Tasmania’s Tamar Valley is found in the northern part of the state and centres around the approximately 65 km-long Tamar River that runs from Launceston to Bass Strait. This self-drive journey is easily done in as little as 1 to 3 days depending on what tickles your fancy and how much time you have at your leisure. Exploring both the eastern and western banks is a must if you have the time, venturing off the highway onto the twists and turns of smaller, lightly trafficked roads passing through vineyards, orchards, lavender fields, dairy farms, forests, national parks and quaint townships (to name just a few!).
Both banks of the river and the wider valley showcase a myriad of things to do, places to go and plenty of viewing spots along the way. Visitors can choose from enjoying all manner of fresh produce, immersing themselves in some of Australia’s colonial, gold mining and maritime history, as well as art appreciation trails, and the extensive range of nature trails providing choices for all ages and ability to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
The Tamar Valley has been named one of the world’s top 10 wine routes. With a staggering (pun intended) 32 wineries in this small region, boasting premium, boutique wines, it’s no wonder. Now, back to that pun, simply appreciate or indulge--it’s up to you. Of course, if you do want to indulge, you don’t want to be “des”--aussie slang for the designated driver--so hire a local driver and tour around with them. The region has an extensive range of both white and red wine varieties made by largely family-owned establishments, where the owners will happily sit and chat about their craft. Watch their eyes light up with fervour-- and no, not just because they’ve shared a glass or two with you! If you fall in love, even countless times, and want to take them home (the wines that is), make your purchases along the way and the last winery that you visit will pack and send your wines home for you. How’s that for service?
Never fear, there is far more than wine, with something to match everyone’s liking. Organic ciders, beers (think James Boag), artisan cheeses, delectable strawberries (you can even pick your own), cherries, apricots, peaches, jams, truffles, walnuts, and coffee all make the Tamar Valley a provedore’s dream! Each café and restaurant sources from gardens/pastures close by, and share their passion and processes readily. Image thanks to: Mitch Osborne
A good balance for the above is recreation, of which there is also an abundant supply in this region. Hiking options range from short walks to various lookouts, to longer treks like The Coastal Traverse (you will need to pack camping gear and more of the delicious goodies that you have been sampling thus far for this one), and everything in between. Gravelly beaches, a 5 km stretch of sandy beach and stunning views, sea cliffs to spot sea life, a nudist beach if you dare, cycle tracks and mountain bike hire, wetlands center and boardwalk, rainforest walk, a gorge walk for more experienced hikers, golf, tennis, kayaking, river cruises, parks, events...you get the idea! There are all manner of ways to experience this incredibly beautiful landscape, to suit your time constraints and preference.
As you will soon experience firsthand in this small, albeit comprehensive region, the tales are plentiful. One worthy of mention for a taste of the Valley is Brady’s Lookout. Not only does this stop provide a postcard-worthy photograph opportunity of the surrounding views, but it also gives you some insight into Matthew Brady, a notorious 19th-century bushranger. He was known as “Gentleman Brady” due to the polite, well-mannered way in which he behaved whilst robbing his victims. One account even goes so far as to refer to him as quite the Casanova, as he would rarely rob or insult the women who crossed his path. Image thanks to: Flow Mountain Bike.
History buffs rejoice--the Tamar Valley certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. The area’s earliest history is evidenced with geological and archaeological treasures of Australia’s traditional owners. Middens, artefacts, ochre sources and caves are just some examples. The indigenous culture and beliefs are both simple and complex in nature, with thousands of years old knowledge having been passed down through the ancestors. Learning even just a little about their ways is an incredible eye-opener, and will help even the inexperienced visitor view the world and our existence from a very different perspective.
If you would prefer the more modern history of Australia’s settlement, make your way to George Town and Low Head. George Bass and Matthew Flinders set out from Sydney to Van Diemen’s Land (as Tasmania was known then) in 1798 believing the land was separated from the mainland by a strait. Visit their sloop “Norfolk”--a replica of course, as even the sea-worthiest of vessels have a limited life span--and learn about their adventures during the circumnavigation of the island. George Town is well known as one of Australia’s first settlements and is also an important aspect of maritime history, complete with a lighthouse and foghorn operating since 1933 (stand by for the blasts every Sunday!). An old gaol and a model village demonstrate colonial times and give visitors a good feel for ‘ye times of olde’. Image thanks to: Tourism Tasmania & Chris Crerar
Another facet of this region’s background is built around the discovery of gold in 1877. The Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre recalls the boom days as well as the events of the 2006 mining disaster. Headlines were made when a rock fall trapped two miners underground for two weeks! There is an interactive exhibit on the mine collapse, how these men survived and the rescue operation undertaken to return them safely to their families and the community.
If you are travelling as a family, there is a wide range of additional activities to keep the your mini-mes entertained. B-b-bounce on the world’s largest jumping pillow, pedal go-karts and race your mates, play mini-golf, visit Seahorse World, the Platypus House, go on a penguin tour and navigate your way through a bush maze and other outdoor puzzles. Speaking of navigation, you can also pedal boats, paddle canoes and explore a full-size wooden pirate ship. Again, the choice is yours: be as busy or as relaxed as you and your family so wish.
It’s easy to find hotels of the three-star and up range in Tamar Valley. Chalets and villas are available for those who would like a more romantic spin and splurge. Bed and breakfasts offer a more personalized experience with welcoming locals. Campsites and caravan parks are also available for those who have their rolling homes. Self-contained cabins and cottages have been built for families and those looking for a more economical approach. Eco-friendly, pet-friendly and downright luxurious...the options and range of prices abound.
So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself to Launceston and start your journey as soon as possible. With the construction of the Batman Bridge in 1968 enabling a mid-way crossing of the river, and so much more accessibility, you really don’t have any excuse, as even time is on your side! Image thanks to: Jesse Desjardins.