There are several resoundingly good reasons for including Northern Tasmania in your itinerary. In just two or three days and within a relatively compact area you can easily experience some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery that is reflective of Tasmania’s supremacy over mainland Australia. Towering, craggy, forested mountains, including one of Tasmania’s highest, mighty Ben Lomond, 100 metre high white swamp gums, Myrtle forest and dense wilderness gaze down across swathes of rich, green bubolic farmland, and unquestionably the most stunning wine region in Australia – the Tamar Valley – from where 0.1% of Australia’s wineries produce 10% of the country’s best wines. The Tamar River is nothing short of majestic - a wide, glittering, slow-moving stretch of brilliant blue water that snakes its way regally through endless valleys punctuated with names from the pages of a fairy tale – Batman Bridge, Beauty Point, Grindelwald – or even more bizarrely reminiscent of South West England – Sidmouth, Exeter and of course Launceston.
There is a wondeful diversity of accommodation in Northern Tasmania, from pretty little B&Bs overlooking the Tamar River, a stone's throw from some of Australia's best wineries to absolutely authentic convict built accommodation on two of Tasmania's World Heritage Listed convict sites, including the charming Brickendon Farm and Estate. Style gurus will take note of the award-winning beach house, The Winged House on Table Cape, which is cantilevered over the rugged cliffs giving commanding180 degree views across the Bass Strait.
Launceston – pronounced ‘Lon-sess-ton’ and colloquially shortened to ‘Lonnie’ - is Tasmania’s ‘second city’ (second in terms of population but by no means in terms of significance or appeal). As well as the fantastic Cataract Gorge - a wilderness literally in the middle of the city spanned by the longest single span chair lift in the world - the city is the gateway to some of Tasmania’s most challenging and mysterious of regions. Three hours west on a relatively easy if ultimately very remote drive lies Stanley, and beyond it Cape Grim – the point that registers the cleanest air in the inhabited world.
Stanley is a lovely place to base yourself for a few days and explore the north western corner of Tasmania. Here, as much as Hobart, history blends seamlessly with wild nature.
Beyond Stanley lies The Tarkine; a bitterly fought-over region that contains not only the world’s last major tract of temperate rainforest and some of the richest minerals but also the most significant aboriginal coastline in Australia; yet even more notably, here is the only stronghold of healthy Tasmanian devils, hanging on to existence by a thread. To the east of the city lie the wild bleached white sand beaches of the Bay of Fires, ringed by massive orange granite rocks washed clean by crystal clear turquoise waters. To the north, the Bass Strait and (and if you are really smart, make sure this is on your itinerary from Melbourne), the sublimely beautiful and untouched Furneaux group of islands, 52 in total, the largest of which, Flinders Island, is nothing short of spiritual in its beauty.
If wildlife is your calling, and surely for most visitors to Tasmania it is, Northern Tasmania is your passport to some of Tasmania’s most remarkable and unforgettable encounters in the wild. It is no coincidence that two of Tasmania’s (and probably Australia’s) top wildlife guides operate in Northern Tasmania, nor that one of Tasmania’s national parks – Narawntapau – is known as the ‘Serengeti of Tasmania’ where 92 Wombats were once counted from standing by wildlife photographer Dave Watts (see further reading). If seeing Tasmanian Devils feeding in the wild is your draw card, then look no further; you are within reach of pretty much guaranteed sightings at Mountain Valley near Leven Canyon. If seeing a Platypus in the wild is your dream, relax; with Craig ‘Bushy’ Williams’ you will see five or six before breakfast, with a glass of bubbly on ice to celebrate. If having a bushtucker BBQ in the wilds with a family of Quolls demanding your attention (and countless Possums, Wallabies, Pademelons, Wombats and Forester Kangaroos and possibly the odd Thylacine vying for space) is your idea of a picnic, then a little known shack in the wilds of Ben Lomond is the only place to be. And always with a bottle of fantastic Tasmanian wine close to hand.
Another very good reason to visit Northern Tasmania is quite simply that once you leave the city’s perimeter you will, for the most part, have this magnificent landscape to yourself - at least in all but the sparsely populated areas (which are very few and far between). Perhaps at the most acclaimed wineries you will encounter just a handful of visitors – more likely locals, the rest of the tourists having been drawn straight to Hobart. All of them will congratulate themselves at having been to Australia’s least likely state capital city yet unless they travel north they will be missing out on some of Tasmania’s greatest treasures.