It’s nicknamed the Apple Isle. But don’t be fooled by the wholesome label; Tasmania is also a land of extremes – craggy mountains, primordial rainforest, dazzlingly white beaches at Wineglass Bay and the Bay of Fires, and weather than can slip from winter to spring and on through autumn and winter in the space of an hour. An outdoor enthusiasts’ dream, Tasmania has outstanding trekking, notably the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain; fine diving – look out for rare leafy sea dragons; remote and wild rafting down the Franklin River; plus kayaking, cycling, swimming and climbing. Then there’s Tasmania’s wildlife, the best Oz offers: platypus, wombat, wallabies, Bicheno’s penguins and – naturally – Tasmanian devil. History buffs head to spooky Port Arthur, a fascinating erstwhile penal settlement, while in Hobart and Launceston especially you’ll fine chic hotels and gourmet eateries alongside buzzing Salamanca Market. Locals call mainland Australia the ‘north island’ – and that tells you all you need to know. Tasmania isn’t just an add-on dangling from the bulk of Oz: it’s the main attraction.
National parks get crowded during school holidays, particularly summer (mid-December to end of January) – campsites and park accommodation gets booked up.
To save on car hire costs, search out the many budget rent-a-banger outfits in Hobart – most offer low rates but reasonable quality vehicles.
Summer (December-January) brings the warmest temperatures – around 21ºC – and corresponding high tourist numbers, though rain or even snow can strike at any time, particularly in the mountains. Early autumn tends to be fine and bright; spring can also be pleasant, though windy. Winter (June-August) is generally cold and wet.
Autumn brings a wonderful glow to woodland foliage. Humpback and southern right whales can be spotted offshore during annual migrations (times vary according to species). Spring brings joeys for kangaroos and wallabies; seal pups frolic and migratory birds arrive in summer.
Ten Days on the Island is a fabulous pan-Tas cultural festival that runs for around ten days from the end of March. Hobart hosts numerous events, including the Summer Festival, over New Year, with concerts, theatre and the foodie fest Taste.
Flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide serve Hobart (HBA) 16km east of the city, and Launceston (LST) 15km south of the city, plus some smaller regional airports.
Maria and Bruny Islands are served by daily ferries, from Triabunna and Kettering, respectively. A cargo barge serves Flinders Island from Bridport.
There’s no scheduled commercial rail service. The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a charming 35km heritage steam ride Queenstown and Strahan.
Comfortable buses run around and between main towns and tourist centres, though at weekends and in more isolated locations may be sparse at weekends. Minibuses serving key trailheads shuttle trekkers in summer.
Car or campervan hire offers most flexibility and is a great way to explore the island, though petrol is pricey; be very aware of wildlife on the road – there’s a LOT of roadkill on Tassie’s tarmac.
Tasmania has the lot – campsites and caravan parks (great for campervanners), hostels, motels, B&Bs and pubs, stylish guesthouses and boutique hotels.
Though known as the Apple Isle – Tasmania exports over 50,000 tonnes of crunchers annually – the quality and variety of ingredients available means you’ll never too far away from delicious chow. Highlights include seafood (particularly along the east coast – try St Helens crayfish or a scallop pie), cheese, beef, berries and chocolate: in Hobart you can tour the Cadbury’s factory.
Tassie boasts two of Australia’s finest breweries: Cascade in Hobart and Boag’s in Launceston. The eastern half of the island hosts some fine wineries, too.
Tassie is incredibly safe, with few opportunities for getting sick. Venomous snakes and spiders are present but shy; bites are rare. Mosquitoes can be a pest in summer – take strong repellent – and leeches lurk in rainforests.
It pays to drive cautiously (or not at all) at night, when animals stray onto roads.
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