Take a rest from the routine and experience an island of difference at TASMANIA.
Rows of lavender flower in Bridestowe Lavender Estate. ( Photo : bridestowelavender.com.au )
For anyone growing up with the Looney Tunes animated series, the mere mention of the word Tasmania will invariably bring up enduring images of Taz, the Tasmanian Devil from the show that was popular in the late 80s through the 90s. The depiction wasn’t far from reality, as animator Robert McKimson based his creation on the ravenous appetite and crazed behaviour of the real-life Tasmanian devil, an endangered carnivorous marsupial found only in Tasmania, an Australian island located 240km south of the mainland.
While the quirky creature is an iconic symbol of the island, it is not its only attraction. Tasmania is a delightful mix of nature, heritage and the contemporary. It is a breath of fresh air, and that very nature is at the core of the state’s tourism slogan, ‘Come Down for Air’. It invites travellers to take a break from the stress and routine of their everyday lives to feel more human - in Tasmania.
An island of only 500,00 inhabitants, Tasmania is made up of many charms. The less populated west is filled with heritage national parks and conservation areas such as the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area. It’s Bass Strait and Melbourne-facing northwest features idyllic seaside attractions. The east coast is the opposite of the west, filled with gorgeous bays and beaches such as the Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay at the Freycinet National Park.
Your first breath of fresh Tasmanian air should come from the south-eastern city of Hobart. Capital of the island and second oldest capital in Australia after Sydney, Hobart has something for everyone. A 2012 Lonely Planet Top 10 city, it has award-winning restaurants, an iconic waterfront, and nature, all nestled between contrasting elegant sandstone colonial buildings and modern architecture.
It’s best that you start at Hobart on a Saturday, because that is when Australia’s best outdoor market opens - each Saturday from 8:30am to 3pm. Since 1972, Salamanca Market has been home to interesting weekend pop-up stalls, which currently number at over 300. Talk to the artisans and craftspeople and shop for authentic Tasmanian-made souvenirs before exploring the historic Salamanca Place.
Catch a show, which could be a musical performance, dances, film, comedy, theatre; just about anything that can be performed at the Peacock Theatre and hang out at the courtyard of the Salamanca Arts Centre. Lunch under the umbrellas at Maldini’s with the market bustling around you. Depending on when you visit, you might just be able to experience Hobart coming alive at Salamanca Place during The Taste of Tasmania festival and the Festival of Voices.
If you’re looking for some quiet, choose between the old Port Arthur Historic Site and the new Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most important heritage destinations, carrying the story of Australia’s colonial history. It used to be the place where Britain sent her convicts to serve their sentences. Meanwhile, MONA is a critically acclaimed museum not just for its intriguing collection, but also for its impressive architecture - it is a multi-storey underground labyrinth.
A three-hour drive northwest from Hobart is the idyllic Tasmanian northwest. Here you’ll find an unexpected but the most welcome delight of Penguin. If you’re wondering why this place is called such, take a wild guess. This charming seaside town lives up to its name - the town sees fairy penguins arrive every evening between November and March. Outside of these months, visitors can snap photos with all the penguin paraphernalia around town, including - themed penguin rubbish bins, penguin-decorated lamp posts and signposts, penguin murals, and the well-known Big Penguin statue. Did somebody say penguins?
If you’re looking for a bit of romance and tranquillity, head northeast after Launceston towards the Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Immerse yourself in the best of French lavender in Tasmania, here at the fields - from walking between the rows and rows of gorgeous lavender to breathing in its therapeutic fragrance. It is one of the most photographed sites in Tasmania and rightly so - the expansive lavender fields on the backdrop of clear sunset skies is absolutely breathtaking.
If you visit Tasmania between March and September, look out for the hourly forecast from the website Aurora Service on solar wind data. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to catch the Aurora Australis, the Southern cousin to the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). The best place in Australia to witness it is on Mount Wellington, a short drive away from Hobart. The higher up you ascend the 4,100-foot peak, the less obstruction you’ll get, making it the perfect front-row seat for the Southern Lights. Mount Wellington itself is part of Wellington Park - a nature park that is open all, every day with no entry fee, and is a popular sightseeing and recreational outdoor site.
Despite its down-to-earth stature, Tasmania is every bit as metropolitan a destination the likes of Wellington and Melbourne, offering a little of everything for everyone with a dash of charming local intimacy and simplicity. It brings you down to the ground, lifts you up and never fails to put a smile on your face as it takes your breath away.
Make your way to Launceston Airport from KL International Airport (KLIA) with Malaysia Airlines via connecting flight through Sydney or Melbourne. Make sure you get enough rest before your long journey.