Chances are, your first introduction to Tasmania was courtesy of the Tasmanian Devil, an actual critter and Warner Brothers Looney Tunes Cartoon character.
It turns out that the Devil and his home – a rugged island off the southern coast our Australia – are pretty special, and well worth getting to know.
The island is named for Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, who anchored off the island in 1642. Isolated from the Australian mainland, Tasmania has unique flora and fauna, lots of untouched wilderness, great food, and some beautiful ocean views. More than one fifth of the island is a UNESCO World Heritage area, and the 14 national parks offer rainforests, mountains, lakes, rivers, and beaches.
The Capital, Hobart, has a pretty harbor with mega yachts, colonial cottages, and bustling Salamanca Place, where you’ll find cafes, galleries, shops, and a lively Saturday market.
The top thing to see in Hobart is Moorilla Estate, which combines a winery, a brewery, a restaurant, accommodation, and a museum of “old and new art,” with collections from all over the world.
Fifty miles northwest of Hobart, Mount Field National Park makes a great day trip. A National Park since 1916, it’s one of the prettiest in Tasmania with glacier-capped mountain peaks and deep valleys. On the ten-mile drive to Lake Dobson, keep your eyes peeled for wallabies, bandicoots, wombats, and yes, Tasmanian devils. You might see platypus in the lakes too. Trails lead through fern groves and tall forests to waterfalls.
A less-than-one-hour ferry ride from Triabunna, Maria Island is the place to see wombats. While you’re there, tour the old penitentiary of Darlington – it’s listed on the National Heritage Register. Maria Island National Park boasts nearly 30,000 acres of forests, mountains, beaches, and marine reserves, and you can sign up for a guided walk that takes you to all the best sights.
Tasmania’s top tourist attraction is the Port Arthur penal colony on the Tasman Peninsula. More than 13,000 convicts were imprisoned here between 1830 to 1877, under conditions that can only be described as hellish. With more than 30 buildings, including a church, tower, asylum, and museum, you’ll need a day to do it justice. Cruises to the Isle of the Dead, where may of the prisoners are buried, are also available.
Tragically, many of Tasmania’s devils have been stricken with a quickly growing cancer that has decimated their numbers. The Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park on the road to Port Arthur is trying to breed devils with cancer-resistant genes.
The second largest city in Tasmania, Launceston has pretty parks, well-maintained 18th and 19th-century churches and buildings, and good access to Tamar Valley wineries.