An Island Called Tassie

If you go to Australia, try your darnedest to get to Tasmania! “Tassie”, as the locals call it, is that little island made famous by the Tasmanian devils, but practically unknown because it is so small and tucked away. Those who travel to Australia rarely make time to visit the southern little island state of Tasmania, but I am here to tell you: if you miss out on Tassie, you miss out on something incredible! It’s the coolest, quirkiest little place, and it’s rugged and charming all at the same time. Whether its for a few days or longer, take a trip to Tassie!

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

I would recommend flying into Hobart. There are two main cities in Tasmania, and there’s a running debate as to which one’s cooler: Hobart or Launceston. I’ll be honest, I really never made it to Launceston except to use their airport as an exit, but I’ll still vote that Hobart is cooler. Hobart is hip! It’s like Melbourne’s island cousin. If you go to Hobart (which you totally should), make sure to target a weekend. The Saturday morning Salamanca Markets are amazing! There are artisans and produce vendors, and all sorts of characters in between. I had my palm nonchalantly read by a candle salesman (“You’re creative and bring happiness to people… You’ve had many travels…”) and I met an incredible travel author named Jamie Maslon, who’s autobiography, “The Long Hitch Home”, served as both a good read and a source of creative inspiration.

Jamie Maslon

Also in Hobart is the MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art. This place is badass. You can get there by car, or by ferry; I’d obviously recommend the ferry, because you get to enjoy breezy views of Hobart via the River Derwent. You also get to ride on bizarre sheeplike statue-benches, because the artsy ferry line is connected to the museum.

Ferry to the MONA

The MONA has both old and new art, with oddities to amaze all. You arrive, and go down deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of exhibits, coming upon a bar and even a movie theater inside. Some of the “new” art consisted of things like water falling from the sky as a reverse fountain, with words being projected on it as it fell. It was a fun challenge to decipher the words before they were gone. There was also a “live exhibit” which consisted of a man with a very tattooed back sitting for long periods of time, looking into the distance, with spectators looking at him from behind. Bizarre.

MONA

Among the “old” pieces were beaded masks, stone sculptures and all sorts of painted art from places like Africa, Egypt and Costa Rica. You could easily spend a day here and enjoy yourself.

MONA

While in Hobart, we stayed at an AirBnB in Bellerive and it was amazing! Not to say they’re all this way (except all our AirBnB’s in Tassie were excellent!!) but ours made us feel right at home from the get-go by leaving us a key under the mat to let ourselves in. We were welcomed by adorable mid-sized dogs, Mabel and Goldie, who became our biggest fans, and the whole time we were staying but a stone’s throw from the oceanfront. We were able to take morning walks and evening strolls along the incredible coast, looking out on an expansive ocean with nothing between us and Antartica but the bitter wind and waves. It was invigorating to walk there, and we even made friends with different locals each time we were at the beach.

Bellerive

Hobart is also a culinary delight. Our host kindly left us a reference list of her favorite restaurants in town, so we ate impeccably. From cool ambiances to delicious dishes, our stomachs were highly satisfied while in Hobart. We had “breaky” or breakfast at two different places – Small Fry and Abundance – but don’t forget to save one morning to delight your appetite and indulge while at the Salamanca Markets, because there are vendors galore, with the freshest, tastiest concoctions. For dinner, we ate at a place called Frank’s, located at 1 Franklin Wharf, which was so dang good. We didn’t know that reservations were highly recommended, and luckily we snagged two seats at the “drop in bench” looking out the window and onto the harbor. The plates are meant to share, and share we did, splitting several different plates of delicacies of veggies and meats.

We were in Hobart for two short nights and one quick day, but from what I did see, it is incredible.The former warehouses have been converted into galleries and boutiques and there are some fun shops, as well as a famous whisky bar called Lark Distillery. If you have time, let yourself wander and explore.

Salamanca Markets

Beyond Hobart, the rest of Tassie is cool too. If you have a few more days, I’d highly recommend you make your way up the coast. I visited with a friend, and we rented a car in Hobart, then drove the Tasman Peninsula and up the coast. We dropped the car off in Launceston, and we caught a flight back from there. When you’re short on time, a two-stop car rental drop is advisable.

Rental Cars in Tasmania

The Tasman peninsula was so cool! There are many different natural wonders. In an area called Eaglehawk Neck you will find the Tessellated Pavement, the Tasman Arch (a cavern-like natural bridge) and Devil’s Kitchen (a deep cleft in the earth) and the Blowhole (which shoots up water from the waves). There’s also a cute town called Doo Town where all the houses have the word “Doo” in their name and most have a sense of humor, like “Dr. Doo Little” or “Doo Mee”.

It was low-tide when we first arrived to the Tasman Peninsula, so we made a stop at the “pans” and “loaves” of the Tessellated Pavement, created by years of wind, water and minerals. It is so cool to walk and see the natural formations, as well as to enjoy the mirror-like tide pools left behind from the ocean. There’s also bright green seaweed growing on the rocks, which looks like neon moss.

Tessellated Pavement Tasmania

At the bottom of the Tasman Peninsula is the famous Port Arthur. This historical site was one of the first places to house convicts who were exiled from Britain back in the 1830s. While there, we took a ghost tour – it was cheesy but cool. However, definitely don’t miss the chance to walk the grounds during the daytime, and if possible a tour then might be even better. There’s a lot of history here, and learning the stories is fascinating. Just up the road is the Remarkable Cave, with an opening shaped like the state of Tasmania, and also cool boardwalks that allow you to get close to the coastal “bush” as the Aussies call the wildlife.

Nearby Port Arthur, there is the Port Arthur Lavender fields, where you can find all things lavender related, from soap to tea to oil and even food! Do yourself a favor and stop there to have a lavender white hot chocolate, as well as some lavender “lollies” (hard candy) and lavender fudge. All are delicious.

Lavender Tasmania

Right across the road is the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo,  which is a “rescue center” for the infamous Tasmanian Devils, as well as for other rare birds and animals found exclusively in Australia.

Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

There are different times throughout the day when you can learn even more about the creatures via a feeding presentation or a flight show, and you’re also able to get up close and personal (respectfully) with the wallabies and kangaroos and some geese, too. I’d highly recommend going to as many of these presentations as you can because the animals have all sorts of unique traits and abilities that you wouldn’t expect, so it’s fun to learn about them from the guides.

Unzoo feeding time

Once out of the Tasman Peninsula, make your way further up the coast. Be sure to pit stop for oysters on the half shell (we stopped at a place called Melshell Oysters in Great Oyster Bay) and to see the ancient Spiky Bridge built in the 1800s, which you will inevitably pass on this curvy, rural two-lane “highway” around the island. There’s also Kate’s Berry Farm which has a flowery exterior, with plenty of sweet treats inside.

Melshell Oysters

Making your way up the coast will bring you to the epic Freycinet National Park. Here, if you are physically fit and feeling up for it, hike to Wineglass Bay and continue on to the Hazards. This was my favorite hike in all of Tasmania. We were in a race against sunset, and we even had a bit of a downpour, but it only added to the incredible experience.

Freycinet National Park

We started out by taking a hike to the Wineglass Bay overlook, which is cool because you can clearly see the curved bay, with an isthmus of a beach that distinctly looks like the stem of a wineglass. From the overlook, we hiked down a massive hill (which is part of the reason I suggest taking this route, because everyone coming UP looked like they were hating life) which brought us to the actual beach.

We were strapped for time, but we still went out onto the beach and had it completely to ourselves. A couple who was exiting as we entered told us they had just seen a pod of dolphins swimming in the waves, but way down towards the opposite side of the beach…We took off that way, and were lucky to see the dolphins surfing the waves! The beach is truly a highlight in and of itself. I had never seen sand like these little crystal pellets, and there were tons of shells to peruse and enjoy.

From the beach, we continued the hike towards the Hazards. The nature here is stunning; from the forests and the trees, to the orange lichen-covered boulders on the beaches and on the cliffs. It is likely that you will even run into wallabies along the way. This loop though Wineglass Bay and the Hazards is about 12km and well worth the effort, but bring water and snacks to sustain yourself, because there is nothing but nature once you leave the parking lot.

Freycinet National Park

Another awesome coastal experience, also with fiery orange rocks, is further up the coast and is called “Bay of Fires” because people used to see the aboriginal’s fires burning here. It’s a fun area to go explore and pit stop at various pull offs and experience the beach and the boulders.

Bay of Fires Tasmania

We met some locals in the Binalong Bay area and they told us about the iconic Pub in the Paddock restaurant, where you can bottle-feed beer to huge hogs, and also about the Pyengana Dairy Company, where you can stop in and sample a plethora of cheeses, as well as indulge in a home-cooked meal and some world class ice cream at their Holy Cow Cafe. You can even watch the cows line up to get milked, and continue on through a machine that brushes them, which apparently they thoroughly enjoy. We stopped at both of these places after hiking to the gushing St Columba Falls, which was a short and easy rolling stroll through a fern-tree forest, to visit one of Tasmania’s tallest waterfalls. I’d highly recommend all three of these stops to anyone in the area.

After this, we had hoped to stop at a place called Legerwood Memorial Carvings, where there were large log carvings in memory of local soldiers from  World War I. We briefly glanced in the direction of the statues, but were pressed for time and had to continue on to the airport in order to catch our flight.

Overall, Tasmania far surpassed my expectations, and my expectations were actually quite high! It was rugged and beautiful, and all our different hosts (mostly via AirBnB) were phenomenal and full of tips for Tassie. I would return again in a heartbeat. I visited in late September / early October, and a few days prior to our visit it had been sunny and in the 20s (Celsius; 70s Fahrenheit), however when we were there it was quite chilly and oftentimes rainy, but that still didn’t dampen my view on the island. Dress appropriately and let it enhance your trip. Everything was fresh and vivid.

Bellerive Tasmania

One thing that I didn’t even touch was the Three Capes Track, which I’ve heard is incredible. It’s a three night hike, and does require booking ahead, but if you’re a planner and an avid hiker, and you have the time, I’d say: Go for it! Anyone I’ve met who has done it raves about it.

And there you have it, folks. That’s my take on Tasmania. It was amazing and I hope I make it there again some day…

Tasmania

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