After the hot, dry red of Australia's center, Tasmania is like a
tall glass of cool water.
From Cradle Mountain's silent, jagged peaks to Freycinet
National Park's contemplative beaches, Australia's island of
Tasmania feels like a different, more restful country than the
The only thing not restful is deciding whether to orient a visit
around history or nature. The island has plenty of both, but to
explore either takes time.
My focus was nature, and I had one week to see the island.
Starting from Launceston, Tasmania's second-largest city, I picked
up a rental car at the airport and traveled around the island in a
roughly counterclockwise circle.
Day 1: Launceston. The choice here is between the Penny Royal
Powder Mill (a Disneyland-like renovated mill and gunpowder
factory) and the Cataract Gorge that's right behind it. I chose the
gorge. Entering it is like turning a corner in an English village
and finding Colorado. A river runs through a narrow, rock-ribbed
canyon that you can hike around or cross in an aerial tram.
Devonport. Tourists gather at dusk in bleachers here to see
small fairy penguins make their nightly dash from the ocean to
burrows in the sand. This particular night must have been too
bright, because we spotted only one confused loner who made the
scramble when it was nearly dark.
Day 2: Keen to get to the famed Cradle Mountain early to do some
hiking, I almost skipped the town of Sheffield. But it's quite a
sight: The whole town is filled with murals! In 1968, Sheffield
decided to honor its pioneer ancestors by painting their likenesses
on the sides of old buildings. Now it's called the "Town of
Cradle Mountain. The dolomite-capped peaks of Cradle Mountain
jut from hilly terrain. From a distance, the mountain looks like a
crown. It's only when you're up close and surrounded by the peaks
that the resemblance to a cradle emerges.
While many visitors climb Cradle Mountain, I opted for a day
hike. Dove Lake, at the base, is a favorite spot to take
photographs of the mountain's reflection.
The Cradle Mountain Lodge provides perfectly fine lodging right
at the base of the mountain, but I chose the more intimate
Lemonthyme Lodge about 45 minutes away. Both places turn on
spotlights after dark and put out fruit to attract padymelons (a
type of small kangaroo), wombats, and possums. Some of the animals
climb right up on the verandah.
Day 3: Strahan. Across to the west is this former fishing
village, the gateway to the Franklin and Gordon Rivers. Now World
Heritage-listed, the Franklin River was almost dammed in 1982, but
was saved as a result of a determined blockade by environmentalists.
The town is rapidly losing its rough-hewn character since a
developer started buying up the place. …