In February, I have spent ten days on Tasmania, the island down under Down Under and Australia’s smallest nominal state. In many ways, Tasmania is a special place for a large part of the island being unpopulated and wild. Thanks to its hilly profile, the island comes with almost no straight roads, which sounded promising for a motorcycle adventure and was a good motivation for hopping over from the mainland.
Having spent a good month and a mostly chilly summer in Melbourne, I took the overnight ferry across the Bass Strait, which proved to be a great way of traveling, giving enough sensual pause for a fresh start, as Tasmania does have its own look and feel. The trip took around nine hours and was efficiently organised by the seemingly only ferry company on this route, Spirit of Tasmania.
As I reached Devonport in the morning, I received a showcase of Tasmanian hospitality from Darren, a rider now settled on the island who picked me up from the ferry and bought me breakfast. We had gotten in touch through social media—at times it’s hard for me to imagine what traveling must have been like in the pre-internet era. After our breakfast and a chat over my maps, I had made out a route of heading down east first before traveling up the sparesly populated west coast, completing a circle and already being invited to stay at Darren’s farm in the end. Right on the first day, I visited mesmerizing Jacobs Ladder, the Tasmanian gravel-road version of Italy’s Stelvio Pass, with stunning rock formations to witness. With all its pine forests, grasslands, farms and coastal line, Tasmania felt like a mix of Great Britain, Austria and also a tiny version of what New Zealand must be like. Being so green and hilly, Tasmania truly is a heaven for riding a motorcycle.
Tasmania is Australia’s only state that is geographically apart from the mainland, and so seems the culture to be somewhat apart. Having grown up on the countryside myself, in many ways, Tasmanians reminded me of village people. People are greeting you, no one is really in a rush, there is an inherent warmth of people which even trumps the friendliness experienced all across Australia.
Just like mainland Australia, Tasmania looks back onto a rather short history of around 200 years of white settlement, with the sad part of a genocide to the rather small aboriginal population commencing soon after the first settlers had established their farms. After a while, there were no native Tasmanians any more, and the island remained comparatively sparsely populated at around half a million at date. Half of it is based in the greater Hobart area, which provides something like city vibes while still feeling far from a metropole. How could one be in a rush when living on the edge of the world?
Tasmania is about as far south as you can go on a bigger island in Oceania with only the Southern Island of New Zealand located lower. That said and even in summer, it does get chilly! I spent most nights camping and it was thanks to the low temperatures that in clear nights, the Milky Way can be seen literally shining. In the very south, Southern Lights just like the Aurora Borealis known from far-north places of the world are said to be seen during a few days oft the year.
The Western Explorer
As I reached Tasmania’s west, it was apparent where all the population is lacking. The area around Queenstown was my favourite part of Tasmania–a sleepy city that has been established and must have been blooming during the copper-mining era. Now, apart from the train station with a showcase steam train and a few cafes (that are not busy at all and closing in the early afternoon), this settlement feels like a ghost city.
Just outside of town, one can witness pure wilderness, with roads cutting through mere forests and untouched grasslands, which proves quite a unique travel experience. I always found a fair deal of inspiration to arise when there is an element of solitude, when immersing in isolation.