It's wonderful to be back in Tasmania. The last time I was here, in early 2006, I was at the tail-end of backpacking the world, a very different sort of traveller on a very different sort of mission. At the time, I remember it being unusual to visit Tasmania. Most backpackers I'd meet were beelining it for Gold Coast and Cairns, but something about going in the other direction has always appealed to me. Hobart was sleepy, but it reminded me a lot of Victoria back in British Columbia, a city renowned for its population of the newly wed and the newly dead. Arriving in Hobart, I hooked onto an backpacker island tour with a company that no longer seems to exist, and ticked off some of Tasmania's greatest hits - Mount Wellington, Port Arthur, Wineglass Bay, Maria Island the Blow Hole, penguins, roadkill and hilarious locals in Bicheno. The odds on me becoming a full time travel writer, much less one that would return a dozen years later on assignment, were rather slim. And if you would have told me I'd return with my wife and two kids in tow, I'd ask what you've been adding to your scallop pie.
I ended up writing about Tasmania for a few publications around the world, and it's one of three Australian chapters in my Great Global Bucket List. Beyond the attractions and beauty of the island - which sell themselves rather nicely - I always felt indebted to Tasmania for rewarding yet another bold decision to go in the opposite direction. It also gifted me my first cover story, with me on the cover too! These days, tourism in Tasmania has exploded. On a whiskey tasting tour at Sullivans Cove, a small local distillery that won the World's Best Single Malt award in 2014, Joel from Sydney tells me such the tour didn't exist when he visited few years ago. The prospect of Hobart being home to MONA, surely one of the most incredible art museums in the world, would have seemed as bonkers as the museum is itself. Yet I've met so many Australians across the nation who have told me that Tasmania is their favourite place, and the emergence of world-class restaurants, hotels and attractions is there to prove their point.
This time round I'm on a mission to tick off the Australian Bucket List, and write about travelling with young kids. I've lined up some of the classics - biking down Mount Wellington, Wineglass Bay, Maria Island - and many new experiences too. I'm working with amazing companies like World Expeditions to hike, bike and kayak up the east coast for six days. Discovery Parks are hosting us in Cradle Mountain, Hobart and Devonport. We're getting around in a powerful sunset red Ford Everest, pulling a Move Yourself trailer, and thanks to Jetstar for getting us here too.
I guess it's not always true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Walking around Port Arthur, so much has happened in the past 12 years it felt like I was in a new place altogether, albeit one with the haze of familiarity. After the heat, dust and drama of Western Australia, the cool breeze of Tassie still weaves a wonderful spell, vindicating former and present life decisions, and keeping that big pancake-rock smile on my face.