A taste of Tasmania in just one week
THE Great 'Round Tasmania Challenge isn't a new reality TV show to give The Amazing Race a run for its money.
Rather, it became my personal quest to see how far an average, time-poor couple could drive around the Apple Isle in just under a week, with no set plan.
Tasmania remains Australia's best-kept secret - a bucket-list destination that is big enough to offer wide and varied holiday experiences but small enough to be enjoyed in a relatively short visit.
Driving from Launceston in the north to Hobart in the south, for example, is an easy three-hour drive on good roads and uncrowded highways.
Our first trip to Tasmania 20 years ago was a three-week driving holiday with children - so we had plenty of time for exploring national parks, bushwalking and finding playgrounds.
Think: walks in Cradle Mountain and the Freycinet Peninsula, visiting tranquil Russell Falls and the Hartz Mountains, taking in Launceston's Cataract Gorge chairlift, as well as the hauntingly beautiful Port Arthur historic site.
But this time, our plan of attack was different.
We still wanted to be engrossed in beautiful scenery, learn more about the state's convict past, and discover new towns.
But good food and wine had become our priority, along with more luxurious accommodation than our previous caravan parks and campgrounds.
The overnight Spirit of Tasmania II vehicular ferry from Port Melbourne to Devonport helped us take the sure but steady route so we were completely relaxed before we arrived and on completing our journey.
We were more than chuffed at what we accomplished in six days in between.
DAY 1: Devonport to Stanley (via the scenic route of Elizabeth Town, Sheffield and Lake Barrington).
HIGHLIGHTS: Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm and Restaurant at Elizabeth Town served up a scrumptious breakfast of pancakes with raspberry jam, banana, bacon and fresh raspberries and a latte with raspberry dusting.
A discovery tour of the historic and scenic murals of Sheffield gave us a chance meeting with The Emporium's quirky owner and music lover Mark Beech-Ross. At nearby Lake Barrington, we marvelled at a wakeboarder doing flips in training.
A late-afternoon chairlift to the top of The Nut at Stanley was followed by a welcome rest with drinks and dinner at the historic Stanley Hotel. Our boutique suite accommodation @VDL Stanley - in a bluestone building on the shores of Stanley Bay - is the former Van Diemen's Land Company Store, dating from 1843.
DAY 2: Return from Stanley to Arthur River, on to Longford.
HIGHLIGHTS: We braved the chilly gusts at Edge of the World - Tasmania's most-western point at Arthur River - with nothing but 40,000km of ocean to Argentina.
DAY 3: Longford (rest day).
HIGHLIGHTS: Our accommodation at Brickendon Colonial Farm Village allowed us to walk in the footsteps of history around the World Heritage-listed Convict Site buildings, make friends with farm animals and take the 50-minute stroll by the Macquarie River to neighbouring Woolmers Estate.
DAY 4: Longford to Bay of Fires and St Helens to Hobart.
HIGHLIGHTS: The Whitsundays-like Bay of Fires has powdery white beaches, crystal-clear blue water and granite boulders covered in orange lichen. That night, we strolled around the Hobart waterfront and had drinks at Knopwood's Retreat in Salamanca Place before a restful night at our Loft Penthouse at Salamanca Wharf Hotel.
DAY 5: Hobart to Bruny Island return.
HIGHLIGHTS: Eating fresh Get Shucked oysters, climbing more than 200 steps to Truganini Lookout for 360-degree views at The Neck and lunch at Bruny Island Premium Wines.
DAY 6: Hobart to Devonport (via the scenic route to Ouse, Bothwell and the Great Lake)
HIGHLIGHTS: A wrong turn resulted in being surrounded by a flock of newly shorn sheep on the gravel road from Ouse to Bothwell. The pretty town of Bothwell is home to the Australasian Golf Museum and Ratho golf course, which is the oldest in the nation.
So we did it: about 1700km of bitumen and gravel roads; more than 1600 photos; countless sheep; and two aging bodies less exhausted than expected.
*The writer paid some of her expenses and was a guest of Spirit of Tasmania, @VDL Stanley, Brickendon Colonial Farm Village and Salamanca Wharf Hotel
TAKE ON TASMANIA
Spirit of Tasmania: http://www.spiritoftasmania.com.au
@VDL Stanley: 16 Wharf Rd Stanley Tasmania 7331. Phone (03) 6458 2032. Email: email@example.com
Brickendon Colonial Farm Village (Pumpkin Cottage): Brickendon Estate, 236 Wellington St, Longford. (03) 6391 1383
Salamanca Wharf Hotel: 17a Castray Esp, Hobart. (03) 6224 7007. http://www.salamancawharfhotel.com
TMK: On board Spirit of Tasmania
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm: 9 Christmas Hills Rd, Elizabeth Town. (03) 6362 2186
Bruny Island Traveller Six-Course Gourmet Bruny Island Day Tour: http://www.brunyislandtraveller.com.au
Stanley Hotel: 19-21 Church St, Stanley. 1800 222 397