Magazine article Insight on the News

Tasmania, with Tea and Scones: The Australian Island 'Down under Down Under' Is One of the World's Best-Kept Vacation Secrets

Magazine article Insight on the News

Tasmania, with Tea and Scones: The Australian Island 'Down under Down Under' Is One of the World's Best-Kept Vacation Secrets

Article excerpt

The Australian island `down under down under' is one of the world's best-kept vacation secrets.

While Tasmania is well-known as the habitat of the famous cartoon devil, this hilly Australian island just south of Melbourne has much more to offer. Its west coast is lashed by westerlies from the Indian Ocean, making it one of the wettest places on Earth. Tasmania has hundreds of acres of rain forest that are virtually inaccessible. More than 20 percent of its land mass - the island is about as big as Scotland - is classified as wilderness heritage area.

The trek through the island's pastoral midlands to Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park is a good introduction to the Tasmanian wilderness. Day walkers are asked to register in the daybook, for safety's sake. More ambitious hikers can cover the entire Overland Track, a five- to eight-day crossing.

Our family - myself, my wife, Mary, and our two children, Angela, 4, and Matthew, 2, strolled around the lake. A friendly coorawong - the raven's Australian cousin - joined us for lunch on the lake's pebble shoreline. That night, we stayed at Cradle Mountain Lodge, constructed from local planed timber, with a lounge offering deep leather chairs and a huge fireplace. Our cabin looked out on an alpine stream and eucalyptus trees. In the morning, young wallabies came out to forage, much to the glee of our children.

Tamania's roads may be smooth now, but at the turn of the century they were rutted and full of potholes. Back then, the most convenient transportation was on the water - southern Tasmania is a maze of peninsulas, bays and islands. One of the first locally built ferries still plies the Derwent River estuary in Hobart, the island's capital. The S.S. Cartela, built in 1912 to take passengers on pleasant excursions, hugs the coast before crossing the bay and heading homeward. And during the homeward run, the crew serves scones with clotted cream and jam, fresh-brewed coffee and tea.

Battery Point, named for the military fortifications erected to an "imminent" but never-realized Russian attack in the 19th century, is the original Hobart neighborhood for gentle folk - and now a tourist trove chock-full of antique stores and colonial-era architecture. Narrow roads and lanes wind past the stately houses of former ship captains, boatwrights and bankers, a small oasis of England transplanted to the antipodes. …

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