What if Tasmania became a country?
South of the south
On the Australian island of Tasmania
Text and photos: Hilke Maunder
Wilderness in the west, Old England in the east: on the green mountain island of Tasmania, Australia shows itself from a completely different perspective. On the island “under down under”, which is the size of Ireland, 12,000 years of isolation have created a different Australia. Its almost 500,000 inhabitants “cluster” in the capital Hobart, build neat villas in Devonport and Launceston or live in places like Promised Land, Paradise or Nowhere Else - they don't want to live anywhere else.
The west, south and middle of Tasmania are still wilderness today, in which hardly anyone has settled down comfortably. 17 accessible national parks protect the unique flora, fauna and geography of the island, one fifth of which is protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site: almost 1.4 million hectares from Cradle Mountain in the north to the Southwest Cape and the islands behind. More than 2000 kilometers of hiking trails open up the prehistoric wilderness in which some of the most unusual animal species in the world have survived: the Tasmanian devil, a nocturnal hunter with devilishly sharp teeth; Quolls called tiger cats, sedate wombats and the Tasmanian bettong, a nearly 40 cm large mini kangaroo.
On Cradle Mountain
The most famous landmark of this primeval nature is the rugged profile of Cradle Mountain in the national park of the same name, at the foot of which runs the Overland Track, one of the best-known and best hiking trails in the world. In the middle of the wilderness of the Cradle Mountain National Park, the Waldheim Alpine Spa of the Cradle Mountain Lodge pampers you with wellness in the Tasmanian way: the whirlpool bubbles over a stream, and the sauna relaxation room offers a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Only products from Tasmania or other regions of Australia are used for massages, wraps or baths.
A bay like a wine glass
The most beautiful bay on the island is located in the Freyinet National Park, founded in 1916: Wineglass Bay - a gently curved crescent moon made of light coral sand and turquoise to deep blue sea, the sight of which can only be enjoyed after an hour's ascent to Atmos Mountain. Other areas of the island are so isolated to this day that scientists keep discovering animals that were previously unknown - and plants from prehistoric times were able to survive: The oldest pollen of the Tasmanian Huon pine, for example, can be traced back 135 million years.
In Stanley on the north coast, Mark Bishop uses their wood to make unusual tables and sculptures that have repeatedly won prizes at international exhibitions. Every year in early November, Deloraine, a small town on the Meander River, hosts the Tasmanian Craft Fair, Australia's largest craft fair. More than 200 artisans from Tasmania and other states show their finest pieces for four days in the galleries and shops of the historic city: works made of silver, wood, silk and clay, fine calligraphy, hand-drawn candles and woven baskets.
On the Derwent River
In Dismal Swamp, a 600-hectare karst basin 30 km northwest of Smithton, nature and culture are tense: In the midst of blackwood trees, ferns and gurgling underground, sculptures, pictures and installations by Aboriginal artists Ross Langford, Greg Duncan and Gwen Egg interpret , Bob Jenyns and Yvonne Rees-Pagh the flora and fauna of the unusual biotope.
In hell on earth
Port Arthur commemorates the beginnings of the Australian enclave of England, from 1830 the end of the line for male criminals of the Empire. From Scorpion Rock, your gaze wanders over an extensive park landscape in which picturesque buildings rise - a Westminster-style church, cream-colored cottages and the commandant's house, in front of which mighty cypress trees stand guard. It is quiet. Terribly quiet. Anyone who spoke to the guards or fellow prisoners ended up in a closet-sized room without a window: solitary confinement for days or weeks, invented in Port Arthur, then the most notorious penal colony in the world.
At Dove Lake
More than 12,500 prisoners went through “Hell on Earth” from 1831 to 1853: murderers and fences, but also those who had only stolen a slice of bread. The British knew no mercy. The prisons in the kingdom were overcrowded, but in the most distant colony of the empire there was ample room for the “dregs” of society. As early as 1840, more than 2,000 prisoners and servants were living in the penal settlement on the Tasman Peninsula. It was impossible to escape: an ice-cold, roaring sea, teeming with sharks, crashes onto the steep coast of the peninsula from three sides. A cordon of chain dogs guarded the bar of land at Eaglehawk Neck, which was only a hundred meters wide. Nevertheless, “convicts” dared to flee again and again - one used a wooden bathing trough as a boat, a second skipped past the bloodhounds in a kangaroo costume: 200 desperate attempts - none was successful. Anyone caught died on the rope that same day.
Of the once more than 60 buildings, 30 have now been restored. Only the visitor center is new. Here every visitor receives his “Lottery of Life” playing card, with which he can follow the fate of an individual prisoner - from deportation from England to everyday life in Port Arthur. It gets really scary with the Historic Ghost Tour, a one and a half hour guided tour in the dark - goose bumps are guaranteed.
Hobart: "simply the best"
Launceston is also “very British”. Colonial churches and villas in Victorian and Georgian style characterize Tasmania's second largest city with just under 66,000 inhabitants. It was formed in 1805 at the confluence of the North Esk and South Esk Rivers, which together form the broad valley of the Tamar River. Some of the residences that wealthy wheat and wool traders once built in Launceston now pamper visitors as luxurious bed and breakfasts. On Sunday the traders used to stroll with the family in the Victorian park at the Cataract Gorge, a wild and romantic gorge with a raging river, fern-covered clearings, swimming pool and chairlift at the southwest exit of the city.
In Hobart Harbor
The former railway workshops in the Inveresk district have been converted into an exciting cultural center in recent years, which still shows the old workshops in some halls. The Tamar Valley is lined with wineries such as Strahlynn, Rosevears Estate and Pipers Brook, which grow excellent Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. The best way to enjoy the region's fine wines is back in Launceston at the Stillwater Restaurant, which has won multiple awards as the best restaurant on the island.
Cityscape of Hobart
For around 500,000 Tassies, “Simply the best” is Hobart, their capital. The small capital with the large natural harbor is shaped and shaped by the water. Its suburbs follow the course of the Derwent River, the city huddles around the docks of Sullivan's Cove. A group has breakfast in their sea kayaks next to a historic sailor who has moored at Constitution Dock. She paddled here from Sandy Bay at dawn and watched the sunrise at sea. On a tarpaulin is a fresh food box filled with chocolate muffins and sandwiches. On the neighboring boat, a man fills the coffee mugs. On their way back, the group passes the large supply ships of the Antarctic stations as small colorful dots - 4,000 kilometers of sea separate Tasmania from the next mainland to the south. Then the group turns and paddles to the Tasman Bridge.
The toughest offshore regatta in the world
In early January, the bridge is the most beautiful setting when the winners of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race are expected in Hobart Harbor. The 628 nautical miles long route is considered to be the toughest offshore regatta in the world. After the exertion, enjoyment beckons: the seven-day festival “A Taste of Tasmania”. The taste of Tasmania, to be experienced live at tastings, lectures and presentations by local and international celebrity chefs, winemakers and delicatessen manufacturers, attracts more than 200,000 visitors to Hobart's harbor edge every year. All year round, the Cascade Brewery invites you to visit Australia's oldest brewery. A visit to Cadbury’s is also very popular: you can taste the chocolate production during the tour.
The restoration of the old town on the west bank of the port has given the city its historic heart back. In the 19th century, whalers, traders, soldiers and officials kept the sandstone warehouses busy. Today, studios, antique shops, cafés, pubs and boutiques flourish in the old residential and department stores, which were mostly built by convicts from 1818 onwards.
A table mountain like from a picture book
Every Saturday the city meets at the Salamanca Market and strolls between Parliament and the harbor in front of the backdrop of old warehouses, past around 300 stalls, the variety of which is hard to beat: Culinary specialties from fish pie to lemongrass, salmon and wine entice you between sandstone sculptures and records . Kitsch, clothing, food and art.
Like painted: Peppermint Bay
From Salamanca Place Kelly’s Steps lead out to the colonial cottages of Battery Point, small huts from Georgian times, gems with stub panes and polished copper handles. The National Trust gives a guided tour of Battery Point every Saturday at 9:30. The first stop is the Narryna Van Diemen’s Land Folk Museum. The oldest folklore museum in the country keeps the memories of the first settlers alive with letters, pictures and furniture. The oldest continuously inhabited building in Australia is at 40 Macquarie Street and is now part of the Tasmanian Museum. The Theater Royal is the oldest theater on the continent, the Anglesea Barracks are the oldest barracks in Australia.
Such superlatives are important for Hobart's self-confidence. In 1973, too, the small capital was the first to recognize the signs of the times. When gambling was legalized in Australia, Hobart promptly opened Australia's first casino at Wrest Point - again the tassies were ahead of the mainland bloody mainlanders.
Travel information about Tasmania
Liner flights from Frankfurt via Sydney or Melbourne to Hobart. Flight time around 28 hours.
"Spirit of Tasmania" (TT-Line): night ferry service from Melbourne to Devonport. www.spiritoftasmania.com.au
"Devil Cat" (TT-Line): Catamaran connection Melbourne-George Town within six hours (only in summer)
Electronic tourist visa (ETA) with a three-month validity when booking at a travel agency, six-month visa for tourists for a fee from the Australia Plus Visa Service, www.australia-visum.de
Tourism Tasmania, www.discovertasmania.com.au
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