Tasmania! It’s rugged, it’s remote, it’s technically an archipelago, it’s home to some of the quirkiest flora and fauna around (to say nothing of the locals), it’s the last deep sea port before Antarctica and has some of the largest temperate rainforests in the world, but all of that comes as at a cost; it’s about as fragile as candy floss in the rain. Here are some quick tips and tricks to keep in mind when travelling Tasmania to ensure you don’t tick off the locals or accidently create a state of emergency.
- Respect biosecurity
We don’t have fruit-fly here! I know! Amazing! We found a few fruit-flies in 2017 and a full scale, state-wide panic ensued. We had to stop composting our banana skins, agricultural imports ground to a halt, it was an actual, genuine, catastrophe.
When you arrive in Tasmania you will be warned on the plane/boat that it has very strict biosecurity laws, there’s also a very high chance that a very cute dog will demand the right to sniff your bags on arrival. Let the little pupper sniff the goods, it’s a government official on official government business. Ask yourself, is it a plant or animal? If the answer is yes then please, do not bring it here. It is dirty? Clean it. Is it bugs? Probably shouldn’t have those in your bag anyway. If it will make you feel less silly then keep in mind that when those biosecurity dogs retire they have to be retrained not to declare a state of emergency every time they sniff a flower or see a banana. If the thought of a dog preventing a potential suitor from entering the home because they are carrying a bunch of flowers doesn’t amuse you then I don’t know what will.
2. Shop local
We have shops here. Not so much the huge department stores, but an excellent collection of boutique/antique places to visit. Tasmania is also famous for it’s markets, plan your time here for a weekend and then check out what all the fuss is about, buy your gifts and souvenirs from one of the hundreds of artists and artisans that call this little island their home studio, go on a winery tour, eat all the food and have a great time sampling the local produce. I know a French wine expert who feels strongly that Tasmania has what it takes to be one of the wine capitals of the world (there is an addendum — in 750 years, once it has the history and tradition that France has under its belt — but I think he just said that out of pride). Supporting local businesses keeps the local economy growing, and everyone likes a well cultivated economy.
3. Respect wildlife
I really shouldn’t have to say this, but here goes – please do not bother the critters that you see, unless they are in a petting zoo. They are very cute and have no natural predators. They might actually approach you out of a misguided sense of curiosity but please do not feed or stroke them. Lumpy-jaw, in particular, is a painful and fatal side-effect of human intrusion on wallaby habitat caused by them being fed bread.
Stay away from soft sand on beaches because birds nest there. There are often signs posted at beaches stating when the breeding seasons for endangered birds are, please do not try to approach them during this time and please take extra care to stay out of sand dunes. Beaches are also sometimes closed in a bid to protect particularly critically endangered sea birds during breeding season. Please respect signs and fences and do not enter the beach in this instance – no matter how tempting a completely clear, footprint-free beach looks.
4. Take rubbish away
I picnic a lot and I often do that in remote areas with no immediately obvious rubbish bins so I always include either a giant sandwich bag (very easy to seal), or a small garbage bag in my essential travel and picnic collection (the rest of the list is sunglasses, sunscreen, a bar of soap, and a bottle for water). There will be a rubbish bin again in your future, just hoard your trash until you get to one. Nothing spoils a view like litter, and nothing makes you feel more like an awesome, world-weary rover than carrying a bag full of rubbish to hurl at your enemies.
5. Visit a National Park – but stick to the path
Tasmania is famous for its national parks. It has some of the best bush walks in the world. Even if you are more of a food and beverage tourist I would encourage you to go to one of the parks. There is always a collection of walks to suit people of every fitness level. I once did the wineglass bay look-out walk and there was a woman in her late 80s, with a walking frame, heading up there as well. The parks pass can be expensive, but they make up the vast majority of money put towards maintenance and protection. Single use passes are available and might better suit your needs.
Most walking tracks are clearly marked and sign-posted. This is for your safety as well as that of the very fragile plant-life. Weather changes in a heartbeat in Tassie and park rangers work hard to choose the safest pathways for all weather wandering, respect their expertise because in Tasmania we literally offer university degrees in parks and wildlife management, conservation, and associated degrees. Our rangers have a degree in ranging.
6. Be Mindful of the Port Arthur Massacre
This is a difficult one because Port Arthur, a very well-preserved historical corrections centre, is a place of significant importance to the colonial history of the state. Once a penal fort it is now a huge open-air museum with fun activities for the kids, ghost tours, the whole shebang. Port Arthur is also known locally for its tragic modern history. In 1996 a shooting that killed 35 people took place at and around the Port Arthur museum café. It is the worst mass shooting in Australia’s history and among the worst mass shootings by a lone gunman globally. It’s a dark chapter that most Tasmanians feel grievously upset by, even today, so please be aware that to many locals it is a place of memorial and reflection, as well as one of the best museums to educate the kids on the colonial and convict history of the state.
7. Respect the Solitude
There are few better ways to clear your head and get to know your own mind than when walking in nature, and Tasmania is one of the best places in the world to walk in nature. Please give others space and quiet.
Also, Tasmania is taking steps to reform and apologise for the innumerable atrocities committed against the first nations people. One of the key steps has been reaching out to the aboriginal community to discuss areas of particular historical significance and placing educational plaques in those areas. Please respect the fact that to some members of the community these are places of spiritual significance, memorial, or reflection. Do not disturb that peace and solitude.
Most toilets come with instructions because they are all a bit different, and most are equipped with feminine hygiene disposal units – even in very remote areas (still pack a few small sandwich bags with you just in case though). If a toilet asks that you don’t flush anything then please do not flush anything. An improperly disposed of tampon, or even toilet paper, can back a septic tank toilet up so badly that a literal river of excrement breaks free and floods the neighbourhood. Read and obey signs, it’s for the good of the community. Bring your own bar of soap. I don’t know why it is so difficult to find soap in the public toilets of Tasmania, but it is. Carry your own soap and your own liquid hand sanitiser and you will be fine.
9. Bring a Bag
Tasmania is plastic big free, we have been for some time. Many of the markets you go to will supply a plastic bag in the form of an actual relic passed down to the stallholder by their great-grandmother who, for some reason, felt the urgent compulsion to hoard all her plastic bags inside another, bigger plastic bag. Farmgate market is completely plastic free, supermarkets only supply reusable bags, people will literally wash and return sandwich bags to you if you give them one (not usually the garbage bag sandwich bags, but the ones that held food are fair recycling game). It might seem a little crazy but most locals keep a little fold up bag inside their handbag or pocket and just get on with their lives. Follow that example, you can pick up beautiful, compact-foldable, plastic-free bags in most boutique stores in Tasmania, at most markets and the occasional supermarket. Consider a keepcup, reusable straws, reusable cutlery and metal Tupperware while you are about it and you will fit right in with the locals.
10. Come Again
With the strict bio-security, occasional gang wars about proper recycling, adorably dim-witted wildlife and our terrifyingly fragile eco-system Tasmania can seem a little daunting. Please do not be alarmed, we would love to see you again, sans the bugs in your bag. Tourism in Tasmania is a growing industry and we are happy to share it. If you miss one of the really big festivals, like the Taste of Tasmania, or Dark Mofo, don’t worry, everything showcased at the festivals is available all year-round, you just have to spend a bit of time searching the nooks and crannies to find them.