It’s your first trip to Tassie. You’ve been there a week. What are your first impressions?
For a state that is less than half the size of the North Island, Tassie punches well above its weight with an absurd abundance of world-class attractions and knock-out scenery. So much of Tasmania’s history is tinged with tragedy and melancholy.From the genocide of Tasmanian Aborigines, and the brutality of the penal settlements, to the massacre of tourists at Port Arthur and the recent life and death drama at the Beaconsfield Mine. Tasmania seems to attract drama. It is an amazing place to visit, wildly popular with the outdoorsy-types, and the locals are unfailingly friendly, helpful and down to earth.
Let’s look-out at your stand-out spots. What about Launceston? Yep, here we go, the beginners guide to Tassie’s top spots. Starting with Lonny, as the locals call it, is the northern gateway. And this pocket-sized town has a swag of historic buildings, a fantastic new waterfront precinct and the top drawer, Cataract Gorge, which is a spectacular natural feature just minutes from the heart of town. An hour from Lonny, explore the fabulous cool-climate wines of the Tamar Valley and you can visit the Beaconsfield Mine.
Is the Beaconsfield Mine Centre worth a look?
It’s a great stop, with lots of heritage exhibits from gold-mining’s hey-day. But what I enjoyed the most is the superb display about the 2006 rescue, including the 2 kilometre long scarf, knitted by the community as a good-luck charm for the trapped miners.
What makes Cradle Mountain so spectacular?
This beautifully shaped mountain, which curves like the slither of a new moon, is Tasmania’s iconic landmark. Nestled below the mountain is Dove Lake, with sublime reflections of the mountain in the water. A bit like Lake Matheson’s mirror magic. It is a ravishing setting and the ancient rainforest is primed with terrific bushwalks and a bucket load of wildlife. I have never seen so many wombats in my life.
Tell us about the Bay of Fires. Stretching along the East Coast, there a dozens and dozens of drop-dead-gorgeous beaches, with powdered white sand, crystal-clear water and a scattering of big gnarly, red granite boulders, tossed around the shoreline. The pick of the bunch in my book, is Binalong Bay, which is one of the most spectacular beaches I have ever seen, anywhere in the world.
You highly recommend Wineglass Bay. Yes, further down the East Coast, in the Freycinet National Park, Wineglass Bay is a perfectly formed semi-circular bay. Very remote. Very romantic. And the bay is home to lots of playful, splashy dolphins . Well worth seeing.
What are the top sights in Hobart?
Soak up the arty and foodie charms of the colourful Salamanca Markets, check out the seafood restaurants in the atmospheric old waterfront precinct, tour Australia’s oldest operating brewery, Cascade, which has been producing premium lager since 1824. Size up the panoramas of this harbour city from the Mount Wellington lookout. And yes, Hobart is as hilly as Wellington. Plus, explore the haunting heritage at one of Australia’s oldest convict settlements, Port Arthur.
What’s the best/ easiest way to get to Tassie?
Virgin Australia has great-value, easy connections for Kiwis from Auckland or Christchurch to Launceston and Hobart via Sydney and Melbourne. And I strongly recommend hiring a rental car and self-driving your way around Tassie. The roads can be narrow and twisting, it’s a bit like driving in the North Island, but it’s the best way to maximise your time in Tassie. A thoroughly enjoyable, enriching holiday destination.
( As discussed on Mike’s travel slot, on Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame Saturday Morning Show. March 9.)