Travel Magazine

Tasmania, Part I: Hobart to Queenstown

By Carolinearnoldtravel @CarolineSArnold
A Trip Back in Time (March 1999)

Tasmania, Part I:  Hobart to Queenstown

Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania

   Last night we returned from a long weekend in Tasmania. The trip was filled with beautiful scenery, outdoor experiences, interesting accommodation, a little history, and all enjoyed in perfect weather. According to our friends in Melbourne, visiting Tasmania is like going back thirty years in time.  Since we already view Australia as a bit of a throwback, it was like going back almost fifty years for us.  The island has almost no freeways, and practically no traffic on the two lane roads.  The rural areas reminded me of visiting northern Wisconsin when I was a child.  It was quite refreshing!

Tasmania, Part I:  Hobart to Queenstown

Salamanca Market, Hobart

    We flew from Melbourne to Hobart (the capital of Tasmania) on Friday night.  Our bed and breakfast hosts had offered to pick us up at the airport, for which we were grateful, and gave us a tour of the city on the way to their hilltop home called the Crow’s Nest.  The night was crystal clear and we looked out over the bay and the sparkling city below.  In the morning, we picked up our rental car and before leaving Hobart did a brief walking tour along the wharves, visiting the Salamanca Place Saturday market, which features stalls of fresh produce, unbelievable flowers, and beautiful crafts--many of them made of wood.  We bought some wooden spoons and, on impulse, a metal sculpture of a flying fox at an art gallery.
From Farmland to Forest

Tasmania, Part I:  Hobart to Queenstown

Fields of Hops in the agricultural central valley of  Tasmania

   We then made our way north through rolling farmland and stopped for a picnic lunch at Mount Field National Park, where we took a short walk through the rainforest to a waterfall.  The forest floor was covered with giant tree ferns (a plant form that has been around since dinosaur times) and towering above us were 300 foot tall swamp gums--among the tallest trees in the world.  It reminded us a bit of Muir Woods in California.
   As we continued our way to the northwest, the landscape changed to rugged mountains and dense pine forest.  Most of western Tasmania is either National Park or National Forest and we drove through miles of breathtaking scenery along twisty two lane roads without encountering much traffic.  The only signs of civilization were the occasional clearings stacked with beehives.  We later discovered that these were for collecting the rare leatherwood honey found only in these forests of Tasmania.

Tasmania, Part I:  Hobart to Queenstown

Denuded landscape near Queenstown

   We finally arrived at our destination, Queenstown, a town almost exclusively dependent on the local mine, one of the largest copper mines in Australia and in the world.  We stayed in the elegant former home of the mine manager, which has recently been turned into a bed and breakfast. One of the other couples staying there had just sailed their 40 foot yacht from Sydney to Hobart.  They told us they had been stuck in a little town on the mainland coast for three weeks while waiting for good weather to cross the Bass Strait.  (The Bass Strait is where all those people died a few months ago in the Sydney to Hobart race and this couple didn't want to take any chances.)  The weather is quite changeable across the strait and they needed three days of good weather in a row.  At night, during the crossing, they slept in four hour shifts so that one person was always awake to sail the boat.  I don't think I'd like to be all alone and responsible for a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean!
   Queenstown’s claim to fame, besides the mine, is that the surrounding landscape--hills totally denuded of all vegetation and scoured down to the bare rock--are a dramatic example of the harmful effects of environmental pollution.  Although the hills were once covered with forest, the trees were cut down to feed the smelting furnaces and the rest burned in forest fires.  Normally forests recover after being cut or burned, but between torrential winter rains that washed away the topsoil and the sulphur fumes emitted from the smelting process, nothing grew.  Although the ore is no longer processed locally and people are much more eco-conscious, the land has still not recovered and probably won’t for centuries.  We could have had a tour of the mine (including a look at the tunnels) but didn't have time.

Tasmania, Part I:  Hobart to Queenstown

Tasmania, located at Latitude 42 degrees South, is the southernmost part of Australia 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog