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Devilishly good fun.

ACROSS the Bass Strait from Victoria lies Australia's smallest state, Tasmania which can be reached by air or ferry from Melbourne. Short on time but lured by the promise of wilderness and plentiful wildlife we chose to fly here for just six days as part of a longer Australian break in December.

Just two weeks after we left the state saw record temperatures and widespread bush fires, which brought much disruption but has thankfully since abated. Whilst we were there temperatures were typical; up to around 28degC but down to just 6degC at night in the central area.

The visit began in the state's capital Hobart and its small central core was a breath of fresh air with busy shopping streets of independent shops, eateries and easy access to the harbour and open spaces.

The outlying suburbs sprawl around the wider harbour shores, the extent of which can be fully appreciated from the Mount Wellington viewpoint, a short drive west of the city.

There is an appealing variety of building styles and the historic environment is well integrated with more modern development. Impressive colonial style houses with elaborate ironwork under corrugated verandas are concentrated around the southern end of city at Battery Point where even more cafes draw in visitors and locals alike.

After an early arrival and some city sightseeing including a stroll around the small but impressive botanical gardens it was time to head out for food.

The bar and restaurant options around Salamanca Place meant we didn't have to go too far. Restaurants were busy with people spilling out on to streets. Live music drew us into a courtyard bustling with people enjoying the evening. The majority of food was deliciously fresh with plenty of seafood filling the menus.

The following day was overcast but we returned to a transformed Salamanca; it was market day with even more fresh food and goods on offer, and skipping an early breakfast was a good strategy.

For the afternoon we had booked to go to Mona gallery (Museum of New and Old Art) which was $20 entry. We made our way there via the optional catamaran from Hobart harbour ($20 return). For me Mona's setting and architecture were more impressive than the art and on a Saturday there is a market with yet more great food and produce on the green.

There is also a micro-brewery and winery on the site creating the aptly named Moobrew.

That evening we left to drive north towards Freycinet NP, stopping for one night on the way at the pleasant little village (by our reckoning) of Swansea.

This allowed us to avoid driving late and to have a cheaper night's accommodation before a little splurge the following night at Freycinet Lodge, the only accommodation in Freycinet National Park.

The next morning the short drive . Trailfinders flights via from Swansea allowed us the day to explore Dolphin Beach, Coles Bay and then the world-famous Wineglass Bay.

returning from internal The viewpoint over Wineglass Bay is an hour return walk from the car park which is a good place to see the endemic Bennett's wallabies. Another hour return walk drops down fro Beach. There a day loops to co centre is well s park staff. om the viewpoint to Wineglass Bay re other day walks or three to four onsider within the park; the visitor stocked with trail maps and helpful A short drive lighthouse was to two small is southwards do From this va of seeing whal Returning to F meal was ha special sea equally a Our s in, whi had to We w Launce Island. W part of Cr Strahan, bu National Park Mountain NP) e and walk up to Cape Tourville s worthwhile to take in the view out lands called the Nuggets and own the peninsula. antage point there is also the chance es during their winter migration. Freycinet Lodge that evening a fine ad, and whilst many had the house afood platter other options were appealing, if not a bit smaller. short stay was already three nights ich meant to see further afield we do a couple of long drives.

)would have loved to have seen ston, the north coast, even Flinder's We also had to miss the northern radle Mountain National Park and ut we did take in Lake Saint Clair k (which merges with Cradle by staying a night at Derwent Bridge.

Visiting the park's centre gave the options of short circular or long distance walks through the forest which was cool and damp with the air feeling clean and fresh. The landscape was a bit like New Zealand's South Island with forest opening onto boggy areas covered in golden cushions of button grass.

The birds and mammals were a reminder of mainland Australia with kookaburras, New Holland honeyeaters and black-faced cuckooshrikes being the most noticeable.

Up in the canopy of the big eucalyptus swift parrots made a noisy start to the day and both green rosellas and black currawongs were Tasmanian endemic specialities.

At the National Park visitor centre we spotted an echidna pushing its snout through the earth in search of tasty morsels.

These are funny little creatures and if you get too close their defence mechanism is to dig straight down and expose their protective dorsal spines until danger has passed. Many more echidnas were seen on sandy road verges, thankfully alive.

From Derwent Bridge we headed south stopping in Mount Field NP for another couple of short walks to Russell Falls and Lady Barron Falls. Continuing further south to Kettering for a 20 minute car ferry trip we reached Bruny Island our last stop for two nights.

Bruny comprises two islands linked by a causeway called The Neck, on which there is an elevated viewing platform giving staggering views towards south Bruny with bays each side.

This is also the site of both little blue penguin and short-tailed shearwater colonies, the spectacle only becoming apparent at dusk when the birds return to feed their chicks after a day out to sea.

In the morning we took in a walk to the lighthouse in South Bruny NP, which was 20km along an unsealed track where several walk options took in the wider area.

A shy albatross sheared over the waves in the bay and this is another good whale-watching point during the winter.

We had to leave Bruny that afternoon for our flight to Melbourne where we continued our trip but we were very glad we made the effort to visit Tasmania and hope to return to explore further.

TRAVEL INFORMATION ? Trailfinders (trailfinders.com ) flights ex-Manchester to Perth, via Doha with Qatar Airways returning from Melbourne, from PS719.

Jetstar (jetstar.com) internal flights from $120 return. Hostels from $80-200 for two per night

CAPTION(S):

Sunset over the bay at Allonnah, Bruny (main), the view from the Neck on Bruny Island (inset left) and some of the wildlife (inset above) - clockwise: a fairywren, a Bennett''s wallaby and an echidna
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 23, 2013
Words:1164
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