TASSY in Bass

May 6, 2001

The Bottom Line a great place for a vacation, with easy access from Melbourne either by sea or air.

An island lying south of the south-east corner of the Australian mainland is Tasmania, the smallest of Australia's six states. Roughly triangular in shape, it is surrounded by smaller islands, the most important of which are King, Flinders and Bruny islands.

Including these smaller islands, the State has a total area of 40,000 square miles and is separated from the Australian mainland by Bass Strait, a shallow sea with an average width of 150 miles. Because it is relatively narrow and shallow, it can be extremely rough, making some of the crossings interesting to say the least.

Tasmania was the second oldest of the Australian colonies. Its capital, Hobart, near the mouth of the Derwent River on the south-east coast, was established in 1803 and early in its history was a major whaling port and shipbuilding centre. More recently the city has come to function as the main administrative and commercial centre of the State.

Tasmania's population is divided almost equally between the north and the south. About 40 per cent of Tasmanians live in and around Hobart . The population pattern has led to the development of a number of relatively large centres on the island's north coast. These serve as centres for the agricultural and industrial activities typical of the region and include Launceston, Devonport and Burnie.

Tasmania is the most mountainous of Australian States. It is distinctive not so much for the height of its mountains, which rarely exceed 4500 feet, but for their domination of the landscape because the proportion of mountainous country to total area is particularly high.

The island has a large central plateau sloping south-east from an average level of 3000 feet in the south. On the western edge, it gives way to a range of mountains running parallel to the west coast. This region is sparsely populated and contains the State's main mining areas.

Tasmania's climate is cooler than mainland Australia. However, even though it's the southernmost portion of the country, it is still over a 1,000 miles further from Antarctica than North America and Europe are from the North Pole, so the weather does not compare with the extremes in the Northern Hemisphere. Tasmania has the highest average rainfall of any Australian State.

Agriculture is an important part of Tasmania's economy and agricultural establishments occupy about 29 per cent of Tasmania's total land area.

Sheep numbers have increased to 5.3 million and the State produces more than 20 000 tonnes of wool a year. About 432 800 cattle are kept for meat and 135 800 for milk. Dairying is an important part of agricultural activity, with dairy products contributing about 15 per cent of the total value of agricultural production.

Although the State's famous apple crop has declined considerably over the past 10 years to fewer than 60 000 tonnes, apples remain a significant crop. Vegetable growing, mainly for the processing industry, is well established in the north-east and north-west regions. Tasmania produces about 25 per cent of the Australian potato crop, worth about $60 million. Hops, peas and French beans are among the other crops.

About 40 per cent of the State is covered by forest and most of the timber cut is native hardwood, but plantations of exotic softwoods are being established. As well as providing raw materials for the building and construction industries, the forests are exploited for paper production (newsprint, fine and writing papers), wood pulp, hardboard, and plywood. Tasmania also has significant mineral deposits.
Ideal conditions for hydro-electric power generation and the ready availability of cheap power has been a major factor in determining the development of some industries. The electrolytic production of metals such as aluminium provides a leading example.

Hobart, founded in 1803, is the second-oldest of Australia's State capitals. Its western limit is marked by Mount Wellington, over 4,000 feet high. The city experiences mild summers and cool to cold winters and the mountain, often snow-capped in winter, is its most prominent landmark.

The city has several private and public hospitals, the largest of which is the State-run Royal Hobart Hospital.
Hobart retains a strong flavour of its past in the many colonial buildings still standing in the city. Among the most important are Parliament House, completed about 1840 and formerly the Customs House; the Town Hall; the State Government offices in Franklin Square; Government House on the Queens Domain; the Theatre Royal, Australia's oldest theatre, built in 1837; Anglesea Barracks, begun in 1814, the oldest military establishment in the country still occupied by the Army; a terrace of waterfront warehouses at Salamanca Place dating from the city's whaling days; and several churches.

An important annual event is the Sydney-Hobart yacht race which finishes in Hobart just before New Year's Day and hundreds of city residents turn out to greet the yachts as they move up the Derwent.

Hobart takes great pride in its history and a lot of time, money and effort is spent to preserve its links with the past. Many of the historic buildings have been classified by the National Trust and, in much of the immediate city environs, this has tended to shape present building patterns.

Tassy is a great place for a vacation, with easy access from Melbourne either by sea or air.

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