Winter wander

Tasmania is the place to enjoy a unique take on winter.

Something strange is happening in Tasmania. During the past couple of summers down in the deep south, we locals have been meeting increasing numbers of visitors from the warmer parts of Australia.

They tell us they’re coming to escape the heat back home. Believe it or not, some of them are even moving permanently to Tasmania! They call themselves ‘climate refugees’ and their numbers are growing.

Tassie residents quite like a bit of summer heat, but when weather reports from the mainland complain about a record-breaking number of days with temperatures over 40 degrees, we can see the sense in escaping to a milder and more pleasant climate.

That’s in summer, of course. In winter, the refugees go in the other direction, with Tasmanians heading for sunny Queensland in their droves. Surely, no-one would come south to experience a Tasmanian winter. Or would they?

It’s time to reconsider what the Island State offers travellers during the winter months.

First, let’s get the weather out of the way.

Yes, the days are short. But short days and long nights are made for blazing log fires, a nip of Tasmanian whisky or a hot mug of spiced red wine.

Yes, there’s rain and the occasional snowfall. But there are also clear, frosty mornings that broaden into perfect, blue-sky winter days without a cloud or a breath of wind.

And as the legendary and wonderfully-named British adventurer, Sir Ranulph Twisleton Wykeham Fiennes, reminds us, “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”

So visit your local outdoor shop, grab some thermal tops and long-johns, add a fleece jacket and a Goretex raincoat, pack thick socks, gloves and a beanie, and nothing will stop you enjoying some winter touring in Tasmania.

Here are some of the best places to discover.

The Great Eastern Drive

Heading north-eastward from Hobart, the Tasman Highway winds its way along Tasmania’s picturesque East Coast, passing forests and farmlands, bays and beaches (rug up and take a winter walk – you’ll most likely have the beach to yourself). There are vineyards to visit along the way and there’s sure to be a warm fire in the cellar door while you taste the local vintages. Branch off to Freycinet National Park and follow the walking track to the Wineglass Bay lookout, high above one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Further north are the fishing villages of Bicheno and St Helens, with a string of untracked beaches in between. Two roads lead westward away from the coast, either via Elephant Pass and the Fingal Valley to the Midland Highway; or through the forested Weldborough Pass to Scottsdale’s pastures on the way to Launceston.

Cradle Mountain and World Heritage wilderness

The Bass Highway takes you along the North West Coast, passing coastal cities and towns and running through rich farmlands where red volcanic soils nourish dairy herds and vegetable crops. Head inland to Sheffield, where murals on the town’s buildings tell the stories of the region. The road twists and turns though deep river valleys and ends with a view across Dove Lake to the famous jagged profile of Cradle Mountain. Creased in snow, the peak looks its best in winter.

Hobart and the south

Tasmania’s capital city has some unique winter attractions. The quirky and eclectic Dark Mofo is a winter music and art festival like no other. Held in June, it’s the brainchild of the people behind MONA, the remarkable underground Museum of Old and New Art. MONA is a must-see – prepare to be amazed, amused and astonished. Hobart’s Festival of Voices in July celebrates song in all its forms, closing with a bonfire-lit songfest on Salamanca Place. Hobart is the best base for your explorations of the southern region – spend time exploring the Port Arthur Historic Site and the clifftop walks at Eaglehawk Neck; taste Bruny Island cheese, oysters, honey and wine; tour south to the Huon Valley and drive onward to reach the end of Australia’s southernmost road at Cockle Creek.