The Tasmanian temperate forests

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Tassie's temperate forests (Photo: Tourism Tas/Geoffrey Lea)
Story by Cheryl Fitzell

Tasmania is a land of dramatic coastlines, unique wildlife and a dizzying variety of forests. Once home to the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger and King Island emu, and straddling north-eastern Tasmania and the islands of the Bass Strait, is Tasmania's beautiful temperate forest eco-region.

Mainly open forest and heath, the forests are a nature-lover's paradise, boasting some of the world's most rare and endangered plants and animals, and eucalyptus trees that can grow as tall as 50 metres. In fact, 26 of the 29 eucalypts native to Tasmania can be found across this region.

There's nowhere else on earth like this tiny region of this tiny island. The wildlife alone is some of the most amazing you will ever see. Keep your eyes open for the 40-spotted pardalote, the echidna, wombats, eastern gray kangaroos and the nocturnal Tasmanian bettong. Other fauna that love the nightlife are the spotted-tail quoll, the eastern quoll, and the feisty Tasmanian devil.

In many ways, the Tasmanian temperate forests reflect centuries of human meddling. It started with the burnings practiced by Tasmanian Aborigines, so that the area took on an open grassland feel. Further interference after the arrival of Europeans transformed parts of it once again, this time into grassy woodlands and shrubby forests.

Tucked away in hidden valleys are the most incredible and diverse waterfalls in Tasmania. Take your time and drink in the splendour of Lilydale Falls. Alternatively, you might like to take a two-hour tour of the country around Cuckoo Falls, from dry eucalypt forest through to magnificent rainforest. And no trip to the area would be complete without a visit to the lookout at Ralph Falls to view the beautiful Ringaroom Valley, Bass Strait and the Furneaux Islands.

On the other hand, if your enjoyment hinges on equal distance between nature and nibbles, then King Island, one of the best-known islands in the Bass Strait and home to (deservedly) world-famous cheeses, has got to head up your list. You can spend the day enjoying the beauty of the island's forests and wildlife, and reward yourself with an enormous wedge of double King Island brie at the end.

The Tasmanian temperate forest is home to a number of industries, like forestry, mining and grazing, but there are still a number of must-see protected areas as well, including the awe-inspiring Douglas-Aspley, Strzelecki, Ben Lomond, and Freycinet national parks.

The site of spectacular coastal and mountain landscapes, Strzelecki National Park covers 4216 hectares in the south-western corner of Flinders Island. The park is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts because it represents an overlap of plants and animals from both mainland Australia and Tasmania, and it's home to rare flora and many species of animal that live nowhere else in the world. If you're lucky you may encounter a wombat or a long-nosed potoroo, the vulnerable and colourful swift parrot or a grey-tailed tattler.

Meanwhile, the Douglas-Apsley national park hosts spectacular and jaw-dropping gorges. It's an awe-inspiring place where the walks are easy. As well, during the warmer months, there's the added attraction of a dip in the delightful Apsley Waterhole.

Last on our list, but certainly not least, don't miss the chance to drink in the towering cliffs of the Ben Lomond Mountain with its amazing diversity of alpine flora.

In fact, when it comes to extremes, the Tasmanian temperate forests have something for everyone. But you'll never know what you're missing until you book that ticket!

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