Guide to Australia

Your Tour, Travel & Vacation Guide to Adventures in Australia!


Tasmania may be small, but it is a most diverse and interesting State. Separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait, the historical and wilderness delights of this magnificent island bring visitors flocking to its shores. Many come by air, but the vehicle and passenger ferry is becoming increasingly popular -with a good highway system and many reasonably priced hotels or bed and breakfast establishments, motoring is probably the best way to experience this small island.


Honeymoon Bay, Freycinet National Park, East Coast of Tasmania


Tasmania covers an area of 68,331 sq. km -roughly the same size as Ireland. Each region offers quite different natural landscapes and features. The State's northern part is gentle farmlands and rolling pastures between large outcrops such as the Great Western Tiers. This huge mountain range extends across the centre of Tasmania, separating the wilderness of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park from the agricultural region and Launceston to the north. The Tamar Valley, the State's premier wine-growing region, is near Launceston. Along the north and east coasts are many magnificent beaches, some stretching for many kilometres; there are fishing villages with excellent surfing to the north-west. The west coast features wild rivers, which cut through an area of rugged beauty that is rich in mineral wealth and timber; the east is rich in agricultural land.


In the southern part of the State are the magnificent Huon and Derwent valleys and Tasmania's capital city, Hobart. Many of the southern towns, such as Richmond, feature magnificent historic buildings. The Tasman Peninsula in the far south-east is home to Australia's most notorious convict settlement, Port Arthur; Bruny Island is another popular summer holiday destination here.


Great Oyster Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula in Tasmania, Australia


The climate in Tasmania is amenable throughout the year. Spring and autumn are mild to warm, but the nights can become very chilly and it can rain. Summer sees long warm to hot days, with pleasant nights. During winter, much of the mountain country is covered in snow, ideal for skiing. Heading down from the mountain tops, the climate is still chilly and the nights are cold. The west coast boasts 360 days of rain each year, so pack a raincoat if you are heading there. During winter check with authorities on road conditions for the higher peaks.


Originally inhabited by Aboriginals, the island was first sighted by Europeans in 1624. Dutch navigator Abel Tasman arrived off the west coast and named it Van Diemen's Land after the Dutch Governor of Jakarta.


Cradle Mountain in Tasmania, Australia - a World Heritage site


In 1777 Captain James Cook anchored off Bruny Island, and 27 years later Colonel David Collins established the settlement of Hobart. The white settlement of Tasmania soon led to the near extinction of the Aborigines -the authorities at that time took it upon themselves to rid the State of the Aboriginal people. When Truganini died in Hobart in 1876, for quite a long time it was thought that she was the last of the Tasmanian Aborigines, but there are still descendants of the Tasmanian tribes.


Tasmania's beginnings were as a convict colony, and there are remnants of penal settlements found all over the island, with the most notable being Port Arthur. This settlement was set up in 1830, and over the next 47 years an estimated 12,500 convicts passed through its gates. The settlement is extensive, and many of the buildings, including the solitary confinement cells, have been carefully restored. Tours, including the eerie night tours, are highly recommended.


Sarah Island, on Tasmania's wild west coast, is a similar site -the most hardened prisoners were kept in conditions not unlike those of Port Arthur.


Cataract Gorge near Launceston in Tasmania, Australia


Tasmania's vast mineral wealth has led to the establishment and growth of many towns, particularly on the State's west coast. Around Queenstown, gold was mined originally, but after most of the gold had been extracted copper was mined, with the subsequent deforestation causing considerable damage to the surrounding hills. Silver, lead and tin have all been mined at Zeehan, with tin mining continuing today.


With turbulent rivers gorging through the rugged mountain ranges, hydro-electricity is the best source of power for Tasmania -the island produces more energy than it needs. Many power stations are open to the public for inspection.

Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain in the Central Tasmanian Highlands in Tasmania, Australia

Much of Tasmania was forested when Europeans first arrived and timber was used for buildings both within Tasmania as well as on the mainland. Among other uses, Tasmanian blue gum was used to build the wharf areas on the Thames in London, and also to underpin the streets of Melbourne. There are several paper mills in Tasmania, including the Australian Newsprint Mill in Boyer, which produces more than 250,000 tonnes (275,500 tons) of paper annually, the Australian Paper Mill in Burnie and the Tasmanian Pulp and Forest Holdings in Triabunna, which produces woodchip.


Much of the island is World Heritage listed or national park land and it is quite likely that some areas may never have been explored by Europeans. A journey into the parks will reveal stunning lakes (St Clair or Dove Lakes), towering sheer precipices (Ben Lomond National Park), limestone caves (near Mole Creek), and vivid coloured rocks (Freycinet National Park). The most popular area is the Franklin-Gordon Rivers region, which was steeped in controversy during the 1980s when it was proposed that the Franklin River be dammed. Today the 'wild and still undammed' waters are World Heritage listed, testimony to a case won by the persistent actions of many environmentalists and campaigning by environmental groups.


There are many outdoor activities on offer in Tasmania, including bushwalking and horse riding. There are easy strolls in gentle, rolling countryside or along coastal heathlands, and more rigorous and lengthy treks through remote areas of the national parks; horse riders can trek along the beaches or across mountain ranges. Other possibilities are rock climbing, downhill and cross-country skiing, canoeing, whitewater rafting, abseiling, hang gliding, mountain biking, jet boat river riding and 4WD touring. You will even find camel riding! Marine reserves provide excellent diving and snorkelling.

A small island just off the shore of Bruny Island, South East of Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania also has much to offer the gourmet, with excellent wines in the Tamar Valley-Piper's Brook Vineyard produces fine chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling -and the nearby Heemskerk, Dalmere or Dalrymple. Dairy produce is superb, with many cheeses and creams, including camembert and brie, available, and seafood is abundant.


Tasmania really is an isle of contrasts, with rugged mountain ranges, magnificent scenery, pristine sandy beaches, historic towns and fine food and wine -no wonder it is called the Holiday Isle.