Australia has long promoted its many treasures to the world while keeping the small state of Tasmania, 150 miles south of the mainland, all to itself. Now “Tassie,” as it is commonly known, is attracting the attention of those who seek an off-the-beaten-path departure from typical tourist spots. The island is relatively small―roughly the size of West Virginia―and home to fewer than 500,000 people. Thanks to its remoteness―after all, Tasmania is “down under” Down Under―the island is a wilderness wonderland, home to hundreds of miles of undeveloped coastline, rugged mountains, green valleys, and unusual wildlife.
• Getting there: Fly to a major Australian city and connect to Hobart; Melbourne is the closest mainland city. Alternately, nightly ferries travel year-round between Melbourne and Devonport on Tasmania’s north coast.
• Climate: Summer (December to February), with its warm days (averaging 70), is the best time to visit.
• Transportation: Tasmania is well-suited to a self-drive trip. Once you work out driving on the left side of the road, you’ll have few challenges.
Start Your Trip Here: Hobart
In Tasmania’s southeast, straddling the mouth of the Derwent River and backed by towering Mt. Wellington, is the island’s capital, Hobart. Australia’s second-oldest city (after Sydney), it’s home to 204,000 people where “rush hour” lasts all of 10 minutes. For a taste of old Hobart, take a walk among the Victorian cottages and rose gardens of genteel Battery Point, the city’s oldest neighborhood.
Eat smart: Chic, pier-side Marque IV is a regular on nationwide hottest restaurant lists. Its eight-course tasting menu sings the praises of the state’s fresh seafood and produce, which consistently hits high notes thanks to Tasmania’s agreeably mild climate and pristine air and water.
Be fit: Island Cycle Tours will drive you to the summit of 4,170-foot Mt. Wellington and lead a guided ride back to sea level. As you cruise down 12 miles of low-trafficked roads, each sense will be awakened, whether by the cool mountaintop air, fragrant eucalyptus, or awesome views.
Live well: The Saturday-morning Salamanca Market is a Hobart institution. Browse for a souvenir (items made from the island’s unique timbers are a good option), sample culinary goodies, and brunch like a local at a market-side café.
Where to stay: The waterfront Henry Jones Art Hotel has collected countless awards from national media since it opened in 2004. The hotel resides in restored warehouses that exhibit the wares of top local artists.