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An increasingly popular destination for travellers to Australia, Tasmania's rugged natural beauty is its primary draw card. Apart from a few cities and towns, much of Tasmania is pure wilderness and great for hiking and other outdoor activities. Tasmania is an island, with smaller surrounding islands, located 240 kilometres south off the coast of eastern Australia, separated by the Bass Strait. The subantarctic Macquarie Island is also under the administration of the state.
Tasmania's landmass of 68,401 km2 is located right in the pathway of the notorious "Roaring Forties" wind that encircles the globe. The island is surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans and separated from mainland Australia by Bass Strait. Tasmania is the only Australian state that is not located on the Australian mainland.
Tasmania has been volcanically inactive in recent geological times but has many jagged peaks resulting from recent glaciation. Tasmania is the most mountainous state in Australia. The most mountainous region is the Central Highlands area, which covers most of the central western parts of the state. The Midlands located in the central east, is fairly flat, and is predominantly used for agriculture, although farming activity is scattered throughout the state. Tasmania's tallest mountain is Mount Ossa at 1,617 metres. The mountain lies in the heart of the world famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Much of Tasmania is still densely forested, with the Southwest National Park and neighbouring areas holding some of the last temperate rain forests in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Tarkine, located in island's far North West, is the largest temperate rainforest area in Australia covering about 3,800 square kilometres. With its rugged topography, Tasmania has a great number of rivers. Several of Tasmania's largest rivers have been dammed at some point to provide hydroelectricity. Many rivers begin in the Central Highlands and flow out to the coast. Tasmania's major population centres are mainly situated around estuaries (some of which are named rivers).
The Derwent River flows south and reaches the coast at Hobart; the Tamar River flows north from Launceston; the Mersey River also flows north to the North West coast at Devonport, and the Franklin and Gordon Rivers flow west and meet the coast at Strahan. The South Esk River is the longest river in Tasmania. It starts in the mountains at Fingal and flows through Avoca, Evandale, Longford, Hadspen and finally Launceston. The river is dammed at Launceston's Trevallyn Dam and used for the city's hydroelectricity. Although most of the water is dammed at Lake Trevallyn, some flows on into the Cataract Gorge, where it becomes a tributary to the Tamar Estuary, and the outflow from the power station also joins the Tamar River downstream of Launceston.
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There are 19 national parks in Tasmania, a testament to the state's extraordinary beauty and diversity. Freycinet National Park and Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park are two of the most popular. Many of the National Parks and reserves have been combined associated together to create the Tasmanian Wilderness, which covers 20% of the island.
The Tasmanian climate is extremely variable with high fluctuations in temperature and wind speed during the average week.
Summer lasts from December to February and has an average maximum temperature at sea level of 21 °C. Winter lasts from June to August with an average maximum temperature at sea level of 12 °C. Still, it can be around 35 °C on some summer days and below zero during some winternights. Although rain is possible in every month, the wintermonths of June to August tend to be somewhat wetter.
There are no international flights to Tasmania at present. Connections are best made through Melbourne International Airport. There are daily flights from Melbourne with Jetstar, Tiger, Qantas and Virgin Blue.
The two major airports in Tasmania are Hobart International Airport (HBA) and Launceston Airport (LST). Devonport (DPO) also has Qantas service from Melbourne, while Burnie (BWT) and King Island (KNS) can be reached from Melbourne by Rex (Regional Express).
A ferry service, the Spirit of Tasmania runs between Melbourne and Devonport every night of the year and during the day in peak periods. The major benefit in taking the ferry is the ability to take your car with you. Prices are often higher than the plane, but this can be offset by not having to rent a car.
Accommodation on board the ferry is either in one of several types of cabins, or alternatively you can just book a chair. Facilities and entertainment on board are quite basic. There is a bar and a few shops. There is a movie theatre, but during the overnight crossings, that is where people sleep.
The only scheduled flights within Tasmania are with Tasair, mostly to King Island.
The only train service is by the West Coast Wilderness Railway between Queenstown and Strahan. http://www.puretasmania.com.au/Default.asp?pID=46
The most convenient way to see Tasmania is by either hiring a car or bringing your car with you on the ferry. There are several options for driving around Tasmania. Although the distances are not particularly large, don't be fooled. Winding roads will slow you down considerably and what may seem like a short distance on the map could take much longer.
The national highway 1 leads from Hobart to Burnie, through Launceston and Devonport. If you need the fastest option to get from Devonport to Hobart though (i.e., if you have caught the ferry and need to get to Hobart), you can take Highway 1 down to Deloraine, then turn off on the Lake Highway to Melton. This bypasses Launceston and shortens the journey considerably. For many visitors to the state though, the much slower drive down the east coast is one of the main attractions. Spending at least several days making the trip is a great way to get a feel for the state.
Roads in general are of a high standard and signage is clear. A crude map picked up at one of the information centres is usually enough to get around with. If you are planning on doing some bush walking, then be aware that trails often start at the end of a dirt road.
There are plenty of companies you could choose to hire a car from, including Redspot, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty. Car hire is often not available to drivers under 25, or if it is, it's more expensive for younger drivers.
If you have plenty of time in Tasmania, buses can be an option, but you would be advised to study timetables carefully and to do an extra bit of planning, as services can be infrequent. Two major companies which provide services around the state are Redline Tasmania and Tassielink. The main population centres are serviced by local bus networks provided by Metro Tasmania intra-city bus servicing Burnie, Hobart and Launceston, and Merseylink providing services to Devonport and Latrobe.
There are a wide variety of culinary offerings in Tasmania, from the best chips and gravy at the local milk bar, to world renowned chefs in amazing upper class restaurants.
Tasmania has many exceptional world class beers, whiskies & wines.
There are two major breweries in Tasmania; Cascade Brewery in Hobart and J. Boag & Sons Brewery in Launceston, which each offer tours. A number of boutique beer makers and distillers are spread around the state.
You can tour the Tasmanian Wine Routes easily by car or on guided tours. The island's Wine Routes include the Tamar Valley, north of Launceston along both sides of the Tamar River and east to Pipers River; the Derwent, Coal River and Huon Valleys (together comprising the Southern Wine Route), an easy drive from Hobart; and the growing wine regions of the North West and the East Coast.
There is a variety of accommodation options available across the state, from camping through to 5-star luxury. Tasmania is particularly renowned for its hosted bed and breakfast accommodation where you can experience a different way of life in a whole range of different properties, including heritage listed and more modern properties in stunning locations.
Ask Abenham a question about Tasmania
I've lived in the capital of Tasmania (Hobart) for 15 years. In that time I have developed a passion for our island state and all the wonderful places within it. If you like unspoilt wilderness (some of the most wild on the planet), surfing, beaches, adventure sports or just relaxing in one of the most peaceful places in Australia then Tasmania is for you. So if you are one of the few but lucky tourists that come down here feel free to ask me a question. If I don't know it off the top of my head I'll personally research it for you. Happy travelling.
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