Tasmania is a small island that can be traversed by rental car quite easily. There is a lot to see and do along the notoriously winding roads and a perfect way to plan your trip is with an iVenture card or similar. You might choose to stay in guesthouses and hotels, which are numerous, or Couchsurf your way along. Either way, renting a car in Tasmania is the best advice this backpacker can give in exploring The Island State. Even better, get a group of travellers together to share the experience, and the driving! It is advisable to expect the drive to take longer than you expect, thanks to said winding and rather narrow-in-places roads.
Tasmania iVenture Card
The iVenture card is a handy little piece of plastic that can serve as both your guide and your meal ticket for many of the top attractions in Tasmania. With an initial large investment, you can make more savings the more attractions you tick off the list. The possibilities take you to all corners of Tasmania and all types of attractions, so there is something for everyone. The card can be purchased from outlets in the main cities of Hobart, Launceston and Devonport. Some attractions are open subject to time of year or weather; so do call ahead if you are going to be driving a long way into the wilderness to your desired destination.
When you purchase the card, it remains valid for three months. From the moment you first use it, it becomes active for your chosen number of days – five, seven or ten. Entry to most of the forty-five attractions is free or heavily discounted. Some stores offer a free gift to visitors, such as the Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Co., which offers entry to their charming gardens and a bottle of dessert or savoury sauce.
What to see in Tasmania:
Some highlights from my own iVenture adventure, in no particular order, may guide you on yours. One of the first things we did on the way out of Hobart in the south was to stop off at the Old Hobart Town Model Village. While this doesn’t sound like the most thrilling morning, we found the chatty staff and intricately put together model village to be highly entertaining and informative. Next we traveled to the Port Arthur Historic Site in the Tasman Peninsula. A whole day can easily be spent here exploring via audio-guided tour, strolling the gardens or simply soaking in the beauty of the peninsula, scratching your head in wonderment at how a person, upon laying eyes on this marvel of nature, thought it most fitting to put a convict station there. The after-dark guided Ghost Tour is well worth staying up late for.
The Huon Valley is yet another stunning work of natural art. There are plenty of nature and adventure activities to enjoy there, including Eagle Hand Gliding and the Tahune Airwallk. Not for the faint hearted, the Airwalk gives you stunning views from 600 meters up, though the trees still tower all around. The forest is filled with old pine trees, some up to two thousand years old and there is a pleasant walking trail through the forest. We were fortunate enough to meet an enthusiastic forest ranger, who insisted on giving us a personal guided tour of the oldest trees and a little history of the area. One of the things we loved most about our trip was the genuine kindness and friendliness of locals.
A Lesson in Calling Ahead:
I said already that attractions are subject to time of year and weather conditions; I have just said it again and here is a tale of why. A few days into our planned route, my companion and I were starting to realize the wisdom in the warning that you must expect distances to take a long time on the winding roads. Feeling pretty exhausted, we awoke at 6am in Devonport – after a lovely evening at the Don River Railway – to drive more than an hour to a National Park, which I believe is no longer included in the iVenture card as it came under new ownership. I know this little fact because, on the day we arrived, we met those new owners, who had themselves just arrived a few days ahead of us and were busy preparing to open. We arrived frazzled and exhausted, wandering in confusion through the tellingly empty reception area, until we were discovered by the owners seven year old daughter and presented to her perplexed parents.
After our tale of woe, which included scraping our rental car against a parked car in the thick morning mist of our hostel car park (I take pause again to emphasis the trials of driving such winding roads!), we slumped in our chairs looking, it would seem, even worse than we felt. Taking pity on us, a couple of hot chocolates appeared and we were granted special permission to take a short walk amongst the trees, just so that our excursion would not be in vain. Once again the hospitality and kindness of locals enriched our experience and we look back fondly on that morning.
A Nature Lovers Paradise:
Tasmania is full of weird and wonderful creatures and the humans who have dedicated their lives to preserving them. The iVenture card includes access to several Estates and Wildlife Parks. We chose East Coast Natureworld, which I can recommend. They have a wide array of native wildlife, including the tasmanian devil, wombats, kangaroos and a walk through aviary. All along the way we had seen evidence of why many of these unique creatures are in danger; the verges are quite literally lined with road kill. From then on we drove with much more care.
Other natural highlights include Mount Wellington, on whose foothills sit Hobart city, and the ranges of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Claire National Park. If the time of year is right, you can hike the Overland Track, one of the most popular trails in Tasmania. There are several hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty and distance throughout Tasmania, all with extremely good facilities and huts along the way, allowing you to spend days at a time lost in nature. Gordon River Cruises are also featured on the iVenture card, taking you into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area of the southwest from Strahan Town.
My other recommendation is to visit the charming side-by-side Seahorse World and Platypus World experiences in the Tamar Valley. Both are by the water, overlooking Beauty Point. The function of both centers is as educational and research stations, and they have a wealth of fascinating information to share with visitors. Did you know that it is the male seahorse who gestates the young? Or that the platypus closes its eyes when diving underwater? These are intriguing and mildly mythical creates indeed. Do make sure to ask, when you can, how the Tasmanian Devil got its name…you won’t be disappointed with the range of scientific and anecdotal responses that will greet you!