Tasmania is the smallest and most southerly of Australia’s six states. It has an island population of approximately 500,000 and lies about 200km (124 miles) south of the state of Victoria and is separated from mainland Australia by the Bass Strait. This heart-shaped island is 315kms (189 miles) across and 286kms (175 miles) long. Comparatively, it’s about the same size as the Republic of Ireland, a little larger than West Virginia and one and a half times the size of Switzerland.
The capital city is Hobart with a population of 193,000.
Tasmania was originally named Van Diemans Land by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642, but it was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803. At that time it is believed there were about 5000 Aboriginals living on the island with a presence extending back for more than 50,000 years. Convict transportation ceased in 1853. The convicts had provided the main source of building labour in the colony and this heritage is still evident throughout Tasmania today.
More than 20 per cent of Tasmania has been listed with UNESCO as a World Heritage Area – in recognition of one of the world’s great natural and cultural treasures. The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (WHA) is one of the largest conservation reserves in Australia, covering 1.38 million hectares. It conserves a diverse array of both natural and cultural features of outstanding global significance. The region provides pristine habitats for a range of plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world, including many rare and endangered species. For a number of animals which have become extinct on mainland Australia in recent times, the area offers a last refuge.
The WHA is the Australian stronghold of temperate rainforest and alpine vegetation. Its landforms are of immense beauty and reveal rich and complex geology. Aboriginal occupation extending back beyond 36 000 years, combined with nearly two centuries of European settlement, has created a legacy of humanity’s interaction with the wilderness.
Tasmania’s capital city is an intriguing blend of heritage and lifestyle, scenery and vibrant culture. Hobart is warm sandstone, bright spinnakers on the River Derwent, fish punts at the docks, the slap of halyards on masts, coffee under the striped sun umbrellas of Salamanca, an occasional frosting of snow on Mt Wellington, bush tracks and birdsong. Hobart is a city of history, with gracious homes and buildings, colonial cottages, and warehouses, heritage parks and gardens. It’s a city of bustling markets, a flourishing arts scene, festivals and entertainment, and of fine restaurants. Savour Tasmania’s superb cool-climate wines, famous beers and delicious fresh foods.