4 May, 2015 - Departing St Helen’s at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am, we rugged up for single digit temperatures and made our way 163 km west, towards Launceston Airport where we were to board our flight to Sydney. Struggling to see the road that skirted the Mary’s State Reserve under a heavy blanket of fog, we passed endless farmlands and little towns that had not yet woken up to a new day. We seemed like the only ones on the road, save for the black crows feasting on roadkill, the occasional farmer’s truck, and delivery ute. An hour into our trip, the shades of grey on the landscape eventually made way for the golds and greens as the sun made its appearance and the fog lifted.
While on the road, I made a mental list of the 6 best things that I loved about Tasmania:
1) Tasmania’s pristine natural beauty. Tasmania's national parks cover a diversity of unspoiled habitats and ecosystems with plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Around forty per cent of Tasmania is protected in national parks and reserves. So special are Tasmania’s national parks that a large proportion have been included in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area in recognition of their unique natural and cultural values. With fewer introduced predators and a relatively large amount of intact habitat, Tasmania is also a final refuge for many animal species.
2) Tasmania’s produce. Tasmania's strong tradition of small-scale production, organic farming and sustainability, along with rich soil, pure air and clean water inspire dedicated growers to produce a truly authentic food and drink experience. Its rich green pastures produce some of Australia’s finest dairy products, particularly award-winning cheeses: Blues and Bries, Cheddars and Camemberts. It is home to some of Australia's leading cool climate wines with pinot noir and sparkling wines attracting the interest of wine makers from around the world. Its clean and green environment is ideal for producing cider, whisky and gin. The exceptional quality of Tasmania’s food and wine attracts foodies from all over the world.
3) The Arts. The island state of Tasmania prides itself on a thriving arts scene. Hobart is home to Australia’s first and only dedicated art hotel, The Henry Jones. The MONA (Museum of Old & New Art), also in Hobart, is Australia’s largest privately funded museum. MONA also hosts an annual winter festival, called Dark Mofo. A celebration of both ancient and contemporary mythologies - birth and death, fire and laser light - it features good music, a films program, music, theatre, performance, exhibitions and, naturally, some good food thrown in. The celebration reaches a crescendo on the longest night, with all-night performances during the winter solstice from dusk until dawn, finishing with the annual Dark Mofo Nude Solstice Swim to greet the return of the sun.
4) Built Heritage. Tasmania's isolation, small population and strong sense of community have all worked together to preserve their built heritage. Wherever you travel in Tasmania, you’ll find exceptionally preserved examples of late Georgian architecture, most still lived in today. In the two major cities, Hobart and Launceston, you'll find some fine examples of nineteenth and twentieth century architectural styles – Regency, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco. Tasmania's architectural treasures are recognised in Tasmania's National Heritage Festival – Australia's largest heritage festival - when the doors are opened on Tasmania's National Trust houses, normally closed for the rest of the year.
5) It’s Compact Size & Diversity. Australia’s largest island and smallest state is around half the size of England. Its compact size and great diversity of scenery, along with great roads and light traffic, make for a seamless, stress free driving holiday.
6) Short Distance From Capital Cities. Australia is a very big country. In fact, It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area. However, the distance between Tasmania and most of Australia’s other capital cities is extremely manageable: it’s a two-hour flight away from Sydney, one hour and twenty from Melbourne, one hour and fourty from Canberra, and just under two hours from Adelaide. That’s less time than it takes to drive out of Greater Sydney! This means no jetlag and you arrive at your destination feeling rested and ready to start your holiday.
Do I have regrets? You bet I do, the main one being not staying for long enough. All the more reason to return next year, with the top of my bucket list being Bruny Island.
Would I visit some of the places again? Absolutely, with the top 3 being the Henry Jones Hotel, MONA, and Freycinet National Park.
For me, Tasmania was like a jewel that had been under my nose the whole time, waiting patiently to be discovered. The fact that its natural beauty is protected means that it will remain in its pristine state for a long time to come. I will certainly be back!