The island of Tasmania lies 240 km off the south coast of Australia. Due to a combination of bad planning and free accommodation, we visited Tassie in the midst of the Australian winter. Whilst that might sound like a walk in the park compared to winter back home, after more than a year of sunshine we really felt the chill.
Tasmania has a cool, temperate climate with four seasons just like in the UK. Although due to being in the Southern Hemisphere their seasons are the opposite way round. That doesn’t mean Autumn follows winter and plants begin life dead before decaying, flowering and returning to buds. It just means that winter happens during June, July and August and you have to wear shorts at Christmas.
Tasmania has a population of 507,626 people living in an area of 68,401 km2. So roughly the amount of people that live in Liverpool in an area around the size of Ireland. That’s the metropolitan borough of Liverpool by the way, not the greater Liverpool region. In layman’s terms, just the people lucky enough to have purple wheelie bins.
The lack of people and the sheer size of Tasmania means it is a relatively unspoilt wilderness with some fantastic natural features. We managed to get a great deal on car hire and took a few day trips to explore the unspoilt environment.
The Tasman peninsular in the south east corner of the island is home to rugged coastal scenery and outstanding cliff top views. We took a drive down the peninsular and braved the cold and biting wind to visit a natural blow-hole, the Tasman arch and the Devils Kitchen. The wind was whipping the sea into a frenzy and as it rushed through caves and spat out foam, crashing hard against the rocks, it was easy to see how the Devils Kitchen got its name.
At the end of the Tasman peninsular lies the secluded former penal colony, Port Arthur. Surrounded almost entirely by water, save for a sliver of land at Eaglehawk neck connecting it to the mainland, Port Arthur is a former colonial prison which housed some of the most prolific and dangerous offenders of the British empire. Now the area serves as a museum of sorts that offers an insight into the lives of its former inhabitants. It can take a full day to explore the area, there are plenty of old buildings and ruins to visit accompanied by interesting tales about the lives of the early settlers and convicts. Visitors can also take a boat trip to two separate islands, one which housed the boys prison and the aptly named “Isle of the Dead” where those that died in the camp were laid to rest. For lots of Australians, a visit to Port Arthur stirs up many emotions and is a way of finding out how their ancestors came to be in Australia. For us, it was a really interesting look into how the British justice system operated in colonial times. Port Arthur is the most popular tourist destination in Tasmania and is certainly worth the visit.
We took a drive up to the Freycinet peninsular to visit picturesque Wine Glass Bay. After a steep scramble to the viewing point we spent some time soaking up the view of the pristine white beach and turquoise waters below. During the summer the area is really popular with holidays makers and we could see why, even in the depths of winter it was remarkably beautiful.
We visited the awe inspiring Mount Field National Park and spent the day hiking through some of the tallest trees in the world. Giant ferns and gum trees towered over us as we followed the sound of cascading water. Russell Falls is a large multi tiered waterfall hidden within the forest. Thanks to the winter weather it was in full flow, crashing down and spraying us with icy water. We were told by a kindly lady in the information centre that we could take a short, pleasant drive up a hill to a sub-alpine region with access to a ski field. Of course the hill was a mountain, the drive was long, steep and winding and you could only turn around once you reached the summit. As we got closer to the top the temperature began to drop and we started to see snow on the ground. At the end of our alpine drive we reached a very cold looking lake and took a very brisk walk around it. We then climbed back into the car and enjoyed a thrilling white knuckle ride back down the mountain.
Tasmania is a great place for enjoying outdoor adventures, even in the midst of winter. There are lots more national parks to visit, peaks to climb and adventures to be had. Our chilly Tasmanian visit was just the tip of the iceberg!