Tasmania Australia - Travels around the forgotten Island in Aussie

Flying low over indigo waters, I saw below me the heart shaped island of Tasmania . Jagged coastline and unspoilt wilderness created a vision of rugged beauty, fitting for a place that feels like the ends of the earth.

Separated from the Southern tip of mainland Australia by the 240km stretch of Bass Strait, it's charms are slowly being discovered by the adventurous, chasing this paradise known as the jewel in Australia's crown. Encircled by the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea , Tasmanians breathe the world's cleanest air and rejoice in pure water, fertile soils, and superb local food and wine. The size of the Irish Republic with the population of Croydon, over a third of the state is reserved in a network of National Parks and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, a refuge for rare plants and animals.

Whilst Hobart is Australia 's smallest capital city, it is a vibrant and exciting place to visit. Lying at the foot of Mount Wellington , Hobart 's bustling waterfront is the focus of the city's events. South from here is Sandy Bay , the site of Hobart 's university and the Wrest Point Casino. We wandered first to the waterfront, and lunched at T42, one of the stylish cafes and restaurants lining the harbour. Salamanca Place comes alive on Saturdays; indeed, sounds, sights and smells assailed our senses at Salamanca Market. The eerie strains of the Didgeridoo drifted amongst Huon Pine carvings, lavender soaps, rich berry wines, silky honey and fresh lobster caught metres away. Vast orange sailing boats departed for Antarctica , whilst the triumphant Sydney to Hobart yachtsmen cracked champagne on their winning vessels.

Saturday afternoon saw us at Seven Mile Beach , one of Tasmania 's finest. Pink seashells and cool yellow sand slope gently towards icy crystal waters. Stunning beaches are commonplace in Tasmania , thus are deserted, leaving us free to comb the sands for turquoise sea glass and read, uninterrupted, under the windbreak of a sand bank. Those hardy enough braved the chilly waters, whilst I accompanied the inquisitive ebony Labrador on two of the seven miles, chasing the sticks he wouldn't run for. Having worked up an appetite, we chose the Cornelian Bay Boathouse Restaurant for dinner. Nestled on the shores of the Derwent River , overlooking the lights of the Tasman Bridge , this family run eatery enjoys one of the prime locations in Tasmania , and the finest seafood, caught locally and so fresh you could taste the sea breeze. Highly original and ever evolving, the menu features the very best of local food and wine, and a view that lingers on in your memory.

Freycinet National Park , crowded with eucycalpts, orchids and native wildlife, also boasts one of the world's top ten beaches, (Outside Magazine, 1999), Wineglass Bay . We hiked over the saddle of the pink granite Hazard Mountains ; aptly named I might add- walking boots are a necessity. I have a scar to remind me of my forgetfulness! The bay's perfect curve of chalk white sand and blue sea and skies form a simply breathtaking sight and a welcome reward at the end of the hike. It is truly spectacular. We camped on a designated site at the far end of the beach, and cooked white bait over a dancing flame, watched intently by an over friendly wallaby, who sat with us as the dusk came alive with crickets and crashing waves. A troop of boy scouts rather ruined our tranquillity the next morning!

Sunday morning and an hour's scenic drive from Hobart brought us to Mount Field National Park , one of Tasmania 's oldest parks, and home to the magnificent Russell Falls . Fragrant, graceful ferns lined the paths, while giant eucalypts and myrtles towered overhead. The scent of the forest and the kookaburra's conversations conjured up, in my mind, the true essence of Australia , cementing all my imaginings. It was here, in this wilderness, with the sun casting a crochet blanket on the forest floor, that I felt the true power of Tasmania , a place a million miles, literally and figuratively, away from the chaos of reality.

Tasmania is not a holiday destination most Brits will have considered, partly due to the obvious distance and cost involved, but also because, such is its unspoilt nature, it is not mentioned on the world stage. Most Melbournians have never visited Tasmania , despite it being a shorter flight than London is to Scotland . I was pleasantly surprised by what I found, not a cultural backwater twenty years behind mainland Australia as I had first naively assumed, but instead a thriving small city with arguably the most stunning natural terrain in the world. Whilst Hobart could not be classed as a shopping or nightlife metropolis, charm and unspoilt beauty abound. T hose who dream of tranquillity should consider visiting one of the last great wilderness areas in the world. Let Tasmania revitalise your senses, as it did mine!

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