Tasmania is home to many special animals, huge ancient trees and many endemic plants. And the Tasmanian devil is its most iconic creature. Tasmania is about 200 kilometres south of Australia’s mainland.
The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovered the island on November the 24th, 1642. He was looking for Australia, or Terra Australis, which was believed to be an undiscovered continent at the time. He did discover New Zealand later during his journey, but not Terra Australis, so the VOC (Dutch East India Company) marked his trip as unsuccessful.
The island’s history is very special. Around 10.000 years ago it was still attached Australia’s mainland, but the last ice age caused the water level to rise, and flooded the land bridge connecting Tasmania to the rest of Australia.
The island has its own climate, with snowfall on the mountains in winter. There are several glacier lakes in Tasmania and so much wilderness, which has barely been touched by human presence.
It fauna is also unique, and you could say it’s home to Australia’s original animals. The reason for this is quite simple, the dingo, a predator believed to be brought to Australia’s mainland from Asia, never made it to this island. Neither did the fox, which was also introduced on Australia’s mainland. You can find animals in Tasmania that can no longer be found in the rest of Australia, or are about to be extinct or only found in very small numbers.
The trees also adapted to their surroundings on this island. You can find the world’s highest deciduous tree in valleys in Tasmania’s west, some of which are located in the green heart of the island and its national parks. Parks such as Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair NP, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers NP, Southwest NP, Mount Field NP abd Hartz Mountains NP are all entirely conservation areas, but in areas such as the Styx valley conservationists and logging companies are still battling for these ancient forests.
Scientists are astounded by the some of the forests in the north of Tasmania, which include tree species that can live up to 10.000 years. They belong to the arctic flora, which literally comes from the ice ages, so these trees are some of the oldest in the world.
Feel tiny between the largest deciduous trees in the world
In the Styx valley in the west of the island you can find the enormous eucalyptus regnans, also known as mountain ash or swamp gum. Take a walk or a four-wheel drive amongst these giants. In this area loggers and nature conservationists are fighting over the forests, and when you travel around here you can clearly see the impact of the timber industry on the landscape.
Marvel at the wombat
A wombat is an interesting marsupial that is still quite common in Tasmania. It might make people think of a combination between a bear and a rodent, and grows to be around 1 metre in length. Its pouch faces towards the rear of the animal, so it doesn’t fill with sand when they dig. They may seem like slow animals, but they’re surprisingly fast. They like to eat roots, grass and tubers. They can be spotted both during the day and night, but mostly during dusk and dawn, so watch out for them on the roads at these times. They generally are quite calm, so it’s easy to take a good look at them and take photos.
See a whole new world during a night walk
You might have heard that the world looks entirely different in the dark. This is absolutely true in Tasmania. You can take a night walk in several of the national parks, guided by rangers or departing from different lodges such as the one in Cradle Mountain NP. Most animals are not scared off by torchlights and are not shy, so you can see them clearly. It’s highly likely you’ll see kangaroos (in all sizes), possums and other marsupials such as the sugar gliders. You can also take a night walk in the popular Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Brighton.
Hike the famous Overland Track
It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful walking tracks in the world. The Overland Track runs from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair and is 65 kilometres in length. It runs straight through the wilderness of Tasmania and will take you six days. You must make a booking, and there is are different fees depending on the season. You can spend the night in trekkers’ huts, or on campsites. Take a look around with your torch light at night time, you might spot a few local creatures out looking for food.
See glow worms in an underground national park
In Mole Creek Karst National Park you can see how erosion has shaped amazing caves (more than 300 of them) with stalagmites and stalactites. And you can see millions of glow worms in Marakoopa Cave. They are actually not worms, but the larvae of a local fly, which glow to attract prey. There are daily tours in the cave.
Take the famous Gordon River cruise
De Gordon River is in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, and the location of one of the most beautiful excursions in Tasmania. Aboard a boat you can cruise past steep cliffs, dense forests and open plains. You can get off to take a walk around and explore the landscape with a guide. The best time to take this cruise is in the early morning or late afternoon, when there is a higher chance of spotting wildlife and light is better for photos.
Look for the echidna
The common echidna is one of the coolest creates on earth. It looks like a large hedgehog (of which there are none in Australia) but they aren’t even related, as the echidna lays eggs. Together with the unique platypus and three kinds of echidnas that live in New Guinea, they are the only mammals that do not give birth to live babies. Walkers often encounter these ground dwellers, so keep an eye out, and listen for rustling noises in the shrubs.
Peak season is in summer: December, January and February. Spring can have volatile weather, so if you’re short on time and want guaranteed pleasant weather, it’s best to avoid coming in September and October. March is considered to be a quiet month, and can have nice late summer weather and few tourists.