Tasmania (Australia)

Tasmania is an island, roughly the size of West Virginia, off the southern coast of Australia out on its own, in the middle of the sea, in its own La La Land.  If WWIII broke out because of the incoming lunatic, and nukes started to fly, it is safe to say none of those nukes would be pointed in Tassie’s direction as nobody seems to know the place exists.

Tasmania is quite often overlooked by visitors to Australia.  I would bet many do not even know Tasmania is part of Australia or can point to where it is on the map.  This is my 4th trip to Australia. However, this was only my 1st visit to Tasmania.  I can now say a visit to Australia is incomplete without an extended visit to Tasmania during it’s summer months.  Tasmania is a true outdoor adventure paradise.

To help illustrate the remoteness of Tasmania, some of the tv’s in our Airbnb’s had an antenna attached.  I have not touched an antenna in over 20 years!  It’s Australia’s smallest state and over 40 per cent of Tasmania is reserved as national park and world heritage area.  It is a place seemingly stuck in a time warp.  Even though Tasmania is a part of Australia, it actually feels like another country as it appeared they are just not getting the message on modern civilization nor does it look like they give a flying shit.  The Tassie’s non-conforming lifestyle and attitude is what made it unique.

HOBART –

Upon arrival in the capital city of Hobart, Barbie said it felt like landing in Saratoga outside of racing season.  My initial impression of Hobart was that it felt like we landed on a Hollywood set depicting old time Australia.  The city has a real cool look.  Water and mountains surround the city with homes tucked into the mountains and fitting perfectly into the mountainous landscape.  The homes and buildings in the city centre are historical so they have been left alone and have the same appearance as they would back in the 19th and 20th century.  The architecture is old and there are no ugly high rises dotting the skyline.  Hobart and especially the outlying suburbs were nice to wander around.  If coming to Hobart, make sure you time your arrival to attend the Saturday Salamanca outdoor market which is the Big Kahuna of markets….because if your not eating or going to the markets, there’s not a whole hell of a lot to do in Hobart.  From what I observed, the Tasmanian people are real throwbacks with a 1960’s/70’s appearance.  Many of the older men actually look and dress like Leo O’Brien.  The older woman look and dress like Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall.  It’s as if modern day fashion is not the least bit of concern.  Some may call it a vintage look, I called it an “old ass” look.

At first, I was not crazy about the city of Hobart, but after spending 3 days exploring, the laid back lifestyle of the city kinda grew on me.  I especially liked that prices, in general, were about 15% less that the other parts of Australia we have already visited.  It was interesting seeing that the Chinese invasion has also made its way to Tasmania.  I just wondered how the heck the Chinese have found out about this under the radar place?  My only plausible explanation is that these Chinese use similar techniques to the way ants find their way to food. One ant locates the food, then send out signals to their ant friends and then massive colonies of ants proceed to swarm the food source.  I assume the Chinese send out a few reconnaissance Chinamen to source out desirable places throughout the world and once they are discovered, then bus loads upon bus loads of newly minted Chinamen flood in.  All, with new shiny iPhones and selfie sticks in hand.  These Chinese tourist groups make zero effort to socialize with other travelers.  They stay glued to their massive traveling packs and will rarely even acknowledge anyones presence outside their own Chinese circle.  And, let me add, they also really like to litter which gets under our skin.  Visiting China is on our bucket list but we are having second thoughts subjecting ourselves to their way of life.  Yes, they probably have kick ass dumplings over there but I am afraid we would be walking around pissed off everyday to actually enjoy them.
If you come to Tasmania during their summer, expecting consistent summer like heat, you gotta hope you get lucky.  The summer temperatures could fluctuate widely on a daily basis from 50-75 degrees.  I was told by locals that we were very fortunate to catch clear blue skies during our stay as the weather is never very clear in Tasmania for an extended stretch.  The locals were also loving the unusual good streak of sunny weather as we bumped into heaps heading straight to the lakes, beaches and mountains to join the tourists on the outdoor fun.

 

BICHENO / FREYCINET NATIONAL PARK / BAY OF FIRES –
We allocated two (2) weeks and basically circled the island exploring this incredibly scenic part of the world.  One of the best ways to explore the East Coast of Tassie is by taking a road trip along the Great Eastern Drive.  This beautiful coastal drive has captured the attention of visitors from all over the world.  Tasmania’s East Coast is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places in Australia.  Driving along the Great Eastern Drive offers countless opportunities to stop along the journey and soak up the natural beauty and fabulous views. The drive has more stunning little beaches, coves and bays than you can possibly imagine. There are wide open rolling green fields with thousands of sheep relaxing and grazing on the grass enjoying some of the best ocean views (see pix below) …..that is, until they are inevitably turned into lamb chops which is real popular in Australia.  We have been buying lamb in the supermarkets as our meat of choice to bbq as the lamb is so fresh/tasty and a fraction of the cost of beef.  I am assuming it will be even less expensive in New Zealand.  I will be remiss not to tell you, despite the fact it’s a small chain, Banjo’s has some mighty fine meat pies in Tassie and we gorged on them as well.

Some of the beaches here have an international reputation, like Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park and the awesome Binalong Beach in the Bay of Fires northeast region.   Wineglass Bay’s perfect white sand beach and clear blue ocean is considered one of the world’s top ten beaches and it lived up to the hype. (check out video and pix).  The beauty of Wineglass Bay is that you must put in the work for the reward to hang out on this gem of a beach.  This beach will always remain special because large mountains protect the bay from the infiltration of us ugly polluting humans.  The only access to the beach is via a sweaty 1.5 hr steep uphill/downhill hike.  I have learned from our travels to remote places, that wherever there are no humans, there is usually something beautiful.  It’s safe to say that Wineglass Bay is reason alone to visit Tasmania.  If you do the longer 1/2 day loop hike to Hazards Bay, it’s no exaggeration to say you may have been on one of the best day walks you will find anywhere in Australia.  The weather is volatile, just hope to catch a sunny summer day because that would make a big difference in the experience.

 

CRADLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK –
After our drive along the east coast, we headed into the mountains of Cradle Mountain National Park.  The scenery changed dramatically and we hiked the famed Dove Lake Circuit.  The walk around the lake was simply awesome with a setting that I will never forget.  It was breathtaking in every way and it’s so nice to get out into pure nature and how free you feel.  My mind will always return to Dove Lake when I need to picture myself in a peaceful place.

 

 

STRAHAN –
We then proceeded in our piece of shit Kia rental car (you know, the same one Lebron James insists he drives in those commercials) to experience the west coast town of Strahan.  Much to my dismay, there was not one sighting of the NY Giant superstar in this waterfront village.   The most touted activity in Strahan was the Gordon River cruise through Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area.  We passed on the 4 hr., $150 per person cruise simply because we were feeling like tight asses and simply enjoyed Christmas Day relaxing and eating Barbie’s home cooking in our pimped out cabin.  We did get off our butts briefly and hiked to the local waterfall.

 

BRUNY ISLAND –
We opted to conclude our Tassie road trip with a visit to Bruny Island, off the southeast coast of Tasmania, as soon as I’d heard it was the ultimate wilderness experience to have in Tasmania. One of the things I liked most about Tasmania is the opportunity it offers to encounter native wildlife, up close.  At the beach, across the street from our Airbnb in Bicheno, it was real cool sight to see flocks of penguins come ashore like clockwork at 9:30 PM every night.  Tasmania has its own wildlife and it’s everywhere….. Wallabies, echidnas, wombats, quokkas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, dolphins, seals, migrating whales and a shitload of colorful birds I have never seen before that are indigenous to Australia.  Barbie, the animal lover that she is, declared one of the days, “The best day of my life” after she got to spend the entire day hand feeding many of these creatures right off the balcony of our cabin.  I was cool with the feedings until she dipped into my ground beef that I had on tap for dinner.

 

THRU THE BINOCS –
I am in awe of the honor system here in Australia.  We don’t have that system in America.  That system seemingly went out in the 80s.  Here in Australia, after you fill up your car with gas, you then walk into the store and pay.  In America, paying for gas after it’s pumped, you might as well put up a sign out front that says, “Fill up with your gas and we hope you pay.”

At the supermarket self service checkout lines there is no working scale in the checkout bagging area.  It is really up to the customer to properly scan every item.

Locals leave their cars unlocked and windows rolled down when running their errands.  In America, that is a recipe for…..get ready to call your insurance company and inform them that your shit was just stolen.

At some of our accommodations, we were told there is no key to lock the front door.  It took me some time to get my head around that one.

When you get on public transportation whether it’s a tram/train to get around the city, all the doors open and nobody is present to collect the fare.  It is the responsibility of the rider to the swipe their prepaid transit card.  Sometimes BFD swiped but sometimes BFD neglected to swipe.

When visiting National Parks, it is strictly on the honor system to pay the entry fees.   No guard gates are present at the entrance to the Aussie parks.

Our two weeks in Tasmania flew on by and we were sad to leave.  We are now ready to explore the famed beaches and towns in Western Australia.  In addition to Tasmania, Western Australia is also off the radar of most visitors to Australia who tend to focus only on the East Coast because of limited vacation time.  Fortunately, we have been walking the world with no time constraints and that has enabled us to visit more of these off the beaten path destinations.

 

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