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An Awe-Inspiring Trip Through the Tasmanian Wilderness

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Oct 6, 2020

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Bruny Island, Tasmania

Bruny Island, Tasmania

Explore the natural beauty of Australia’s island state and come away with a better appreciation of the environment.

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This itinerary is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips and inspired itineraries on the Travel Tales home page. Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

While time has taken its toll on Tasmania, recent efforts to “rewild” the island have helped restore much of the outback and its surrounding waters, allowing travelers to see these places as they were always meant to be. By treading carefully in areas like Bruny Island, the Freycinet Peninsula, and Cradle Mountain–Lake Saint Clair National Park, you’ll gain a new perspective on the power of nature—and how important it is to help preserve the Tasmanian wilderness.

The Tasman in Hobart, Tasmania

Start in the city

Begin your adventure by establishing a home base. Located in the heart of Tasmania’s capital city of Hobart, The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel—scheduled to open March 2021—is the perfect place to set up shop. The historic property transports guests back in time with carefully restored architectural features, plus 152 rooms and suites done up in a modern interpretation of Art Deco style.

Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart

Once you’ve settled in, explore your surroundings—Hobart is a charming town with walkable streets and a laid-back vibe. It’s also home to a thriving arts and culinary scene, spurred by the 2011 opening of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

Get a taste at Salamanca Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in Australia. Open every Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Hobart’s pretty waterfront, it boasts more than 300 stalls, selling everything from arts, crafts, and jewelry to fresh food and produce. Chat with the artisans who make products especially for the market, shop for Tasmanian-made souvenirs, and be sure to sample tasty goods like the curried scallop pie at Smith’s Specialty Pies, the beef rendang from Indonesian Kitchen, and the blackberry jam from Joanna’s Jams.   

That evening, continue the feast at Peacock and Jones, located in a historic sandstone warehouse on the waterfront. Focused on Tasmanian cuisine, the restaurant uses local produce in dishes like Stracciatella with peas, asparagus, and raisins, and Tasmanian lamb with ratatouille and baba ghanoush. For the full experience, be sure to pair your meal with a bottle from the impressive wine cellar, which boasts everything from Tasmanian pinots to Old World classics

Venture into the wild

The following day go for a road trip—but not before picking up provisions at Hill Street Grocer in West Hobart. The family-owned grocery stocks artisan cheese, bread, prepared salads, and more for putting together the perfect picnic.

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If you don’t want to go too far, head 30 minutes southeast to Bruny Island. Just a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland, the spot is famous for its stunning scenery as well as local products like oysters, cheese, berries, fudge, and honey. Once on dry land, you can take a self-guided stroll through the bush, on the beach, or along the coast, stopping somewhere picturesque to enjoy your picnic, or join an island walking tour past rolling hills, sheltered bays, and steep cliffs. While exploring, keep your eyes peeled for resident wildlife like fur seals, fairy penguins, albatross, wedge-tailed eagles, and white wallabies, and be sure to stop by somewhere like the Jetty Café & General Store to stock up on homemade bread, cakes, and sandwiches stuffed with seasonal produce.

Should you be up for a slightly longer drive, make the 1.5-hour trip east to Maria Island, one of the best places to experience Tasmania’s legendary wildlife. A quick 30-minute ferry will land you at this natural sanctuary, home to historic ruins, sparkling bays, and hair-raising cliffs. Start your exploration at the Commissariat Store—the island’s oldest building, it now functions as a visitor center with historical displays. Once you’re familiar with the island’s backstory, take a short walk to the ruins of Darlington, a ghost town that features the most intact example of a convict probation station in Australia. Afterward, stroll the Reservoir Circuit past open woodlands and eucalyptus forests, or check out the former limestone quarry at Fossil Cliffs, where you’ll find relics of ancient creatures.

You could also head for the Painted Cliffs at Hopground Beach to discover towering sandstone formations and tidal-zone marine life along the shore or hike the 3.5-hour roundtrip Bishop and Clerk trail, which offers breathtaking views of the Freycinet Peninsula and Tasman Sea from the top. As on Bruny Island, be on the lookout for wildlife like wombats, pademelons, Forester kangaroos, Bennets wallabies, and Tasmanian Devils, as well as rare birds like the endangered forty-spotted pardalote and Cape Barren goose. If you’re more interested in aquatic animals, go snorkeling or scuba diving in the surrounding Marine Nature Reserve, which is regularly visited by seals and whales.

Back in Hobart, plan for dinner at Templo. The restaurant seats just 20 diners at a time at a large communal table and offers a prix-fixe menu of eight to ten European-inspired dishes, all featuring ingredients sourced within a 30-mile radius.

Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

Explore even further

Pigeon Whole Bakery in Hobart

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After grabbing coffee and sandwiches at the popular Pigeon Whole Bakers, set out from Hobart once again to see more of the Tasmanian wilderness. About 2.5 hours from town, you’ll find the gorgeous Freycinet National Park, with its pink granite mountains, sheltered bays, sandy beaches, and teeming birdlife. Take a quick walk to Wineglass Bay for one of Tasmania’s most photographed views, then continue on, down to the perfectly curved beach and back to the park entrance, passing amazing vistas of Great Oyster Bay and the village of Swansea along the way. If you’d rather be on the water, go swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or diving, or take a cruise around the peninsula to see the scenery from a different vantage point. Should you be a bird fan, know that the park is also home to a Ramsar wetland sanctuary for black swans, waterfowl, and other migratory birds. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a white-bellied sea eagle flying overhead.

Also about 2.5 hours from Hobart lies the spectacular Cradle Mountain–Lake Saint Clair National Park, where rainforests and shrublands meet glacial lakes and rugged mountains. Part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the park features ancient plants like the endemic King Billy pine and the native deciduous beech, as well as animals like quolls, platypus, and echidna. Go for a leisurely stroll along Lake Saint Clair, a two-hour walk around Dove Lake, or a day hike up Cradle Mountain, or take to the skies instead with a scenic flight over the park. You could also learn more about the area by exploring the Aboriginal Culture Walk, which winds past several historic sites with remnants of stone tools, caves, and rock shelters.

End the day back in Hobart with dinner at Landscape, where local meat and seafood is cooked over an Asado grill, then paired with renowned wines.  

Sip your way around

On your final day, switch your focus to Tasmania’s delicious goods—namely wine and beer. The island is home to seven distinct subregions that produce a wide range of wine styles. The oldest and largest region, the Tamar Valley is known for its pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, and sparkling wines, while the Pipers River specializes in bubbly. The East Coast makes some of Tasmania’s finest wines, the Northwest showcases some of the newest, and the Coal River Valley is where you’ll find smaller, unique producers.

If you’re more of a hophead, travel 50 minutes northwest of Hobart to Two Metre Tall Brewery, which makes farmhouse ales and ciders from ingredients grown on its nearly 1,500-acre property in the Derwent Valley. Bring some groceries to make use of the on-site barbecue facilities, then pair your home-cooked meal with a tasting of hand-pumped brews.

That evening take the 20-minute ferry from Hobart to MONA and dine at The Source, where you can look forward to locally inspired small plates and an impressive wine selection.

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