Editor’s Note: While we hunker down at home during the current world situation, we still dream of travel. Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, and this southern island offers plenty of adventure. Enjoy!
Eager to hike the trails in Eagle Hawk Nest on the Tasman Peninsula, I set out early from Hobart, the largest port and gateway to adventures in Tasmania, an island state off Australia’s south coast.
The intoxicating perfume of wildflowers drifting on a sea breeze greeted when I pulled over to view of the shimmering blue Tasman Sea far below.
Tassie, as Australians affectionately call the island, is known for its rugged wilderness areas, which are mainly located within reserves and parks. Tasmania, Australia may be the smallest Australian state, but it offers plenty of adventure.
Waterfall Bay Walk
The Waterfall Bay Walk was a perfect amble through the forest overlooking the craggy rock formations and aquamarine coves far below. The Three Capes Track, a four-day, 30-mile track skirting the soaring dolerite cliffs unveiled in 2015 draws trekkers from about the globe.
National Parks in Tasmania
I left regretting I had not allotted more time to explore this gorgeous region. I gave myself one week in Tasmania (fast becoming a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts) to hit the top sites of Cradle Mountain National Park, the Cataract Gorge in Launceston, and Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park on the sunny east coast, so it was time to go.
A 3-hour drive north of Hobart through the arid middle of the country brought me to my friends’ home in Launceston. Proud of the rich heritage of their city, they pointed out the many Victorian structures and remnants of the convict days and gardens that grace their city.
They took me to a gracious restaurant overlooking the Cataract Gorge, famous for hikes into the dramatic canyon carved by the Esk River that is traversed by a striking suspension bridge.
From there I drove the winding road to Cradle Mountain, stopping in Deloraine for a “toastie” (a grilled/panini-like sandwich) and tea. A Wind in the Willows-like river walk in drizzling rain reminded me of the Mother Country.
Its tidy patchwork quilt of pastures on rolling hills dotted with sheep completed the picture; the difference being this bucolic scene is framed in ragged spires.
Driving in Tasmania
The country lane soon turned into a corkscrew affair that spiraled upward through mountains sheathed in thick forests. No one had mentioned to me that Tasmania is one of the most mountainous islands in the world.
Accidents on the narrow lanes are common. You are advised not to drive after dusk as that is when the wombats, wallabies, and pademelons come out to graze causing accidents as people swerve to miss them.
The nocturnal Tasmanian Devil, rarely seen outside of sanctuaries, is coming back from the brink of extinction. The devils suffer from infectious viral cancer in the form of a facial tumor that spreads through biting and has killed 90 percent of them in the wild.
Cradle Mountain National Park
Cradle Mountain National Park is home to the highest peaks in Tasmania with wild, unpredictable weather. Even though it was raining the day I arrived, I attempted to hike the 4-mile Dove Lake Circuit.
The trailhead is also where the challenging 6-day Overland Track begins. Sheets of water shut out the view of the mountains framing the lake and forced me to turn back. I was, however, able to enjoy the Enchanted Woods track in the gloom of a haunting forest ensconced in moss and algae to energetic Knyvet Falls.
East Coast of Tasmania
Another roller coaster road brought me to the sunny East Coast of Tasmania where endless miles of white sand beaches are kissed by turquoise rollers off the Tasman Sea. Sailboats dot the marinas and summer cottages line the shore of coastal villages.
My charming Airbnb in Bicheno was a skip away from a blowhole, and a walk on granite rocks covered with orange lichen that brought me to a tiny marina where the special was a zesty seafood bouillabaisse.
The guide on a glass-bottom boat tour of the marina informed us that the marine creatures here, like squid and seahorses, are endangered due to a warm current coming from mainland Australia that is heating up the waters killing the kelp forests. Yet another imbalance in nature caused by global warming.
Freycinet National Park
Freycinet National Park, home to the spectacular Wine Glass Bay, is the most popular attraction on the east coast. I took the spiraling road up to the Tourville Lighthouse where an easy loop affords mind-expanding views of the blue veil of the Tasman Sea.
The marine preserve below the surface, established in 2007, begins 3 miles offshore and extends for 200 nautical miles to protect migrating whales and all manner of sea life in the submerged mountain range.
The easiest way to experience Wine Glass Bay is to take the water taxi out of Cole’s Bay. It takes you around the peninsula, drops you off on a flat trail across the isthmus to Hazards Beach where you are picked up for the return ride.
With 40 percent of the land in this island state preserved with 880 tracks lacing the national parks, Tasmania is one of the last hold outs for true conservation.
The caring population of just over half a million are doing all they can to keep their home clean and green. I’m grateful to the devil that got into me and told me I had to go and see Tassie for myself.
Learn more about Linda Ballou’s articles and books at www.LostAngelAdventures.com