Former crayfisherman, Rob Pennicott, hands you the ginger tablets with a smile. A veteran of wild seas, he enjoys the joke. His purpose-built vessel, Albatross, is made for adventure of a more comfortable kind.

From Adventure Bay you head south along the coastline of Bruny Island, less than an hourís drive and ferry ride from the capital of Hobart. Sea cliffs rear up and vegetation clings above. Rocks lean precariously at the edge of vast beaches. Much of the South Bruny National Park is impenetrable, with few tracks.

The boat noses into a massive sea cave. The slop echoes - a puny reminder of the ocean fury that sculpted bluffs and blowholes.

Rob is a natural raconteur, one anecdote flowing into the next, while his young assistant and seasoned explorer, Damien, is a moving feast of knowledge on geology, wildlife, birds. The banter is thick in the air.

Hundreds of Australian fur seals lie in the sun at Friar Rocks. Dolphins are oblivious to cormorants dive-bombing for fish. If you get lucky, youíll see penguins hunting for food or southern right whales as they migrate from the Antarctic Ocean.

Back on dry land youíre transported to the majestic property, Hiba, where you enjoy seafood treats, home-made fudge and cool climate Tasmanian wines in a mansion-sized dining room set on the top of seacliffs. With a bit of luck, the bus will leave without you.

Photographers rave about it - a certain quality of the light in Tasmania. Craggy mountains loom closer, seas carve out a deeper coastline drama along wild beaches, blue sky has a wider reach.

The island has the cleanest air in the world, so natureís palette shows through without the contamination of urban pollution. And for colour, nothing beats Tasmania in spring.

Smell the delicate aroma of tiny white Kunzea blossoms in the Narawntapu National Park, where a family of wombats may amble past you in the coastal heathlands. An hour later youíre surrounded by a riot of vivid red, yellow and blue in fields of tulips and irises that roll across Table Cape, in the north west, to the edge of a sea cliff.

The contrast between natural beauty on a grand scale and gardens formed by human hand exists throughout the State. Some of the oldest vegetation on earth, forests of the ancient single supercontinent of Gondwanaland, flourishes in the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, which has its northern boundary in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

Tasmanians love their gardens and in the centre of the State, European cottage courtyards co-exist with exotic blooms. Delightful heritage gardens have been protected over the decades in colonial villages along the Heritage Highway.

On the east coast, roam through the Freycinet National Park, watching closely for native orchids. Paddle a sea kayak past the red granite peaks of the Hazards Range. Then open a picnic hamper at Honeymoon Bay and watch the sun set.

Near Swansea, blossoms on the fruit trees and raspberry canes at Kateís Berry Farm hold the promise of abundant summer fruits. In the meantime, try Kateís jams, home-made ice-creams, sauces and popular strawberry wine.

Further north, follow the wine trail through the Pipers Brook and Tamar Valley area. Sip a cool climate pinot noir from a balcony overlooking the Tamar River and discover what a signature wine is all about. Chat with the winemakers about the regionís superb sauvignon blancs and chardonnays, produced with passion in stunning locations.

In the south, 40 ha of English oaks and rambling gardens have been carefully restored at one of Australiaís leading historic sites, Port Arthur. Its stark convict past is evident in more than 30 buildings and ruins clustered near the edge of a peaceful bay. At the snap of a playing card, the world-class Visitor Centre invites you to step into the shoes of a convict to experience his life for a day.

The west coast fishing village of Strahan is on the banks of Macquarie Harbour - almost six and a half times the size of the whole of Sydney Harbour but with less than a thousand people living around its shores. It is the departure point for cruises up the Gordon River into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, and for wilderness flights. Step into the history of local Huon Pine gatherers, the early mining boom and wilderness explorers at the Strahan Visitor Centre.

Tasmania is an ideal destination for self-drive holidays, with endless reasons to stop, explore and create an itinerary as you travel. Bring your own car on the overnight ferry, the Spirit of Tasmania. Or hire a car or campervan.

And when it comes to the clear air and light, thereís even more opportunity to enjoy it in spring when Tasmania begins its six months of daylight saving. Dusk doesnít begin till about 8.30 p.m. and itís a slow twilight - perfect for evenings outdoors.


Australia's best hotel


Lonely Planet Tasmania
by Brett Atkinson
  Comprehensive guide to Tasmania's national parks, historic Aboriginal and Convict sites. Plus travel, accommodation and places to eat. More information and prices from:
Amazon.com - US dollars
Amazon.ca - Canadian dollars
Amazon.co.uk - British pounds
Amazon.de - Euros
Amazon.fr - Euros

Lonely Planet: Australia
Susie Ashworth, Carolyn Bain, Neal Bedford
  This guide to Australia covers the vast continent in comprehensive detail. It provides details of various types of accommodation, from budget to five star; places to eat; different activities, such as ballooning over the Blue Mountains and surfing in Sydney; and a section on Aboriginal Australia.
  More information and prices from:
Amazon.com - US dollars
Amazon.ca - Canadian dollars
Amazon.co.uk - British pounds
Amazon.de - Euros
Amazon.fr - Euros