Sitting just 240 kilometres south-east of mainland Australia, Tasmania has long had the nickname Apple Isle due to the large amount of fruit grown there. In Tasmania, you are never far from water and mountains - it has more than 1,000 mountain peaks. More than 40 per cent of the island is protected as national parks and reserves, which are home to some of the rarest animals in the world.
Tasmania has long had the nickname "Apple Isle" due to the large amount of fruit grown there, but there is far more to Tasmania than just fruit trees. Wherever you go in Tasmania, you are never far from water and mountains - it has more than 1,000 mountain peaks, making it a climber's and bushwalker's paradise. More than 40 per cent of the island is protected as national parks and reserves, which are home to some of the world s rarest animals.
Tasmania was the first Australian state to be settled by Europeans after New South Wales, and as such is home to a wealth of World Heritage Listed convict era buildings and relics and to Australia's finest collection of intact Georgian villages.
The temperate summer climate makes the island of Tasmania especially attractive to visitors from the hotter states of the mainland. Whilst basically Australian in character, the Tasmanian countryside is refreshingly different from the mainland, including the southern parts of Victoria that are just 240 kilometres away across Bass Strait.
Distances from town to town in Tasmania are generally less than those of the mainland states, so no place is too far away from another, the roads are good, though often narrow and winding in mountainous areas, and the scenery differs greatly from one part of the island to another.
Tasmania is about the same size as the Republic of Ireland, the Japanese island of Hokkaido, or the US state of West Virginia. Within this relatively small area lies an enormous diversity of micro-climates, from rugged mountains and forests, to fertile coastal plains and river valleys. Most regions enjoy fertile soils, reliable rainfall, and none of the extremes of temperature that limit gardens in many parts of the world.
Because it is an island, Tasmania is the only state of Australia that cannot be reached by road, unless of course you take the car ferry from Melbourne to the north coastal Tasmanian port of Devonport. This is a popular option for mainlanders as one needs a motor vehicle when touring Tasmania as public transport options are limited. There are numerous direct flights to Launceston and Hobart throughout the day from Melbourne and Sydney via Australia's major domestic airlines.
For many, the most satisfactory way to see the whole of the island is to travel by motor vehicle, and possibly charter flight if you want to see spectacular parts of the mountains and coastline not served by roads (the cost of light aircraft flights is not prohibitive, nor is aircraft charters for parties of from two to six).
The motor vehicle ferry service between Melbourne and Devonport makes it easy for anyone wishing to bring and utilise their own car for transport in and around Tasmania, though hire cars, camper vans and 4-wheel drive vehicles are availble at all the major centres.
For those who prefer not to have to drive, there are a number of coach lines who operate services between Tasmania's main centres, and tour operators based in those centres take visitors to the main attractions of their region.
More than anywhere else in Australia, Tasmania enjoys four seasons, each with its own unique pleasures and appeal. The warmest months are December, January, February and March. Autumn has still sunny days and riotous colours as 200 year-old oaks, elms, birches and our own native beech, turn from gold to red in preparation for winter. Winter runs from May through August.
The peak holiday period is from December to April, so if you plan to travel during those months, particularly in the school holidays, be sure to book early to avoid disappointment. If your trip is to be a short one (a week or less), particularly during the peak period, car hire can be a cheaper option. Organised coach tours are another easy way to see the sights and are worthy of consideration.
The great tourist rush to Tasmania occurs between mid December and late January. This is when many mainlanders take their annual vacation. The place is hopping, the tourist centres come alive and the atmosphere is high. The downside is that it can feel crowded and you must book very early if you are choosy on things like accommodation.
If precise timing is not so important, intending visitors should give serious thought to making the trip in late spring or autumn when the weather is as reliable as it is in midsummer and the countryside colourful with blossoms or autumn leaves. Accommodation is cheaper then, there are no crowds and it feels like you have the place to yourselves. After easter, Australia's domestic airlines often have sales on air travel in April and May, and you can often get tickets to Hobart or Launceston at half the normal cost for travel at this time.
There is good skiing in the high country of Tasmania from as early as June to as late as October, but winter sports accommodation and facilities are limited. Ski tows at Mt Mawson (Mt Field National Park) and Ben Lomond operate at weekends and during school holidays in the ski season.
Tasmania is a rugged island of temperate climate, so similar in some ways to pre-industrial England that it was referred to by some English colonists as 'a Southern England'. Geographically, Tasmania is similar to New Zealand to its east, but as Tasmania has been volcanically inactive in recent geological times, Tasmania has 'rounded smooth' mountain ranges similar to mainland Australia, unlike most of New Zealand. The most mountainous region is the Central Highlands area, which covers most of the central west parts of the state.
The southern-most and second oldest state capital, Hobart is an historic port situated in a picturesque natural setting beside the deep Derwent River estuary and in the shadow of the mass of Mount Wellington.
Huon Valley: a fruit growing district in Hobart, the valley incorporates busy towns and sleepy villages, serene boutique farms and World Heritage Wilderness areas, all accessed by roads that wind through a world of beautiful valleys and waterways.
Tasman Peninsula: one of the most accessible and stunning stretches of Tasmania coastline, the peninsula is a place of great natural beauty with sheer cliff faces, natural arches and ocean vistas stretching to the horizon towards Antarctica. Australia's largest collection of convict era relics have been preserved at the notorious Port Arthur Penal Settlement.
West Coast Wilderness: A world Heritage Area boasting a rugged coast, serene natural harbours, densely forested mountain ranges, fast flowing rivers, steep gorges, rainforest wilderness and ghost towns.
Tamar Valley: Home to Launceston, Tasmania's second largest city. Tamar Valley is the second most important fruit growing district in the state, with award winning wineries and many orchards that offer door sales of their produce.
Cradle Mountain: Australia's most recognisable mountain peak, the familiar jagged contours of Cradle Mountain epitomise the feel of a wild landscape, while abundant wildlife, icy streams, alpine heathlands, colourful deciduous beech and ancient pines reflected in still glacial lakes entice many visitors to stay and explore.
Freycinet Peninsula: Jutting out between The Tasman Sea and Great Oyster Bay on Tasmania's east coast, the Freycinet Peninsula is a rugged and beautiful stretch of land, noted for its white-sand beaches, secluded coves, panoramic vistas, rocky cliffs and excellent bushwalks. The park is famous for Wineglass Bay, just one of its many white sandy beaches.