Tasmania is an easily accessed land apart – a place of wild and beautiful landscapes; friendly, welcoming people with a relaxed island lifestyle; a pleasant, temperate climate; wonderful wine, whisky, beer and food; and a haunting history evoked by spectacular convict-era ruins. According to professional travellers who criss-cross the globe in search of excellence, Tasmania has one of the world’s 10 best beaches (Wineglass Bay, US-based Outside magazine), the world’s best little town (Strahan, Chicago Tribune) and has been rated equal third in the world for wise land stewardship by National Geographic Traveler. Cradle Mountain Lodge has been included in a Lonely Planet list of the world’s 10 Most Extraordinary Places to Stay
Historic sites, spectacular landscapes, bustling markets, award-winning restaurants and scenic wineries – almost everywhere you look in Tasmania there’s something special to see, do, taste, hear or smell. This extraordinary place is well served by sea and air links to Australia’s biggest cities, so it is hardly surprising that tourism is a major industry. For the year ending September 2015 just over 1.4 million visitors crossed Bass Strait to the archipelago of 334 islands, an annual increase of 19 per cent.
People planning a visit should be prepared to be surprised. Matthew Bruce reported in The Guardian, London: 'Don’t believe the guidebooks that tell you Tasmania is more English than England. Giant eucalyptus trees tower over creeks where platypus swim, 10ft tree ferns burst from the undergrowth, tiger snakes lurk in the grass and the woods are full of hopping wildlife. At dawn, Tasmania’s temperate rain forests are heady with the scent of lemon, peppermint and myrtle. Branches shower you with fragrant dew as you brush past. This is a long way from England. It’s a long way from anywhere.'
The ancient super-continent, Gondwana, lives on in contemporary Tasmania. Giant cave spiders, tiny galaxias fish and such plants as man-ferns and nothofagus can be linked back to the landmass that started to break into pieces about 360 million years ago. One of the pieces, Tasmania, is a 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 it is the best place to see the eastern quoll (native cat) and the spotted-tail quoll (tiger cat). Small marsupials, like the bettong and the barred bandicoot, have been lost to most of continental Australia but are common in parts of Tasmania. The contemporary wildlife story includes struggles to save such endangered species as the Tasmanian devil, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, the orange-bellied parrot and the swift parrot.
The Tasmanian devil and other native species can be seen in wildlife parks including Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Zoodoo Wildlife Park, Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, Wings Wildlife Park, Tasmania Zoo, Trowunna Wildlife Park and East Coast Natureworld.
Tasmania's native vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to large areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. One Tasmanian eucalypt is the tallest flowering plant on earth. There are many endemic species, including unique native conifers. Slow-growing Huon pines are protected for good reason: one specimen on Mt Read is estimated to be more than 10,000 years old. The world's oldest living land plant, King's lomatia, is a self-cloning shrub discovered in 1937. It has survived in a area of less than a square kilometre for 43,000 years.
If you want to know more about Tasmania’s wildlife and vegetation visit the website of the Department of Primary Industries Parks, Water and Environment.
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was listed for its unique wildlife, ancient plants, breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage. It covers over 1.4 million hectares – about 20 per cent of the main island of Tasmania. It includes the Southwest National Park, the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, the Hartz Mountains National Park, the eastern end of Macquarie Harbour on the west coast and the Central Plateau Conservation Area. These are all places where you will find untouched wilderness – increasingly rare in today's heavily populated world. There are good access roads and good walking tracks; short and long, easy and hard. There are huts and camping areas for visitors on long walks. You'll find that it's easy to get close to lakes, rivers, mountains, high-altitude open plateaus and thick rainforests of unsurpassed beauty. There are many tours of national parks in the World Heritage Area.
Although many Tasmanian native animals are nocturnal, some, especially wallabies, are often out and about in the daytime shade of the forests. If you take a torch out at night you'll see the nocturnal animals such as possums, gliders and owls. Animals, birds and plants that you won't see anywhere else flourish in Tasmania. Nearly half of the State is protected.
When you visit certain places in Tasmania you can feel the history. The imposing ruins at Port Arthur and its nearby Coal Mine are compelling and unsettling. Elsewhere, if you pause, the land will whisper to you about the savagery of the convict era and the merciless conflict between the settlers and the indigenous people. There are buildings in the cities and towns representing each successive phase of colonial history; some continuously used and maintained, others rescued and restored, a few in quiet ruin. Pre-colonial history calls from every empty landscape.
Heritage buildings are most evident in Hobart and Launceston, but there are many fine examples elsewhere. Richmond, Ross, Evandale, Latrobe, Hamilton and Oatlands are particularly noted for their fine collections of historic architecture. In fact, there is hardly a town without its own examples of early timber houses and shops, Georgian, Regency, Federation, Victorian Revival and Italianate 'wedding cake' styles (especially in church and civic buildings and the large houses of the rich). There are fine examples of 1930s houses and cinemas in the 'ocean liner' style.
Port Arthur Historic Site is on the National Heritage List for good reason. It has the finest collection of convict buildings on any site in the nation. The penal station on Maria Island, the Coal Mines on the Tasman Peninsula, the Female Factory at South Hobart and Woolmers Estate in the midlands are also on the National Heritage List. There are significant convict buildings at Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour, at Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula and at Ross in the Midlands. Bridges at Ross and Richmond are outstanding examples of the masonry skills of convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land during the first half of the 19th century.
The National Trust owns nine properties in Tasmania and records information about many more. Guided heritage walks offer opportunities to see and discuss colonial architecture.
Tourism’s total value to the Tasmanian economy grew by $270 million in 2014-15, setting a new record of $2.55 billion – or 9.9 per cent of total Gross State Product. At the same time, tourism jobs grew by 4,500 to 36,700, or 15.3 per cent of total employment.
Facts and figures
- Tasmania has more than 2,000 km (1,250 miles) of walking tracks and 18 national parks.
- The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers 1.48 million hectares. When national and State parks and other reserves are considered, nearly half of the State is set aside for conservation.
- When the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) opened in 2011 it attracted 400,000 visitors in its first year.
- Hobart has the second-lowest rainfall (626 mm or 24 inches) of all Australian capital cities.
- The average summer temperature is a comfortable 21°C (70°F). Winter’s average is 12°C (52° F).
- The Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula exceeded projections with 9,000 bookings in its first nine months after opening in late 2015. The track had been named before it opened as one of the world’s hottest new travel experiences by travel bible Lonely Planet.
- Salamanca Place, Hobart, is home to one of the world’s most picturesque markets. Every Saturday, tourists and locals mingle as they browse through a huge variety of stalls beneath the magnificence of Mount Wellington.
- Two drive-on, drive-off ferries, Spirit of Tasmania I and II, provide daily services each way between Devonport (Tasmania) and Melbourne (Victoria).
- There are more than 500 airline flights per week in and out of the State.
- In the 2015 tourist season, a total of 57 cruise ships brought an estimated 162,000 passengers and crew to the Tasmanian ports of Hobart, Burnie, Port Arthur and Coles Bay, as well as Wineglass Bay.