"Over 300 of the most beautiful kilometers on earth." So reads the introduction to "The Great Walks of Tasmania," which describes spectacular walks in different parts of this beautiful and unique island state of Australia.
Even just a few years ago, it would have been largely inconceivable to contemplate multiday walks around parts of Tasmania's National Parks and World Heritage areas, supping on wine and fine food.
Hardy explorers and adventurers have always been drawn to this eco-friendly isle to whitewater raft, kayak, rock climb, backcountry hike and scuba dive - yes, scuba dive! Avid divers travel to the kelp forests near Waterfall Bay to see one of southern Australia's most iconic marine animals, the weedy sea dragon.
For those not looking for so much adrenalin-pumping activity but still wanting to get some exercise, explore the island's World Heritage Wilderness, deserted white sand beaches and prolific wildlife while still enjoying the finer things of life, these walks are ideal.
On the Maria Island Walk, the Freycinet Experience Walk, Cradle Mountain Huts, Bay of Fires Walk, the South Coast Track, the Tarkine Rainforest Track and the Walls of Jerusalem, guests trek through World Heritage areas or national parks and yet savor fresh local produce and wine along the way. In some cases, they stay in architect-designed standing camps.
The Maria Island Walk, which is one of Australia's most awarded tourism experiences, is a personalized four-day guided walk on one of Tasmania's most beautiful and historic island. Each walk is limited to just eight guests. Accommodation is at two wilderness camps with the final night at the restored heritage-listed Bernacchi House. Candlelight dining with fine wines and gourmet food is served every night. Before boarding the boat in Triabunna, stop by the Viennese-style cafe Gallery Art Spaces and pick up an exquisite cake to fuel you for the journey.
The Freycinet Experience is a fully catered walk along the entire length of the Freycinet Peninsula. The 25-mile walk takes you along deserted beaches, up pink granite monoliths, and on to Wineglass Bay - once voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by Conde Nast magazine. Accommodation is at the secluded Friendly Beaches Lodge - a winner of awards from the Royal Australian Institute for its sustainable design.
The Cradle Mountain Huts six-day walk follows the iconic 60-kilometer overland track and is the only walk of its kind in the Cradle Mountain St. Clair National Park. This fully guided walk offers private, environmentally sensitive cabins to stay in at the end of each day, complete with hot showers.
Bay of Fires Walk on the northeast coast includes 20 miles of breathtaking coastline with extraordinary white sand beaches. Named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 places to visit, the walking trip here also includes a half day of kayaking and time to snorkel. The last two nights are in the stylish and eco-friendly Bay of Fires Lodge.
The South Coast Track is the most challenging of the Great Walks. It is a nine-day expedition into the heart of the rugged Southwest National Park, often compared to the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. Wild, unspoiled wilderness with an abundance of wildlife and wilderness camping make this a perfect escape from civilization.
The Tarkine Rainforest Track is a journey through the largest cool temperate rainforest in the Southern Hemisphere on a custom-built walking track. Recognized globally for its ecological significance, this forest is a direct link to the ancient continent of Gondwana. Accommodation is in Wilderness camps, and the small groups of walkers travel through a pristine and remote ancient wilderness forest.
The Walls of Jerusalem Experience is an introductory walk into Tasmania's only true alpine national park. The four days are filled with long walks exploring alpine lakes, ancient pencil pine forests, soaring dolerite peaks from a comfortable base camp. Only accessible by foot, this trip is an ideal trip to introduce yourself to wilderness camping, without carrying full backpacks over long distances.
If you go, the best time is during the warmer months, September-April.
International flights landing in either Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne can connect onwards to either Hobart or Launceston.
Rosie Holliday is a longtime local travel agent who owns Holliday Adventures, a Virtuoso-affiliated travel agency. While she can and does book the world, her specialties are Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Europe. Reach her at 970-748-9818, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.hollidayadventures.com.