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Tasmania's Great Outdoors

Tasmania’s National Parks
Tasmania's Great Outdoors
Over 40 percent of Tasmania is protected in reserves, World Heritage areas, and 19 national parks. At least 60 short walks and nearly half the Great Walks of Australia are here, and more than 3,000 miles of coastline offer adventures soft to extreme.
By Serena Renner, AFAR Contributor
Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/Tourism Tasmania
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    Tasmania’s National Parks
    Tasmania’s National Parks
    Six of Tasmania’s 19 national parks are situated within the four-million-acre Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The scenery changes from jagged Cradle Mountain to the rushing Franklin River to the remote reaches of Southwest National Park. Four parks are found on islands; three of them—South Bruny, Tasman, and Maria—are accessible from the southeast. Freycinet National Park offers spectacular Wineglass Bay; Mount Field offers skiing in winter; and Mole Creek Karst National Park is home to Marakoopa Cave, which glitters with glowworms.
    Photo courtesy of Chris McLennan/Tourism Tasmania
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    Epic Drives of Tasmania
    Epic Drives of Tasmania
    Once you get over the strange feeling of driving on the left side of the road, you’ll discover the freedom and beauty of car travel in Tasmania. Roughly 250 miles from north to south and east to west, the island is easy to get around, but you’ll want to take it slow. The most classic drive starts in Hobart and hugs the east coast up to the Bay of Fires. For wilderness roads, you can’t beat the Lyell Highway between Cradle Mountain and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park or the Western Explorer Road to Corinna in the Tarkine Wilderness—part of which is unsealed and bright white, built from tailings from the nearby silica mine. Shorter scenic trips can be enjoyed in the Huon Valley, throughout the Hobart wine regions, in the Tamar Valley, and around Bruny Island.
    Photo courtesy of Rob Burnett/Tourism Tasmania
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    Hiking and Trekking
    Hiking and Trekking
    The 60 Great Short Walks along with dozens of magnificent multiday treks make Tasmania hiker heaven. Start with Mount Wellington, just outside Hobart, and continue to Mount Field National Park. If you’re looking for a longer adventure, you can’t look past the 40-mile Overland Track in Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania’s most famous trail, which offers basic hut accommodation along the way as well as luxury options at either end. Intrepid adventurers keen to camp should consider Southwest National Park, starring the epic 52-mile South Coast Track, and the Tarkine Wilderness, home to one of the largest remaining swaths of temperate rain forest in the world.
    Photo courtesy of Gene Goldberg/Tourism Tasmania
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    Guided Walking Holidays
    Guided Walking Holidays
    Like its neighbor New Zealand, Australia is a master of guided walking treks, which help visitors experience unique natural environments without having to forgo such creature comforts as a cushy bed or well-prepared meal. With eight tours dubbed Great Walks of Tasmania, four of which are classified as Great Walks of Australia, Tasmania must have taught the master class. The Maria Island Walk combines amazing scenery, history, and food and wine with unfazed forester kangaroos, Bennett's wallabies, wombats, and if you’re lucky, Tasmanian devils. The South Coast Track in Southwest National Park is the most challenging (and does require camping). Or there’s the Bruny Island Long Weekend, which ends at a luxury tented camp each day.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Tasmania
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    Paddling and Rafting
    Paddling and Rafting
    With more than 3,000 miles of coastline plus wild rivers and calm inlets, Tasmania is a magnet for water people. Kayakers find respite in the glassy waters of the Freycinet Peninsula, which reflect orange lichen–covered rocks and the zigzagging Hazard Mountains. For a real expedition, Roaring 40s Kayaking arranges trips that fly to the remote airstrip at Melaleuca and paddle for seven days through Southwest National Park. Experienced rafters needn’t look further than the Franklin River, a legendary waterway whose conservation established the Green Party and which Outside named one of the world’s best white-water trips. And sailing fans can cruise overnight with Hobart Yachts on a vessel that has topped the charts in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Tasmania
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    Wet Suits Required
    Wet Suits Required
    Surfers flock to consistent waves near the funky east coast town of Bicheno, and to the heavier swells that angle in to Shipstern Bluff off the Tasman Peninsula—also known as Devil’s Point for its giant waves, shark encounters, and 200-foot cliffs. Despite cold currents from the Southern Ocean, Tasmania is well-regarded for snorkeling and diving too, especially off the east coast, which features Paradise Reef, Golden Bommies, and the glorious gullies of Magic Garden in the Governor Island Marine Reserve. Maria Island is a haven for both snorkeling and diving, as is Tinderbox Marine Reserve closer to Hobart. Maritime history buffs should explore the shipwreck sites around Flinders and King islands in the Bass Strait.
    Photo courtesy of O'Neill Coldwater Classic/Tourism Tasmania
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    Road and Mountain Biking
    Road and Mountain Biking
    Tasmania’s diverse landscapes invite cyclists of all speeds. Roll past apple, pear, and cherry orchards in the slow-paced Huon Valley, less than an hour from Hobart, or between riverside vineyards in the Tamar Valley north of Launceston. For rough-and-tumble types, mountain trails abound within a short drive (or ride) of both cities. The North South Mountain Bike Track on Mount Wellington winds through thick rain forest and rocky outcrops on the way to hard-packed single-track. Many riders start or end at the Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park. Launceston is fast becoming a mountain biking must-ride—check out the Hollybank Forest Reserve and the Blue Tier tracks. Bike touring excursions are also offered throughout the island.
    Photo courtesy of Will Brown/Tourism Tasmania
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    Rocks, Caves, and Canyons
    Rocks, Caves, and Canyons
    If they’re not hiking, mountain biking, or gawking at the views, visitors to Mount Wellington are probably clinging to rock faces or navigating their way around challenging boulders. The Totem Pole and the Candlestick, two dolerite stacks in Tasman National Park, offer even more challenges. For as many peaks as there are aboveground, there are caves below. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area features caverns that were inhabited by Aboriginals during the Ice Age, and the area around Mole Creek Karst National Park contains more than 300 caves and sinkholes. Canyoning and rappelling are newer adventure sports in Tasmania; Cradle Mountain Canyons tours offers experiences for all levels, while Gordon Dam in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is known for the highest rappel.
    Photo courtesy of Robert McMahon/Tourism Tasmania
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    Luxury in the Wilderness
    Luxury in the Wilderness
    There’s nothing like savoring incredible views from the comfort of your feather bed, in front of a wood-burning stove, or in a terrace hot tub. Tasmania takes advantage of its inspiring settings by offering a number of luxury wilderness retreats where the main order of business is to soak up the scenery. A remote mining settlement turned ecotourism hub, the Corinna Wilderness Experience transformed old prospector huts in the Tarkine Wilderness into modern cabins that run on solar power and rainwater, and created interpretive trails that access impressive sights like ancient Huon pines. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge is the most high-end option near Cradle Mountain, and Saffire on the Freycinet Peninsula is one of the most exclusive resorts in Australia.
    Photo courtesy of Kathryn Leahy/Tourism Tasmania
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    World of Wildlife
    World of Wildlife
    For some people, it’s not wildlife unless you see it in the wild. Luckily, Tasmania has natural environments that breed many endemic species. Narawntapu, near the Tamar Valley, and Maria Island National Park are two of the best places to see forester kangaroos, Bennett's wallabies, and common wombats. Maria Island is breeding Tasmanian devils, which are at risk of extinction due to a contagious facial tumor disease. The Tarkine Wilderness in the northwest is a stronghold for rare species including black cockatoos, wedge-tailed eagles, and spotted-tailed quolls, while Southwest National Park is one of the few places to see the endangered orange-bellied parrot. Tasmania is also home to penguins, platypus, echidna, and myriad marine and bird life.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Tasmania