Big Wonders in Little Tasmania – Australia
Deep in its lush primeval forests and along its rugged southern coasts, evidence of Tasmania’s savage birth abound. Yet life on the island seems to teem, flourishing with rich wildlife and abundant waters, a testament that beauty can come from the most unlikely of origins
To understand Tasmania, you must first understand its past. Its geological history is a complex one, involving the world’s largest exposure of Jurassic dolerite and prehistoric eiders, whipped and ground into shape by fierce westerly winds and monstrous waves. That walls, however, are stunning – the Painted Cliffs of Maria Island with their mesmerising iron-oxide bands of red, orange and yellow; the staggering columns of Cape Raoul whose knife-edged cliffs seem to jut violently from the seabed; and the polished calm of Dove Lake juxtaposed against the untamed peaks of Cradle Mountain.
Then came its colonial era. For much of the19th century, Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land, a name whispered in fear for its reputation as a notorious prison, filled with Britain’s least desirables, sent to serve out their sentence as far away from the motherland as possible. Tasmanian society today, you’ll find, is far a farcry from its torrid past. Now it is filled with enterprising farmers, ardent conservationists, and jolly good folk who love their land – and love sharing its bounty. From award-winning micro-distilleries and the freshest and cleanest seafood in the region, to its endearing local critters and spellbinding auroras, Tasmania is a no-brainer addition for your bucket list.
It was a love story for the ages. In1906, Gustav Weindorfer in love with and married Kate Cowle, who was a botanist and11 years his senior. They discovered Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain, and together with Gustav’s partner Charlie Sutton, spent the rest of their live fighting to make the area a national park for all to enjoy. In1922 his lifetime vision finally came true when the 158, 000 acres from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair were declared a Scenic Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.
His accomplishment, however was marked with tragedy, as Kate passed away in 1916 the same year Gustav lost successively his mother, brother and father. Gustav himself died of heart attack in1932 while starting up his motorcycle one morning.
Cradle Mountain is so named because the silhouette of its peaks seems to form an image of a baby in its cradle. Gustav and Kate never had any children of their own.
The Dove Lake circuit is one of the most popular paths in St Clair National Park, with the iconic Cradle Mountain as its majestic backdrop. Cradle Mountain is so named because its peaks form a silhouette that resembles a baby in its cradle. The boat shed at Dove Lake is also one of its most-photographed sights, its well-worn frame heralding a time long since past and making a rather romantic setting for a dramatic looking-off-into-the-distance shot. The Overland Track is also a well-known hiking trail that will take you through the heart of the park, but takes an average of six to seven days to conquer.
Weather conditions or road closures happen on occasion, be sure to check with the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre.
All up and down the Freycinet Peninsula are staggering pink granite cliffs, secluded bays fringed by white sandy beaches, and pure turquoise waters as far as the eye can see. It’s a short hike up to Cape Tourville and Wineglass Bay Lookout (roughly 90 mins round trip), but for the full Freycinet Experience, there are multiple guided tours that will take you round the dramatic and ancient landscapes, breathtaking vistas, and rare flora.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FURRY KIND
A fluffy grey boulder bounds across the grass. Maria greets us by sniffling enthusiastically at our hands, knowing that there’ll be food to come. Orphaned when her mother got hit with a car while she was still in the pouch, Maria the wombat is currently in her adolescence at 18 months of age, and still adorably affectionate. At two years, she will fully mature and become intolerable of human contact — that is when she will be released back in the wild.
At the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, many animals come in sick or injured, and will either become permanent residents, or released after rehabilitation. Randall the echidna is one of these permanent residents; he lost a leg in a dog attack, and although fully healed, will need special care all his life. In addition to housing a whole mob of kangaroos, the occasional wombat, a family of Tasmanian devils, a trio of Eastern quolls, and a gorgeous peacock that roams the grounds freely, the sanctuary also actively educates and invests in wildlife conservation.
The locals refer to them as pademelons (pronounced paddy-melon), a close relative of the wallaby and one of the smallest macropods in the world.
They look like a cross between a quokka and a wallaby, with its thick, short tail and a petite little face. Together with wombats, echidnas, quolls, possums and the elusive Tasmanian devil, pademelons roam freely in the grounds surrounding Cradle Mountain. McDermott’s Coaches does an amazing night wildlife spotting tour (since most of these animals are nocturnal), where the drivers bring you to their favourite spots to see some of these critters feeding and grooming in their natural habitat — no enclosure, no performance shows, just pure wildlife.