Of the few places on planet earth that have retained their natural splendor in today’s world of man made beauty, Hobart is one. The state capital of Tasmania has a haunting quality that remains with a traveler much after one has finished with the trip.
The place has an interesting history. Originally inhabited by a semi- nomadic tribe known as the Mouheneer, the area was a witness to many bloody encounters of the aboriginals with the Europeans. Eventually, the rush of settlers wiped out the aboriginal population. The British brought in shiploads of convicts, for crimes ranging from petty to serious. Along with the convicts came their guards. In fact, the first settlement was started in 1803 as a penal colony on the eastern shores of the Derwent River, but in 1804 it was moved to a Hobart. The city, initially known as Hobart Town, was renamed Hobart in 1875.
My exploration of the city began with the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden. Established in 1818, it is a beautifully landscaped garden that draws nature lovers and tourists in hordes. It was abloom with flowers of all hues and kinds. Teals and ducks swam lazily along the lotus pond, birds twittered teasingly from the tall trees around me. It proved to be an instant rejuvenation therapy and I walked out after shedding my baggage of fatigue and stress.
The next stop was at the Salamanca market across the Square. Each Saturday morning the Square transforms itself into a vibrant shopping area with hundreds of stalls set up all along the park. These stalls sell almost everything, from hats, souvenirs, jewellery, puppets and clothes to fruits, vegetables and food. Fiddlers, singers and artists showcase their talents and hundreds of tourists flock the area. The entire area wears a festive look with the music and a multitude of colours.
The hours flew and it was time for sampling the gourmet offerings across the bay. The fabulous spread of breads, delicious crayfish served with aromatic herbs and the crisp salad had me salivating. Downing the fare with a glassful of white wine, I tottered out to see the rest of my new-found paradise.
I was told that the Mount Wellington offered one of the best views of the area, so it was in the direction of the Pinnacle on Mount Wellington I headed. Just about 22 kilometres from the city centre, it was the nearest thing to heaven. The drive to Mount Wellington up the winding road passed through eucalypt forests, past cute houses with nice gardens, waterfalls, and great views of the bay. Going up to the 1270-meter peak we passed through several distinct ecosystems. At the top it was distinctly cold as pinnacles are prone to be. Bracing myself against the wind I feasted my eyes on the superb view of Hobart unfurling before my wondering eyes.
There was still half a day before I said adieu to Hobart so I decided to drive to the Tahune Forest Reserve to undertake an airwalk. Tasmania is one of the few places in the world to offer a spectacular treetop walkway. As I walked over the riverside rainforest canopy on the Tahune Forest Airwalk right across the tree-tops, I marvelled at the reaches of the human brain. We were ‘Walking the high wire’ suspended in the air on steel towers barely visible on the ground. The wonders of the world never ceased to please me.
- Tour Hobart on a double-decker London bus (I guess the name comes from a similar bus that runs in London) or a coach tram during the day and take a evening coach tour to watch the lights of Hobart from Rosny Lookout or the summit of Mount Nelson.
- Take a tour of the local breweries and Cadbury Chocolate factory.
- Visit the Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site (try the Ghost Tour)
- Take a cruise on the Derwent River and watch the dolphins leaping around.
- For the museum lovers Tasmania has quite a few museums like the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Maritime and Allport Museums, Narryna Heritage Museum and the Museum of Antiquities.
- Don’t miss the Saturday Salamanca market experience.
- Enjoy a twilight paddle by sea kayak on the calm waters of the Hobart waterfront.
- Enjoy water sports like jet boating, rafting, and canoeing in the Derwent River near New Norfolk.
- Explore the Mount Field National Park, 75 km from Hobart. It offers a host of activities like interpretive trails, Pandani Grove Walk, Russell Falls Walk and Tall Trees Walk.
- Try rock climbing, snorkelling or diving at the Freycinet National Park. Take the two hour return walk to Wineglass Bay and see the pink and grey granite rocks of The Hazards.
- Animal lovers can visit the East Coast Natureworld, Bicheno to see the Tasmanian devils, wombats, birdlife ending the trip with the Bicheno Penguin Tour.
- Tasmania also offers great mountain biking opportunity. Log on to www.discovertasmania.com for a range of holiday planners.