Last weekend my boyfriend and I headed down to Tasmania for four days to explore this southern most state of Australia. I have never been to Tasmania, or Tassie as we Australians affectionately call it, but had heard many great things about it, so was eager to visit and discover what everyone was raving about.
We flew into Hobart on Thursday morning, hired a car and set out on our four-day whirlwind trip around the state. We preplanned our route, focusing mainly on the eastern coastline of Tasmania, including visits to Port Arthur, Freycinet National Park, Tha Bay of Fires and Cradle Mountain.
Port Arthur: In the 1830s, this small town on the Tasman Peninsula became a penal colony for British and Irish convicts, most of which were hard criminals with a series of offences. Port Arthur was a highly undesirable place to be sent to, due to the hard labour which the prisoners endured and the punishment systems, which ranged from corporal punishment to the ‘silent system’. Being on a peninsular, it was extremely difficult to escape, as there is only a very narrow way at Eaglehawk Neck (which is worth a quick visit to see the Tessellated Pavement – above). Unfortunately, there isn’t much left of the original settlement. It is believed that only about 30% remains, due to the site being plundered and ravished by bushfires. However, the site is very beautiful, located right on the Tasman Sea and surrounded by lush forest, it seems like some sort of strange paradise. I was although a little disappointed with the site – I was expecting more ruins and more of an insight into how the convicts lived here. But I guess it is worth the visit, if only to learn a bit more about Australia’s convict past.
Freycinet National Park: Located on the east coast of Tasmania, this is one national park which may have the best views in Australia. Freycinet National Park contains bays with sapphire blue waters and white sandy beaches, surrounded by knuckled of granite mountains. The most spectacular view is perhaps the one you are welcomed with when driving into Freycinet – the dramatic peaks of The Hazards. We arrived in the late afternoon, so the golden hue of the setting sun amplified the colours of the eroded granite. We had just enough time before the sun set to walk to the lighthouse and the Wineglass Bay lookout, which just blew us away.
Bay of Fires: Although the unfortunately little visited northern east coast of Tasmania is the Bay of Fires. It’s clear azure waters, sandy white beaches and rocky outcrops covered in red algae create one of the most stunning landscapes. We visited Binalong Bay and spent the morning walking along the beach and exploring the collections of boulders. I original thought that the Bay of Fires was named as such, because of the fire red algae growing on the boulders which frame the beaches along the bay. But rather, it has a historical foundation, dating from 1773 when Captain Tobias Furneaux noticed fires along the bay, signalling that the coast was inhabited by the native Aborigines.
Cradle Mountain National Park: Perhaps one of the most famous parts of Tasmania is Cradle Mountain, which can be found in the very heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness. There are many walks to do around the national park, ranging in length and difficulty. We decided to do the Dove Lake walk, which is a 6km walk around Dove Lake, located at the base of Cradle Mountain. The walk takes approximately 2 hours, and due to the microclimate around Cradle Mountain, it is usually completed in the rain. We were lucky enough that the sun shone for about a third of our walk, but we were still very wet once we returned to the car. Despite the rain, the walk was spectacular – the rain added an eerie, yet beautiful, atmosphere to the landscape, as you can see by some of the photographs.
Virgin and Jet Star fly to both Hobart and Launceston from most capital cities in Australia. If you book far enough in advance, the flights are reasonably cheap. We purchased flights Sydney to Hobart, Hobart to Launceston for about AU$200. The Spirit of Tasmania ferry services still operate between Melbourne and Davenport. The trip takes about 9 hours and fares vary depending on your travel itinerary. Check their website for details. Tasmania is best explored by car, so if you don’t bring your own on the ferry, it is best to hire one from either Hobart or Launceston airport. There are a number of different hire car companies, such as Europcar and Budget.
Pay a little extra and upgrade from budget accommodation. Unlike hostels in Europe and South America, the standard of hostels in Tassie was shockingly low. We unfortunately didn’t have the best experiences in hostels, so I’m not going to recommend any of them. But like anywhere, prices and standards vary. Looking back, we probably should have stayed in small towns, such as Evendale near Launceston (which we stumbled across accidentally when we missed the turn off to the airport – it was such a pretty town), rather than in the cities.
Hobart – Jackman and McRoss Cafe: Located in Battery Point, this quaint little cafe/bakery/patisserie has an old world English charm about it. The cakes, breads and pastries are absolutely stunning. So well presented and they taste even better. And not to mention their granola, which is to die for. Highly recommended for breakfast, lunch, snacks. Unfortunately they don’t do dinner.
St Helens – The Blue Shed: We spent the night in St Helens and had dinner at this restaurant which came highly recommended. Everything was lovely and the service was fantastic. From the pumpkin sourdough starters to the Blue Eyed Cod or Pork Belly and finally the Creme Brulee finished off with Bay of Fires Pinot Gris, a delightful dinner.