Indeed, Tassie does feel like a place apart - from just about anywhere else. On this one small island – it only takes a day to drive top to bottom – you’ll encounter deep forests that have never been logged, some of the oldest trees on the planet, bleak-but-beautiful plains, footprint-free beaches crashed by the waves of the mighty Southern Ocean and strange wildlife.
The Tasmanian Devil, for example, is found nowhere else. Which is lucky, because it’s a truly ferocious little so-and-so that truly deserves its name.
Day 1: It’s just a short hop across the Southern Ocean from Melbourne to Hobart, whether you choose to fly or sail by ferry, and you can fly direct from Brisbane, Adelaide or Sydney.
Day 2: Having arrived in Hobart, you’ll find yourself in a time-preserved state capital. Traditional settlers’ homes climb the hills on either side of the bay area, providing a neat contrast to the city’s more modern centre. A must for art lovers is a trip to MONA, with its eclectic collection of paintings and sculptures.
Stay: One night in the Henry Jones Art Hotel.
Drive off along the west coast to Strahan, but be prepared to stop often. The landscape changes around you as you drive and you’ll want to take plenty of photographs – of the wild coast lapped by the Southern Ocean, of the wind-swept lunar-like terrain around the copper mining community of Queenstown and of the lush vegetation. At Strahan you’ll find yourself on the edge of a deep and ancient forest featuring immensely old huon pines. On your second day in Strahan you’ll take a cruise along the Gordon Franklin Rivers National Park, marvelling at the scenery and stopping off at Sarah Island – once the setting for one of Australia’s harshest penal settlements.
Stay: Two nights in a luxurious Wheelhouse Apartment.
Now it’s time to drive into Lake St Clair National Park; a World Heritage Site featuring towering peaks, sweeping plains and lakes so still they mirror the dark forest that stands silently at their edges. You’ll be surrounded by a living museum of wildlife, birds, flora and huge trees, and you can take the opportunity to walk in the wilderness, along a section of the Cradle Mountains Trail. Or go canoeing, rafting or fly-fishing in crystal streams.
Stay: Two nights at Cradle Mountain Lodge.
Launceston is a quaint, quiet, quintessentially Tasmanian town with a charming waterfront – where you’ll be staying – wide streets and original, homestead-type houses. Outside the town life is much wilder; a 4×4 tour of the island’s remote north eastern corner will bring you into contact with wallabies, possums, wombats, quoll and bandicoot. And, if you’re very lucky, even the endangered Tasmanian devil. Do not attempt to stoke one of those little devils!
Stay: One night at Peppers Seaport, on the Tamar Waterfront.
Point the car southeast and drive towards the Freycinet Peninsula and you’ll find yourself heading through a scenic heaven known as the National Park. The bush gives way to pink granite peaks, white beaches and blue seas. Take a walk on the sands at Wine Glass Bay and you’ll have a real Robinson Crusoe moment if you happen upon any other footprints! You’ll also take 4×4 safaris, night trips to see Tassie’s nocturnal animals, guided hikes and walks along a choice of nature trails.
Stay: Two nights in Freycinet Lodge.
Turn south now and you’ll be on course for the Tasman Peninsular and Port Arthur, one of Australia’s largest and most infamous convict settlements. Many of the original buildings remain in perfect condition, including some of the punishment cells, chapel, barracks and cottages. Interestingly, the settlement had no actual outer walls – the surrounding countryside was so daunting and the Aborigines so fierce that most convicts preferred to remain within the settlement.
Stay: One night in a cabin at Stewarts Bay Lodge.
Return to Hobart – it’s an hour’s drive from Port Arthur – for your flight back to the mainland.