“Tassie” (as the locals call it) is an island state of Australia off the southeastern corner of the continent. She is about the size of Ireland or the American state of West Virginia, but with a population of only half a million. We feel that out of the six states of Australia, Tasmania is the most beautiful. Her mountains, lakes, beaches, harbors, villages and town are right out of a picture book!
Our advice: get out of the crowded and expensive cities of Melbourne and Sydney and head for the “natural state” of Tassie!
Getting “Down Under”
We have been to Australia dozens of times. In fact, we lived in the nation’s capital, Canberra, for three years during my last U.S. Air Force assignment and in Perth in Western Australia for six years. My Australian-born wife and I have explored every one of Australia’s six states.
The cheapest price of getting to Australia is free. While we never have been successful catching a hop on the weekly flight from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., to the Royal Australian Air Force Base of Richmond near Sydney, we have had some success getting on this mission at its first stop of Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam, Hawaii. We also have had good luck catching a free ride back to the States on the return leg of this mission.
Tickets on Qantas or Delta can be quite pricey (more than $1,000) but sometimes tickets on JetStar (the budget subsidiary of Qantas) can be purchased for as little as $299, one-way, from Honolulu to Sydney.
By the way, Australia requires a visa but this can be easily purchased online.
On this trip to Tassie, we focused on her two principal cities, Hobart and Launceston, and made our “headquarters” in the latter.
Our 90-minute flight from Sydney on JetStar brought us to Launceston (“Lonnie,” as the locals call her). On arrival, we were met by our good friend from Canberra days. She chose to retire here a few years ago.
Our first full day on the “Apple Isle” brought us by car from Launceston to Hobart, the state capital. En route, we passed through and stopped at beautiful, heritage Australian colonial towns (enjoying, of course, delicious Aussie fare and cappuccinos). Most of the sandstone buildings or simple wood structures in this state date back to the 1830’s and are well-preserved. The scenery was jaw-droppingly spectacular – green rolling hills with thousands of sheep, colorful Spring flowers in bloom, looming mountains in the background, terraced hillsides for vineyards, spectacular lakes with black swans gliding across, gentle streams and raging rapids (with trout fishermen on the banks) and rugged high country areas (with roads impassable in winter when snow-covered) thick with majestic eucalyptus trees towering around us. Here and there we saw a small kangaroo, an echidna and even a Tasmanian Devil (dead by the roadside, unfortunately).
Hobart was superb, especially around the waterfront. In a nearby suburb on the banks of the Derwent River, we saw the stunning Museum of Old and New Art, a private museum funded by gambling winnings!
After a full day of touring much of the island on our first day, we chose to spend the remainder of our stay in the vicinity of beautiful Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city, with a population about 105,000. Our friend’s home, perched high on a hill, commanded stunning scenic views.
Launceston is a very hilly city, with some streets as steep as 45 degrees, reminding us of those of San Francisco. Many homes and buildings around town have been lovingly restored with their own unique charm and character.
Our friend treated us to a wonderful drive along the banks of the Tamar River where there are numerous boutique vineyards and wineries. On a gorgeous sunny day, we enjoyed a delicious al fresco lunch on the terrace cafe of one such winery, overlooking the Tamar River and Valley below.
On another gorgeous day, our hostess took us to spectacular Cataract Gorge, one of Tasmania’s top tourist attractions. A walk over a suspension bridge there gave us stunning views of giant rock formations, laced with brilliant rhododendrons and flowing rapids below.
On our walk in the park, we observed an Australian ritual by savoring a delicious Devonshire Tea (with scones, jam and rich cream) while Marvin downed a Boags Beer, brewed right there in Lonnie. Colorful peacocks strutted nearby and showed their full fan of dazzling feathers while waiting for crumbs at our table. Mother Nature at her best.
We concluded our Tassie stay with a delicious home-cooked roast lamb dinner with our friend. The Aussies do this best. Perfect!
Col. Marv and Carole Feldman
U.S. Air Force, Retired
Reprint from R&R Travel News™ Mar-Apr 2012 • Volume 42, No. 2