Tasmania – the tiniest Australian state

Tasmania is Australia’s only island state, it’s located 240 kilometres off the coast of Victoria, and is separated from the mainland by Bass Strait.

Tasmania is also Australia’s smallest state, it’s about the size of West Virginia and the Republic of Ireland, and, with a population of just 500,000, and it is Australia’s least populous state.  Tasmania is just 364 kilometres in length from north to south and 306 kilometres wide from east to west, and 37% of the total area is national parks.  Tasmania was named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who was the first European to visit the island in 1642.

Hobart is Tasmania’s Capital, and also its largest city.  However, great rivalry exists between Hobart and Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city, which is two hours north of Hobart.

It’s probable that Tasmania was joined to the mainland up until the last ice age, but given that it has been separated for about 10,000 years much of the flora has been able to undergo significant change to adapt to a much colder climate than that experienced on the mainland.  After the first Europeans arrived permanently in 1803 so little regard did they have for Tasmania’s unique biodiversity some native species, such as the iconic thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian Tiger, were wiped out, as were the original indigenous inhabitants.

In fact, Tasmania was the second place in Australia, after Sydney, to be settled by the British.  They set up a penal colony, which was much harsher than that already settled in Sydney, and then they set up other colonies at Port Arthur and Macquarie Harbour which became well known for the brutality of the punishments metered out there.

Tourism is one of Tasmania’s biggest industries, particularly as it is so popular with other Australians, who visit the state because it is so different from the mainland.  Much of the tourism to Tassie (as Australians call it) is generated by the natural scenic beauty of the island.  Tasmania is by any measure a very picturesque destination, and much of it has been protected by the actions of environmental activists who have launched some quite large protests against the planned destruction of pristine land from timber companies and from the damming of rivers.

Because of its cool climate, Tasmania is also renowned for the quality of its produce, and the cold seas around the island produce magnificent seafood.  Fortunately, many fine restaurants feature local produce on their menus, so fine wining and dining is one of the best reasons for visiting Tassie.    

There are five distinct tourist regions in Tasmania, which are: Hobart and surrounds, the East Coast, Launceston, Tamar and the North, the North West Coast and the Western Wilderness.

Hobart is built on the shores of the picturesque Derwent River, and has Mt Wellington as its backdrop.  Hobart has a very attractive port area and is the gateway to historic towns such Richmond and Port Arthur.  You can do tours, or one of the most popular ways to tour Tasmania is to hire a care or campervan and drive yourself.  There are some very pretty drives through the Huon Valley and other areas, or you can cruise to Bruny Island to see some of the world’s highest sea cliffs.

The East Coast is famous for its long white beaches, picturesque bays and islands, and some beautiful national parks with attractive names like Wineglass Bay and the Bay of Fires.  Activities include fishing, diving, sailing and hiking.

Launceston, Tamar and the North are worth visiting for the historic architecture in Launceston, and for Cataract Gorge, which is only a short walk from the city centre.  The Tamar Valley has many cool climate wineries, and one of the best ways to see the region is to cruise the Tamar River.  One of the towns here, Beaconsfield has a mining museum, but became globally famous a few years ago due to the dramatic rescue of some miners who were trapped underground for a long period.

The North West Coast is home to small towns and fantastically scenic areas.  This area abuts the Bass Strait where you visit towns such as Wynyard, Devonport, Burnie and Stanley, which has a geological feature called The Nut.  Also in the area is the Tarkine, Australia’s largest temperate forest, and the possibility of visiting King Island, which produces Australia’s best cheese and other dairy products.

The Western Wilderness is highly regarded for containing some of Australia’s prettiest and wildest country.  This is home to the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair national Park, which is renowned for its magnificent, but sometimes treacherous, walk trails.  There are some very interesting towns in this part of the country, particularly Strahan on the shores of Macquarie Harbour and the mining towns of Queenstown and Zeehan, which is a great start point for west coast fishing expeditions.

Tasmania is the only state in Australia in which everything is conveniently located, so that you don’t need to spend many hours commuting between towns and attractions.  The tourist infrastructure is well-developed, and the people are very friendly.  Tasmania is laid back, but touched with a tinge of sophistication.  There are two ways to get to Tasmania, by the Spirit of Tasmania car ferry from Victoria, or by plane from a number of mainland airports.  Fortunately, you can get great airfares to Tassie, and great fly/drive tours are readily available at competitive prices.

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