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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

Swim in the Tasman Sea

Nikhil Hemrajani  Tasmania, April 30, 2012
First Published: 18:18 IST(30/4/2012) | Last Updated: 18:18 IST(30/4/2012)
Five days were all we had to wander across Tasmania. Theoretically, it's not difficult to explore this Australian state roughly the size of Sri Lanka in that amount of time. But Tassie's (as it is endearingly referred to by the locals) great diversity in terrain makes such a plan daunting. Mountains, beaches, national parks and sprawling countryside -- you name it and you'll find it there.

Our plan was to drive up the eastern coast from the state capital Hobart. But don't expect warm waters even in summer. Tassie is swathed in the Southern Ocean that pulls in cold waters from Antarctica. The climate is haphazard too. What might start out as a clear blue sunny morning will just deteriorate to a thunderstorm by afternoon and progress into a cold and chilly evening.

The first point of interest for us was Maria Island. Also a national park, it is accessible by ferry from Triabunna, 85km north of Hobart. There are no commercial establishments or motor vehicles on the island, but you can hire cycles. Apart from hiking and seeing local fauna like the Forester kangaroo and common wombat, also check out the Painted Cliffs with its unusual colourations in sandstone. The Fossil Cliffs have ancient fossilised shellfish embedded in sandstone.

After a night's stay in the idyllic town of Swansea that cost us AUD 70 for a room, we visited the Freycinet National Park. A complete tour of Freycinet could take days, so follow the short trails up to the Honeymoon and Gravelly beaches and visit the Wineglass Bay lookout point. Gravelly beach, as the name suggests, has gravel in place of sand and natural granite formations. Before heading to St Helen's for a night's stay, don't miss the Ironhouse microbrewery en route. The bright ale is to die for!

The final stop on the east coast is the scenic Bay Of Fires that got it name in the 18th century from the aboriginal fires spotted on the coast by English seafarers. The beaches are amongst the most desolate in Tasmania. You can drive back to Hobart via Launceston and have a look at the midlands. While it requires about 380km of driving, it can easily be done in five hours. The internal highway offers stunning views of the countryside of rolling meadows that are reminiscent of Scotland, and beautiful houses. Do try the delicious Pinot Gris wine at the Josef Chromy winery outside Launceston.

How to get there:

For international fliers, there are direct flights to Hobart from all major Australian cities. Prices usually range between AUD 150-300. From Melbourne, you can also take the more expensive Spirit Of Tasmania ocean liner to Devonport in the north.

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