“Look out for the scars on the shoulder.” “Take your winter woolies!” “Don’t get murdered in the forest by a redneck.”
These were snippets of advice from people who hadn’t been to Tassie when I told them I was heading down on the ferry in March. The comments from people who had been:
“You lucky thing.” “Most stunning place I’ve ever seen.” “When can I come and visit you?”
I think Taswegians might be the ones spreading bad rumours so they can keep it to themselves. Then again, Taswegians are generally lovely people, so I don’t think it’s in them to do that.
I travelled around the state for a month, then fell in love with Cataract Gorge and the Victorian architecture of Launceston and settled myself up on Trevallyn Hill. Here are my observations from the last four months.
#1. It’s a very friendly place.
I know everyone says that about everywhere they visit, but in Tasmania it’s true. I also know that it’s a cliché to say it feels like a big country town, but that’s also true. Whether I’m in a little coastal spot or walking through Launceston or Hobart, people are relaxed and up for a chat. Drivers are patient on the roads. There’s very little pretension or arrogance here which makes it a great place to be.
#2. People seem to be happy with less.
When I say that, I don’t mean that they go without. The houses just seem smaller, the cars are less flashy and during public holidays everything actually shuts down. People here seem less focused on material things and work, and more satisfied to play in a park with their kids. And I honestly think that has something to do with #1.
#3. Common sense still prevails.
Last week the floodwater was racing through Launceston, and it took the city a day and a half to close the walking path along the Gorge. The water also left huge gouges along the side of many regional roads to a dangerous level, and instead of being diverted you’re expected to slow the hell down and watch out. This is not a nanny state – in fact, it’s assumed you’ll use your own common sense, which makes a nice change.
Update: Two days after posting this, I came across this similar point made about Dark Mofo. See, it’s the practical state!
#4. The food really is as good as they say.
I still remember the first strawberry I ate here, and I think I always will. Food costs a little more in Tassie but it also tastes stronger, sweeter and juicier. People value excellent coffee. Cafes put a huge amount of love into their food. The Harvest farmers’ market in Launceston is a thing of beauty. Don’t even get me started on the distilleries and breweries. I don’t know if everything tastes better because of the fresh air, the clean water or because you spend all day outside but it doesn’t really matter – it just tastes better.
#5. The seasons are embraced.
Tasmania really shows its seasons off, particularly to someone hailing from the relatively mild climate of Western Australia. What I love about it here is that everyone gets right into it. You can rug up and go sit next to a wood fire in a cafe during winter, visit the snow, then flock to the coastal areas with everyone else when it warms up. Hobart actually celebrates the deep dark depths of winter with its Dark Mofo festival. The seasons here are hard to ignore, so it’s best to just go along for the ride.
#6. It’s a tiny little treasure trove.
Tasmania is very easy and fast to move around, but the more long-time locals I talk to the more I realise it would take a lifetime to see it all: The Bay of Fires, MONA, Cradle Mountain, the national parks, Port Arthur, the Nut at Stanley and so on. Everything is less than a day’s drive away and there are hidden gems along every road, from forests to historical buildings. I probably won’t see it all, but I’m going to give it a damn good try!
#7. It’s a little bit wild, in the best way possible.
The clouds move faster. The Antarctic winds race right through your bones. The ocean churns and spits interesting things out, and the forests swallow you whole. Things are generally a bit more feral here in every way, and nature is most definitely in charge. People know it, too. In fact, the floods dumped a bunch of huge boulders smack bang in the middle of the Cataract Basin lawn, and the Launcestians seem pretty keen to keep them there as a reminder of how powerful nature is.
Tasmania is a wild, tasty, happy place, and I hope it stays like that for good.