The wild and wonderful North West is not only home to dramatic coasts overlooking the Southern Ocean but also eco eclectic beauty spots from the Tarkine Rainforest to King Island. Many people skip it out en route to Cradle Mountain – but don’t. King Island is the perfect surf ‘n turf destination. Great waves and fine food producers. And tackle The Tarkine by hiking or on a river cruise.
There are over 330 of them, some slightly developed, some divinely deserted. The east coast boasts wildlife and wilderness walking trails on Maria Island and the world’s only white wallabies on Bruny Island. Head north to Flinders or King for playing in the surf and eating the fine produce of the turf. Or to the west to melt over fairy penguins on Bonnet. Island idylls off one big island idyll. Tasmania never stops.
Not really like other Australians, their feeling of being linked to the land and inspired by conservation is infectious. People have a gentleness, even an eccentricity, and there is no sense of an elite because each does their bit as Tasmanian stewards. And yet, with a small population, they are not small minded; they live in such vast landscapes. Tassies look outwards - and always see the bigger picture.
What so many people don’t get about Tasmania is what’s just 10 minutes away. There are so many signposts off the highways it is hard to know which ones to pick but, once you do, it’s heaven in a heartbeat. Magnificent sites such as Mount Wellington, Leven Canyon or Donaghy’s Hill Lookout over Wild Rivers NP are so accessible. You don’t have to hike for days for great wonders of the world here.
One of the stop offs on the classic circuit, but this is somewhere you could spend two weeks alone. And some do, starting on its famous Overland Track that takes you through rainforest or up to peaks such as Mount Ossa at 1,167m. At 65km long, it takes six days to walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, with a diversion around the lake that gives you an excuse to spend another couple of days in the wilderness.
One of Tasmania’s most stunning walking trails, you can join a four day guided hike for 20km from beach to beach, beach camp to lodge. Camp, walk and swim, and if you want to rest your legs for a bit, throw in a bit of kayaking along the Ansons River. This place will set your world on fire.
A very special place and a particular favourite with families, with safe, sublime beaches. As well as wildlife, hiking to the Strzelecki National Park’s peaks and the fascinating Aboriginal history and museum are all top things to do. Hop over to nearby and wholly Aboriginal Cape Barren Island to learn about their tragic indigenous history in Tasmania, and contribute to the local tourism economy.
It’s everywhere, and you don’t have to travel for miles. Tasmania does up close and personal creatures. Such as white wallabies, wombats, duck-billed platypus, and of course the endemic and inimitable Tasmanian devil. Spot dolphins in Macquarie Harbour and, for cuteness in the extreme, head to Bonnet Island to see fairy penguins. Whales migrate along the east coast May-July and Sept-Nov.
Generic chain hotels are not terribly Tassie. This is the land of boutique B&Bs where wallabies wander around, log fires warm your toes and wine comes from a vineyard just up the road. There is even a B&B run by a former Ritz Hotel chef. Tasmania is that sort of place. People come here, fall in love with it and create cozy cabins or love filled lodges so that they can share the nature, food and Tasmanian stories.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can only come here in summer. Although snow hits the highlands May-Sept, cross country skiing or trekking under winter blue skies is wonderful. And coasts and lowlands are still open to hiking all year round, with mild temperatures in the east. Hobart is uber cool in winter in the cultural way, the Dark MOFO festival a very hip happening at the city’s prestigious new art gallery.
The National Parks website has good information on this. Don’t treat these like walks in the park, just because it isn’t mainland Australia. You are still walking in very wild places. Don’t walk alone, wear good boots, have layers, carry safety equipment, food and water, sleeping bag, maps, and log your walk at trailheads. Always check weather conditions, and turn back if in doubt.
Wildlife is everywhere in Tasmania. Wallabies wander up to you and ‘roos will roam around the place. And birdlife is berserk. But tourists need to leave their ‘feeding ducks in the park’ mentality at home. It is strictly against all good conservation practices to interfere with the wildlife’s natural diet. So as much as you are tempted to give some of your pie to a possum, put it away.