Tasmania was settled by the British as a penal colony and convicts were first transported to what was then called Van Diemen's Land, in 1804. Penal settlements were established at Sullivan's Cove (Hobart), Maria Island, Sarah Island, and Port Arthur. The ruins of the convict gaols can still be seen in these places, particularly at Port Arthur which has been carefully preserved and has many convict related activities for tourists.
In spite of its small size, the Tasmania has plenty attractions and you could spend a month there and still not see everything.
Tasmania promotes itself as the "Natural State" and the "Island of Inspiration" owing to its large, and relatively unspoiled natural environment. 36% of Tasmania is formally in reserves, National Parks and World Heritage Sites.
Tasmania is famous for its merino wool which is used by Japanese companies to manufacture high quality men's suits. It is also known world-wide for the Tasmanian Tiger, a now extinct striped marsupial dog-like animal, and the nocturnal Tasmanian Devil, a small black and white marsupial whose sharp teeth and frightening growls belie the fact that it is relatively shy of humans. Tasmanian Devils are currently under threat of extinction due to a widespread facial tumour. The state government is endeavouring to detect the cause of the tumours and preserve disease-free colonies.
On the whole, expect a good mix of nice natural scenery, fresh food and wines, and historic heritage.
Theses large ferries take vehicles, bikes, foot passengers and pets on a ten-hour crossing between Melbourne and Devonport. Reservations are recommended, particularly at peak summer periods. Note that the cost of a ticket increases over the Christmas period (especially for those taking a car), when mainlanders return to visit families and summer vistors arrive.
The crossing can be a little rocky at times, but provides you with beautiful views. For overnight crossing you have the option of booking one of a range of a cabins or a reclining chair for the 10-hour journey. The ferries provide the basic facilities expected including:
The ferries offer additional support for travellers with mobility impairments.
Getting around Tasmania by car is by far the most convenient way to see what the state has to offer. Cars can be brought into Tasmania from the mainland on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry (see above), or hired upon arrival.
Look out for good package deals including car rental and accommodation. It is easy to think that such a small island can be seen in just a few days, but roads are relatively narrow and can be mountainous. Visitors often find that a couple of days is not long enough to see the main sights.
If you have plenty of time in Tasmania, buses can be an option, but you would be advised to study timetable carefully and to do an extra bit of planning, as services can be infrequent.
Two major companies which service most of Tasmania:
There are no passenger rail services in Tasmania.
There are a wide variety of culinary offerings in Tasmania, from the best chips and gravy at the local milk bar, to world renowned chefs in amazing upper class restaurants.
Tasmania has superb wine regions including along the Tamar River and Down in the Huon Valley.
There is also a large spring water industry in Tasmaniam, which means that some bars and restaurants do not to offer free tap water (they are not legally obliged to do so).
Tasmania (in particular Hobart) has experienced sporadic outbreaks of meningococcal infections in recent years and you may prefer to avoid tap water or sharing glasses.
When driving observe the speed limits. The rules are simple. 50km/h on all Tasmanian streets, and 100km/h on highways and freeways unless otherwise signposted.
Be aware that there are many wild animals in Tasmania, and be prepared to see a lot of roadkill. Be especially careful at dusk and dawn. Although wallabies and wombats are not large, they can make a mess of your vehicle and drivers swerving to avoid them have caused many accidents.
When driving on highways and freeways, do be careful of large trucks. Speeding large trucks are common and dangerous. If one is heading your way slow down and move towards the side of the road, letting it pass.
Always slow down at school crossings when in operation or you may be surprised by a waiting police car and receive a fine.
Bushwalking can be a truly breathtaking experience in Tasmania, but be sure to obtain the right gear and local advice and maps. Always sign the book at the beginning and end of each walk. Be aware that mobile coverage is very limited (although reception can often be had on Mt Ossa, Tasmania's highest mountain). The main dangers are getting lost and/or suffering hypothermia. If you include thermals, a good sleeping bag and a map and compass in your shopping list, these scenarios are unlikely. Paddy Pallin has stores in both Launceston and Hobart (ask about the 10% discount).