Tasmania: east coast experiences

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WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

Being harnessed on a zip line and whizzing through the treetops doesn't require much walking, but it does guarantee an adrenalin rush.

Hollybank Treetops Adventure is a tour of a forest canopy, and we are escorted across six floating platforms via wire zip lines. At the highest point we are 23 metres above the ground, while the longest stretch of cable is 400 metres and the fastest speed we reach is around 80km/ph. There isn't much time to look out for any wildlife in the branches, but it is a great way to see the forest all the same.

Equally rewarding is the Launceston Basin Chairlift over the Cataract Gorge. In similar fashion to a ski lift, we are scooped up and carried over the South Esk River, which gurgles below our feet. After a few leisurely minutes taking in the view, we approach the platform where a friendly wallaby rummages in the garden. A large peacock is perched on the fence only metres away. While I'm expecting to see wildlife, I am taken aback to see it at such close quarters.

COAST WHISPERER

Rocky cliff faces loom on one side as our cruise boat zooms over Tasman Sea waves, while two brave souls cling to the railings on the outer deck. White-bellied Sea Eagles soar in the sky above and one perches on the edge of its massive nest, built into the fork of a tree on the shoreline. While we keep our eyes peeled for any sign of whales or dolphins, Rastus the short haired collie is there to lend a hand. Since a young pup, he has been able to spot the dolphins out at sea, and spends most of the trip with his ears pricked.

Our Wineglass Bay Cruise takes us past the Freycinet Peninsula where we can view the coastal national park from a different perspective. The white sand and turquoise waters of Wineglass Bay provide the background while we enjoy a glass of champagne and freshly shucked oysters.

Picturesque bays and beaches form the east coast of Tasmania, with the glassy surface of Coles Bay another highlight. Later, from the deck of Freycinet Lodge, I watch as the sunset turns the colour of the sand to pink and the water to an intense sapphire blue.

STEP BACK IN TIME

A dirt track lined by trees leads to Brickendon Historic Farming Village and down to an enormous wooden barn. Inside, two tabby cats make themselves at home atop an old carriage, while Dude the dog greets visitors and receives pats in return. Clip-clops on the wooden floor and bleating herald the arrival of two lambs who quickly become the centre of attention. And this is just at reception. Outside, ducks and turkeys chatter away to the chickens in the nearby pen while a pure white rabbit rests inside its hutch.

This World Heritage listed site has been the domain of the Archer family since 1824, and relics of the convict labour used to establish the farm still remain. It is here I read a list of the petty crimes convicts were sentenced and transported for - stealing an umbrella is just one on the long list.

While visitors usually flock to Port Arthur, Brickendon is another example of convict heritage that the state is renowned for. Owner Louise Archer explains to us during a tour that her son is the seventh generation Archer descendent living in the Main House. He will one day take over the management and running of the farm, including the rustic cottage accommodation and 420 hectares of land.

A FEAST FOR THE SENSES

"Tasmania is a food holiday with views in between." These words of wisdom from berry grower Kate Bradley ring in my ears as she takes my order and scoops home-made strawberry ice-cream into a bowl. Walking out the door with an armful of chocolates, a view over her berry farm and on to the Hazard Mountains greets me. As I take in the scenery and eat my ice-cream, I think back over the past couple of days. I've eaten macaroons while overlooking Coles Bay, indulged in champagne and pastries at the Stillwater Cafe in Launceston and savoured a seafood dinner at Diamond Island.

Tasmanians know their produce, and use it well. The cool climate of the island allows fruit and vegetables to ripen slowly. As most farmers have small-scale operations, time is put into individual products - they are not pumped out by a machine on a factory line - and the difference is unmistakable.

All of this, of course, means that visitors to Tasmania are sure to be well looked after.

The writer travelled courtesy of Tourism Tasmania