One week in Eastern Tasmania
Tasmania differs from the Australian mainland both in terms of environment and culture. The weather is much more temperate, and in winter can plunge to freezing temperatures. The people are more laid back than mainland Australians, particularly more than those based in Sydney or Melbourne.
As with all Australians in rural areas, everyone is almost universally friendly and you will often be met by a "g'day" while wandering around. A smile and a "hello" back costs nothing, and can make you feel a lot more comfortable in what may be strange surroundings.
Although not as arduous as trip in the Outback, a good map is required before starting the journey if you are self driving. If you rent a car, then you are likely to be able borrow a decent one.
Although not having accomodation booked in advance gives flexibility, contact numbers for the Australian Youth Hostel Association can be useful, if you are a member of either it or Hostelling International. Additionally, most Tourist Information centres can book accomodation for you on your arrival. It can be pot-luck regarding the quality of the rooms though. Finally, a decent website such as Hostel World has places from as low as $20 (Australian Dollars) per night. It is also possible to stay over night in public houses (pubs), although they tend to be slightly more expensive than normal budget accomodation.
Finally, when walking to certain areas some things are essential: decent walking shoes, at least half a litre of water per person (as you will perspire a lot), factor 30 sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
This itinerary is intended to start in Hobart, the state capital of Tasmania.
A cruise service runs from Melbourne, arriving at Devonport. The service, known as the Spirit of Tasmania also has tariffs for taking cars and motorbikes, should you already have one and do not wish to hire one in Tasmania.
Cheap car hire deals can normally be found pretty easily either on the Internet (before departure) or on arrival at Hobart. It is recommended that self-drive is taken for this itinerary.
Day one - Hobart: Depending on what time you arrive in Hobart, your activities can be limited to exploring the town centre and its museums, climbing to the top of Mount Wellington that the overlooks Tasmania or exploring the sea port.
Day two - Launceston: Drive to Launceston, stopping off on the way at the Lake for a spot of fishing. While in Launceston, the nearby (about ten minutes drive) Cataract Gorgeoffers some spectacular views of the Tamar River.
Day three - winery tour: For those that are fond of the odd glass of wine, the Northern Eastern corner of Tasmania has a number of wineries such as the commercially renowned Bay of Fires winery, to smaller boutique vineyards such as Stoney Rise. It is recommended that an organised wine tour is used to ensure that everyone gets an equal tasting!
Day four - waterfall watching: Around the north-eastern tip of Tasmania there are a number of waterfalls to explore. These vary in size and the volume of water cascading. During wetter times, the waterfalls can be at the most impressive BUT access to them may be restricted due to the danger of slippage. The main waterfalls that attract the most visitors are Lilydale Falls, Ralph Falls and St Columba Falls. Freely available maps of the north-eastern parts of Tasmania have these and all other waterfalls clearly identified.
Day five and six - Bicheno and the Eastern coast: Havng rounded the top of north-eastern Tasmania, the entire eastern coast offer beautiful white beaches and crystal blue seas to relax on. Depending on the time of year, the water can be very cold to swim in and can therefore be quite deceptive, as the beaches look tropical. Due to Tasmania's small population and it's isolated position, it is highly likely that you could have a beach to yourself or be sharing it with very few other people. The main beach areas are the Bay of Fires, Binalong Bay and Wineglass Bay (accessible only by footpath and not recommended for the less able).
Also down the eastern coast, there is the small town of Bicheno. The beach here is surrounded by rocky outcrops and gorse-like bushes. However, the real attraction is at just after sundown as the bushes contain nests of fairy penguins and it is at this time that they return from a day in the see. Guided tours are available to view these (at around $18 per person) although with a torch and a bit of patience it is possible to find them for yourself. The freely available local map has icons identifying the main areas where the penguins congregate.
Day seven - Port Arthur penal settlement: This penal settlement was in use until the late 1800s when it was ravaged by fire. It offers an interesting look at the history of the island, specifically around the Hobart area and gives an idea as to what it was like to live. A lot of the buildings have been restored to show them as they would have looked while occupied, while others have been left to the ravages of time.
Near to Port Arthur is a Tasmanian Devil sanctuary. The population of this rare animal is declining due to a facial tumour that is infecting (and ultimately killing) them. This sanctuary provides a safe environment for them, while working other groups to discover the cause of the tumour, and hopefully a treatment for it, before the species is wiped out. It is recommended that a visit is paid to help this good cause.
End of journey - Return to Hobart: After exploring Port Arthur, the journey to Hobart takes around 45 minutes.
Tasmania has few of the dangerous creatures normally associated with Australia, the temperature is too cold for them. Nevertheless, caution must be exercised on self-drive excursions that cross through the countryside, especially at night. The amount of roadkill that can be found on the roads is evidence to how easy it is to hit them. Although a wombat may look cuddly, they can do a lot of damage to the average car!
As always, the application of common sense can prevent other dangerous situations from occurring. Don't wander down deserted streets at night if you're by yourself, etc. Australia maintains reciprocal arrangements with most country regarding medical treatment, but if you wander off the beaten track then it may be a bit of a challenge getting to a hospital for treatment. An additional risk is that mobile (cellular) phone coverage in Tasmania can be very patchy.
If time permits, spending time on the western side of Tasmania is very rewarding as it's much more rural than the Eastern side. It can also be argued that a trip to Tasmania is incomplete without a trip up the Cradle Mountain. Strong walking shoes are recommended.