AUSTRALIA - Tasmania
While we were back in Australia for 8 months, we were still very much affected by the travel bug, and so we decided to explore Tasmania - a place a lot of Australians like to mock as being "inbred." What we found was a place so laid back and rich in environmental diversity that we seriously considered buying land a staying - a first for us.
Tasmania was first "discovered" by some white guys in a boat about 2 hundred years ago, however it was already in fact inhabited by the Aboriginals. Once the white guys moved in, they colonised it in the same way as the rest of the country, by turning it into a prison colony and pretty soon boatloads of convicts from England found themselves farming, logging, building boats and helping to establish a new colony.
Today Tassie has a population of around a mere 500,000 people, the smallest land-population ratio of any of Australia's states. Even the capital city, Hobart, feels more like a big country town than a city, and still prides itself on it's weekly farmers markets. It's climate is perfect for beer and wine growing, and with 21% of the island being National Parks (the current world record holder!) outdoor activities from hiking, mountain biking, diving, cycling abound.
Weather - Tasmania is located south of mainland Australia, making it one of the closest, inhabited land masses to Antartica. In one word, Tasmania is COLD. We visited in Autumn and the average temperature was still only around 15C during the day, and somewhere between 5C and 0C at night. And locals were wearing t-shirts complaining of the heat!
Environment - Tasmania is one of the most environmentally diverse island masses in the world. It is home to stunning snow capped mountains, wind swept plains, old growth forests, rain forests and even typical austalian bush. The only thing mainland Australia has that Tasmania doesn't is a desert.
Safety - .... What's saftey?? That would insinuate that Tamania is dangerous... It's not, you could easily, and most people do, leave your doors unlocked and nobody would even notice.
Shopping - Tasmania sees a lot of tourists and as such decorative teatowels for you Grandmothers are not difficult to find. It also has alot of local craft and you can buy just about anything made out of Huon pine. Local foods are also big and every town seems to have it's own shop specialising in jams, chutneys, chocolates or cheese - all perfect souvenirs.
Food - Generally speaking there are three ways most people travel in Tassie: 1) self-catering in a campervan; 2) eating at local restaurants with a rental car; and 3) eating at expensive restaurants with a tour company.
No matter which option you chose, Tasmania is delicious! A few things it is famous for - Cheese, Chocolate, Oysters, Salmon, Trout, Beef, and apples.
N.b. If you are self-catering most of the time, you may find it beneficial to stock up on your food at bigger towns with supermarkets (especially vegetables)
Beer - The problem in Tasmania isn't finding beer, it's deciding which local brew to drink first! Tassie has more micro breweries than the rest of Australia and you will find unique beers at every pub you go to, and all at a half decent price ( for australian standards.)
Drinking water - Water in Tassie is safe to drink out of the tap, it is probably the best tasting tap water in Australia actually.
Transport - This is the most difficult part about Tasmania. There is a bus network but it is expensive, limited and it only goes between major cities, often without an option to get off along the way. The best way to see Tasmania is undoubtedly by your own set of wheels. Rental companies abound and can cater to every type of traveller. We went with Devil campervans and had a super basic pop-top campervan ($55 a day) which was perfect for us with a bed, couch and kitchen. Other people we met were travelling and sleeping in rentacars, others in Winnebagos. The choice is yours, but having your own transport means you can camp where you want to, go where you want to and eat where you want to, all at your own pace. And for the most part, Tasmania's roads are car-free, you will only pass a handful of cars a day. If you are driving at dusk or dawn, be careful not to hit wildlife that gathers on or beside the roads at these times of day. Hitching is quite common and relatively normal.
Accommodation: Accommodation is not cheap, but it is everywhere. Tasmania is full of B&B's, farmstays, lodges and funky chalets. Backpacker accommodation is also available but mainly in the bigger towns. Campsites are more common than petrol stations, but usually aren't cheap either. For a tent, camping grounds charge between $5 and $15 per tent. For campervans an unpowered site is around $20, powered is upwards of that. Due to the sheer number of tourists travelling in vans, "free campsites" abound and you can either buy a book that outlines them, ask at an information centre, or many maps have them already marked on them as "rest-stations, or rest-stations with camping." Otherwise, just find a nice quiet spot and park! Unlike the rest of Australia, as long as you are not free-camping in a city, the police will leave you alone. For showers, most information centres can point you in the right direction to the closest one - sometimes free, sometimes cheap.
Overall - We rented a great poptop van from devil campers for the great price of $55 a day which included 2 gas bottles, a fridge, and water. We cooked 2 meals a day and ate out once, drank a few beers a day and a bottle of wine with dinner and camped anywhere we thought was nice, more often than not in stunning locations with amazing views. Even so, our daily spending was well and truly more than we had budgeted for. If you self-catered for all of your meal and didn't drink anything other than tap water, you could probably do it a bit cheaper. In total we spent $120 a day for 15 days, including the van rental, petrol, the boat from Melbourne (Spirit of Tasmania) and the return flight from Hobart to Brisbane.
Accommodations we stayed at:
- Lilico, free camping
- Burnie, free camping
- Marrawah, free camping
- Strahan, free camping
- Mt Field NP, $20 (unpowered)
- Gordon, free camping
- Tessellated pavement, free camping
- Swansea, free camping ($2.5 donation)
- Bay of fires, free camping
- Narauntapu NP, $17 (powered)
- Mole creek, $20 (unpowered)
- Great Lakes, free camping
- Opossom Bay, free camping