Is Tasmania his own country

Tasmania: On Australia's southernmost road

It's 148 kilometers from Hobart, Tasmania's hip capital, to Cockle Creek, a three-person settlement in the southwest of the island. Author Julica Jungeh├╝lsing has traveled the southernmost road in Australia

The sun glistens in the Derwent River, which is so wide in Hobart that it almost looks like the sea into which the river flows across the rugged headlands. Bounded by the steep slopes of Mount Wellington Park on one side and the river on the other, central Hobart is never far from the water. Modern offices and commercial buildings line a manageable grid of straight streets around the port. Dozens of well-preserved buildings such as parliament, theaters and museums are a reminder of the founding of "Hobart Town" in the early 19th century. Docks and old warehouses have been lovingly restored. Charming residential areas cover the surprisingly steep hills all around.

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Between here and the Antarctic 5000 kilometers away, little happens apart from salmon farming and the screeching of seagulls. Tasmania also owes its weather to its proximity to the Pole. "At least four seasons a day," say the locals of the rugged island state in the south of Australia, which they affectionately call "Tassie". It's green, rocky, surrounded by 334 smaller islands and about the size of Ireland. Almost half of its 520,000 residents live in Hobart, Australia's second oldest city. So it is hardly surprising that those who drive south from here are quickly alone with themselves and the coastal landscape.

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Beaches and bushland

The longer you follow the Huon Highway, the narrower the road, the smaller the towns. In Huonville and Franklin, between the hills and the broad Huon River, there is a smell of fresh apples, in the harbors boat builders are sanding their dinghies, the paint peeling off small wooden churches. In Geeveston, pioneers carved in wood populate the streets, while hikers turn to the giant trees of the Tahune forests.

The highway, which hardly deserves the name expressway here, leads directly to Dover, but a detour via Police Point and Esperance Coast Road rewards with wonderful views of the sea and coast and gives a good foretaste of the solitude of the southwest. Small detours from the coastal route end at beaches like Roaring Beach, the sand of which is so white that it almost dazzles. However, the water temperature of mostly below 12 degrees allows only hardened people to jump into the sea, terns circling over the bay, schools of whiting move away in the clear sea.

The last places with shops and petrol are Dover and Southport, whose residents look out over islands, in wide bays and the peaks of the mountains. A listed curiosity a few kilometers south of Southport is the Ida Bay Railway, the last still operating bush railway in Tasmania, and of course the southernmost railway on the continent. Three times a day, the locomotive 'Beck' rattles east through the bushland to a secluded beach, from which hiking trails lead to cliffs and the lagoon.

Almost 20 kilometers to the south, the road leads from the train station partly through dense forest, partly along the water to Cockle Creek. The town sign indicates the population as '3'. A half-overgrown cemetery, a whale sculpture and remains of rails are a reminder of the times when 2000 fishermen, whalers and their families lived here. Difficult to imagine given the silence and seclusion that surround the place and the neighboring beaches today. The huts and jetties of Cockle Creek also seem lost and a bit forgotten by the rest of the world.

The wooden "End of the Road" sign on the roadside could also be called "End of the World". The horizon looks wider than anywhere else, the ocean endless. Cool air is a reminder that the clear blue bays only separate 5000 kilometers of ocean from the South Pole.

However, Cockle Creek only means the end of the line for vehicles. Experienced hikers set out from here through Tasmania's southwestern national park to Melaleuca. Or they arrive in Cockle Creek after nine days of trekking through forest and wilderness - after a real adventure at the southernmost tip of Australia.

Information and reading tips

Tasmania websites

Further information on Tasmania can be found on the website www.discovertasmania.com.au; http://farsouthtasmania.com deals specifically with the south of the Australian island. If you want to take the Ida Railway, you can find times and contact details at www.idabayrailway.com.au.

Hiking in Tasmania

The South Coast Track is an 82 kilometer long hike for the die-hard, in 9 days on your own (only experienced hikers) or as an organized tour. From Cockle Creek, the first or last and easiest stage to South Cape Bay is also fun as a day hike, www.southcoasttrack.com.au.

Reading about Tasmania

The wild south of Tasmania has already inspired some writers, our author recommends two books as travel reading.

The Life of Deny King, Christobel Mattingley, Penguin (English)

The impressive life story of Deny King, who lived for 55 years in Melaleuca, in the middle of the wilderness of the southwest. He lived alone for years, later with his wife and two daughters, in the rugged, wild region to which no road leads. He built his own runway, sailed around the coast, was an environmental researcher, conservationist and explorer at the same time. A compelling book about an unusual person.

Beyond the shallows, Favell Parrett, Hoffmann and Campe

Three brothers grow up on the Tasmanian coast, where the beach and the sea shape their destinies. They struggle with the ocean and waves, their difficult father, their own longings. The young Tasmanian author writes in straightforward, simple sentences, fortunately her style is not lost in the translation. The captivating first novel not only tells a family story, but also captures the atmosphere on Tasmania's lonely coastline.

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