Devilishly good... Tasmania
Moira Cowie travelled to Australia on a private tour organised by Cox & Kings. Here she shares with us a few of the highlights from her trip in Tasmania and all it has to offer.
In September last year, we travelled to Australia on a private tour organised by Cox & Kings. We spent a week in Sydney, followed by several days on Hamilton Island and then in Melbourne, and ending with a week in Tasmania. The whole trip was memorable, but Tasmania was spectacular.
Tasmania is often overlooked by British visitors, and indeed we met a good number of Australians who confessed that they had never been there. Much of it is wild and remote, and national parks cover 40% of the island.
We flew to Tasmania from Melbourne, arriving in Hobart, a pleasant seaport, which, as the locals told us with pride, is the last town on the way to the Antarctic. A short ferry trip along the Derwent river takes the visitor to Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art, opened in 2011 and containing exhibits designed to challenge and often to shock. A comment in the Visitors’ Book summed it up: “Who would have thought little Tassie could come up with something like this?”
In complete contrast is the former convict settlement at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula, a drive of an hour or so from Hobart. For 20 years, in the middle of the 19th century, Port Arthur was the destination for the most hardened convicts in Australia, those who could not be contained in other convict settlements. It subscribed to the ‘Separate Prison System’, in which prisoners were subjected to psychological rather than physical punishment, in an attempt at rehabilitation, but in fact conditions were as harsh and brutal as in other Australian penal colonies. Perhaps appropriately, it rained incessantly on the day of our visit, emphasising the dreariness of the place and the misery the convicts must have endured.
After two days in Hobart, we collected a rental car and drove north to Coles Bay in the Freycinet National Park. We were to stay for three nights at Saffire, a luxury lodge in wilderness surroundings that proved to be the highlight of our whole Australian experience. The lodge was opened in 2010 and deserves all the accolades heaped upon it in travel journals. Architecturally, it is a triumph. The main building, seen from the air, is designed to look like a manta ray, with its sweeping curved roof; below it, all 20 suites have extensive views of Great Oyster Bay and the Hazards mountain range. Accommodation and cuisine are superb, and the lodge provides a range of activities including walks to a viewpoint overlooking the beautiful and justifiably famous Wineglass Bay, excursions in the lodge’s own boat and visits to an oyster farm and to the local Freycinet winery.
On the final part of our journey north from Freycinet to Launceston, we stopped to visit a wildlife park at Bicheno, as we did not want to leave Tasmania without having seen Tasmanian devils. We had heard about the problem affecting these animals when we visited Taronga Zoo in Sydney: they have been decimated in recent years by devil facial tumour disease, and in 2008 were declared an endangered species. Tasmania is the only place where they can still be found in the wild, but numbers are so reduced that attempts are now being made to breed healthy specimens in captivity. We wish them every success.
View Cox & Kings’ holidays to Australia for your chance to see Tasmanian devils and explore Hobart, or for holidays in Hamilton Island and Melbourne.