Originally developed as a penal colony by the British, Tasmania is an island of breath-taking beauty that is slightly bigger than Switzerland. It boasts 19 national parks, pristine beaches, cliffs, caves, unique wildlife and 24 mountain ranges. Indeed, the wilderness area of Tasmania has been classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts, but it has immense historic charm and, is somewhat of a foodie paradise. Launceston, Tasmania is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. There are less than 50 cities in the world carrying that distinction. If some charm, some stunning scenery and some great food appeals to you — GetAway Travel can get you to Tasmania.
History, culture and critters
Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and where much of the population is located. It is the second deepest port in the world and it has a charming waterfront as well as a great food and wine scene with an emphasis on farm-to-table.
Port Arthur is a little more than an hour from Hobart. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built in 1830 as a timber station and penal settlement. About 3,500 convicts were housed on the 250 acres. Historians contend Port Arthur, on Cameron Bay, is one of Australia’s most well-preserved landmarks.
There are more than 30 historic buildings on the site which can be reached by ferry, car, bus or taxi. You can even take an evening ghost tour along the coast.
About a half hour from Hobart is the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. A 24-hour facility that treats and rehabs injured or orphaned wildlife with the intent of returning them to their natural habitats, it is a temporary home to some of the most unique wildlife in the world. At any given time it is a temporary home to wombats, Tasmanian devils, quoll (a cat-like marsupial with short legs and a white-spotted coat), koalas and emus. Stroll the grounds, which mimic the animals’ natural habitats. Get another taste of the outdoors at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. It’s an outdoor oasis of multiple gardens spread over 34 acres. There’s a conservatory, lily pond and regional gardens including a subantarctic plant house that replicates the cold, wet conditions f the subantarctic islands.
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is a museum, art gallery and herbarium that holds artifacts that are important to the natural and cultural aspects of the country. The more than 100,000 items are the bulk of the State Collections of Tasmania. It has some fabulous displays on the history of seafaring and whaling and interactive child-friendly exhibits.
The Museum of New and Old Art or MONA, looks like it would be just one floor, but there are three more levels underground. It was started as a small museum of antiquities by David Walsh. Now, in addition to the collections, there are art exhibitions, live music, food, wine, bars, restaurants, a library, recording studio and tennis court — almost all entirely underground.
The art pieces range from the remarkable to the ridiculous.
Looking for a great shopping experience? Every Saturday the Salamanca Market is open. The more than 300 vendors sell handcrafted woodwork items, jewelry, ceramics, glassware, souvenirs and tasty items like fish and chips and scallop pie.
Cascade Brewery, with Mt. Wellington in the distance, is the oldest continuously operating brewery in the country. It still makes award-winning ales, stouts and bitters.
Devils, glorious food and spirits
Cradle Mountain is a stop on your way from Hobart to Launceston and you can visit the Cradle Tasmanian devil sanctuary. Tasmanian devils are nothing like the crazed cartoon character that tries to catch Bugs Bunny. They are shy, nocturnal carnivores about the size of a small dog, but definitely not cuddly. They do have a voracious appetite and the strongest biting force of any mammal their size on earth. Their jaws are extendable and can bite through metal and most farming fences.
Marsupials, they carry their babies in pouches and use scent glands to mark their territories.
The Cradle Mountain sanctuary is a breeding and conservation facility for the Tasmanian devil, spotted-tail quoll and the Eastern quoll.
Cataract Gorge is Launceston’s biggest tourist attraction. It is home to the world’s largest single-span chairlift and the gorge has fabulous panoramic views as well as walking trails, wandering peacocks and other natural wildlife, gardens including a Victorian garden, a tearoom, restaurant and cafe.
Queen Victoria Museum has natural science and history collections as well as a planetarium and just across the river is the Art Gallery with contemporary and traditional art and art pieces.
But let’s talk food and drink, after all, Launceston is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
The country is small enough that visitors can take advantage of great food and drink options throughout the country.
Enjoy craft brews of cider, single-malt whiskey, small batch gin or vodka. Most distilleries offer guided tours — try ships whey vodka, gin flavored with sloe berries or lavender rye. The “very Scottish weather” is not only great for whiskey, but also for blended spirits of apple, pear and cherry as well as some fabulous Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. The Pipers River region near Launceston produces superior quality sparkling beverages.
Many of the vineyards have their own restaurants which take full advantage of crayfish, abalone, asparagus, mushrooms, fish, scallops and octopus which can be sourced nearby. Take the bay tour and stop off at Freycinet Marine Farm and they will let you put on a pair of waders and shuck oysters taken directly from the bay. Visit a truffle farm and go out with the truffle-scenting dogs and find your own treasures. The gin distilleries offer classes where you can learn the intricacies of making gin and mixing in some exotic botanicals.
Check out our previous blog on wine tasting around Hobart – located here