Tasmania has a temperate climate and compact size, about three quarters that of Ireland. It lets you get a feel of Australia without having to contend with the vast distances and the sometimes extreme temperatures of the mainland.
Well that’s how I saw it when I planned the second stage of my Round the World in 50 Days trip and that’s largely how it worked out. With only four days available, I decided to narrow my visit to the northern part of Tasmania, flying into Launceston.
After torrential rain in Tokyo, I enjoyed some pleasant, sunny February weather in Tasmania with temperatures in the low 20s – quite different from Melbourne a week later! See my Quick Links to the left for Five day world weather and Weather annual averages.
The flight from Japan, the first stop in my Round the World trip, took about 12 hours with a short break in Sydney between planes. There was no jet lag problem as there is only a two hour time difference between Japan and Tasmania, so having picked up my hire car from the airport, I was ready to explore.
The five highlights of my visit, in order according to distance from Launceston, are:
1. The Cataract Gorge, which provides an attractive walk from the centre of Launceston through a narrow, rocky gully following the South Esk River. The river widens out at the First Basin where there is a chairlift, a funicular railway and two cafés. There are several good viewpoints along the way and the paths pass through rich and varied vegetation.
2. The vineyards to the west of the Tamar River. Although I would visit many vineyards in the rest of my Round the World trip, these were among the most attractive and the wine among the most pleasant to drink.
3. Tamar River Cruise from Launceston to the mouth of the Tamar. I enjoyed the informative commentary and an excellent afternoon tea with local wine, as the riverside scenery slipped gently by. Wildlife observed along the way included seals and sea eagles. Seniors get a 10% discount on this 2.5 hour cruise.
4. Clarendon Homestead, a beautifully restored Georgian house with extensive gardens and parkland on the banks of the South Esk River, 17 miles south of Launceston. The house was built in 1838 for James Cox, a wool producer and merchant. It is managed by the National Trust of Tasmania and includes a servant’s wing, woolshed, stables, barn, cottages and a coach house. Seniors get a 20% discount on entry charges and there is free entry for British National Trust members. The nearby town of Evandale has many beautifully preserved 19th Century buildings.
5. Cradle Mountain in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, about 80 miles south-west of Launceston. The scenery and views along the way are spectacular as are the views of Cradle Mountain from Lake Dove. To enter the National Park you need to obtain a pass from the Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service.
Of course there is much else to see in Tasmania, including the capital Hobart and several interesting sites relating to Tasmania’s history as a penal settlement, but those will have to await another visit.
Travel and Accommodation
The flight from Sydney to Launceston (and later back to Melbourne) was by Jetstar, one of Australia’s budget airline. This was separate from my Round the World ticket. I organised the car hire via Auto Europe, but with a year’s insurance excess cover via carhireexcess.com, which was much cheaper than buying excess cover locally.
There are many good hotels in Launceston. I stayed at the Mercure Hotel in Launceston – nothing special but pleasant enough and conveniently sited. They do not give a Senior discounts in line with all Accor Hotels, but often have good offers available – see my Hotel Deals for Seniors.