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Driving in Tassie
Driving in Tassie
Marrawah
Tassie Devil

Tasmanian Devil Bug Drive

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tasmania is an easy and popular place to navigate on a self-drive holiday. Most tourists seem to focus on the eastern side of the state, but Getaway decided to show viewers the wild and beautiful north-west region.

The crew left Launceston in a Rentforless vehicle. The company is family owned and operated, and specialises in hire and rental in capital cities with pick-up and drop-off from major airports and city locations.

They have an excellent range of classic and new cars and campervans including new and old Volkswagen Beetles, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, Holden Statemans and 12-seater mini buses and campervans, all covered by a 24 hour emergency service throughout the state. They are clean, well-presented and ready to go.

We used their Taz Bug, a specially prepared vehicle which draws attention to the plight of the Tasmanian devil, which is under threat. A fatal outbreak of facial tumours is spreading through the Tasmanian devil population and Rentforless is donating $5 from every rental to the University of Tasmania team researching the disease.

First stop was Deloraine, 45 kilometres from Launceston. The town's backdrop is the striking Great Western Tiers, which rises to 1420 metres. It has charming buildings from the 1830s and 1840s, many of which are now galleries, craft centres, museums, restaurants and guest houses.

Another 40 kilometres and we were in the mural town of Sheffield, a living art gallery. In 1986 it was suffering economic decline and a public meeting was held to see what could be done to save it. It was suggested that they follow the Canadian town of Chemanius, which allowed murals to be painted on the town walls depicting the history of the area. The murals proved to be financially successful for both towns.

A Mural Fest is held each year when new murals are unveiled. There are around 55 in the Kentish Municipality which has earned it the title Tasmania's Outdoor Art Gallery.

Fifty-five kilometres further on is the little town of Penguin, named after the colonies of fairy penguins which dot the coast. There are twilight viewing sessions of their rookeries when the birds clamber ashore to return to their nests after a day of feeding in Bass Strait. It's best to look for them during their breeding season, November to March.

Penguin's backdrop is the Dial Range which has many bushwalking and riding trails. The town itself has National Trust buildings, a working Dutch windmill and tulip gardens and a lake which is home to the elusive platypus.

It's around 100 kilometres from Penguin to Stanley, an historic town on an eight-kilometre peninsula extending into Bass Strait. The peninsula has a prominent volcanic plug known as The Nut. It's the main fishing port on the north-west coast of Tasmania. For magnificent views, there's a chairlift to the top, but regardless of the weather in the town, it's worth taking warm clothing.

Stanley was established in the early 1800s as the headquarters for the Van Dieman's Land Company which sought to establish a fine merino wool industry, as well as grazing operations.

The old company store at the foot of The Nut is now the @VDL Guesthouse, accommodation bridging old and new. Built in 1843, it has been a customs house, butter factory, detention centre, fish-processing factory and an art gallery. It has bluestone walls, exposed ancient beams and is right on the water's edge.

The luxury two-suite hotel is romantic and comfortable and there's nothing like sipping a warm drink in front of the roaring fire. Furniture is custom designed — there are chocolate suede lounges, pillow-topped mattresses, quality linens and goose down duvets.

Marrawah, 70 kilometres on from Stanley, is Tasmania's westernmost settlement and furthest town from Hobart. It's a tiny outpost of rich farming and dairy. Farmland rolls to the sea at Green Point and West Point where the fierce Southern Ocean crashes against the coastline. There are important Aboriginal carvings in the area and a King's Run Wildlife Tour is an excellent way of seeing all the area has to offer.

Geoff King's property is around the same size as New York's Central Park. It was used for cattle grazing from 1880 until six years ago, when Geoff decided to protect the fragile environment by removing the animals and allowing wildlife to take over. His low-impact tours are now his income source.

Heathland and low eucalypt areas have rare flora supporting a rich variety of birdlife, including many of Tasmania's endemic species. The rare orange-bellied parrot migrates through Geoff's property in autumn and spring.

Nocturnal wildlife is the main feature. The former pastures are now grazed by wallaby, wombat and bandicoot. They, in turn, support healthy populations of carnivorous marsupials including Tasmanian devils and spot-tail quolls.

With the co-operation of the Tasmanian Nature Conservation service, Geoff has developed a method of viewing the devil in the wild. A scent trail is dragged along tracks to a rustic hut as they search for food.

Location

Tasmania's north-west.

Cost


Rentforless cars start from $27 a day.

@VDL Stanley rooms start at $180 a night.

King's Run Wildlife Tours cost $75 per person. They run between August and May. Bookings are essential.

Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information


Rentforless
92 Harrington Street
Hobart Tas 7000
Ph: (03) 6231 6844, 1300 883 728
Fax: (03) 6231 4377
Website: www.rentforless.com.au
E-mail: rentacar@bigpond.net.au

@VDL Stanley
16 Wharf Road
Stanley Tas 7331
Ph/Fax: (03) 6458 2032
Website: www.atvdlstanley.com.au
E-mail: info@atvdlstanley.com.au

King's Run Wildlife Tours
Ph/Fax: (03) 6457 1191
E-mail: jonesking@tassie.net.au

Tourism Tasmania
Ph: 1300 655 145
Website: www.discovertasmania.com

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