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Tasmania: An affair of the heart

A small sction of the Painted Cliffs rock formation at Maria Island National Park.

Article and photos by Joe Gschwendtner; courtesy map

Among the world’s most remote and enticing places, Tasmania vies for my blue ribbon. Time will stand still for you in “Tassie”…

Getting there takes some doing. Brace yourself: Denver to California, then to Melbourne or Sydney, and finally to the island itself. West Virginia sized, she is one of six Australian states, 550,000 Aussies strong. Unlike the others, she is green and temperate, a palette of unforgettable outdoor experiences in waiting. Let’s cross her heart and explore her vibrant southeast quarter.

Start your feast in Hobart, state capital on the Derwent River. Architecturally rich, she offers a bevy of attractions and is an urban paradise for pedestrians. Saturday’s Salamanca Market is my favorite, a feast of local vendors lining the streets. Nearby are the wharves, Battery Point, Sullivan’s Cove, and Sandy Bay neighborhoods, eye candy with abundant eateries in seaside settings. Hobart’s airiness overwhelms. Take her full measure from the heights of Mt. Wellington before you leave.

From Hobart southwest via Kingston and Margate, visit Bruny Island. Take the Kettering Ferry and drive south via the Adventure Bay isthmus. Make the Labillardiere Peninsula Circuit on South Bruny your premier bushwalk but only after you have enjoyed the Fluted Cape hike and the numerous sandy beaches in the area. Picnic whenever… You’re also likely to see some rare white kangaroos in the bush! The island has enough adventure to justify a several day stay.

Low tide on Stormy Bay near Hobart.

Depart Bruny via Kettering on a southern loop to Huonville, then Geeveston, to experience the remarkable Tahune Air Walk, a treetop-level air bridge among dense Huon Pines. Like narrow gauge railways? Ride the Ida Bay Line to Deep Hole Bay. Further south on the Huon Highway one discovers each waterside town has its own charm with alluring B&Bs – Dover, Southport, Lune River and on down to Cockle Creek. On Recherche Bay, begin the South Cape Hike that takes one to Tasmania’s wind-whipped rugged southern peninsula, unquestionably one of the world’s great treks!

Duplicate some road travel by moving laterally to the southeast coast to Richmond on the Coal River. One distinctly picturesque town, Richmond offers well-preserved Georgian-style heritage-listed sandstone buildings and parks. Stay a night if your time and budget allow, and you’ll quickly be drawn into yesteryear. Afterward, circle south to the Tasman Peninsula.

Things got started in Tasmania at Port Arthur. In 1830, the English needed a second penal colony for the hard core, those barely having escaped execution. Known as a hell-on-earth by inmates, there is much to absorb in the prison compound (some think it haunted!) and throughout the entire Tasman Peninsula. Of special note are three magnificent hikes: the Tasman Trail starting at Devil’s Kitchen and those to Capes Huay and Raoul.

Traveling northward, is Triabunna. From here, ferry to Maria Island National Park. Roadless, this former probation station is another of Tasmania’s essential stops. Bursting with spectacular hikes and bike trails, one stands out: the Painted Cliffs, impossibly stunning in the morning light. Camping and bunk accommodations are available at the penitentiary should you wish to do time on the island.

Part II to follow next month: Tasmania: points northwest.



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