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Tasmania’s Stories

Swim star explores Tassie delights

Edition 194_SusieONeill

As the Commonwealth Games drew to a close, swimming great – Susie O’Neill – was exploring Tasmania but she still kept a close eye on the action especially on teen sensation, Ariarne Titmus.

Susie O’Neill, AKA ‘Madam Butterfly’, is one of Australia’s most decorated swimmers winning eight Olympic medals, including two golds, over three games: 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney.

We caught up with Susie as she played tourist on a perfect Tasmanian day, and not long after her starring role in the Gold Coast games opening ceremony where she jumped out of a Kombi Van holding the Queen’s Baton.

“That was a big honour because the Commonwealth Games is very special to me,” Susie explained.

“It was the 1982 Commonwealth Games in my home-town Brisbane that actually inspired my swimming career. I was nine years old at the time and my teacher got us to do a project on the Games, and I remember cutting out all the articles in the newspapers.

“The whole thing was really exciting.

“So, it is unbelievable that I was still part of the Commonwealth Games and involved in the opening ceremony after all those years.”

In fact, it was shortly after the Games opening that Susie headed south for a week’s holiday in Tasmania with a group of family and friends, including surgeon husband Cliff Fairley, and children Alix (13) and Bill (12).

“I visited Tasmania in the 90’s for various swimming championships, but I didn't get to see anything other than pools,” Susie said.

“This is the first time I have been here as a tourist, and it is fantastic.”

“I just didn’t realise how beautiful Tasmania is. It is like being in a different country especially with all the amazing historic architecture.”

We joined Susie’s group one morning in Hobart and headed out for a day on the water with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys for a ‘Seafood Seduction’ cruise to Bruny Island.

It was one of those stunning autumn days – sunny and still – that Tasmania does so well, and a pod of bottlenose dolphins escorted us down the Derwent River as we motored towards Bruny.

On arrival, the boat anchored in a secluded cove where a seafood feast of local produce was spread out: plump Bruny Island oysters, melt-in-your-mouth salmon, local cheeses and berries, all washed down with Tasmanian wine and beer.

There were also sea urchins, plucked fresh from the water by skipper Kate Wilson.

“It was such an amazing thing with Kate diving off the boat and collecting about six or eight sea urchins for our lunch in just a matter of minutes,” Susie said.

“That was definitely one of the highlights.”

There were also other delights sampled by Susie and her group during their week-long stay in Tasmania, including MONASalamanca Markets and the Huon Valley.

They also did a four-day hike on the Three Capes Track, on the Tasman Peninsula, which is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the great walks.

As the forty-four-year old explained: “We love activity-based holidays and could not have been more impressed with the track. The views were breathtaking, and it is very family friendly.”

The huts along the way – complete with fully equipped kitchens – also scored a big tick.

“It meant we didn’t have to carry all those heavy pots and pans and things to cook with,” she said.

“You could just turn up after a day’s trek, have a fantastic meal and enjoy a red wine with a view.”

The wine may have been flowing and the views distracting, but Susie still managed to keep close watch on all the Commonwealth Games action.

She praised Tasmania as punching ‘well above its weight’. Its athletes eventually bringing home a haul of 16 medals, including 10 gold and two team gold.

However, it was Tassie teen sensation, Ariarne Titmus, that really caught the attention of the swimming great.

Susie said swimming-dynamo Ariarne, who won three gold medals in the 400m, 800m and 4 x 200m freestyle, and silver in the 200m freestyle, has the potential to go all the way to the top.

“Ariarne is perfectly positioned to win a medal at the next Olympics in Tokyo in two years’ time.

“She is a wonder.”

Image courtesy of Rob Heazlewood

View our video of Susie O’Neill’s trip to Bruny Island with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys:

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Watch video on YouTube

8 May 2018, Edition 194

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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.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to 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 the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


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.

Annual Rainfall

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

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.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount 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.

Capital City

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.

Land Formation

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.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff 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 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. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be 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 or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


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 35,000 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.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s 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 and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


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 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, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. 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.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

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.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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