Everyone has heard of Taz, the Tasmanian Devil of the Warner Bros series of cartoons. The real Tasmanian Devil who lives in Tasmania (where else!) looks much cuter but the weird scary growl, black fur and red ears of this carnivore nocturnal marsupial must have scared the early European settlers in the dark of the night enough to give him this far from flattering name! Nowadays it is hard to see these animals elsewhere than in special centres where scientists have been trying to stop the facial tumour disease affecting up to 75% of the wild population (the disease is not dangerous to humans)...The Tasmanian Devil is a little bit the mascot of this remote island and the reason many people have heard of Tasmania without being aware most of the time where it was located. You can see the funny sign all along the road!
Tasmania is an island in Australia, south of Melbourne, surrounded by the Southern Ocean and the Tasman Sea.
It was not named after the Tasmanian Devil (despite the undisputed international reputation of this animal!) but after Abel Tasman who was the first European explorer to set foot on the island. The only thing you will miss there is time to discover the incredible wonders that this place, both wilderness beachy heaven and open-air historic museum, has to offer.
There are a couple of places you just cannot miss and the first of them is the World Heritage remnants of the Port Arthur penitentiary settlement. It is located on the naturally secure Tasman Peninsula separated from the rest of the island by the very narrow Eaglehawk Neck isthmus, which was once guarded by a line of ferocious dogs to prevent convicts escaping from the penal colony.
At the entrance you receive a ticket that will tell you later during the visit which prisoner you are and you will hear the story of the real man behind the name. It will break your heart because even though Port Arthur was established in 1833 for repeat offenders from the Australian colonies, most of the convicts were young men initially sentenced for what seems today to be minor crimes, suh as stealing a spoon, and then committed another minor crime after their arrival, such as trying to escape from a prison! A journey of many rough months at sea that some had not survived to had brought them as far from their homes and families as it was possible to come and it was an exile for life.
There is beauty, wilderness and incredible sadness everywhere. You can almost feel the presence of the people who built their own prison. There are the remnants of the penitentiary, but also of the beautiful Gothic church and the house and garden of the governor. You can visit the Separate Prison which was built with the very new idea to reform prisoners through isolation and sensory deprivation instead of physical punishment, which despite the good intentions drove some of them crazy.
You can even go for a cruise to the Isle of the Dead, the final resting place for those who died in the isolation of Port Arthur...It is sunny and beautiful and the smell of the sea is invigorating but your heart will be hurting at the thought of all the pain and loneliness of the people who were secluded in this remote place not so long ago (the penitentiary closed in 1877)...The people who lost everything for a spoon, who were so poor that theft was probably a necessity to feed their family and who built the beautiful buildings of Port Arthur. It is as if they built the beauty of their soles in the stone as an eternal legacy…
It is undeniable that Tasmania is breathtaking!
You will discover some of the most stunning sugar-sand endless beaches on the planet in the eastern part of the island, but you have to work out for it! Time to jump on the motorhome and head up to the southeast.
One of the most beautiful hikes ever is the Wineglass Bay circuit through the forest and the bush.
You will come across trees with weird haircuts and tiny lizards and be rewarded by the most gorgeous remote beach ever where you will be able to remove the walking shoes from your tired feet and have a swim in the calm turquoise water of the Tasman Sea.
Wild wallabies will jump in front of you on the white-sand beach as per magic.
The colours in front of you will make you daydream!
Hazards Beach is heaven!
After a picnic on the beach and another one-hour walk through the bush, you will reach another stunning beach - Wineglass Bay Beach - which is less calm than the previous one. You cannot refrain from removing your shoes and clothes again, this time to brave the giant waves and jump into their foam! It is so much fun!
The last part of the hike is hard because it is going up and up and up but the view of the perfect circle of the Wineglass Bay from the lookout is definitely worth it!
Not so far away from Wineglass Bay there is another almost desert white-sand beach - Friendly Beaches.
Walking along the shore is heavenly and the encounter of the wallaby jumping out from the forest a few steps away from you makes the moment just perfect!
There are so many amazing hikes on the Tasman Peninsula that will bring you to places such as Waterfall Bay where a thundering waterfall is spilling directly into the sea.
You will be awed by the grandeur of unique natural formations carved into the rock, the most famous of which are the Tasman Arch and the Devil’s Kitchen. You can also contemplate for hours the sea finding its way into the Remarkable Cave which used to be a cave but after the collapse of its back became a deep rock bridge with two entrances on the ocean-side.
You can also admire a pattern of rectangular blocks which look manmade but are actually the result of a rare type of natural erosion by sea water occurring on flat rock near sea coasts. This phenomenon is found only in a few places on Earth. The Tessellated Pavement at Eaglehawk Neck which resembles a Roman mosaic floor is one of them! Mother Nature creates incredible things!
Further north more heavenly beaches and adventurous hikes will reveal their untouched beauty.
Make a stop at the Devil's Corner Cellar Door for some amazing Tasmanian wine to taste together with the absolutely delicious local cheese and then continue to the Bay of Fires!
The Bay (its aboriginal name is larapuna) stretches from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point.
It was given its name by a captain who saw the fires of Aboriginal people on the beaches but you will find it appropriate immediately after spotting the bright-orange lichen on the rocks!
The place is another quintessence of white beaches, blue sea and a lot of happy surfers and fishermen and hungry seagulls!
You will discover that the land around the Eddystone Point Lighthouse was recognised to have a special significance to the Aboriginal people and returned to its traditional owners.
It is surrounded by secluded beaches where you will be completely alone. The only noise you will hear will be from the waves and the wind...
It sounds like heaven indeed!
A last stop before leaving the island is another moving place - the small town of Legerwood. Many of the boys (they were so young!) left to fight in World War 1 in Europe and never returned. Their bodies rest far away in tombs in France or Belgium. Their families and friends wanted a place to remember them and trees were planted in 1918 in the center of the town to honor the local soldiers killed in the war. When the trees were declared dangerous in 2001, the town's folks carved each stump with a likeliness of the man for whom each tree was planted, together with beautiful memories of their loved ones. It is sad and joyful at the same time to see this unusual memorial!
Time to say goodbye to Tasmania and Oz for a while and discover some of the wonders of Southeast Asia!
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