that Tasmania’s mountains, if flattened out, would cover a quarter of mainland Australia.
Tasmania’s Wilderness & Nature
Within hours in Tasmania you can experience the world’s last temperate wilderness, ancient rainforest, glacial tarns, tall waterfalls, secluded ocean beaches and towering sea cliffs.
More than a third of Tasmania is protected in national parks, World Heritage Area, forest and marine reserves. Most of Tasmania’s natural places are stunningly beautiful and within easy reach.
The island is one of the world’s best walking destinations. It has more than 3000 kilometres of world-class walking tracks, thousands of highland lakes, hundreds of clean beaches, extensive underground caverns, large and small islands both remote and accessible, and mountain peaks and crags.
Its wildlife is abundant and varied. The State is the last home of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. Safe from the European fox introduced to the rest of Australia, it is the only place to see in the wild a Tasmanian Devil, an eastern quoll (or native cat), the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat) and the 40 cm Tasmanian bettong – with a body like a miniature wallaby and small, round face and ears. The Devil, a marsupial the size of a small dog but with a bite as strong as a crocodile, is quieter than its fierce reputation unless it is feeding time.
Tasmania also has a delicate underwater environment. With thousands of kilometres of coastline and hundreds of offshore reefs and islands, it offers a wide range of temperate diving experiences and a rich variety of marine habitats. These include the 30 metre giant kelp forests off the Tasman Peninsula and at Bicheno’s Governor Island Marine Park.
World Heritage Areas of Tasmania
It stretches over 1.38 million hectares, from Cradle Mountain in the north to South West Cape and the islands beyond. The WHA includes mountains, valleys and lakes formed during the last great Ice Age and forests with trees thousands of years old. The original area was placed on the World Heritage List in 1982 and was extended in 1989. It now covers 20 per cent of Tasmania. Other Australian WHA listings include the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and Uluru National Park (Ayers Rock).
National parks of Tasmania
Tasmania has 20 national parks. The craggy profile of Cradle Mountain is the island’s best-known landmark and is in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, at the northern gateway to one of the world’s top bush walks, the Overland Track. In the west, the Southwest National Park and the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park contain ancient rainforest, rare birds and valleys carved by glaciers long gone.
In the north, the tiny Mole Creek Karst National Park is Tasmania’s only underground national park and has a magnificent network of deep limestone caves. In the north west, Narawntapu is another gem with long beaches and friendly wildlife.
On the east coast, Freycinet National Park has a granite mountain range and secluded bays and beaches along an ever-changing coastline. Wineglass Bay was recently named one of the world’s top 10 beaches by adventure magazine, Outdoors. Mt William National Park also hugs the coastline, in the north east, and Forester kangaroos are prolific. Douglas Apsley National Park has an easy rainforest walk to a gorge and swimming hole.
In the south, the Tasman National Park features spectacular coastal land formations like the Tasman Blowhole and the Devils Kitchen. Mt Field has some of the world’s tallest eucalypt forests, lakes and tarns. Hartz Mountains National Park has subalpine woodlands and alpine crags, moorlands and lakes.
Offshore, the Maria Island National Park on the east coast combines convict heritage with beach and mountain walks and further south, Bruny Island has the small but stunning South Bruny National Park, with wild seascapes and sweeping surf beaches.
State forests and forest reserves of Tasmania
A network of forests and reserves around Tasmania are part of the touring experience. In the north east, Evercreech Forest Reserve has the world’s tallest white gums, more than 90 metres high. Many reserves, like the one at Liffey, have huge waterfalls and picnic and barbecue facilities.
In the north, Tamar Island is an important wetland habitat for waterbirds and features bird viewing hides and a marshland boardwalk – all within minutes from the centre of the city of Launceston.
In the south, the spectacular Tahune AirWalk meanders for half a kilometre though the treetops, providing a birds-eye view of mighty rivers, forests and mountains. Wellington Park provides walking, climbing, abseiling, cycling and sightseeing opportunities right on Hobart’s doorstep.
Wild and mild adventures you can do in Tasmania
From night-time penguin spotting to sea kayaking, the gentle art of fishing for wild brown trout to cliff-side abseiling – Tasmania has a wide range of adventure activities. The island is well-suited to river cruising, sailing, cycling, guided walks, animal and bird life discovery tours, and adventures with dolphins, migrating whales and fur seals. On the west coast, the West Coast Wilderness Railway travels through mountains and crosses wild rivers, for spectacular views from Rinadeena station.
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