|Drive yourself Tassie - Quick Facts|
The luggage trunk in our Tasmanian hire car should have come with an in-built fridge. It didn't. I'm not sure anybody else's did either but all hire cars in Tasmania should come with a fridge.
In Tassie, collecting fresh local produce can become a sideline to visiting national parks brimming with regal and ancient wilderness and walking beautifully deserted beaches. Cheeses and berries, smoked salmon and chocolates, and even unusual honey can become edible postcards. Even now I can vividly recall a small part of Tasmania when I think of the way that superbly smoked salmon married beautifully to a great chunk of brie, both bought just a few hours' drive from Tasmania's World Heritage Area.
Recalling tastes and smell s stir memories as vivid as any photo. Of course, the fridge-less car meant the food was never going to last quite as long as the pictures but farm gates with good and fresh food weren't the only surprises on this week-long holiday on this island.
Pick your hire car up from Launceston airport. It's small and uncrowded and formalities are a snap. Launceston, the third oldest city in Australia behind Sydney and Hobart, is on the banks of the Tamar River. Peppers Seaport Hotel is right by the water. Stylish and modern, some rooms are further enlivened by views over the marina and the river.
You can walk to Cataract Gorge following a walking trail from the seaport. In a far-flung place the gorge would be considered spectacular. That such beauty is on a city's precipice is staggering.
There are walking trails carved from walls of rock, swimming holes, peacocks and a single span chairlift. The gorge is an introduction to Tasmania's natural masterpieces. You will not need the fridge for Launceston. Some of the state's best restaurants including Stillwater and Fee & Me are, like Cataract Gorge, within easy walking distance of the hotel.
Cradle Mountain is part of Tassie's 1.3 million-hectare World Heritage Area. Cradle is a Tassie icon and it can be tempting to drive the two hours directly to it, but consider allowing the whole day to get there.
The Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary is at Mole Creek. The devil, about the size of a small dog, is an icon of the state. You can watch them feeding here. There are also wombats and quolls.
Mole Creek is a favourite hangout for speleologists as there are about 300 known caves. Just two in the Mole Creek Karst National Park are open to the public. King Solomon's Cave (tours leave daily), about 228metres (748ft) long, has stalactites, stalagmites and calcite crystals known as "King Solomon's Diamonds" among its furnishings.
|Good Food stop|
|One of the best farm gates in the state is just off the road to Chudleigh. At 41º South Aquaculture they grow salmon in tanks then smoke them to an old family recipe. Fabulous fish.|
|You could also stop at the honey shop in Chudleigh. There are all kinds of honey including a chilli version and honey ice cream, and a rich blend of honey and chocolate, ideal for making rich and creamy European style hot chocolates.|
Cradle Mountain is part of a 1262 square km park that is an ancient World Heritage wilderness. The landscape is a Jurassic jigsaw of lakes, craggy dolerite peaks, buttongrass plains, rainforest and wildlife. If you stay at Cradle Mountain Lodge there are a number of short walks through superbly ancient forest barley minutes from your front door. You can also stay at Cosy Cabins
Dove Lake is a short drive from the lodge. There is a six km walking track around the lake. Cradle Mountain will watch over your every footstep.
All visitors to Tasmania's national parks require a park's pass. You can get them online at Tas Parks & Wildlife or at Tasmanian Travel Information Centres.
Tasmania has plenty of beautiful unspoilt beaches. Boat Harbour is one of Tassie's best. This village spills down a rocky headland to Bass Strait. Many of the houses come with captivating water views, including beach houses that are built almost on the white sandy beach. Boat Harbour, settled in the 1830s, was used as a port to transport potatoes to Burnie and Devonport. Now it is one of Tasmania's 'hidden' gems.
|Good Food stop|
|Take a detour to Natone. At the Natone Hills Fly Fishery you can learn to fly fish in a farmer's dam that is stocked with hundreds of trout.|
It's about a two-hour drive from Boat Harbour to Narawntapu. But there is plenty to see along the way.
Creative Paper Tasmania in Emu Bay produces extraordinary hand-made papers using natural fibres and Tasmanian plants. The artists specialise in capturing life through the art of papier-mâché, including startling life-size sculptures. There are also handmade papers, books and a gallery. Entry is by gold coin donation. Make sure you ask about the Roo Poo paper!
Narawntapu is one of the best and easiest places to see Forester kangaroos and Bennetts wallabies. The animals appear, at dusk mostly, to graze on coastal plains. There is also a rich concentration of birds. You might even see the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea eagles. You won't, though, see a house on the nearby beach.
|Good Food stop|
|The House of Anvers, at Latrobe, just out of Devonport, specialises in hand made Belgian chocolates. Belgian Igor Van Gerwen came to Australia in 1989 and believes the Tasmanian cream and butter to be the richest in the world. The factory also boasts a Flemish-influenced café.|
|Ashgrove Cheese, about 20 minutes down the road, produces boutique handmade cheese and specialises in the hard English styles. A berry farm is just beyond the cheese.|
The Tamar Valley could keep you busy for weeks. There are plenty of vineyards, and many cellar doors have sweeping views of the valley and the Tamar River. Sixteen of the 24 vineyards on the official Tamar Valley wine route are smaller family run vineyards. Moores Hill Estate, Brook Eden, and Iron Pot Bay are just some of the superb labels. Meet the winemakers and chat about their ripping cool climate wines.
|Good Food stop|
|Before the vineyards the valley used to be brimming with apple orchards. Keep an eye out for roadside stands. You might never taste a juicier apple.|
You can get an insight into Tassie's very English history at the grand colonial homes, redolent of England's manor houses of Clarendon (03) 6398 6220, Entally and Woolmers. All are near Launceston. They are nationally significant and stand in settings that have changed little from the colonial era. The only modern additions to these 19th-century manor houses seem to be the serving of premium wine and food in the cafes attached to them. A Great Colonial House pass allows entry to all three.
You can be in Hobart, the capital, by late afternoon. Two hours south of Launceston this relaxed city lounges by the River Derwent and has harbour-side cafes, restaurants, galleries and bars set in converted Georgian warehouse. The marinas and Salamanca precinct are made for leisurely strolls. And if you have only allowed a week for Tassie and are flying out this night, you are going to wish you had stayed longer.
|Good Food stop|
|Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company is at Evandale. The freshest and best Tassie produce is used to make delightful sauces, conserves and condiments. If you are in the area on a Saturday visit the Evandale market. There are plenty of food stalls.|