Things to do in Tasmania

What I miss most about my home state

Things to do in Tasmania

things to do in tasmania
Photos: Paula Heelan

It’s 8am and I’m about to fly out of Hobart after a 10-day sojourn. I grew up in Tasmania and while I’m happy living in country Queensland these days, my link to the southern state remains deep. With each visit my love for its extraordinary raw beauty, seafaring history and gourmet produce strengthens. Asked to list the top 10 I miss most about Tasmania, I’m thrown into a state of nostalgia and even homesickness. The smell of an open fire, secluded beaches, sandstone architecture, rosy-cheeked Tasmanians and the network of rolling, country roads hurtle me towards my childhood. And there are just so many wonderful things to do in Tasmania.

I left Tasmania in the 1970’s – a time when many young people felt the need to flee in order to find out what was happening on the mainland and beyond, or in pursuit of furthering careers.

Proud of my island roots, I still call Tasmania home. This is my list of impressive places in Tasmania.

things to do in tasmania
Photo: Christina Pfeiffer

Things to do in Tasmania on the East Coast

things to do in tasmania

In the 70’s my father was a cray fisherman based at the small seaside town, Orford, 73km north east of Hobart.

Dad fished the deep-sea waters along the rugged east coast.

We knew every inlet, old whaling station, bay and which beaches we could claim as our own.

During the summer holidays we’d spend every day swimming, water skiing or fishing at any one of the several long, curving beaches close to Orford.

With my own dinghy and outboard motor, a favourite pastime was trawling the Prosser River catching countless fish.

Maria Island

things to do in tasmania

Orford is 6km adjacent to the national park, Maria Island.

Dad often moored his fishing boat at Maria’s pier and while he repaired gear I had free run to explore the island, sea cliffs and historic buildings still standing.

With its rugged cliffs etched with fossilised sea life, Aboriginal history, a penal settlement, a whaling and seal post and extraordinary wild beauty, Maria Island is without doubt, my favourite place.

In my late teens, friends and I spent days camping in the ruins, fishing, hiking and swimming. These were some of my favourite things to do in Tasmania.

You can catch the ferry across from Triabunna (free this winter) for a day’s picnic or camp longer. There’s a ranger, but no shops, cars or commercial distraction.

Packed with wildlife, Maria Island is home to Cape Barren geese, the Forester kangaroo, wombats, Bennetts wallabies, rare birds and now a sanctuary to help the survival of Tasmanian Devils.

For the scuba divers there’s a rich underwater environment in the marine reserve at the northern end and it’s not unusual to see dolphins, whales, seals and seabirds from the shore and cliff tops.

Soaking up the sense of history

things to do in tasmania

Growing up in Tasmania I was very aware of its dark past from incarcerated convicts and treatment of the indigenous population to cutting down forests and the extinct Tasmanian tiger.

Like so many, I felt uneasy about the island’s violent past, but with so many historians, authors and artists, publishing, confronting and talking about it today, I think the burden of our past is easing.

Fortunately, historic sandstone buildings across the state have survived development.

I remember driving from the north to south, before highways, admiring the heritage architecture and spectacular farming estates the entire way.

For a long time, many of these buildings were boarded up and neglected.

More recently their worth and beauty have been recognised, with Tasmanians and incoming mainlanders giving them new life.

With strong English influence, towns through the midlands like Oatlands, Ross, Campbell Town and Bothwell are stunning.

Oatlands has Australia’s largest collection of Georgian sandstone buildings and many are now excellent craft shops and galleries.

The main attraction is the Callington Flour Mill, built in 1837.

Recently restored and operating, it’s the only working mill of its type in the southern hemisphere.

Port Arthur and The Isle of the Dead

things to do in tasmania

My great, great grandmother, Harriet Chatfield, is buried on the Isle of the Dead, just off the Port Arthur Historic Site. Her husband was an assistant superintendent at the prison and her daughter married the chief clerk.

I have a photo of my grandmother sitting on a hill overlooking the Port Arthur Church when she was very little.

The hauntingly beautiful Port Arthur has over 30 buildings, ruins and restored period homes amid striking landscaped grounds.

As kids, and before it became the massive tourist attraction it is now, we frequently spent the day at Port Arthur, playing and picnicking in the ruins.

You can cruise to the Isle of the Dead and join a guided tour of the burial ground, which gives an insight into the lives of those who were part of the penal settlement including convicts, soldiers, civilians and their families.

While there are more than 1600 burial sites on the tiny island, only 180 have graves with headstones.

They belonged to the prison staff, civilians and their families who were buried on higher ground than the prisoners. Convict graves were unmarked.

Cradle Mountain 

things to do in tasmania

For many years our extended family met at the Waldheim Chalet, nestled among the myrtles and King Billy pines at Cradle Mountain for the May school holidays.

The chalet, built in 1912, burnt down in 1974, but was replaced with a replica made with traditional bush carpentry techniques and King Billy pine shingles.

Cradle Mountain forms the northern end of the wild Cradle Mt – Lake St Clair National Park and is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Ancient rainforest, alpine heathlands, glacial lakes, rugged mountains, stands of ancient pines and the myriad wildlife are astounding.

The Overland Track, is a magnificent six-day walk.

We’d stay at the chalet for a week or two – bush walking, wildlife watching, playing in the snow and playing cards – the usual family holiday antics.

For me, a trip to Tasmania isn’t complete without visiting Cradle Mountain – at any time of the year.

Gourmet Food of Tasmania

things to do in tasmania
Photo: Supplied

The pure air, climate and fertile soils allows for an abundance of gourmet food, boasting sensational fine wine and fresh culinary delights.

On top of this, a thriving literary and visual arts cultural scene makes it an exciting place to live or visit with plenty of things to do in Tasmania.

Having grown up a fisherman’s daughter in Tasmania, I’ve yet to taste fish anywhere else in the world as good.

Deep-sea, cold water fish are incredible. Eating crayfish, scallops, trevally, trumpeter and my favourite, barracouta, was the staple diet. My mother was a fantastic seafood cook.

The field behind our house was often laden with mushrooms and our backyard was thick with stone-fruit trees and raspberry bushes.

Bushwalking in Tasmania

things to do in tasmania

My love for bushwalking began in Tasmania. A mountainous state, it has some of the best bushwalking experiences to be found.

The diversity includes treks through ancient rainforests, unique alpine plateaus, untouched white beaches and along the edge of some of Australia’s highest sea cliffs. My favourite walks in Tasmania include:

Maria Island

-The Overland Track, Cradle Mountain – Six day, 65km walk.

-Frenchman’s Cap – a challenging walk for experienced bushwalkers that leads to the summit of a white quartzite dome. It’s the most prominent mountain peak in the Franklin/Gordon Wild Rivers district.

Freycinet Peninsula Circuit

-South Coast Track – Southwest National Park

-Tasman Coastal Trail – Tasman National Park

-Walls of Jerusalem – an alpine region in the central north

The Tasmanian Weather and Climate

tulips in tasmania
Photo: Supplied

I miss Tasmania’s cool temperate climate. The transition of four distinct seasons and sudden, extreme weather from time to time is thrilling.

Things to do in Tasmania on the water

things to do in tasmania
Photo: Tourism Tasmania

My great, great grandfather was a shipmaster and sailed ships into Tasmania from Europe in the 1840s.

With a strong maritime heritage, the sea has influenced the lives of most Tasmanians. The Maritime Museum in Hobart is my favourite.

It’s packed with marine artefacts, paintings, stories and images and highlights the significance of sailing and steam ships in the development of Tasmania.

My family was sea mad with a love of anything that could float; from speedboats and hobie cats to school holidays on a small yacht and later, dad’s fishing boat.

Tasmania wildlife

things to do in tasmania

Tasmania has one of the most biologically diverse marine environments in the world due to its climate, location and cool ocean currents.

The waters brim with sea-life and seabirds and are thick with giant kelp forests, sea-grass meadows and sponge gardens.

Sea dragons camouflaged in kelp, little penguins, fur seals, great white sharks, migratory whales, humpbacks and killer whales are common.

Take a boat trip – commercial or private, and you won’t be disappointed.

The chance of seeing incredible wildlife is extremely high and of all those things to do in Tasmania you’ll want to try and see the native animals. Watch out for wombats, devils, spotted-tailed quolls, wallabies and echidnas.

Tasmania has several excellent wildlife sanctuaries.

Discover Tasmania

For more exciting stuff in Tasmania see Discover Tasmania

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