It’s easy to see why the list makers at Lonely Planet placed Tassie at number 4 on the list of top 10 regions to visit in 2015. There are so many places to choose, from the coast to the mountains, from islands to World Heritage sites. It’s not easy to pick our top four but we’ve given it a shot. So here is our list of four iconic places in Tasmania.
1-Port Arthur Historic Site
The World-Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site on the beautiful and once painfully remote Tasman Peninsula is Australia’s most famous convict site and its fabulous array of interactive exhibits offer profound insights into Australia’s harsh convict beginnings. There are more than 30 buildings built before 1877. You can explore the open-air museum on your own or with real-life or audio-visual guides.
See Port Arthur’s iconic penitentiary ruin, explore the cruciform-shaped solitary confinement Separate Prison (where interactive exhibits help you get to know a real convict). The busiest dockyard in the colonies is brought to life with evocative sound installations.
There’s also the ruins of one of Australia’s first non-denominational Gothic-style churches, the hospital and a row of historic houses.
There’s the Commandant’s House, the period-furnished Junior Medical Officer’s House and Parsonage, and Smith O’Brien’s Cottage, which housed Port Arthur’s most famous political prisoner, Irish Protestant William Smith O’Brien.
At the Convict Study Centre you can learn about how Port Arthur’s convicts and free settlers lived and even trace your own convict ancestry.
The brave can join the lantern-lit ghost tour to learn about, and perhaps see for yourself, documented reports of paranormal activity such as ghostly screams and empty moving rocking chairs.
Situated at the northern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, it’s a fascinating landscape of temperate rainforest, glacial lakes, alpine heathlands and button grass.
Stands of deciduous native beech surround the jagged contours of Cradle Mountain. During spring and early summer, there are fabulous wildflower displays. In autumn the beech trees turn gold, russet and deep red.
To learn about the early days, check out the recreated shingled Waldheim Chalet, tucked among myrtles and King Billy pines in Cradle Valley.
The original cottage was home to pioneering Austrian conservationist Gustav Weindorfer and his wife Kate who led the charge to protect Cradle Mountain.
You can wander through dense, old-growth rainforest on the 20-minute Enchanted Walk or make the two-hour circuit of atmospheric Dove Lake, which is one of Australia’s great short walks.
If you’re feeling more active, there is the more strenuous six to eight-hour Cradle Mountain Summit Walk.
Cradle Mountain is also the start of the world-famous 65km Overland Track, a spectacular six-day walk that immerses hikers in some of Australia’s finest mountain terrain. It’s an iconic walk that you should put on your bucket list.
The weather in the park changes very fast and it often snows in the middle of summer!
Taste the grit of Tasmania’s wild wet West Coast as you yell on cue “freedom or death” in the outdoor amphitheatre during the play The Ship that Never Was in Strahan.
Three versatile actors re-enact the true story of ten convicts who hijacked the last boat built on nearby Sarah Island, a ship-building outpost established to take advantage of the availability of Huon pine in the region.
The convicts sailed the ship all the way to South America.
A picturesque village on Tasmania’s wild West Coast, Strahan is set on the eastern shore of massive Macquarie Harbour, which is seven times larger than Sydney Harbour.
The West Coast Visitors Information Centre is a perfect place to get the measure of this Wild West settlement.
Self-dubbed the first magic realist building in Australia by its collaborative creative team of architects, writers, and historians, its West Coast Reflections Exhibition guides you through the worlds of the Aborigines, convicts, loggers and miners.
You’ll also learn about the hydroelectric dam projects and environmental movement, as each part of the story is interwoven with the remarkable natural environment right outside.
Take a cruise across Macquarie Harbour to visit Sarah Island then along the Gordon River to Heritage Landing, where you stroll along a boardwalk surrounded by Huon pine and leatherwood trees. Adrenalin junkies will enjoy the multi-day rafting trips on the wild waters of the Franklin River.
For bushwalkers, there is everything from a short walk to Hogarth Falls, one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, to the demanding five-day hike to Frenchman’s Cap. Or you can glimpse a bird’s eye view of the wilderness on a seaplane or helicopter tour.
One of the Great Guided Walks of Australia, the multi-award-winning Maria Island Walk offers a terrific combination of walking with engaging and knowledgeable guides through a diverse and pristine island landscape, the very best Tasmanian gourmet food and wine, and accommodation in two exclusive wilderness camps as well as a final night in the heritage-listed Bernacchi House.
In short, it offers great exercise in the outdoors and terrific insights into the inland’s natural and human history with all the creature-comforts at the end of the day.
The guides tell fascinating stories about the Baudin expedition explorers, who gave French names to all the landmarks and recorded detailed descriptions of the local Aboriginals.
They point out middens, explain about the Tasmanian devil reintroduction project, and identify all the weird and wonderful wildlife that are a highlight of the walk.
Maria Island Walk’s private boat delivers you right onto the beach at Shoal Bay and you walk across the isthmus and down the ocean beach to the Casuarina Beach Camp on the rarely visited South Maria Island. From there you explore the orange lichen-covered granite boulders at Haunted Bay and peak into fairy penguin burrows.
Day two’s walk is along five powdery white-sand beaches, with a lunch break at a convict station. You continue over heathland, where dozens of wombats graze, and through Tasmania’s largest stand of blue gums to the White Gums camp followed by a swim at Four Mile Beach.
On Day three, you follow the coastline and see convict limestone quarries and the swirling colours of the spectacular sandstone Painted Cliffs. You can do an optional climb up the soaring dolerite Mount Bishop and Clerk for stunning views.
Day four brings fascinating ancient sea fossils embedded into the cliffs and the town of Darlington. Darlington was a convict probation site and home to one of Tasmania’s most eccentric entrepreneurs, Italian Diego Bernacchi, who developed vineyards, silk works and even a cement factory on the island in the early 20th Century.