I love Tasmania for its truly authentic countryside and its similarity to Hokkaido.
What is more amazing is that their infrastructure and environmental conservation are very well established. Tasmania is transformed into a natural and cosy sanctuary.
Text/Photos : Dato’ Desmond Lee-san
Self-drive in Tasmania
4D3N Family Fun Drive Trip
I love Tasmania for its truly authentic countryside and its similarity to Hokkaido. Spanning about 90,000 sq km of land area, this island state has about 40% of its land designated as national park but only inhabited by about 500,000 residents. That means the farm animals could probably outnumber the human beings by several times. What is more amazing is that their infrastructure and environmental conservation are very well established. By going on a round-island driving trip, you could have easily sensed that the Tasmanians are not country bumpkins. With their expertise Tasmania is transformed into a natural and cosy sanctuary.
First Encounter of the Southern Hemisphere
It’s early at 6am when our ship docked at Devonport, the harbour at the northern coastline of Tasmania. That was our first taste of the serenity of this island in the southern hemisphere. Even though it was still dark, we could sense the pleasure that lies ahead of us. We left Melbourne on board the cruise ship “Spirit of Tasmania” at 7:30pm the night before. The cruise was stable and comfortable. Most of the passengers on board the ship were tourists on a self-drive trip. From our conversations, we realised we were all looking forward to the fun of a self-drive travel. We even shared our travel plans to get some ideas from one another. Self-drive travel is a flexible and more relaxing way to travel.
Self-drive trip is the best way to discover Tasmania
By 7am it was already daylight when we picked up our rented vehicle from Hertz. As we have made our bookings prior to our departure, Hertz prepared a spanking new KIA Carnival that came fitted with a user-friendly GPS navigator. Driving in Australia is fairly easy. They also adopt the British right-hand drive system just like us in Malaysia. Their roads and road signs are also of high standards. It only took me a short while to familiarise with the system and there I go… driving to the west of Tasmania!
The fun in a self-drive trip is having the tasks distributed among the 4 of us. We have a driver, a navigator who operates the GPS and scours the map, a manager who plans all our travel destinations on the way and another photographer cum videographer who records the moments of our journey. It makes up a wholesome family fun trip.
You have to be extra careful when driving in Tasmania. Speed limit is 100 km/h on the expressway, 50-70 in the suburban areas and 40 in school areas. In addition, you will need to keep an eye for kangaroos or other wildlife crossing your path. It was a rather “fortunate” incident on my 3rd day of driving when I got myself a speeding ticket for driving 11 km/h over the 100 km/h limit. I was very fortunate and blessed that the policeman let me off with just a warning. Otherwise, I would have 2 points deducted on my international driving license and a penalty of 100AUD.
Tasmania’s authentic nature
Located at the north-west corner of Tasmania is a small fishing village called Stanley. The locals have this to say about Tasmania – “Our winters are not cold and neither are our summers hot. It’s so conducive to live here. Moreover, with our rich sea produce, you will have lots of delicious fresh oysters.” The Tasmanians are such a hospitable lot who are so generous with their smiles and greetings. We chose to drive along the coastline of the Bass Straits because of its beautiful beaches and landscapes; and also their superb seafood, especially the fresh oysters. … The fresh and succulent oysters cost us only 8AUD per dozen. It’s relatively cheap compared 10-18AUD at other places.
Although it was a day of drizzling with grey skies, the towns of Burnie, Wynward, Rocky Cape and Stanley were no less attractive.
Despite the weather we decide to brave the 2.5 hour journey to the Cradle Mountain National Park. As we turn off the national route into the smaller trails, snow started drifting in the air and the temperature dropped to a whopping 5oC. That’s winter time in Tasmania! For the sake of self-drive vacationers, the authorities also put up the one and only petrol station in the national park. Of course, the price is about 40% higher. If there’s a need, we don’t have any other alternatives, did we? We spent only about an hour or so at the Cradle Mountain but we have taken in many a breath full of crisp fresh air.
On our return journey, we decided to stay overnight at Launceston. From the map, it seemed that we had to drive 120km winding along the mountains. Initially we were quite sceptical but our fears immediately diminished when we hit the trail. The well paved and brightly lit road brought so much relief to us. It was unbelievable, such well built infrastructure in the countryside. We knew we’d be in for a comfortable night when we saw the country club with casino and golf course. That’s our sanctuary for the night after driving 472km on the road today.
Tasmania – lifestyle along the river and sea
It was said that Tasmanians are either fishermen or farmers. But to me, they are both fishermen and farmers. From Launceston to Beauty Point, along the banks of the Tamar River, vineyards, agriculture farms and fish farms filled the landscape. I couldn’t help but stopped to snap a postcard picture. Another even more picturesque scene on the Route 1 – B34 is the endless fields of sheep, cows and horses. Another 2 hours drive on the B334 took us to the Wineglass Bay at the Freycinet National Park on the east coast of Tasmania. It’s going to be another exciting night as we’re putting up a night with the kangaroos. But we had to pay 300AUD for the accommodation in the national park. It was another 288 km drive this day.
Hobart – the heaven on earth
Driving 225 km down south, we finally arrived at Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania. It’s the 2nd oldest city in Australia, after Sidney, the British and Dutch were here since 1803. With a population of about 200,000 in a not so small area of 1357 sq km, practically most people could have a cottage on the mountain overlooking the sea. It’s so much like an elegant painting. We dropped by the Saturday flea market that opens from 5am-3pm and savoured the superb Thai cuisine at the waterfront (because we had enough of fish fillet).
Finally, on the 4th day it is time to return the car and bid goodbye to Tasmania.
Travelution 2012 January/February Issue 16