The Apple Isle
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Tasmania is an island state of Australia, about the same size as, and with similar climatic conditions to England. In fact, much of the countryside reminds many people of the United Kingdom, as the early British settlers built cottages similar to those they left on the other side of the world, planted flowers, trees and vegetable gardens from the seeds they brought with them and thus, particularly in Spring and Autumn, people comment on its visual similarity in many places to The Old Dart.
You can drive from north to south of Tasmania in a day non-stop, but who would want to when there is so much to enjoy en route? It is a heart shaped island with a rugged north western cape and western coastline. The centre is flatter, the northern coast is warmer and the east coast is scenic without being so rugged or quite as cold in winter. Tasmania has an official State capital - Hobart - at it's southern point, but an unofficial northern capital is Launceston, on the north coast. The lifestyle is laidback, without the sense of rush you find on the mainland.
Here people have time to stop and talk and take life in an easier fashion. One can reach this very pleasant island, which has a number of much smaller satellite islands of its own, by boat or by plane. Either sail in aboard one's own vessel, or book a seat or a cabin aboard the "Spirit of Tasmania" a big ship which sails back and forth overnight between Melbourne and Devonport. Alternatively, take a flight out of Melbourne and be stepping into your hire car or coach in Tasmania less than an hour later. You can, of course, take your own car, camper, or car and caravan across aboard the boat, travel round the island by coach company, or rent a car or campervan to use during your stay.
Going to Tassie for less than a week is next to useless. You'll see so few of its attractions in so short a time, 10 days is much better and a fortnight is far better still. There are plenty of campground and caravan (R.V.) parks, which offer a full range of accommodation from un-powered tent sites to modern self contained luxury family cabins. There is also an accommodation chain known as Cosy Cabins, that offers budget priced family accommodation with all mod cons at very reasonable prices; next on the ladder are the chain of Tas Villas all round the island, then there are the motel chains and the hotels and pubs, but what we think is the best of all, are the scores of authentically historic cottages, perfectly preserved and furnished in period style, but with all mod cons included. They are known as Cottages of the Colony and they are perfect for staying a night or two in total comfort wherever you choose.
Cottages of the Colony offer some four poster beds, some with testers, generally many with brass or iron bedsteads, but of course with modern mattresses, doonas and electric blankets. They have open fires for cold nights, with laid fireplaces for the guests arrival, with baskets of logs alongside and big wood piles outside the back door. The kitchens are equipped with all modern implements and equipment and generous supplies of food to provide hearty breakfasts can also be found there. In addition, they generally leave a carafe of port, homemade cookies or muffins and often a few chocolates for their guests, along with vases of fresh flowers and plenty of fine toiletries and thick towels in the up to date, indoor bathrooms. The lounges have comfy armchairs and colour televisions and often VCRs, as well as a selection of books and magazines, boxed games, playing cards and other thoughtful extras, to make guests feel truly at home. These cottages usually have delightful gardens in which to relax over drinks or alfresco meals and at around (Aus) $100-$120 nightly for two are very good value.
When you arrive in either Hobart, Devonport or Launceston, make straight for the information stand and pick up all the local free touring guides, complete with maps and details of available accommodation and most popular attractions. Plan to travel no more than 150-200 kilometres per day. 100 is even better and in places like Launceston and Hobart, plan to stay over at least a couple of nights, so that you can relax as you enjoy your visit to the full.
Decide what you most want to see on the island before setting out and plan your route accordingly, so you are not backtracking through one place or another. A good route is to fly or sail into Devonport and pick up a vehicle, if you haven't brought yours with you.
From here you can get up to the rocky north west cape, through Burnie, Wynyard and Boat Harbour, where a great place to stay is Killynaught Cottages. From here, turn south down toCradle Mountain, Lake St Clair and Wild Rivers National Park, where another stop can be arranged. On the north side of the spectacular park the two best stopping places are at Lemonthyme Lodge orCradle Mountain Lodge and there's excellent skiing here in winter.
From here you should drive to Queenstown and take the chairlift to get a good look at what prolonged mining can do to a countryside and then on to Strahan on Macquarie Harbour.Strahan Cottages or elegant Franklin Manor are a couple of good spots in which to spend the night here, for next day you will want to cruise the Franklin River to see some truly spectacular country and possibly visit the sad old penal settlement on Sarah Island. If you want to linger in this lovely area, spent a night in the top notch family cabins at Derwent Bridge Chalets a little further on still. Continuing southwards, Mt Field National Park, with its spectacular Russell Falls and plethora of bird life and bushwalks is your next stopping place, before you reach the quaint little, very English style village of New Norfolk. Here you must visit the Colony Inn, view the stained glass windows in the historic church and visit the Salmon Ponds. Here you will also see a number of hop fields, as they use these for their famous breweries.
HistoricTynwald is a grand place to stop if you enjoy four poster beds and fine dining. There are other, more budget priced bed and breakfasts suites available in town, as well as a shady river side tourist (R.V.) park. From here it is an easy run down into Hobart, with its busy and colourful docks, its waterside cafes, town tours, historic buildings, its shot tower, botanical gardens, the Wrest Point Casino andMount Wellington towering up behind. There are good day trips to be had south from here, to the Huon Valley, Dover and Southport and boat trips across to Bruny Island. The Huon Valley is the apple capital of Australia and looks simply wonderful in Spring and autumn.
From Hobart, head eastwards and take the south eastern road off fromSorell to reach the peninsular settlement ofPort Arthur, an old penal colony in very wild surroundings, with its guard house and much of the gaol still intact, although only the walls of the accommodation are still there. Take a spooky night time ghost tour by lantern and see if it will make the hairs on your arms stand on end. Take a conducted day tour if you prefer, or just look around the site for yourself. There are a number of the old cottages and Frances Greenway's old church to browse through. You can also take a boat out from here to the Isle of the Dead, where many of the convicts and some of their army guards were buried and not a man over 40 years of age. There are campgrounds, bed and breakfast accommodation and hotels in the vicinity.
After returning to Sorrell, you will have to make the decision as to whether you wish to return to the north coast via the inland route, or all along the east coast and around the north east, back to your starting point. Both these routes have much of interest, so it is quite hard to choose. Taking the more inland road, travel to pretty old Richmond and see the early gaol - it will give you Goosebumps when you walk into a small cell and shut the heavy iron door behind you too.
Continue on to Oatlands, where you can stay in a variety of different accommodation and you'll find a very good tourist promotions office in the main street. Visit the old mill andstables, look around a large, trulyold world general store, stop for a meal and just enjoy all the historic buildings before moving on.
Just before coming to Perth, branch off to the right whenEvandale is indicated and really enjoy this small, historic township as well and, if you are looking for somewhere really nice to stay, make it The Stables, adjacent to The Stables General Store. Evandale has great Sunday markets and every year they hold the highly popular Penny Farthing Races on those old bone shaker bicycles up and down the main street.
From here it's on to Launceston, with its old world Penny Royal Complex, it Cataract Gorge park, with chairlift views, swimming pools and cafe. It's a great little town for strolling and browsing. From here you can visit George, Grindlewald, numerous wineries and old mines to the north of town, take day tours, have a flutter at theCasino and much more. There is a plethora of excellent accommodation available, from caravan parks to motels, hotels and terrific bed and breakfast cottages, too numerous to mention.
From Launceston it is less than two hours drive back to Devonport. Should you have chosen the east coast route - from Sorrell, you would undoubtedly want to stop over on the Freycinet Peninsula, where there is a magnificent national park with rugged peaks, sandy bays and a full range of accommodation at Freycinet Lodge, from un-powered camping sites to dormitory styleaccommodation, caravan sites and cottages all with bushland settings, plus luxury family cabins right on the beach. Here there are boat trips, guided walking tours, lectures, a cafe, bar and an elegant waterside restaurant, with massive open fires in winter. There is also a shop, dozens of walking tracks and plenty of native fauna, including a wide range of bird-life. Most fit people want to climb The Hazards and look down onWineglass Bay from there.
North from here there is the pretty fishing village of Bicheno, with its terrific Bird Life Park, which is another spot to linger, as it also has a friendly cafe. The rocks are particularly colourful along this length of shoreline. From here one skirts around theNorth East Forests and heads westwards to Launceston.
So much to see and do and we have mentioned only a tiny fraction of it here. Don't you think you should plan a trip to Tassie soon?
COSY CABINS www.cosycabins.com
Toll free phone within Australia Freecall: 1800 818 916
For bookings only (from within Australia) ring Freecall: 1800 030 044
CARAVAN (RV) PARKS www.big4.com.au - or purchase a copy of the Tourist Accommodation Guide 2000 from the nearest branch of your State motoring organization (NRMA, RACV, RACQ etc). You don't have to be a member to buy one.
TOURISM TASMANIAwww.tourism.tas.gov.au - or email them firstname.lastname@example.org
You can ring them toll free within Australia on Freecall: 1800 806 846
To book land, sea, air, tours etc in Tasmania - ring toll freeFreecall: 1800 233 456