Cool weather, snow-topped mountains, wild beaches, untamed forests, small cities, wonderful people.
I’m a Melbourne girl. I was born here, grew up here and now live my adult life on the outskirts of this beautiful city. But Tasmania is my second home, the place I spent every childhood holiday. My parents were both raised in Tassie and many of my relatives on my mother’s side of the family live there.
My siblings and I spent many a holiday running around Nanna and Grandad’s Hobart backyard, overlooking the Derwent River and dwarfed by the shadow of Mount Wellington. As we grew older, we would walk to the city centre and meet up with our cousins for some shopping and sightseeing. Other days we would all climb into Grandad’s car and head out for daytrips – to the old town of Richmond, Port Arthur or the beach.
We were introduced to our family history by visiting places like the Cadbury factory, where my paternal grandfather once worked, and the surrounding estates where my father grew up. Sometimes we would drive further out and see some of the towns our mother grew up in, having moved around a lot in her childhood.
So, when my now-husband and I took our first holiday together in 2000, we dismissed the warmer climates and tropical destinations and opted to travel to Tasmania. I wanted to introduce him to my second home. And I also wanted to see more of the state myself, having only really seen around the Hobart area.
Many people questioned this decision. Some were perhaps quite right in doing so, as we decided to go in the middle of winter, but others frustrated me by asking what on earth we would do in Tasmania for two weeks. I can tell you now, there is so much to see and do in that one small state.
Steve and I, being on a tight budget, borrowed his parents’ campervan – an old, Smurf blue, pop-top Nissan Urvan that chugged along with such effort even on flat, straight roads that we questioned its ability. But it was the cheapest, easiest option, so we persisted. I rang a few campsites we were planning to stop at, but was laughed at down the phone – ‘No need to book this time of year, love,’ they said. ‘It’ll be you and the wallabies!’ Okay, maybe Tasmania in the middle of winter wasn’t the best idea.
Still, we went ahead.
From the ship’s dock in Devonport, we headed south-west to Cradle Mountain, a place we loved so much we went back a few years later to hike the Overland Track (ninety stunning kilometres from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair).
Then we headed down the west coast, an area of such raw beauty that it takes your breath away – and I mean that literally. Strahan and a tour along the Gordon River was the highlight of the entire trip, a spot claiming to have the freshest air in the world (there’s nothing west until South America) and most definitely the purest, mirror-like water I have ever seen. Ancient huon pine trees, world heritage land and landmarks from convict days added to the amazement of this special part of the world.
Next on the itinerary was a town just forty kilometres from Strahan: Queenstown. An old copper mining town, Queenstown is somewhat reminiscent of how one would imagine Mars: red dirt and rocks as far as the eye can see, with not a tree or shred of greenery. This is an interesting sight in itself, yet the contrast to the nearby town of Strahan with its richly lush environment is staggering.
From there we had hoped to reach the Mt. Field National Park by night, but we were unprepared for the windy, narrow roads down the west coast. Coupled with an old campervan that was slipping and sliding across the icy surface, it became a situation we had to rethink, finding ourselves instead at a tiny fishing village in the centre of Tasmania. We headed to the National Park the next morning and from there, hit Hobart.
Staying with family, we enjoyed a few days of relative luxury: a warm shower, Nanna’s home-cooked meals and a break from driving, except for a couple of day trips.
And then we continued. Past the halfway mark now, we headed north along the east coast, stopping for a walk to the famous Wineglass Bay with its untouched beaches and bluest of blue waters, wishing desperately that we had come in warmer weather so we could jump in for a swim.
Over to Launceston and then back to the ship at Devonport, and our tour around the state was over.
At least, until the next time.
And to those who doubted our decision to visit Tasmania? The weather, luckily for us, was better than we could have even hoped: it was cold, undoubtedly, but the sky was blue, the winter sun shining and not a patch of snow was to be seen. I was also happy to inform people that, despite our hurried state of travel, we barely touched the surface of all there is to see in this small jewel of a state in two weeks.
It would take more than a lifetime to do that.