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Take a look at a globe, if you’ve got one handy. Or launch Google Earth and point it toward Australia. Due south of Melbourne is an island about the size of Ireland. Originally called Van Diemen’s Land, it is now known as Tasmania. To mainland Australians, it is affectionately called “Tassie.”

As we slipped away from Melbourne the morning of February 8th aboard the “Spirit of Tasmania” I got a plaintive text message from my daughter–“please take the chocolate with you.” My penchant for Cadbury’s dark chocolate with almonds has not made this blog to date, but there it is. She needn’t have worried that I would leave it behind.

Since our only packing restriction was the size of the Subaru, we were equipped for an expedition to the Antarctic. Even in summer, Tasmania can require everything from ponchos to mittens. We had camping gear, hiking clothes, paddling gear, city clothes etc. The only significant item item of clothing for which I felt no need was my tux.

I saw our first vacation to Tasmania as an exploratory visit. We had bookings for the first three nights only. The accommodation our first night got blown away when circumstances required us to let our departure slip back one day. By that point, every place in the arrival port of Devenport was booked.

Not to worry. We still had our booking at a cottage near Cradle Mountain. It would mean driving up there as the light was fading. though, and I didn’t realize what that meant.

If you’ve seen a video game where creatures are constantly popping up in front of you while you are trying to negotiate your way up a narrow, winding road, you can imagine the drive. Most of Tasmania’s critters are nocturnal, and they seemed to like nothing better than testing my night vision and reflexes. But the next two days made up for it.

Cradle Mountain is one of the most spectacular areas of Tassie, and the island is blessed with beautiful scenery. There are only about thirty days of sunshine per year and we got two of them. We circled Dove Lake, scrambled up to Marions Lookout, met a curious wallaby and a couple from Newfoundland.

I had a rough idea of what we might be able to see during the following ten days but we didn’t come close. It is a matter of topography. Tasmania is an island like Sardinia where practically nothing is flat. We did a lot of driving and seemed to get not very far.
The most spectacular place we came across was a spur of the moment choice, thirteen kilometers up a gravel logging road. It was a stunning, precipitous look off called Devils Gullet, not too far (as the crow flies) from Cradle Mountain. I’m afraid my photos do not do it justice. The vertiginous view from a scary metal perch over the edge of a sheer drop rivals that of the Grand Canyon.

From Devils Gullet, we dropped down to a little patch of paradise in the Tamar Valley, the Pearwalk Cottages. It was another fortuitous find. We had been referred to it by the owner of a Bed and Breakfast nearby that was fully booked. It was so lovely that we went back the night before we left.

Mostly, we stayed in what the Australians call “cottages,” self-sufficient units with bath and kitchen. Two of them were in popular destinations. They were modern and classy with prices to match. One place we stayed was a dump. We stayed in a bed and breakfast that had been been built by convicts and housed the workers under lock and key in the basement. One night we camped out and listened to the gulls.

During our too brief stay we tasted some fine Pinot Noir at several lovely wineries in the Tamar Valley; we strolled for hours on a white sand beach in the Bay of Fires; we hiked up and over boulders to see Wineglass Bay; we paddled among dolphins in Freycinet National Park; we visited two historic bridges, two lighthouses, one mansion and the National Rose Garden.

But there is so much more. We haven’t seen Hobart or the Tasman Peninsula or Bruny Island or the West coast or Lake St. Clair. We’ll be back. Tassie’s alluring, addicting, just like chocolate. Did I mention the Cadbury Factory? Next time, I can leave my stash behind and live off the land. Fine wine, bread and chocolate. What more can you ask for?

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