Time for Tasmania!

Before I came to Australia, I made a list of my top 5 Australian must-dos. With Easter Break just around the corner, number 4 on that list is about to come true, an adventure to Tasmania!

After talking with some of the other international students here, we decided Tasmania sounded like the most practical trip for our break. Much like the United States, prices tend to go up around Easter, just because of the holiday season. New Zealand or swimming with whale sharks may have come first on my list, but would have put a hefty and unnecessary dip in all of our budgets. Tasmania, though not as cheap as it could have been during an off-season, seemed to be a much more financially friendly decision. (For those of you with willing pockets, I’ll gladly accept donations for future Australian endeavors!!!)

For our trip, we’ll have to catch a 3 hour train ride from the Warrnambool campus (or maybe hitch a ride from a fellow college student headed home for the break) to Melbourne, where we’ll board a flight to Launceston, Tasmania.

Launceston is one of the largest cities in Tasmainia, sliding in behind Hobart for second place. The area was originally inhabited by the Palawa (Aboriginal people of Tasmania). Lieutenant Colonel Paterson began establishing the first English settlement in 1804, changing the name to Launceston soon after in 1806. Today, the area is noted for its Colonial and Victorian style buildings, which remain largely intact from the early days.

When we first arrive, we’ll be meeting up with our tour group. After browsing through a wide range of tours, we finally decided to go through Under Down Under Tours. We’re doing the 4 day/4 night Tassie Highlights which includes accommodation, the tour, and a few meals. After our arrival we have the night to settle in and relax before our first day of touring.

After our night in Launceston, we begin our first day with a trip to Cradle Mountain National Park, which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. According to the itinerary, we’ll be able to choose from a range of walking tours. Dove Lake (carved out by glaciers) and Marrion’s Lookout are listed as possible destinations. I’m interested in the Aboriginal history here, which is dated to the last ice age, but what I’m really crossing my fingers for is the wildlife! According to the Parks & Wildlife Service website, visitors might be able to find a Tasmanian devil , spotted-tailed quoll and the eastern quoll, platypus and echidna!

Echidnaphoto from http://www.bonorong.com.au/

Echidna
(photo from http://www.bonorong.com.au/)

Before heading back to Launceston, we drive through Sheffield, which is known as “The Town of Murals.” Apparently there are murals painted all over many of the buildings. The first mural was painted by Gustav Weindorfer, who was a mountaineer, naturalist, and conservationist.

Day 2 begins with a walk at Cataract Gorge, a nature area near the Launceston city center, followed by a trip to the Bay of Fires. Besides having bird watching opportunities, beautiful beaches, and areas to swim, the Bay of Fires is noted to have Aboriginal middens. Middens are apparently a build up of shells and debris left over from Aboriginal activities of the past. They are archaeologically valuable and sound like they’d be pretty interesting to see. For the evening, we drive to Bicheno, where we’ll be spending the night. Hopefully, if it’s the right season, we’ll have the option to join a guided viewing of fairy penguins that live in this area.

Fairy Penguins (photo from www.tripadvisor.com.au)

Fairy Penguins
(photo from http://www.tripadvisor.com.au)

On our 3rd day, we head out to Wineglass Bay where we’ll have time to enjoy the beach or stretch our legs. There’s a lookout point you can hike to, hopefully glimpsing some fauna (white-bellied sea-eagles, quolls, wallabies, wombats and  Tasmanian devils) along the way. Afterwards we head to Ross, where we will have the opportunity to feed a “Tassie” Devil at the Bonorong WIldlife Sanctuary! It looks like a really nice animal rehabilitation center, dedicated to the animals and wildlife in their care. They currently have a breeding program for Tasmanian Devils,which are an endangered species.They’re also working to educate the public about Devil Facial Tumour Disease, which has further endangered their longevity. (Check out the video below to learn more about the disease.) At the end of the day we head to our accommodation in Hobart.

Our final morning we visit Richmond, known for its historical significance and convict heritage.  We then drive to the Tasman Peninsula and National Park. This area is noted for the Convict Trail and the Port Arthur Historic Site. We’ll have a guided walk and harbor cruise and learn about what life was like for a convict in the sandstone prison that has been preserved here. It sounds quite interesting to say the least.

At the end of our last day, we return to Hobart where we’ll be catching a flight back to Melbourne. We’re hoping to spend a few days with a friend of one of the people I’m traveling with to explore the city for a few days.

I don’t know what to expect, since I’ve obviously never been there before, but it looks like it should be a good trip! We had a little mishap with booking the flights. My two travel companions managed to book at one fare, and when I tried to book prices jumped up for the return flight to Melbourne! Not cool… After searching a bit for alternative flights, I went back to the webpage I originally tried to book on and thought prices had amazingly gone down again. When I booked the flight, however, I discovered it was the same flight… just not the right day! I’d be leaving a day later than them! After looking around a bit for accommodation to spend the night alone (not only would I be alone, I’d also arrive in Melbourne at midnight and have to wait at the airport until the train left at 5am), a bit of worry, and talking to my wonderful parents, I ended up calling the airline. They were extremely helpful and I was able to change my departure flight to leave with my travel buddies for a minimal fee. I’m sure I would have been okay by myself, but being alone is ironically rather lonely, especially when you’re traveling in an unknown area, such as a foreign country. Everything happens for a reason though, and it ended up working out in the end!

I’m looking forward to our adventure. Hopefully we’ll get to see some awesome aspects of Tasmania. My goal was just to see a Tasmanian Devil before I left Australia, and I even get to feed one! Mission accomplished! Now to plan the next trip… Trimester break adventures with my madré in Sydney and Cairns (and possibly my padré too if he can swing it with work… fingers crossed)!

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