Going to the ends of the Earth

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It’s the end of the earth, of the Australian continent at least: remote Port Davey on the southern tip of Tasmania is one of the world’s most unspoiled areas and the best destination anywhere in our country for travellers seeking a true wilderness immersion and all that nature delivers in such a region.

The reserve’s remained relatively untouched due to its remoteness but today is reached easily by a one-hour flight by Par Avion twin-engine Islander aircraft from Hobart, landing at Melaleuca airport on Bathurst Harbour – three times the size of Sydney Harbour. From there visitors embark on a guided expedition cruise through south-west Tasmania’s spectacular World Heritage Area.

The 20m cruiser Odalisque accommodates up to six guests, or a private group of 10, in its cabins for four-, five- or seven-day tours, or specially-tailored itineraries exploring the magnificent surrounding national park, Huon Pine forests and rugged coastline. Walk the trails (graded easy to moderate), hike to mountain-top vantage points, go beachcombing and picnicking in untouched locales, take in abundant rare birdlife, drink in the cleanest air and soak up amazing scenic views of peaks rising out of the ocean – ideal for photography buffs – and the serenity of the virgin bush environment. The limited number of passengers makes for an intimate, personalised experience.

The vessel carries two tenders: one, a jet-engine rigid inflatable boat with comfortable seating for close-up dolphin-spotting and excursions along the winding, tree-lined bends of the Davey River marine park and Gorge. The second, the “tinny”, is a 14ft aluminium dinghy that’s both versatile and safe in the sometimes changeable weather conditions. It’s deployed for exploring fascinating local sea caves, rock arches, blowholes and rocky islets because of its easy handling and manoeuvrability, and for travel over longer distances thanks to its speed.

The operators describe Odalisque as a “floating boutique hotel with hot showers and soft beds” (some cabins include an ensuite bathroom) where guests are tended to by an expert skipper and interpretive guide, or “passionate, personal walking encyclopaedia”, as well as a guest chef “borrowed from Hobart’s best restaurants” preparing gourmet Tassie produce, wines and boutique beer. Past guests declare it’s “the trip of a lifetime”.

Port Davey is named for Tassie’s second Governor, a First Fleet British marine who also served in the West Indies and at Trafalgar. Interestingly, and like the Kimberley, it was once mooted as the location for a Jewish homeland in the post-WWII search that eventually established the State of Israel.

Begin by visiting www.tasmanianboatcharters.com.au When it’s not at Port Davey, Odalisque tours Bruny Island, south of Hobart, and its gourmet produce farms – one of the best day-tours I’ve enjoyed anywhere in the country – and offers charters of several other appealing Tasmanian marine locations. See www.paravion.com.au for flight information and other same-day and longer tours and luxury wilderness camping in charming bush cabins.

Travel Editor, Susie Boswell.

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