If you want to get away from it all, there’s remote control, and then there’s Tasmania.
The island off Australia’s southeast coast is more than 10,000 miles and 15 time zones from New York and an 11-hour ferry ride from Melbourne, the nearest major city.
There were just 3,300 American trips to Tasmania last year, according to tourism officials. But more are on the way in 2023, predicted Sarah Clark, CEO of Tourism Tasmania. “We’ve seen more interest in Tasmania in North America than in years,” she said.
One of them is Alissa Musto. She made the day trek from Boston to Hobart, the capital, in December. It’s midsummer in the southern hemisphere and one of the best times of year to explore the city’s vibrant cultural and food scene.
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“One of the highlights was a nature boat trip, where I got amazing views of the rugged coastline, cliffs, caves, penguins, seals and other wildlife,” said said Musto, a musician from Boston.
It’s the year of the far-cation, with more Americans taking international trips than ever since the pandemic began.
“We’ve seen an increase in interest from travelers wanting to get out into nature, and the remote island of Tasmania in Australia is a perfect choice,” said Travis Pittman, CEO of TourRadar.
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What to do in Tasmania
- Outdoor activities. About half of Tasmania’s land area is protected as national parks and reserves. Notable are Tasman National Park, with its towering dolerite cliffs, and Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, with its diverse hiking trails and capricious weather.
- Beaches. Tasmania’s rugged coastline is full of surprises: painted cliffs, powdery white sands and green seas. There is world-class surfing at Shipstern Bluff, but you can find people surfing at almost any local beach. Boat tours, such as Pennicott Wilderness Journeys’ Iron Pot Cruise, allow you to get up close to abundant wildlife, including penguins.
- Cultural attractions. Hobart is the cultural center of what locals call “Tassie”. But its heart is the Museum of Old and New Art, a mostly underground art museum built on a wine estate just outside of town. It houses the $110 million private collection of entrepreneur David Walsh and has been described as a subversive “adult Disneyland”.
Why do Americans visit Tasmania?
“Tasmania’s sheer size is hugely appealing,” said Rachel Cooper, Australia specialist at tour operator Red Savannah. “There’s very little traffic and it’s easy to get around, making it easy to see a lot, even for those with limited time.”
So if it takes a bit of time to get there – about 24 hours flight between the USA and Tasmania – once there, you are close to everything. Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, slightly larger than Switzerland.
Cooper said there’s so much to do it’s overwhelming at times. His favorite activities are rafting, kayaking, biking, caving, diving and rock climbing. She is also a fan of five-star accommodations including the Saffire Freycinet, Henry Jones Art Hotel and Freycinet Lodge.
You don’t have to go far to find hiking trails through ancient fern forests to mountain peaks where you can be completely alone with your thoughts. One of the most popular day trips from Hobart is Mount Wellington.
An operator like Walk on Kunanyi can take you to the famous Organ Pipes rock formation in a matter of hours, allowing you to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the River Derwent.
“To experience the same diversity in mainland Australia, you would need to spend money on flights to get around, and you would need more time,” Cooper said.
Although some visitors plan an independent trip, as Beelen did, it’s not for everyone. Driving on the left side of the road can be a bit intimidating for Americans coming to Australia, and some roads in national parks can be tricky.
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Daniel Schoedler, managing director of Premier Travel Tasmania, said many Americans prefer to leave the driving to someone else.
“It takes time to get used to driving on the other side of the road, and who wants to do that on vacation?” he said. Many visitors also prefer a guided tour, which you can book through a site like TourRadar. It offers 58 organized adventures in Tasmania, all of which allow you to avoid driving.
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Tasmania is a wild place
But let’s be honest: Tasmania is all about animals. Musto, the musician from Boston, saw them everywhere.
“I really enjoyed visiting the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where you get up close to many native Australian species, like kangaroos, koalas and wombats,” she said.
One of the highlights of a visit to Cradle Mountain is a visit to the Devils @ Cradle Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary. It is a breeding and conservation facility for three of Tasmania’s endangered carnivorous marsupials; Tasmanian Devil, Spot-tailed Quoll and Oriental Quoll. The famous devils are particularly threatened because of a transmissible parasitic cancer.
Devils aren’t at all what you’d expect if you grew up watching Bugs Bunny cartoons and remember the completely unhinged character named Taz. They are about the size of a small dog, solitary and nocturnal. They love to argue in captivity, but they are also shy around people.
Is Tassie worth the trip?
So is it worth spending two full days in the air to get to Tasmania? Even if you rent a house in Hobart and never leave town, it probably is. The capital has the vibe of a city in the western United States like Grand Junction, Colorado, or Boise, Idaho.
Tasmanian people are also friendlier than in major Australian cities (although they drive the same – but that’s a topic for another time). But there’s also the feeling of being on the edge of the world as you gaze south into the Tasman Sea, knowing you could sail to Antarctica in two days. Now it’s remote.
There’s also the promise that you’ll return from a Tasmanian adventure with a story to tell. Perhaps some monster waves will be seen at Shipstern Bluff at the southern end of Tassie. It may be a chance encounter with a wombat in Strzelecki National Park. Or maybe, if you’re lucky, on a moonless night at a campsite in Corinna, you’ll encounter a demon.
“Tasmania,” said Matt Casey, managing director of Federal Group Tourism, “is all about the stories.”
Christopher Elliott is an author, consumer advocate and journalist. He founded Elliott Advocacy, a non-profit organization that helps solve consumer problems. It publishes Elliott Confidential, a travel newsletter, and Elliott Report, a customer service information site. If you need help with a substance abuse issue, you can reach him here or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.