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.
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
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.
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.
In 1777 Captain James Cook anchored off Bruny Island, and 27 years
later Colonel David Collins established the settlement of
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.