About Tasmania: Hobart and Launceston
Tasmania (or ‘Tassie’, as the locals call it) lies just over 200 km south of Victoria’s coastline, across the turbulent waters of the Bass Strait. It has a temperate climate – wetter and cooler than Australia’s, which makes it greener and more picturesque. This also means that it’s one of the best places to visit in the summer.
Tasmania was discovered by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman as early as 1642, and was first settled by the British in 1803. Hobart is, in fact, the second oldest city in Australia (after Sydney). Unlike large stretches of Australia, the island still retains much of its past, with many historic buildings and a number of old convict settlements. There are also beaches and tracts of picturesque mountainous hinterland to explore. This is Australia’s smallest state, and in many ways its most individual.
The island is around 300 km long and 300 km wide, with a population of more than 500,000. You can drive from the capital, Hobart, to Launceston in less than three hours, but if you want to see the best places to visit outside these two centres, and explore the island a little – The Tasmanian Hinterland – it’s worth allowing three to four days.
Getting to Tasmania
You can fly to Hobart and Launceston from all the state capitals of Australia, with more available if you’re flying from Melbourne. The ferry Spirit of Tasmania (www.spiritoftasmania.com.au) runs across the Bass Strait from Melbourne to Devonport, on the north coast. The ferry takes cars, and has all mod cons – including restaurant, cabins and swimming pool. The trip takes 9 hours, there are two ferries; one leaves at 9 pm and arrives at 6 am, the other 9 am arriving and 6 pm.
Getting around Tasmania is part of the fun with scenic roads and great views everywhere you look. However be aware although small in comparison to Australia, Tasmania is the same size as Ireland, so plan ahead.
There is no rail network in Tasmania so rely on are regular bus services between all the main towns on the island. But if you want to head off the beaten track, you’ll need a car. You can try Selective Car Rentals in Hobart (tel. + 61 1800 300 102, 03-6234 3311; www.selectivecarrentals.com.au)