Australians are incredibly fortunate to call this continent their home.
With a population of just 23.7 million people living in a land area of about 7.692 million square kilometres, Australia represents only about five per cent of the world’s land mass (149.45 million square kilometres), but it is the sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the United States of America and Brazil.
Australia is also the only one of the world’s six largest nations which is surrounded by water, a giant island where often in isolation, unique animal and plant life has survived and thrived for millions of years.
As a giant island surrounded by many smaller islands, nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s total coastline surrounds islands and at 68,400 square kilometres in size, Tasmania is the biggest.
For most of us, living in mainland cities on the southern and eastern coasts of Australia, Tasmania is on our doorstep; an overnight sea journey by ferry, or at most, a few hours by air.
Dangling at the bottom of the continent, this wonderfully pristine island is one of the last bastions of wilderness left in the world.
What is not immediately apparent is just how important this island is, not only to Australians, but to the broader international scientific community.
The Western Tasmanian Wilderness Area was placed on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage List in December 1982, taking its place alongside iconic Australian regions including Queensland’s Fraser Island and Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park and Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory, New South Wales’ Greater Blue Mountains and Lord Howe Island Group and the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia.
Covering an area of more than 1.5 million hectares, about a fifth of the state, the area protects one of the last true wilderness regions on Earth.
Having much in common with the cool, temperate regions of South America and New Zealand, the area encompasses a greater range of natural and cultural values than any other region on the planet.
The World Heritage area covers coast, islands, rivers, mountains, valleys and remote high country buttongrass plains and includes one of the three largest temperate rainforest wilderness areas remaining in the Southern Hemisphere, all within little more than an hours’ drive from air and sea arrival ports including Hobart and Launceston.
Here you will find the deepest and longest caves in Australia, along with extensive limestone cave systems featuring Aboriginal rock art dating back more than 20,000 years to the end of the Pleistocene period.
And there is no shortage of ways to experience this majestic landscape and breathe in its clear, clean air.
If hiking and walking in a temperate climate is your most pleasant pastime, Tasmania has hundreds of walking tracks, covering more than 3000 kilometres. There are excellent facilities for walkers in national parks, including information centres, huts and campsites. On a multi-day expedition, experienced guides will explain in detail the flora, fauna and natural history of the region. A walk in Freycinet National Park with its craggy granite coastline, bushland, beach-side camping and clean, blue-green water, is a must.
In the 1830s, some homesick Scots established Ratho Golf Course at Bothwell, which is Australia’s oldest golf course. Today, Tasmania has more than 80 golf courses, including the spectacular Barnbougle Dunes in the north-east which overlooks Bass Strait and the amazing par-3 eighth hole at the Tasman Club near Port Arthur. Other top courses include Royal Hobart, Tasmania Golf Club, Kingston Beach and Claremont in the south, and Launceston Country Club, Devonport and Ulverstone in the north.
The temperate climate combined with generally quiet rural roads and small distances between towns makes Tasmania a great destination for cyclists. You can tour wineries or pedal through forest-clad, high mountain passes, cycle east from Hobart to beautiful beaches or west through wilderness country. Serious cyclists, along with hikers and horse riders, tackle the 480km-long Tasmanian Trail from Devonport in the north to Dover in the south, which passes through farmlands, highlands, eucalyptus forests and sleepy hamlets.
For the more aquatic inclined, kayaking and canoeing are great ways to get a seabird’s-eye view of Tasmania’s coastline and waterways. Quietly gliding past forested banks on a wilderness river is the ultimate in serenity. For a little more excitement, you can explore seabird havens around offshore islands or hug close to the coast for the awe inspiring experience of skirting fluted cliffs rising 300m above the sea.
With 5,400km of coastline, Tasmania offers some of the best temperate-water diving and snorkelling in the world. In clear visibility, you can snorkel through forests of giant kelp up to 30m high, see exquisite sea dragons and explore sea caves. Experienced divers can team up with experts from local dive companies to dive on some of Tasmania’s best-known shipwreck sites, often in wild, remote locations.
Boating in this part of the world can be stunning. You can take a cruise to see the seal colonies and sculptured rock formations of Bruny Island, slide quietly through majestic temperate rainforest on the mirror-still Gordon River, make the sea journey from Hobart to Port Arthur just as the convicts did, or cruise down the Tasman Peninsula, taking in the rugged coastline which is dotted with places with evocative names including Devils Kitchen, Eaglehawk Neck and Pirates Bay.
For further information on Tasmania and details on Great Tasmanian Walks, visit:
Melaleuca Inlet seen from Mt Rugby – Credit Tim Dub (Tourism Tasmania)
Gordon River Cruise – Credit George Apostolidis (Tourism Tasmania)
Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain – Credit Michael Waters (Tourism Tasmania)
Roaring 40s Ocean Kayaking Bathurst Harbour Credit Matthew Newton (Tourism Tasmania)
Cradle Mountain Canyons – Credit – Tim Trevaskis (Tourism Tasmania)