7 things I learned exploring in Tasmania

Snakes, sunburn, road trips and Indian food. In no particular order.
Wineglass Bay © Oliver Pelling
By Oliver Pelling

As a kid growing up in England, I didn’t think about Tasmania much. In fact, it’s fair to say that I didn’t think about Tasmania at all. But then I grew up some more, moved to Melbourne, and found myself becoming increasingly curious about that chunk of land ‘just over there’.

As my curiosity began to snowball, so too did the volume of praise for Tasmania I received from friends. “It’s so beautiful,” assured one. “The food is unreal!” reasoned another. So, ‘pon the eve of my girlfriend’s birthday, I bought us both tickets to head down to Hobart for a five-day stint. “But that’s not long,” you might say. And you’d be right. But it was all the time our schedule allowed, OK?

Save for looking up a good driving route, I did little research before heading off. It’s an approach that’s done me well in the past. Little research means less expectations and more opportunity for serendipity. And where Tasmania is concerned, my expectations were truly and utterly shattered. Here are some key learnings.

1. There is much to like about Hobart

Hobart © Oliver Pelling

Knowing very little about Hobart, I think I had some misguided idea in my head that it would be a small, dinky situation more akin to the town I grew up in (population 60,000) than an actual city. How wrong I was.

It’s a small city, I’ll give you that, but there were things to do, eat and explore everywhere you looked. For a start, the storied MONA art gallery is just a stone’s throw from town - we spent an entire day there and felt like we could’ve spent longer.

Then there’s The Salamanca Market (which takes place every Saturday morning), walking around Battery Point, the incredible Indian meal I had at Maharajas on Bathurst Street, the Bathurst Street farmer’s market, the Lark Distillery…I could go on but I won't for the sake of brevity. You get the point. The best part is that, owing to Hobart’s small size, you can pretty much walk to and from all the good spots.

2. You cannot take a bad photo of The Neck on Bruny Island

The Neck © Oliver Pelling

Honestly. I tried.

3. The Great Eastern Drive is really great

The Great Eastern Drive © Oliver Pelling

I suppose the clue is in the name, but I wasn’t prepared for just how picturesque the Great Eastern Drive was. I’ve been on road trips through New Zealand and Australia before where you’ll come across something incredible and then have to drive through some pretty mundane countryside before you come across the next ‘something incredible’.

Bicheno © Oliver Pelling

But here, I’m confident my jaw was on the steering wheel the entire time. You can get all the way up to the Bay of Fires from Hobart in a day, if you like, but you’d do very well to spend a night or two in and around Freycinet National Park beforehand. That place is special.

4. Freycinet National Park is special

Freycinet National Park © Oliver Pelling

The star of the show here is the Wineglass Bay hiking trail, which leads you to Wineglass Bay (which has been voted in the world’s top 10 beaches numerous times) and Wineglass Bay lookout. We did the ‘medium’ trail, which took around four hours and left us sweaty and exhausted, but ultimately satisfied.

We also saw plenty of wallabies along the way, and even interrupted one particular wallaby couple mid-copulation. It was awkward for us, but I can only imagine how awkward it was for them. Oh, and then a tiger snake slithered across the path about a metre ahead of us.

5. Tiger snakes are not OK

Freycinet National Park © Oliver Pelling

As a kid growing up in England, I didn’t think much about tiger snakes. This is mainly because A. they do not pose an imminent threat in England and B. as a result of point A I had no idea what a tiger snake was. But there we were, a two-hour hike from safety, when a big, black, yellow-bellied tiger snake slinked right across our path.

I feel like I handled the situation well in that I didn’t really do anything – I just stood there and waited for it to vacate the premises. The worst part was that we then had to continue walking through the same tall scrub for about 30 minutes until we reached Wineglass Bay. But whatever, we made it.

6. The roads are extremely good looking

The Great Eastern Drive © Oliver Pelling

This is kind of a continuation of point #3, but you could pretty much stop anywhere along the Great Eastern Drive and take a photo of the road and it would look good.

7. The Bay of Fires is the best looking beach I’ve ever been to

Bay of Fires © Oliver Pelling

I’ve been to a few beaches in a few different countries, but I’m about 95% confident that the Bay of Fires is the best of the best (I say 95% because there may have been beaches I have forgotten over the years). White sand, crystal clear water, barely anyone around: bliss. That said, I did get the worst sunburn I have ever experienced in my life at Bay of Fires. Classic.

8. Five days in Tasmania is not enough days in Tasmania

Bay of Fires © Oliver Pelling

Over five days we spent a couple of them in Hobart, drove the Great Eastern Drive, and nipped across to Bruny Island. But there’s so much more to see, do and explore that you could easily spend a decent chunk of time out there.

And that's what I suggest you do. Go forth and learn some things in Tasmania. Just mind the snakes.

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