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                                                Tasmania: Australia's Holiday Isle        
 

 

 

 

 

 


Some salt water kayakers even venture to the
Tazman Blowhole on the rugged coast

 


Hobart's romatic harbor

 

 

 

Not to be missed is the Antartica Exhibit where you
experience actually being in the sub-zero weather.

 

A comfy parlor in our Bed and Breakfast, the Lodge on
Elizabeth

 

 


Yummy Australian breakfast

 

 

 

The Heritage Highway runs from Hobart to Launceston
 

Staff at Woofies' Restauiant in Launceston


Australian mushrooms accent almost  any meal.


Remembrance of the the famous meeting


Cataract Gorge: Alexandra Suspension Bridge

Visitors savor wines from Beam Creek Vineyard during
the Taste of Tasmania Festival

 


Woolmers' Estate: A historial site and museum
 

Elegant  gate to  Woolers' pastures
 


Tom's takes a break from photography to interact with
"Clancy," at the Talune Wildlife Park.


Pirates Bay

We rented equipment from the Eaglehawk Dive Center for a
chance in a lifetime to se Cathedral Cave.


Busmmill Railway has a 15 inch miniature system that is
taunted as the world's steepest.

 

 

A real Tasmanian Devil we admired at the Tasmanian Devil
Park on the Road to Port Arthur.

 

 

 

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White water of the Franklin River (Class IV)

Just try to say  “Tasmania” without the whirling image of the infamous Looney Tunes
character “Taz” buzzing across your mind!  This hair-brained creature of the silver
screen we all know and love can claim responsibility for our zany American impression
of this mysterious South Sea island.  Yet this enigmatic Australian state, situated 125
miles off the southeast mainland, is truly a Mecca for the serious minded outdoor sports
enthusiast. Adventure seekers from all over the world chose this getaway for the
incomparable white water rafting, rock climbing, abseiling, caving, salt water kayaking
and a myriad of other leisure pleasures found only in this pristine natural wilderness.


Hobart's Main Marina

Minutes by air from either Sydney or Melbourne, Tasmania’s gateway city is the bustling
seaport of Hobart.  Stretching from the mouth of the Derwent River on the Southern
Ocean to the verdant foothills of Mt. Wellington, Hobart has retained all the picturesque
charm of its early days when hundreds of windjammers and tall
ships graced its
deep-water harbor. No measures have been spared in preserving its distinctive
architectural heritage.  The Theatre Royal, Australia’s oldest theater, retains its original
opulent splendor.  The National Trust maintains another eighty-nine historical landmarks,
all within Hobart’s city limits.  The part of town called Battery Point has hundreds of
gingerbread cottages and stately Georgian mansions, seemingly keeping a watchful
eye over the harbor.

City view from Brooke Street

Salamanca Place, famous for its regular Saturday Market, is an entire esplanade faced
with 19th century maritime warehouses.  These sandstone structures contain a
mesmerizing mix of specialty shops, boutiques and restaurants. It’s the perfect setting
for street performers, mimes, buskers and sidewalk painters that faithfully converge here
every day.  At 39 Salamanca Place you can dine at Hobart’s finest restaurant, Syrup. 
Open from 6 P.M. until 1 P.M. the menu includes smoked trout, pan fried oysters,
creamy pink-eye potatoes, steamed asparagus and smooth tasting cheeses.

For the thrill of a lifetime, check out the jet boat rides starting near the Franklin Wharf.
Twice daily these demons of speed leave from Hobart’s commercial harbor and then
zoom inanely up the poplar-lined Derwent River estuary.  Highly trained, daredevil pilots
put these sleek speedboats through an impossible sequence of aquatic acrobatics,
guaranteed to make your knuckles white and your sides split from laughter. 

As enchanting as Hobart might be, landing here is just the first step toward the
enticements awaiting you.  Not to worry if you don’t have a definite itinerary when
you arrive. Any one of several  travel agents in Hobart or elsewhere on the island
can individualize a schedule of activities for you.  In fact, the tour operators here are
highly organized and all have tailored their services specifically for the overseas traveler. 
Any equipment you might need, from backpacks to pick axes, are all ready and set to go. 
Many packages “dovetail,” so you can effortlessly mix and match your excursions, like fly,
cycle and raft.  Furthermore trips are graded by difficulty and physical requirements,
so you set your own pace.

I chose to start our vacation with a three-day wilderness bush walk through
Tasmania’s south coast region.  A spectacular flight from Hobart lands us at
the small Melaleuca airstrip along a deserted, windswept beach. Together
with seven other jubilant hikers we get outfitted with our backpacks.  The trail
meanders through a World Heritage area resplendent with fragrant Eucalyptus
forests, sheer cliffs, craggy granite mountains and foreboding hidden coves.
Awesome bush walks are in each of Tasmania’s fourteen national parks.  Favored
destinations for trekking include the Freycinet, Narawntapu, Mt.William, Walls of
Jerusalem and Cradle Mountain National Parks. 

Ocean view from roadside along Eaglehawk Neck

 

I return back to Hobart and rent a car for the remaining eleven days of our stay. 
Triangular in shape, Tasmania is 175mile long and 189 miles across, about the
 same land area as West Virginia.  The road conditions are excellent and directions
for the motorist are clearly marked.  Tasmania has mild maritime climate year round
(70 degrees in summer and 50 degrees in winter) and it rains a little more than two
inches each month. Driving is easy, but you do need to exercise caution at night. 
Wildlife is as unwary as it is abundant.

Tasmania has ample first class hotels, fashionable resorts, convenient motels and
comfortable hostels.  But there’s also a company operating here and throughout
Australia called Q-Beds.  This referral service lets you enjoy accommodations in a
private home.  It’s a great way to get a glimpse of local life and to jumpstart your
opportunities for meeting “friendly natives.”

Set with wheels, Tom and I zip up the island’s Midland Highway for the four-hour
drive to the north coast.  The “base camp” for our exploration of the area will be
Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city with 70,000 residents.  A powerful
preservation movement has succeeded in sustaining Launceston’s turn of the
century ambiance and old world charm.  Graceful Victorian era buildings with their
intricate designs of brick and granite line every street.  A portion of Brisbane Street
in the business district has been designated a pedestrian only mall.  Strolling here,
you feel like you’ve slipped backward to 1910.  A peep at the electronic gadgets and
gizmos in a store window, however, will quickly restore your sense of time.

Tom and I choose our sleeping quarters in the nostalgic Batman-Fawkner Inn. 
It was in this drafty, old boarding house in 1835 that John Batman (no relation
to the cartoon character) and his cigar-chomping entourage of founding fathers
wrangled out a set of designs for Australia’s second mainland city, Melbourne,
as well as for the exploration of the unconquered Outback.

 

First on our agenda is a full day of white water rafting through the Cataract
George Reserve.  Our travel agent in Hobart hooked us up for this outdoor caper
with two other guys and a newly-wed couple.  Instant friends, we’re soon facing
the category three rapids that swirl down this narrow canyon, its imposing volcanic
walls seemingly hovering over us.  All of us are thankful we passed on the
challenges of Tasmania’s world acclaimed descents through the Franklin-Gordon
Wild Rivers National Park.  Those runs have exclusively grade four and five rapids,
with grueling expeditions lasting six to ten days. 

Our next morning we take the forty minute drive west of Launceston through the
drowsy village of Deloraine to the entrance to the Mole Creek Karst National Park. 
The park’s highlights are two spectacular limestone caverns: the King Solomon with
its glistening, crystallized stalactites and the Marakoopa, with its gurgling underground
streams and star-like canopy of florescent glow-worms. The guided tours of each
of these natural wonders requires about forty-five minutes, so you can experience both
in a single visit.  The treacherous, deadly vaults of Kubla Kahn and Croesus are only
accessible by permit.

Just a few more miles west starts the spectacular trek in the Cradle Mountain National
Park.  The world famous Overland Trail twists around the azure blue waters of Lake
St. Clair to the spiky summit of Cradle Mountain.  This primordial landscape supports an
abundance of wildlife including falcons, eagles, wombats and wallabies as well as a
proliferation of vibrant wildflowers.

Forty five miles east of Launceston is the Ben Lomond National Park.   Situated on a
commanding plateau some 4000 feet in height, Ben Lomond is Tasmania’s favorite winter
sports area offering the best-developed ski fields in Tasmania.  Downhill and cross-country
skiing as well as tobogganing and snowboarding are ever popular. Winter season lasts
from July until September (remember we’re in the Southern Hemisphere).   In summer the
precipitous cliffs in the park are a magnet for experienced rock climbers.  Tasmania’s
other climbing areas include Adamsfield, Hillwood, the Organ Pipes and Frenchman’s Cap.

Launceston itself is centered in Tamar Valley, the heart of Tasmania’s wine producing area.  
Brightly colored signs mark the Northern Wine Route, directing you through a patchwork of
vineyards, farmlands and rolling hills.  Visitors in summer and autumn enjoy wine tasting of
the region’s award winning pinots, chardonnays and Rieslings.  Vintners take turns in
sponsoring weekend music festivals.  Because of the purity of the air, water and land, the
valley is acclaimed for its organic products such as honeys, gourmet fruits, handmade
jams and distinctive cheeses.  

Heading south from Launceston, Tom and I follow Tasmania’s beloved Heritage
Highway, which meanders through the sleepy villages and Colonial towns of the
island’s heartland.  The shops and homes, all constructed from gold hued sandstone,
remain virtually unchanged for past 160 years.  The yeasty aromas of crusty
Beaconsfield breads drift through the tree-lined streets.  

As we press forward, we discover the Tasmanian National Trust has opened many
mansions, homesteads and historical sites to the public. A dark fascination for me i
s the Trust’s Richmond Gaol, Australia’s oldest jailhouse standing in its original condition. 
 Built in 1825, this austere structure with all its creaky planking and dimly lit cells
incarcerated gangs of Australia’s most demonic convicts, some headed for the gallows
awaiting in Hobart.  One of the notorious inmates was the London swindler, Izzy Solomons. 
Legend has it he was the inspiration for the character of Fagin in Charles Dickens’
“Oliver Twist.”  I confess a collection of creepy metal contraptions (trust me, you
don’t want to know) gave me a near lethal case of goose bumps and forced my premature
departure back into town. 

 We continue with a short walk to the magnificent Richmond Bridge,
crafted by more congenial convicts in 1823.

One of our more humorous discoveries along the route is Woolmers Estate, an expansive
sheep ranch started in 1815 with a land grant from the King of England.   Overlooking the
tranquil Macquarie River, the Main House remained a modest, single story structure until
1958. The last son of the Archer family, however, then commissioned a Gargantuous
neoclassical addition, cramming it with the finest of European furniture and works of art. 
Royalty such as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Lady Diana have all made their
way to this “jewel of the island.”  When he died without any heirs, he created a foundation
bearing his name and bequeathed his beloved Woolmers to the people of Tasmania.

As the Heritage Highway ends we veer toward the southeast corner of Tasmania and the
city of Cygnet.  A crunchy gravel road snakes halfway up a hillside checkered by orchards
and farmlands and leads to the Talune Wildlife Park.  Owned by a former science teacher
Mike Jagoe, this nature center allows wallabies, wombats, potaroos, emus, possums and
kangaroos to roam freely.  Unlike any other exhibit in Australia, visitors here can walk
among and actually feed the animals. 

Tasmania’s most visited area is the southeastern territory called the Tasman Peninsula,
named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who was the first European to drop anchor
at the island in 1642. 

You enter the peninsula by crossing a bizarre isthmus called Eaglehawk  Neck, a
sandy stretch of land only a few hundred feet long and thirty feet wide.   It was a
perfect natural barrier against any prisoner trying to escape from the penal colony that was
built here in 1830.  Records show only one felon made an attempt.  He shed his prison
uniform completely, wrapped himself in a Kangaroo skin and hopped awkwardly along the
shoreline.  His masquerade, unconvincing to the humorless guards stationed here, was
less than short lived.

Tom and I drive across the Neck and soon spot tour guides that can arrange the most
phenomenal scuba diving and sea kayaking trips imaginable.  With waters renowned to
be the clearest in the world, the eastern coast of the Tasman Peninsula is nothing less
than breathtaking.  Ferocious surfs have carved contorted rock formations like the Devil’s
Kitchen, Tasman Blowhole and Patterson Arch.   All can be viewed from the Tasman Trail,
a dramatic backpacking path skirting the edges of the highest sea cliffs in the Southern
Hemisphere.

The Peninsula also features the Tasmanian Devil Park where you can see the elusive
critter that Tasmanians have embraced as their feisty mascot.  Just down the road is
the Bush Mill settlement, a working replication of a logging camp that operates the world’s
steepest steam railway.  Tom and I hold on tight as the engine squeaks along a rickety
trestle into the forest of Cypress Pines.

The heart of Tasmania, however, is to be felt amongst the ruins at the Port Arthur Historic
Site.  From1830 to 1877 Port Arthur was the severest penitentiary of the British Empire. 
1,200 convicts and 1000 guards and support staff lived within the complex at any one time. 
 In addition to the 90-minute walking tour of the grounds and buildings, Tom and I linger
in the newly created museum.  The sensitive displays recount compassionately how many
of the prisoners coming from England had committed such minor offenses as stealing a loaf
of bread.  Australians consider this age of imprisonment to be the darkest of chapters in the
continent’s history. You sense that in reaction to the adversities suffered here emerged the
inspired human values and camaraderie that are echoed today in the “G-Day, mate” you
hear so pleasantly throughout Australia.

 

As our two-week vacation draws to an end, I sense that we have discovered for ourselves
this paradise that the Australians have long time called their “Holiday Isle.”  Tasmania is
a unique and special part of the Land Down Under.  One to which we will soon return.