My younger daughter studied abroad this past semester at the University of Tasmania and loved it so much she is transferring there to finish college. I’ve just spent the last ten days in Tasmania checking it out, and I can see why she loves it so much. This IFOD is a bit of info about this amazing island and some pictures I took. It’s beautiful.
Tasmania’s Size, Location, and Population
Tasmania is an island 150 miles off the south coast of Australia (and 1,300 miles north of Antarctica) and is one of Australia’s six states. For an island, it’s quite big — at 25,105 square miles, its main island is the 26th largest island in the world (here’s a list of the 322 largest islands). For perspective, that’s six times the size of Hawaii’s Big Island, a tad bigger than West Virginia, and a bit smaller than Ireland. The state of Tasmania also includes another 1,000 or so small islands surrounding it.
As of March 2022, Tasmania had about 571,000 residents, with a bit over 200,000 of them living in the state’s capital of Hobart.
Given its location to the south, Tasmania is cooler than mainland Australia (remember that south of the equator, their south is like the northern hemisphere’s north).
Much of the island is mountainous. A large portion of the island is protected forest, and the western part is quite lush and includes cool temperate rainforests. Here are a few pictures I took in the western part of the island.
There’s lots of waterfalls.
Here’s Cradle Mountain which is in the northwest part, but not in a rainforest:
The eastern part of the island is less lush but still beautiful. Here are some pics from the eastern part:
Freycinet National Park (and a view of “Wineglass Bay”):
Here’s Bay of Fires (so named by explorer Captain Tobias Furneaux, in 1773, when he saw the smoke from the fires of the local Kunnara Kuna tribe):
Hobart — The Capital
Hobart is super cool. It reminds me of Portland, Maine. It’s on the waterfront, and its harbor is home to yachts, sailboats, cruise ships, cargo ships, and marine research vessels. Its downtown is vibrant, with many shops, restaurants, and people walking about. It has super chill vibes. Here’s a few pics (I didn’t take these):
One of the top attractions in Hobart is MONA (MONA stands for “Museum of Old and New Art). The museum’s art is an eclectic mix that David Walsh, MONA’s founder, has collected. It has a focus on sex and death (so probably not appropriate for the kiddos). But the star of MONA is the building itself. Do you know how some museum buildings are part of the experience — like the Guggenheim in NYC or the Getty in LA? That’s how it was visiting MONA. An article on MONA and Walsh in the New Yorker described it thusly: “But at first sight from the Derwent River—from which most museumgoers approach by ferry from downtown Hobart, the capital—mona looms above like a post-apocalyptic fortress, waffled-concrete walls intersecting with great trapezoidal battlements clad in rusting steel. Set on a small peninsula, the four-story complex is almost twice the size of New York’s Guggenheim.” The museum won Australia’s top architectural award.
The New Yorker article (which is quite interesting) notes that Walsh, who built his wealth through gambling, spent over $250 million on the building and the art. MONA from the outside:
A pic of MONA Escher-like stairs:
A great way to get to MONA is to take a ferry from the downtown pier:
If you’re American and of a certain age, you probably associate Tasmania with the Tasmanian Devil and think they are ferocious and look like this:
But they actually look like this:
Tasmanian devils are carnivorous marsupials. And they aren’t ferocious (unless threatened).
I didn’t see any Devils while in Tasmania — they are nocturnal forest dwellers, so I didn’t see any on my tour of the island. The best way to see a Devil is at a sanctuary.
Wombat (from above – click here for a better pic of what these look like):
A Few Other Interesting Tasmania Facts
Electric lights. Tasmania was the first place in the southern hemisphere to have electric lights.
Cleanest Air. The northwest corner of Tasmania has the cleanest air recorded among global air quality stations.
Powered by Renewable Energy. Tasmania is 100% powered by renewable energy (mostly hydro).
Penal Colony History. The settlement of Tasmania in the early 1800s by white people was as a penal colony. According to Discover Tasmania, “To the British, Van Diemen’s Land – as Tasmania was known until 1856 – seemed like the end of the Earth, an ideal place to send criminals and relieve pressure on an overcrowded prison system at home.Tasmania had some of Australia’s largest and most notorious penal settlements. Between 1804 and 1853, more than 70,000 convicts were forcibly transported to Tasmania and set to work building, mining, pining and farming for the state and private landowners.”
Of course, Aboriginal people lived on the island for 42,000 years before white settlers and prisoners made Tasmania their home. In less than 100 years, the Aboriginal people were wiped out through a combination of war and disease. Today, no pure-blooded Aboriginals exist in Tasmania.
Unique Street Signs. Signs on Tasmanian roads that indicate distances to cities/landmarks with and without brackets (see below). Without brackets, it means that the indicated destination is on the current road. With brackets, indicates you’ll have to turn on one or more additional roads to get to the destination. Brilliant!
If you are heading to the Australia/New Zealand area, checking out Tasmania is worthwhile IMO.