Sandra Conchie explores the eerily beautiful parks and heritage towns of Tasmania.
Silence surrounds us as we wander along the boardwalks running through the valleys of Tasmania's stunning Cradle Mountain National Park.
This famous heritage site is the awesome centrepiece of our journey through Australia's island state.
One of the country's premier national parks, it offers fantastic views of the superb glacier-sculpted mountain range, remote lakes and vast tracts of wild alpine.
Thankfully, the weather gods are kind and we get unobstructed views of Cradle Mountain.
This is prime bush-walking territory, from the week-long Overland Track, which winds its way 80km south of Lake St Clair, to shorter boardwalk hikes for the less adventurous. Dove Lake is the starting point for many of those hikes, and the purpose-built boardwalks allow you to meander at your own pace through the ancient forests.
Eerily beautiful and magical, it's definitely a part of Tasmania I'm keen to explore further.
Not all of Tasmania's attractions are so wholesome. We head west to the seaside town of Burnie, on the shores of Bass Strait. For 75 years Burnie key industry was papermaking.
Today, it's home to Australia's largest boutique whisky makers, Hellyers Road Distillery, which was named after Henry Hellyer who was the chief surveyor of the Van Dieman's Land Company.
In some ways, it's an unlikely location for whisky distillation — producing the spirit was outlawed in conservative Tasmania for 154 years from 1832-1992. Times have changed and the distillery's premier single-malt whisky has become a global smash. It also produces flavoured vodkas.
Leaving Burnie we head to Sheffield, Tassie's unique "town of murals" with its profusion of more than 50 fantastic murals which adorn the town's facades. Each depicts the town's rich pioneer history.
The annual Mural Fest ensures more works are added to the collection.
We continue heading south through the picturesque Meander Valley to Tasmania's northern capital Launceston, pronounced "Lon-ceston", which is about 198km from Hobart.
Laidback Launceston, one of Australia's oldest cities with an estimated 66,000 residents, is a vibrant hub packed with city and country charms.
It's also a very walkable city so, armed with my camera, I head out and stroll past some of the city's most elegant stately heritage homes and buildings from the Victorian and Georgian eras. In my last few hours in Tassie, we visit Cataract Gorge, a glorious slice of wilderness right in the heart of the city, where friendly peacocks roam freely and the South Esk River flows below towering rock faces.
Two walking tracks straddle the gorge, and as visitors glide across the spectacular basin on the world's longest single-span chairlift it feels like we're a million miles away from town.
After a scenic drive through the Tamar Valley's rolling hills, we have lunch at award-winning Josef Chromy Winery.
It's the perfect way to toast my fellow passengers as we exchange contact details before I leave them behind to head home.
My jam-packed journey has only whetted my appetite to see more of Tasmania.
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