Here are 25 of the best fun facts about Tasmania.
We have recently returned from a ten-day trip to Tasmania and, as we whipped our way around this magnificent island state, I kept a note of all the fun facts and unusual bits of information I saw on the way.
I also kept a list of the 37 best things to do and see in Tasmania if you’re planning a trip.
1. The Oldest Continuous Civilisation on Earth
Whilst many of the facts in this post will feature names and information of the post-colonial era, I wanted to start by acknowledging the indigenous Palawa people who have (had) been on Tasmania for 40,000 colonisation started in 1803. Indigenous Australians are part of the oldest continuous civilisation on earth, with bones found in places such as Mungo National Park, dating back 42,000 years.
Of the estimated 15,000 Palawa people who were on Lutruwita (the name from Tasmania from the constructed Palawa Kani language) in 1803, by around 1850 only 47 were left. Much of this was put down to introduced diseases, however, if actions elsewhere in Australia, attacks on the indigenous population would also have had a huge impact, as events like the Cape Grim Massacre show.
I would like to take this chance to acknowledge the Palawa people and their elders past and present, and extend my respect to any indigenous or Torres Strait Island people reading this post.
2. The Most Qualified UNESCO Site
I had to start here.
I admit I’m a little obsessed with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and our visit to the Tasmanian Wilderness Area was the 66th one I’ve visited. I first set eyes on it via the Gordon River Cruise out of Strahan.
What I didn’t know though was that it is, on paper, the best site I will ever visit.
To become a UNESCO Heritage Site, an area has to meet at least one out of ten criteria, six of which are cultural and four natural.
Remarkably, the wilds of Tasmania meet 7/10 of those criteria, making it the joint most highly ranked in the world alongside Mount Taishan in China. It is also huge, covering 1.38 million hectares, or about 20% of the island.
If anyone ever asks you why Tasmania is so special, this is the first fact you need!
SOURCE: whc.unesco.org (oh and a big sign in Cradle Mountain National Park!)
3. Australia’s Smallest State
At just under 91,000 square kilometres, Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, around 40% the size of the next smallest state, Victoria, which is Australia’s smallest mainland state.
4. Longest Single Span Chairlift
This is not something I would have expected to find in Tasmania, but Launceston Gorge lays claim to the longest single span chairlift in the world.
At 457 metres from station to station, and 308 metres between the furthest pylons, it is a seriously long piece of wire, one that certainly made for a wobbly ride. Despite this they also comfortingly have a 100 percent safety record since opening in 1972, one which we were glad not to put a blemish on.
5. Oldest Tree On Earth
The forests of Tasmania are home to the oldest tree on earth – King’s Holly or Lomatia Tasmanica.
There is a slight technicality here though, King’s Holly clones itself, so when branches drop they form roots and grow a genetically identical version. So whilst none of the plants are over 300 years, this plant has been dated as far back as 43,000 years and possibly as long ago as 130,000 years.
It is also incredible rare, with the bushes found in a 1.2 kilometre stretch of woodland and all with exactly the same genetic make-up, so it is literally the last of its kind.
SOURCE: List of Oldest Trees
6. Top 40 Golf Course
Barnbougle Dunes in northern Tasmania ranks at number 38 on the list of best golf courses in the world, which considering 31 of the courses above it are in the USA or UK is a pretty big achievement.
It also manages to sit itself outside the exclusivity of golf-elitism, by allowing anyone to play a round for only $149. This is in stark contrast to Australia’s top entry, The Royal Melbourne Club where you can only play if you’re a member at a cost of $10,000 and then $3.500 a year.
7. A Glass Full Of Blood
Did you think the iconic Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park was named for its sweeping wineglass shape?
In fact, it was named thanks to the brutal whaling industry of the early 1800s, with so many whales killed in the area the waters were said to run as red as wine.
There’s a fact about Tasmania you can tell at the next dinner part.
8. Australia’s Oldest Bridge
Richmond, about 15km outside Hobart, is home to the oldest bridge in Australia.
Built by convict labour, this sandstone bridge has crossed the Coal River since 1825 and is still looking in decent shape to this day.
9. Purple Haze
Tasmania has the word’s largest lavender farm, Bridestowe, north of Launceston.
It has an estimated 650,000 plants set out in unusual curved formations which, if all lined up, would stretch for 200 kilometres. The farm spans over 260 acres and has been going since 1922.
SOURCE: Bridestowe Lavender
10. A Little Slice Of Europe
One of the more unusual facts about Tasmania is that it has its own Swiss alpine village.
Grindelwald, about 15 minutes north of Launceston, is the brainchild of Roelf Vos who, after a trip to Switzerland with his wife, decided to build a homage to the Swiss village of the same name.
Finished in 1989, it is a fully functioning village, with any new buildings properties having to use the same style. It’s also a major tourist attraction, with lots of the chalets available to rent, a beautiful little town square and a wedding venue.
11. The Cleanest Air In The World
When you’re in Tassie, breath deep and you’ll be taking in the cleanest air on planet earth.
The northwestern tip of Tasmania is where the really good stuff is, Cape Grim to be exact, where there is a ‘Baseline Air Pollution Station’ which measures air quality and shows an almost complete lack of pollution in the air here.
Tasmania really is out by itself, with the next landmass west in America and South Antarctica, so the only pollution that really hits here is when the wind blows in from the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
12. The 20th Best Place to Visit on Earth
- Hardcover Book
- Lonely Planet,Lonely Planet Publications (COR) (Author)
When it comes to travel, Lonely Planet know what they’re talking about. They have writers living in communities across the globe who write for their website and books.
So when these writers come together and vote on the best places to visit on the planet, it’s time to sit up and listen.
When I first read the book, I was surprised about an entry in the top 20 as, unlike the other big hitters such as Angkor Wat, Macchu Picchu and the Great Barrier Reef In, I’d never heard of it.
And that entry was MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, in Hobart.
In the book they say ‘Outside, ambitious installations are surrounded by what must be the world’s most naturally beautiful seeing for any art gallery. It’s this package – amazing architecture, provocative art, great food and wine, that justifies MONA’s top 20 place here’.
It’s now Tasmania’s most visited place, pushing out Port Arthur in recent years.
P.S. if you haven’t got a copy of Top 500 Travelist, grab one here. It’s a great read and has inspired me to visit some places I wouldn’t have considered before. I always consult it when planning a trip.
13. Vintage Beer
You’ve probably noticed that Aussies are pretty passionate about their beer.
But where did that all start?
Well, on Tasmania of course (it would seem odd to write about it in a ‘Facts about Tasmania’ piece if not!).
Cascade Brewery in Hobart was established in 1824 and is still going nearly 200 years later, on the same site. It runs out of an extremely photogenic building, proudly displaying its heritage and is a great place for a stop off (I can highly recommend the stout, chocolate cake – oh and of course a tasting paddle of beers is a must)
SOURCE: History of Beer (brewers.org.au)
14. A Land of Demons?
Tasmania was given the name Van Diemen’s land by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in the 1640s, who was the first known European explorer to reach places such as Tasmania, New Zealand and Fiji.
It was renamed Tasmania in his honour in 1856, six years after Tasmania was granted responsible self-government under the Australian Constitutions Act of 1850.
SOURCE: Van Diemen’s Land (wikipedia)
15. A Land of Devils?
There is a famous devil that lives solely on Tasmania, the grumpy little ball of muscle and teeth known as the Tasmanian Devil.
Named after their terrifying scream (settlers thought there were demons hiding in forests of Tasmania), they are an endangered species due to a deadly facial tumour disease that has reduced their population down to less than 17,000 in the last 30 years.
They are the largest carnivorous marsupials in the world (since the Tassie tiger became extinct, but we’ll cover that later) and they have the strongest bite of any small mammal, enough to crush bones, wood and even metal fences.
They are hard to see in the wild, but there are some great sanctuaries, such as Bonorong near Hobart and the Devils @ Cradle Sanctuary in the Cradle Mountain National Park, which allow you to see them and are also doing amazing work to keep the species going.
16. Doo Town
Near the historic site of Port Arthur you’ll find a quirky little place called Doo Town.
In 1935 Eric Round, an architect from Hobart named his little house in the area Doo I which started a tradition that continues to this day.
We spotted houses called Doodle Doo, Doo Drop In, Dr Doolittle and even the rather presumptuous, Doo Me. We even got some food (a delicious curried scallop pie!) from a food van by the Tasman Blowhole name Doolicious.
17. Poo Museum
One of the most unusual facts about Tasmania is that it has a poo musuem.
You heard me.
The Pooseum in Richmond near Hobart aims to take the taboo out of talking poo and is the brainchild of Karin Koch.
We had a fun hour exploring the displays, and you’ll be happy to know, I scored a solid 80% on the poo quiz, another great addition to the skills section of my CV.
18. 2nd and 4th Oldest Cities in Australia
Tasmania has the 2nd and 4th oldest cities in Australia in Launceston and Hobart.
Hobart was established in 1804 as a penal colony and Launceston in 1806.
19. The Last Of Its Kind
The Thylacine (or Tasmanian Tiger) was the largest marsupial carnivore, and at the time of the European arrival an estimated 5,000 were wild on Tasmania.
By 1936 though, they were gone, with the last known specimen at Beaumaris Zoo dying, rather ironically just two months after the were granted protected status.
You can still see the gates of Hobart’s old zoo a few hundred metres from the Botanic Gardens.
20. The Worst Massacre in Modern Australian History
A horrific blot on the modern history of Tasmania is the Port Arthur massacre.
In April 1996, 35 people were killed and 23 wounded as gunman Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree through Tasmania’s most popular tourist hotspot.
The massacre was the worst in modern Australian history and led to multiple changes to gun laws restricting the sale of the most dangerous firearms.
SOURCE: Port Arthur Massacre (Wikipedia)
21. A Twitcher’s Dozen
Tasmania has 12 endemic birds on the island, nearly all of which can be found near Hobart, making it a great stop off for birders trying to grow their life lists.
The 12 species are:
- Tasmanian Native-hen (also known locally as turbo-chooks for their speed!)
- Green Rosella
- Dusky Robin
- Tasmanian Thornbill
- Tasmanian Scrubwren
- Yellow Wattlebird
- Yellow-throated Honeyeater
- Black-headed Honeyeater
- Strong-billed Honeyeater
- Black Currawong
- Forty-spotted Pardalote
22. The Second-driest Capital City
This was probably one of the facts about Tasmania on this list that surprised me the most, especially given our few days in Hobart were filled with rain.
Given how far south it is, the weather in Tasmania isn’t famed for being good. In fact, the time we’ve spent on the island, it was almost continuously shrouded in mist.
Despite this, Hobart actually receives the second-smallest amount of rainfall per year of the state capitals, with only Adelaide in South Australia ahead of it. Only 612mm of rain falls a year in Hobart.
Despite this, it actually tops the list of days with rain at 161 a year.
23. The World’s 26th Largest Island
Tasmania is the world’s 26th largest island, just behind Sri Lanka in 25th place.
At 65,000 square kilometres, it is around half the size of Java in Indonesia and double the size of Sicliy. Top of the list is Greenland at a whopping 2,130,800 square kilometres!
24. Unusual Place Names
One of the most unusual facts about Tasmania is the strange names of many places on the island.
Here are just a few of them:
- Doo Town (covered in fact 16)
- Eggs and Bacon Bay
- Dismal Swamp
- Squeaking Point
- Nowhere Else
- Stumpys Bottom
25. A Long Coastline
Tasmania is bigger than we thought it was, though when compared to Australia most things look pretty small.
The coastline is 2,833 kilometres long, which makes it longer than the mainland coastlines of Victoria and New South Wales combined!
I hope you enjoyed this post.
If you want to learn more about Tasmania, then why not find out what Tasmania is famous for, check out the best 10 day itinerary for Tasmania or read about what we think is the BEST thing to do on Tasmania, a Gordon River cruise.
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