Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Flag of Australia  ,
Friday, January 13, 2006

Just before we departed Sydney, we experienced the second hottest day in the city's history, a baking 44 degrees. The air was so hot, that it felt like god was holding up a massive hairdryer above the city. Just as well we're leaving for cooler climes.

Our next stop, Tasmania, is described in one of our guide books as being more English in parts than England. It's also where a lot of Australia's relatively short history is found. Both Australia's second and third oldest cities are here, Hobart and Launceston. It has Australia's oldest bridge, its very first theatre, the historical penitentiary of Port Arthur, and best of all, some of Australia's oldest pubs.

We start our journey in Launceston, a quaint town in the north of the island, which has an abundance of English Victorian architecture and pleasant English style parks and gardens.

We stop for lunch in a beautiful historical town called Ross. Built entirely from warm Sandstone, it's very similar to the towns which we've visited in the Cotswolds, England. The bakeries, tea rooms, and shops selling homemade fudge, just add to it's English feel.

After this came a real treat. A hike over to Wineglass bay. Named as such because of it's distinctive shape. It has been voted by several travel magazines as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It's shape, the colour of the sand and water, and the fact that it is surrounded by lush green hills, probably has something to do with it, and it was so beautiful we couldn't disagree... Luckily for us, it was a hot sunny day, because it is truely the coldest sea water we have ever been in.

The next day, we stopped at a wildlife centre, to get a close up of the famous Tasmanian Devils. These little things can be quite vicious, and have the jaw strength of crocodiles. A fact that was reinforced to us when we saw them eating their lunch.

We continued on to the historical site of Port Arthur, which was set up as a place to confine prisoners who had committed further crimes in the colony. Here we learnt about the journeys of the convicts from Mother England, and the lives which they had once they arrived here. Unfortunately, in 1996, Port Arthur became a crime scene of its own, when a mad gunman opened fire on tourists and staff, killing 35 people. It was horrific, and we were reminded not to ask questions about the event to the guides, many of which lost friends in the tragedy.

We spend the night in a local hostel, before making our way down to Hobart, Australia's southern most capital. Hobart is a pleasant city, with prime examples of Australian colonial architecture, including many Georgian style terraces, built around the harbour. It also has a good collection of historical, characterful pubs, so we made visiting them a compulsory activity during our weekend here.

After the capital, it was back to nature, with some hiking and kayaking around the beautiful west of Tasmania. There is some interesting scenery, with many virgin forests which contain the world's tallest flowering plants (the Swamp Gum), which grow to over 100 metres, and the world's tallest hardwood trees (the eucalyptus regnans). Later, we travel to towards the coast, and explore some huge sand dunes blown far inland, and surrounded by lush green forest. It made for unusual complementing scenery.

The last, but certainly not least place we visited in Tasmania was the distinctive Cradle Mountain. Here, we hiked up for about an hour to a mountain just opposite, for amazing views of the famous peak, from across the valley. It is called Cradle Mountain, because the explorer who named it, decided it bore a remarkable similarity to a cradle. We'll let you judge for yourselves from the photos.

To sum up, Tasmania is firmly off the main backpacker circuit, with Australians themselves making up the majority of the tourists here. We find that surprising, because along with The Outback, it has been our favourite part of Australia so far.
Amazing beaches, stunning coastal and inland scenery, a reasonable slice of history, and attractive towns, make it a very pleasant place to visit.
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