Maybe you read the title and thought, where in the world is Tasmania? Is that in Africa? No, that one is called Tanzania. Hmmm, I’ve heard of the Tasmanian Devil, is that something to do with this place? Actually yes. Is it an island or does it connect to many other countries. Well, let’s read further and see what you can find out about this not-so-well-known place.
Quick Overview of Tasmania
- Location: Tasmania is an island about 240 km (150 mi) south of Australia, separated by the Bass Strait. To the east is the Tasmanian Sea, which separates it from New Zealand, many many miles away.
- Language: English. The minority languages there are Mandarin, Nepali, Greek and Italian.
- Population: 531,500.
- Money: Australian Dollar (AUD).
- Transportation: Buses, taxis and even a flight between the two bigger cities, Launceston and Hobart.
- Religion: Around 37% of the population claim “no religion”, with around 20% being Anglicanism and around 15% being Catholic.
- Birthday: January 28 (which is Australia’s national holiday)
- Safety: As mentioned in my Melbourne article. Australia is listed as the 10th safest country in the world, with Tasmania being included in that fact.
- Fun Facts: Originally called Van Diemen’s Land, it was later changed to Tasmania. The name comes from the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who made the first reported European sighting of the island, in 1642. Tasmania had the first environmental political party in the world. If you want to sound like a local, you can use the word Tassie or even Tas, which you might see, when walking around town or looking up local websites. Tas is the smallest state in Australia and with over 40% of it being reserved as world heritage sites and national parks, it’s also the most geographically diverse.
- History: Evidence suggests that Aborigines were in Tasmania about 42,000 years ago, when Tasmania and Australia were one country. About 10,000 years ago, rising sea levels separated Tasmania from the mainland. The British showed up in 1803, and it’s estimated that around 3,000-10,000 Aboriginal people were there then. For the first several years, mainly convicts were sent to Tasmania, as its isolation provided the ideal location for criminals. In 1820, free settlers started arriving and calling Tasmania home. In 1901, Tasmania officially became one of the six States in Australia.
Getting to Tasmania
Since Tasmania is an island, you can only get there by ferry or by flying. There are regular flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and fly directly to Hobart or Launceston. Or if you’re coming from Melbourne, you’re able to take the ferry to Tasmania. The benefit of this is that you’re able to bring your car on board, and be able to see a lot more of Tasmania once you arrive. And if you want to, they even allow your furry friends on board. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and even guinea pigs and ferrets are allowed to come on board, and stay in kennels, where fresh water is provided throughout the trip. The ferries have year-round sailings from 19:30 (7:30pm), which arrive at 06:00 (6am) the next day, or during the high season, they depart at 09:00 (9am) and arrive at 18:00 (6pm) on the same day. There’s a bar, restaurant, two movie theaters, a kids-zone and even a reading room. For the day-sailing option, there’s even disco bingo, trivia and live music.
Moving Around: This is one area, where it’s a benefit to rent a car and see what you want, when you want. While the island isn’t necessarily so large, there aren’t big highways here, so going by bus on winding roads, can take some time (and your stomach may not like it either). Since it isn’t a high tourist attraction, you won’t be fighting for parking spaces like in other destinations. There are a lot of street parking areas, as well as paid parking areas. Local signs are clearly marked and easy to understand. If you’re in either Launceston or Hobart, you can rent a bike for around $25 (AUD) for the whole day. Since it’s such a green State, it’s easy to ride your bike around town or hop on a nearby trail. The same goes for walking, there are pedestrian paths, as well as nature paths, that are safe to walk on.
Hmmm, Any Other Transportation Options? There are some great tours that leave from Hobart to explore the southern part of Tasmania. What’s the benefit of doing a tour? No hassle, no worrying about timetables and most importantly, no worrying about driving on the other side of the road. Some great recommendations for any tour you’re looking at, is the Tasman Peninsula, which is home to the highest sea cliffs in Australia. Port Arthur is an interesting part of recent history to see, as it was the men’s prison during the 1800’s. The Federation Chocolate Factory is a family-owned chocolate shop that is well worth a stop. And Richmond Village is a cute historic town.
Oldest Bridge in Australia: Speaking of Richmond Village, while it isn’t a big town, it does offer a few small charms that you won’t find in other places. Older colonial houses and buildings are scattered throughout the area, the oldest bridge in Australia still stands there, and even a small replica of what Hobart would’ve looked like in the 1820’s, called Old Hobart Town Model Village, can be visited. Oh and a fun place to visit there, is something called “Lolly Shops”, which are candy shops, with a variety of local candy, ice cream and other sweet treats.
Port Arthur: The men’s prison is located on the southeastern side of Tasmania, which provided even more isolation for convicts, as there is only one way in and out of the peninsula. Even if someone escaped, there were still only on Tasmania. If they wanted to get to the mainland, they’d have to swim or quickly create a make-shift boat, then get across the shark-infested water, with always-changing-weather, and would at the best, take 2-3 days. But it’s only human nature to want to escape, and one of the most famous attempts was George “Billy” Hunt. He found a dead kangaroo, and used it’s skin as a disguise, trying to hop across the guard station. But the guards were hungry and thought dinner had just hopped into their path. With their guns aimed at him, he quickly put his paws up and surrendered. Stories like this and others can be found there at the premises.
Women’s Prison: It wasn’t just men that were sent to Tasmania, but also women. One location that you can still visit is actually in Hobart, called Cascades Female Factory. To get a lot more out of the experience, you can do a walking tour that starts in a park, and ends in the prison. It follows a woman who stole some bread back in England, was caught, transported to Tasmania, and then is sent to Cascades. They call it part history, part roaming theater, but regardless, it’s really well done. They do the tour every day and costs $25 (AUD).
The UnZoo: A really unique place to see and explore is something called the Unzoo. It’s the world’s first intentional unzoo, meaning that they try to keep the animals there in their natural habitat, rather then being in big fenced-in areas. They even tell you that since there aren’t any official boundaries, other animals may be wandering around or sleeping near places where you’re walking, such as the Bandicoots. But one thing is for sure, they have a variety of local animals that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. Some of them are Brushtail Possums, Eastern Rosellas (very colorful small bird), Pademelons (a local kangaroo), Corellas (typically a white bird, with dark patches around his eyes), and of course the Tasmanian Devils.
The Infamous Tasmanian Devils: No article about Tasmania is complete without talking about these peculiar little critters. One thing that I didn’t realize before seeing them, was that I thought they’d be a bit bigger. But they’re about the size of a shorter cat. I was able to see them at the Unzoo, at feeding time, and that was really fascinating to watch. They are big carnivore eaters, so no vegetarians among this group. If there is more than 1 devil in the same area, it doesn’t matter how much meat you give them, they are fierce competitors and will fight over the same piece of meat. They ran past the second piece of meat several times, until the first was completely eaten. Then they fought and growled and screeched at each other for the second piece. They are listed as endangered, so there is a breeding program in place, in hopes of growing their numbers.