By JAMILA RIZVI
I have a confession to make: I’ve never been a fan of the little island that hangs out around the base of mainland Australia. I had no real reason for my unease about the place, other than it tends to get a bad rap in general conversation. And as a shameless bandwagon jumper, I’ve done my fair share of Tasmania bashing in days past (which as someone born and bred in the most often criticised city in the nation, Canberra – is really rather rubbish of me).
But you know what? I am here, to take it ALL BACK. I’m sorry Tasmania. I was wrong.
Last weekend the kind folks at the Spirit of Tasmania made a delightful offer for me to travel to the Little Island That Could. With their help I have fast become, not only a Tasmania-convert but a full blown, in-your-face Tasmania advocate. In fact, I may knock on your door shortly, in a black suit, button up white shirt, name badge and with a range of pamphlets to help you see the light as well.
For those who don’t know, the Spirit of Tasmania is a ship – not just a description for the general vibe of Tasmania (although they are indeed, a spirited bunch). I’m generally a ‘get there as quick as possible’ traveler but the boat ride from Melbourne to Devonport was really enjoyable.
The ship is enormous and has all the amenities you could wish for, including a fantastic restaurant, movie cinema and most importantly, a bar. We quickly set up camp on the deck with a couple of glasses of wine and watched Melbourne disappear as we sailed away. The view was spectacular and the whole experience was very different to the rushed airport check-in and mind numbing flights that I’m used to.
Once my sea-faring companion, Jeremy and I got over the initial excitement of being on the ship (which included saying loudly to each other “We’re on a freaking BOAT!” every time we looked out a porthole window), the fact we were on the water mostly faded from consciousness. We had a fabulous three course dinner at the on-board restaurant, which included fresh Tasmanian seafood that I can’t recommend highly enough.
There was something quite calming and lovely about going to bed with the boat rocking you to sleep and when we pulled into the dock at 6am, I was surprised to find I’d slept soundly through the whole night. Many of our fellow passengers had driven their cars on board, so they could drive right off the ship at the other end. While we weren’t able to do this, it would be a great way to properly see Tasmania without forking out for the cost of a hire car.
Our buddies at EuropCar though, looked after us well and made the dreams of any man aged over 15 come true, by handing Jeremy the keys to an Audi something-or-other. I’m not a car person and still have no idea what it was but there was a similar sentiment to the ‘we’re on a freaking BOAT’ expressed about the car by Jez, for the remainder of the weekend. (And it freed me up to be the Chief Wine Taster, a position that I took extremely seriously.)