Welcome to the enchanting island of Tasmania, a hidden gem nestled along the southeastern coast of Australia. Tasmania features breathtaking landscapes, a rich historical past, and exceptional wildlife, rendering it a perfect choice for both adventurers and nature enthusiasts. This comprehensive Tasmania holidays travel guide will explore the island’s history, transportation alternatives, must-see locations, suggested activities, and exceptional lodging options.
The Historical Tapestry of Tasmania
Known as “Tassie” by the locals, Tasmania boasts a captivating history that spans millennia. Before European settlers arrived, the island was inhabited by the Aboriginal Tasmanians, the indigenous people of Tasmania. Their culture was rich and diverse, deeply intertwined with the land and its resources. The Aboriginal Tasmanians left an enduring legacy through their unique art, tools, and language, which continue to influence the island’s cultural heritage.
The first European to set foot in Tasmania was Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642, who named it “Van Diemen’s Land” in honour of the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. This name prevailed until 1856 when it was officially changed to Tasmania to commemorate its discoverer.
In the early 19th century, Tasmania became a British penal colony, housing convicts transported from the United Kingdom. This sombre period in Tasmania’s history left behind a legacy of historical penal sites, some of which are now UNESCO World Heritage-listed. Prominent sites include Port Arthur, a former penal settlement, and Sarah Island, notorious for housing some of the most hardened convicts.
Tasmania achieved independence from New South Wales in 1825, establishing itself as a distinct colony. Over time, it evolved into a vibrant community with agriculture, mining, and forestry as its primary industries. Today, Tasmania seamlessly blends its historical charm with a thriving cultural scene and an eco-conscious way of life.
Getting to Tasmania is a straightforward process, with several transportation options at your disposal.
- By Air: The most convenient route to Tasmania is by air. Hobart International Airport (HBA) and Launceston Airport (LST) serve as the main entry points. Direct flights to Tasmania are available from major Australian cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide. International travellers can make connections through these major cities.
- By Sea: For those seeking a leisurely voyage, consider embarking on the Spirit of Tasmania, a passenger and vehicle ferry that operates between Melbourne and Devonport. This ferry offers a unique experience, allowing you to bring your car or campervan for flexible exploration.
- By Cruise: Some cruise lines incorporate Tasmania into their itineraries, offering passengers a picturesque approach to the island with breathtaking coastal views.
Must-Visit Destinations in Tasmania
Tasmania boasts a diverse array of destinations for travellers to explore. Here are some essential places to include in your itinerary:
Cultural Immersion: Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart, serves as an excellent starting point for your adventure. Discover the historically significant Salamanca Place, distinguished by its 19th-century sandstone warehouses that have been creatively transformed into galleries, boutiques, and dining establishments.
Nature’s Embrace: Just beyond Hobart, Mount Wellington offers panoramic vistas of the city and its surrounding wilderness. Whether you prefer hiking, biking, or driving, reaching the summit promises breathtaking views. For a distinctive experience, consider a guided night tour to Kunanyi/Mount Wellington to marvel at the southern hemisphere’s celestial wonders.
Gastronomic Delights: Hobart is renowned for its vibrant culinary scene. Don’t miss the Farm Gate Market on Sunday mornings, where you can indulge in fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and gourmet delights. Tasmania is also celebrated for its exceptional wines, making a day trip to the nearby Coal River Valley a delightful exploration of renowned wineries.
Cultural Gems: Situated in the north of Tasmania, Launceston exudes charm and historical significance. Immerse yourself in the stories of the past at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, which showcases both art and natural history exhibits. Within the city, Cataract Gorge offers picturesque walking trails and a scenic chairlift ride with breathtaking views.
Tamar Valley: Just a stone’s throw from Launceston lies the Tamar Valley, a haven for wine enthusiasts. Sample cool-climate wines at idyllic cellar doors nestled amid picturesque vineyards. The Tamar Valley also features lavender fields and historic towns like Evandale, making it an ideal day trip.
3. Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
Natural Splendor: This UNESCO World Heritage-listed national park is one of Tasmania’s most iconic destinations. Cradle Mountain beckons with some of the island’s finest hiking opportunities, catering to various fitness levels. Whether you opt for a stroll around Dove Lake or embark on challenging multi-day treks, the park’s natural wonders will leave you awestruck.
4. Freycinet Peninsula
Breathtaking Beauty: The Freycinet Peninsula, gracing Tasmania’s east coast, is celebrated for its awe-inspiring landscapes, most notably Wineglass Bay, a globally acclaimed beach. Embark on a hike to Wineglass Bay Lookout for a panoramic vista, and for those with more time, descend to the beach itself for an unforgettable experience.
Seafood Extravaganza: While in the region, savour some of the freshest seafood imaginable. Coles Bay, the nearby town, is renowned for its seafood restaurants, where you can relish delectable dishes crafted from locally caught treasures.
5. Port Arthur
Historical Significance: The Port Arthur Historic Site stands as a poignant testament to Tasmania’s convict past. Explore well-preserved ruins, partake in guided tours, and gain insight into the harsh existence endured by convicts during the 19th century. For those intrigued by the darker chapters of history, the site also offers ghost tours.
Tasman Peninsula: While in the vicinity, seize the opportunity to explore the stunning coastal vistas of the Tasman Peninsula. Be sure to visit the Tessellated Pavement, Devil’s Kitchen, and the Blowhole for a firsthand encounter with remarkable natural phenomena.
Enriching Your Tasmania Experience
Tasmania presents an array of activities to cater to all interests:
1. Bushwalking and Hiking
With its diverse landscapes, Tasmania is a paradise for hiking enthusiasts. Whether you are a seasoned trekker or a leisurely walker, there are trails suitable for everyone. In addition to Cradle Mountain, consider embarking on the Overland Track, the Three Capes Track, or immersing yourself in the ancient rainforests of Tarkine Wilderness.
2. Wildlife Encounters
Tasmania boasts an array of the planet’s most distinctive and imperilled wildlife species. Explore sanctuaries and wildlife parks for an up-close encounter with Tasmanian devils, wombats, kangaroos, and a diverse range of bird species. Notable destinations include the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary near Hobart and the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in Port Arthur.
3. Aquatic Adventures
The pristine waters surrounding Tasmania provide an ideal playground for water sports and activities. Delve into activities like kayaking and sailing, or embark on a boat tour to spot dolphins, seals, and whales along the coast. For the adventurous at heart, scuba diving presents an opportunity to explore underwater caves and kelp forests.
4. Art and Culture
Immerse yourself in Tasmania’s vibrant arts scene by visiting galleries, studios, and exhibitions. MONA in Hobart is a must-visit for enthusiasts of contemporary art. Moreover, the island hosts an array of festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating local culture, music and cuisine.
5. Gastronomic Exploration
Tasmania is a haven for food enthusiasts, offering a bounty of fresh, locally sourced produce. Savour the island’s seafood treasures, including crayfish, oysters, and salmon. Indulge in artisanal cheeses, delectable chocolates, and explore the flourishing craft beer and cider scene. Consider joining a food and wine tour to savour the best of Tasmania’s culinary offerings.
Premier Accommodations in Tasmania
Tasmania provides a diverse range of accommodations, from luxurious hotels to charming cottages and eco-friendly lodges. Here are some exceptional options:
1. Saffire Freycinet
Nestled on the Freycinet Peninsula, Saffire Freycinet stands as an award-winning luxury lodge offering breathtaking views of Coles Bay. Guests can relish world-class dining, rejuvenating spa treatments, and guided experiences such as visits to oyster farms and encounters with wildlife.
2. MACq 01 Hotel
In Hobart, the MACq 01 Hotel offers a unique storytelling experience that immerses guests in Tasmania’s history. Each room narrates the tale of a different character from the island’s past, ensuring an immersive and unforgettable stay.
3. Cradle Mountain Lodge
For those exploring Cradle Mountain, the Cradle Mountain Lodge provides a cosy retreat enveloped by wilderness. Accommodation options range from log cabins to luxurious suites, complemented by fine dining, guided excursions and spa facilities.
4. The Henry Jones Art Hotel
Positioned in Hobart’s historic waterfront precinct, The Henry Jones Art Hotel artfully blends art and luxury within a heritage-listed building. Guests can peruse the hotel’s art galleries, dine at the award-winning IXL Long Bar, and savour harbour views.
5. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge
Nestled in the heart of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge offers a diverse range of accommodations, from suites with spa baths to secluded timber cabins. Guests can relish dining at the Highland Restaurant and relaxation at the Waldheim Alpine Spa.
Tasmania, with its rich history, diverse landscapes, and extraordinary wildlife, stands as a destination that guarantees unforgettable experiences for all. Whether you choose to explore the pristine wilderness, savour gourmet cuisine, or delve into historical sites, Tasmania offers something for everyone. Start planning your journey to this hidden gem, and prepare to be captivated by its natural beauty and cultural richness. Tasmania truly is a treasure awaiting your discovery.