Facts About Tasmania
Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.
These islands have a haunting history and their own special mystique. The 488,948-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to 195,800 people.
Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2006-07, international exports from the state totalled $3.7 billion. China, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, but sizable quantities of goods and services are also exported to North America, Europe and many other regions.
Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km. The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of this area. The biggest are Flinders (1,374km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie. The Kent group, the most northerly part of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the continent. About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia.
Twice named 'Best Temperate Island in the World' by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons. In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.
Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney. Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.
Hobart, population 195,800, nestles at the foot of Mt Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania. Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.
Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites. In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff, Frenchman’s Cap and Tasmania's highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.
Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to large areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago. Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Kings lomatia, commonly known as King's holly, is a self-cloning shrub that is probably the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.
Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil in the wild and is the best place to see the eastern quoll (or native cat) and the spotted-tail quoll (tiger cat). The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia's largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.
History and Heritage
Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 30,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait. Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania's predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.
Tasmania was originally named Van Diemans Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.
A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology. Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world's biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems for the shipping industry and innovative inflatable clothing for commercial and recreational water activities. The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.
Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging. Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take internet orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber. The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, award-winning cool-climate wines, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.
Getting to Tasmania
Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.