When I had thought about Tasmania before, I guess the only thing that came to mind, really, was the Tasmanian Devil, so when a friend from college said he wanted to go backpacking through Tasmania after some time in Australia, I jumped at the chance. I get so sick of going to places where everyone I know has already been, it was cool to actually feel like I was jumping into the unknown. I did not know anything except we would be spending most of our time in Hobart.
Tasmania turned out to be absolutely awesome. It is an island paradise, basically, with so much wildlife and green, luscious overgrown forests, it feels like you are constantly in a postcard.
One of the first things we did was Louisa’s Walk, which is probably the most popular tourist thing to do in Hobart. It is a cool interactive museum. It is basically an outdoor walk led by costumed tour guides, and there is a lot of history in it, too. It is supposed to mimic a walk in the life of Louisa Regan, who was an Irish criminal who in 1841 was exiled to Van Diemen’s Land for seven years. Supposedly her crime was just like the one in Les Miserables: she stole a loaf of bread. The walk is cool because you have two actors who walk with you and tell the full historical story while in full dress from way back when. You go all the way along the water source route to the female prison – known as the Female Factory – where she served her sentence.
It was pretty chilly when we were there – in July it was about 50 degrees – to be honest, I did not really realize how dramatic the whole North/South equator thing would be, and call me stupid, but it just did not dawn on me that I would need a coat in July.
So we heard that we should go to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary for a night time feeding, but I did not really want to go stand outside somewhere at night because I did not have the right clothes for it, so we just went the next day. Man, this place is absolutely amazing! I have been to a lot of wildlife sanctuaries in my life, but this has to be the absolute best one ever. I got to see a bunch of Tasmanian Devils – which they call “Tassie Devils” – plus Tasmanian Bettongs, Eastern Quolls, Tasmanian Pademelons, possums, kangaroos, wombats, koalas, lots of very weird lizards, and a bunch of cool birds. The set up was super cool, too! It just felt like a natural place these animals would be happy and be able to live their lives and be in peace. So many zoos and wildlife preserves feel miserable, and this was just a place of joy and celebration of the animals. It put me in a great state of mind to go. I heard at night you can go and feed the animals, but we went during the day and went to a guided tour that started at – I think – 2 pm, and it was awesome.
My friend is pretty into religious monuments, so we went to the Penitentiary Chapel. To me, a church is just a church, and I can not remember another church that I actually enjoyed visiting, but this was something pretty special. You see, it is not just a church – it is actually a place that was used 180 or so years ago to house convicts, have them go through their trials, be kept in solitary confinement, and all sorts of other parts of these criminals’ lives. You hear about Australia and you know, in theory, that it was a nation of criminals, but to actually stand where they stood and experience things like they did was something pretty special. I will say one other thing: that is one CREEPY church! It is so intimidating and dark, it totally messes with your head to be in there. You can just imagine the dread someone would feel if they had to live there. This is not anything like the churches I grew up in! This seems like some sort of torture place.
One great thing I really appreciated about Tasmania is how fresh the food is, and how much pride Tasmanians take in growing so much of their own food in sustainable ways. It is called “Apple Isle” or “Apple Island” or something like that, and I did not see a ton of apple orchards – though there were some nice vineyards we saw signs for – there was fresh produce and fresh seafood everywhere. I like to eat healthily, and when you are travelling, it is really hard sometimes to stay focused and find good options, but in Tasmania, I felt like everyone wanted to eat the same way I do: fresh, local, and simple. Ingredients came from not far away, and things were grilled or at least not loaded with unhealthy sauces. For someone like me, this makes a huge difference in a trip!
One day we drove up to the top of Mount Wellington, and I am so glad we did. We waited for a really nice day because we heard that if you go up on a cloudy, windy day you might not get any views, and like I said, it was super cold, so try to leave enough space in your schedule to wait for nice weather to head up there. The drive from town took maybe 20 minutes, and the view was INCREDIBLE! You can literally see panoramic views of the entire city, and it was just one of the greatest views I have ever seen in my entire life. I felt like I was on top of the world. When I go up in altitude, I can feel it in my head, and I found out that Mount Wellington is thousands of feet high, so it makes sense that I got a little bit dizzy.
We also went to South Bruny National Park and the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, which were fine. I am not enormously into just spending time in green spaces, so neither did amazing things for me, but that wildlife refuge I went to at the beginning of my trip totally blew my mind. All in all, Tasmania is a great week long visit to add onto the end of a trip to Australia. You can get out of the tourist path, for the most part, and see some unspoiled land, and extremely friendly people. Just remember to check the weather first… and bring a coat!