Known as the ‘Apple Isle’, Tasmania is Australia’s only island state, separated from the mainland by Bass Strait and lying about two hundred and forty kilometres from the south east coast. It is also the country’s smallest state with an area of just over sixty eight thousand square kilometres. Home to almost five hundred thousand residents, the majority of the population reside on either the north or east coast of the island. The Tasmanian capital is Hobart, the country’s second oldest capital and most southerly city.
While archaeological evidence proves that the area was first settled by the Tasmanian Aboriginals about forty thousand years ago, the island’s European heritage dates back to the early 1800s. Prior to this, however, Abel Tasman was the first European to sight the island back in 1642. He named it Van Diemen’s Land in honour of his employer and the name remained until it was changed by Parliament in 1856.
European visitors to the island continued throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and included the likes of the world renowned James Cook and William Bligh. Throughout this period, however, it was believed that the island was attached to the mainland. This was until 1798 when Tasmania was circumnavigated by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders.
In 1803 Australia’s second colony was set up at Ridson Cove on the island but this was moved to Hobart one year later. And it was in the twenty years which followed this development that numerous penal settlements were set up on the island making Van Diemen’s Land the world’s most feared destination for British convicts.
Today, Tasmania bears no such fate for its visitors. Rugged mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, unspoiled beaches, world heritage areas and national parks give it one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country and are exactly why you should try your best to travel to the island state during your stay in Australia.