TASMANIA IS AUSTRALIA’S only island state and lies around 150 miles south of the mainland continent. Although its tagline “A World Apart, Not A World Away” may not ring true for us North American residents, I can attest to the fact that there is something special about the place.
Over my two weeks there, I became accustomed to its tumultuous springtime weather, but as much as the temperature dropped, it was no match for the warmth I was greeted with by the people I met along my journey across Tasmania. Time and again, I was confronted with impeccable hospitality and genuine curiosity from the Tasmanians who wanted to know what this Yank was doing in Tassie and how he was finding his time on their island.
And what I did find was a lot more than I expected. Here are 21 sides of Tasmania worth showcasing.
Hobart is the capital of Tasmania, Australia's second oldest city and as it was described to me, a country city. It may be the biggest place in Tassie, but it's still got a small town feel where you can be downtown one minute and in a forest on a bush walk the next.
When I hear someone use the phrase "island time," I conjure a vision of a person sipping on a "mai-tai" as they watch the sun dip below the horizon on a tropical beach. Hobart might not be that exact tropical place, but the mentality of island time still exists in its inhabitants. I experienced it over and over while in Tasmania - the people have a "what's the rush" kind of vibe. "Take your time mate, we'll get there."
The Bay of Fires gets its name from a French explorer who saw fires on the beaches lit by the Aborigines back in the 1700s when it was first discovered by Westerners. But the name can easily be confused with the color of its rocks, which have an orangish glow around them and really make a surreal scene against the backdrop of these beautiful white sand beaches.
Since Lonely Planet named it one of the world's best beaches, foot traffic has slightly increased, but let's be honest...in Tasmania, you're only a short walk away from having a natural masterpiece all to yourself.
Cascade Brewery is Australia's oldest and one of its most unique breweries in terms of how it utilizes local maltings and stream water. As anyone in my position would do, I had to sample the entire production line of Cascade beers just to ensure the fact that it was as fresh as it claimed to be.
As I made my way through the fog towards the top of Mt. Wellington, which sits above Hobart, I admired the countless number of cyclists I kept passing by. I soon found out I was driving in the middle of the first leg of the "Tour of Tasmania," the annual premier international cycle race of the island.
There is an abundance of adventure sports in Tasmania - everywhere you turn, there is a trail to be hiked or a river to be kayaked.
150 miles south of mainland Australia, the island state of Tasmania, population 507,626, was the founding place of the world’s first environmental party, which makes sense given that this is one of the cleanest places on Earth. Nearly 45% of Tasmania lies in reserves and national parks, and the southwest is pure wilderness, home to some of the last temperate rain forests in the Southern Hemisphere. The endangered Tasmanian devil—unique to the island—is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, with jaws strong enough to crush bones, and a particularly ferocious feeding method that ends with the animals falling into a food coma.
Photo: Scott Sporleder
The Museum of Old and New Art is all the product of David Walsh's vision, a man who amassed his fortune in gambling and spent over 150 million dollars on the construction of the museum. It houses another 100 million dollars' worth of his privately owned art. Pieces range from Egyptian antiquities to the art installation "Cunts... and other Conversations" made up of 150 life-size porcelain portrait sculptures of women's vaginas (see above).
In a day of budget cuts and economic doom and gloom, it was refreshing to be in a place where no expense was spared in the creation of the entity which is the MONA . Everything was done right, from the building, the art, the on-site brewery and vineyard, all the way down to the bathrooms. Take a look at the art piece "Locus Focus" if you get a chance - interesting to say the least. The entire MONA experience is a piece of art.
The Port Arthur penal colony was set up as a secondary offender site. It was where the bad of the bad were sent and today is Australia's best preserved convict site. Walk amongst the structures which once housed prisoners sentenced to punishment in Van Diemen's land...there's also a ghost tour if you're into that.
Not a sign you see too often. There's rich wildlife in Tasmania, with various endemic species. Although they are completely wild, animals such as the penguin and wombat look like stuffed animals that you want to pet - don't. Here, you see Kyle, manager of a wildlife sanctuary, holding a wombat that's being nursed back to health after being hit by a car.
Ranked as the 41st best golf course in the world, Barnbougle Dunes is Tasmania's answer to St. Andrews without the old world stuffiness.
As I drove around the grounds with the course owner Richard Sattler, he told me about the history of Barnbougle and the quest to remove the strict formalities that preside around golf and return to the days of golf being fun, which is one of the reasons that both the courses remain open to the public.
Central Tasmania looks a bit like a setting from a nursery rhyme. With its button grass and sleepy creeks carving their way through the landscape, I constantly thought to myself that around every bend I turned I was going to see the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.
Cradle Mountain is Tasmania's best known National Park. With its many bush walks, it's a great place to spend a weekend. As I drove up the narrow strip of bitumen on Dove Lake Road, the park's only vehicle access route, I felt like I was driving up the valley floor of Yosemite. It's as if Cradle Mountain was its smaller, more manageable sibling. Granted, I didn't do the six-day overland trek from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Claire, so the "manageable" size I speak of is merely the area which can be accessed by vehicle.
White sand beaches and crystal clear water front the coast of Wineglass Bay and Freycinet National Park. I faced a bit of rain during my time at Freycinet, but it didn't detract much from this scene.
There was a surreal feeling surrounding Liffey Falls, with fern trees poking up and moss-covered logs looking like a scene out of "Lord of the Rings." I was freezing on this trip but was rewarded with absolute solitude. Not another soul in the park, chirping birds and the crashing sound of thousands of gallons of fresh water were my only company. Kind of a common occurence in Tasmania.
Sheep outnumber people in Tasmania 8 to 1 - with its temperate climate and vast amount of land, it's a perfect place for agriculture and produce. As I made my way around the island, I always had a little laugh when I saw these guys with so much wool, sometimes covering their entire face.
The constant battering of the sea against areas like Cape Pillar have left nearly 300-meter-high cliffs that are super dramatic. It reminded me of a scene out of "Jurassic Park," the kind of coastline that only a set designer could dream up.
Don't mess with Stanley when it comes to "The Australian Tidy Town Awards." It has taken home the title on several occasions. Many a town in Tasmania has an Olde England feel, yet they have their own specific spin on things, such as this Victorian home in Launceston.
Not sure if these images really need further description... With its temperate climate, fertile soil, green pastures, and fresh water, Tasmania produces world-class wine and cheese.
The small town of Wynyard, on Tasmania's northern coast, is home to the annual Tulip Festival, which lasts a few weeks every October. The flowers come in every color imaginable.
Here on the southern coast you can see dolphins, like the ones that accompanied us for a good portion of our Tasman Island cruise...along with Australian fur seals, countless species of birds, and for our lucky captain Ben, a humpback whale - he spotted it but it dove before the rest of us could see.
With food being organically grown on local farms, you can find the freshest ingredients pretty much everywhere in Tasmania. This picture is from a degustation meal that I had at the Stillwater Cafe Restaurant in Launceston, a carefully prepared meal that consisted of over eight small plates accompanied by matching glasses of wine. A meal that I won't soon forget.
Tapping into Tasmania's abundance of natural resources, distillers have been taking advantage of what the island has to offer for well over a century. Its rich peat produces whiskey rivaling the best of Scotland. After a few samples at the Lark Distillery, my photography took on a new "artistic look" for the remainder of the evening.