Natives of Tasmania humorously refer to mainland Australia as ‘North Island’, which aptly reflects their sense of separateness.
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It’s just a short hop across the Southern Ocean from Melbourne to Hobart, whether you choose to fly or sail by ferry, and you can fly direct from Brisbane, Adelaide or Sydney.
Having arrived in Hobart, you’ll find yourself in a time-preserved state capital. Traditional settlers’ homes climb the hills on either side of the bay area, providing a neat contrast to the city’s more modern centre. A must for art lovers is a trip to MONA, with its eclectic collection of paintings and sculptures.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at The Henry Jones Art Hotel – bed & breakfast
Today you will collect your hire car and drive to Lake St Clair at the southern end of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Known to the Aboriginal people as lake Leeawuleena, or ‘sleeping water’, Lake St Clair is believed to be the deepest freshwater lake in Australia. The area surrounding the lake is a hiker’s paradise, with walks that range from easy going strolls to more intense overnight hikes. There are biking trails and fishing spots to explore, and you can even hire a float plane for a breathtaking birds-eye-view of the lake and its surroundings.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Pumphouse Point – bed & breakfast
Drive off along the west coast to Strahan, but be prepared to stop often. The landscape changes around you as you drive and you’ll want to take plenty of photographs – of the wild coast lapped by the Southern Ocean, of the wind-swept lunar-like terrain around the copper mining community of Queenstown and of the lush vegetation. At Strahan, you’ll find yourself on the edge of a deep and ancient forest featuring immensely old Huon pines. On your second day in Strahan, you’ll take a cruise along the Gordon Franklin Rivers National Park, marvelling at the scenery and stopping off at Sarah Island – once the setting for one of Australia’s harshest penal settlements.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Franklin Manor – bed & breakfast
Now it’s time to drive into Lake St Clair National Park; a World Heritage Site featuring towering peaks, sweeping plains and lakes so still they mirror the dark forest that stands silently at their edges. You’ll be surrounded by a living museum of wildlife, birds, flora and huge trees, and you can take the opportunity to walk in the wilderness, along a section of the Cradle Mountain Trail. Or go canoeing, rafting or fly-fishing in crystal-clear streams.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Cradle Mountain Lodge – bed & breakfast
Launceston is a quaint, quiet, quintessentially Tasmanian town with a charming waterfront, wide streets and original, homestead-type houses. You’ll be staying in a converted 19th-century manor house just 20 minutes away, close to the historic township of Hagley. Outside the town life is much wilder; a 4×4 tour of the island’s remote northeastern corner will bring you into contact with wallabies, possums, wombats, quoll and bandicoot. And, if you’re very lucky, even the endangered Tasmanian devil. Do not attempt to stoke one of those little devils!
Stay: One night in a double room at Quamby Estate – bed & breakfast
Point the car southeast and drive towards the Freycinet Peninsula contained within the incredibly scenic Freycinet National Park. Here the bush gives way to pink granite peaks, white beaches and blue seas. Take a walk on the sands at Wine Glass Bay and you’ll have a real Robinson Crusoe moment if you happen upon any other footprints. You’ll also take 4×4 safaris, night trips to see Tassie’s nocturnal animals, guided hikes and walks along a choice of nature trails. You’ll be staying at a luxury resort with spectacular views over Great Oyster Bay and the pink-hued Hazards Mountains beyond.
Stay: Three nights in a double room at Saffire Freycinet – full board and a tailored activity program
Turn south now and you’ll be on course for the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur, one of Australia’s largest and most infamous convict settlements. Many of the original buildings remain in perfect condition, including some of the punishment cells, chapel, barracks and cottages. Interestingly, the settlement had no actual outer walls – the surrounding countryside was so daunting and the Aborigines so fierce that most convicts preferred to remain within the settlement.
Stay: One night in a double room at Stewarts Bay Lodge – bed & breakfast
Return to Hobart – it’s an hour’s drive from Port Arthur – for your flight back to the mainland. From there you will board your international flight back to London.