Tasmania’s travel reputation is written in green. Around 20% of Australia's island state is protected as World Heritage-listed wilderness, the planet's cleanest air blows over Tasmania, and it was home to the world's first Green political party in 1972.
Like anywhere, however, there are threats and challenges to this green and clean environment, with national parks opened to private tourism operations in recent years, and a perpetual unease between industry and conservationists.
For environmentally minded travelers, it becomes imperative to seek experiences and operators that go above and beyond to adhere to sustainable practices, preserving this unique and wonderful place for future generations.
Raft the Franklin River
The wild Franklin River is a touchstone of Australian environmentalism. In the early 1980s, it was the scene of highly public and successful protests against hydroelectric dams. Today the river runs free, flowing through a catchment that contains not a single building or patch of cultivated land. Rafting trips on the 100-km-long wilderness river take around seven days, and whichever company you raft with – Tasmanian Expeditions, Franklin River Rafting or Water by Nature – regulations require all waste to be taken out at the end of the trip, including human waste. You'll never forget the "groover" – the metal box used to transport said leftovers.
The Tasmanian devil is the state's virtual icon, but they're rarely sighted in the wild as the population has been decimated over the last two decades by Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Wildlife parks across Tasmania provide an easy glimpse of the curious animal and other native critters, with a couple of parks at the forefront of the fight to protect and preserve Tasmania's wildlife.
On the outskirts of Hobart, the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary operates the state's largest wildlife rescue service. An estimated 500,000 animals are killed on Tasmanian roads every year, and Bonorong collects and treats injured animals in its on-site wildlife hospital. Visitors can wander through the hospital, observing vets at work.
On the Tasman Peninsula, the unfenced Tasmanian Devil Unzoo works closely with the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Project, monitoring and collecting data on wild devils, and maintaining a devil-proof fence to protect the state's last natural and isolated disease-free population.
Opened last year, Change Overnight is a Launceston hotel with a social-cause agenda. Guests get to choose from eight causes, with a portion of your payment donated to that particular organization. Your money might buy 10 sq meters of land for a Tasmanian environmental conservancy, or provide breakfast to 210 children in an Indian orphanage. In addition, you also get a fine stay at the edge of Launceston's city centre, with 18 light-filled rooms inside an old industrial building, just steps from one of the city's finest cafe strips.
Elsewhere, there are some excellent options for accommodation with a sustainable edge. On Hobart's fringe, Hobart Hideaway Pods has two small pods – the Vanilla Pod and the Pea Pod – that feature solar passive design, self-sufficient water supply and reed beds for on-site grey-water absorption.
Outside of Launceston, Tamar Solarhome looks like a stylish implant from the hills of Los Angeles, and is entirely emission free. An off-grid solar-charged battery fulfils the home's power needs entirely.
Little more than an hour's drive northeast of Launceston, the Tin Dragon Cottages sit at the edge of the Derby mountain-biking trail network and feature five cottages constructed with timber sourced entirely from the rural property. Power is generated by a micro-hydro system, while water is supplied from rain catchment, and all grey water is recycled onto the paddocks below the cottages.
For too long, a myth persisted that Tasmania's Aboriginal lineage ended with the death of local woman Truganini in 1876, but palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) culture and community live on. The wukalina walk is the first tourism venture from Tasmania's palawa community, leading guests on a four-day walk along the stunning Bay of Fires coastline in the state's northeast.
It's a stretch of coast as brilliantly colored as any in the world, but culture also runs large through the trip. You'll enjoy dinners of muttonbird harvested by time-honored methods used by generations of palawa, foraging for bush tucker as you hike. The first two nights are spent in architecturally designed pods shaped to recall ancient palawa shelters, and the final night in lighthouse keeper cottages at Eddystone Point.
In 2015, a network of mountain bike trails was constructed around the forlorn former tin-mining town of Derby, in Tasmania's northeast, to immediate impact. The trails are considered among the finest in the world, providing a sustainable activity in a world-class setting. Blue Derby Pods runs guided three- and four-day trips at Derby, with nights spent in eco-friendly pods ingeniously hidden within the trail network.
The pods and the attached central hub are fully solar-powered. All water is harvested from rainfall and solar-heated. When the pods were constructed in 2017, builders preserved vegetation by strapping trees back rather than cutting them down. Elsewhere, Tasmanian eBike Adventures runs small-scale environmental and cultural bike rides on Maria Island and on one of Tasmania's most storied rural properties near Port Arthur. The Nohoiner Adventure trip incorporates a traditional healing ceremony with a palawa guide and healer.
Tasmania's island national park is a wondrous place – effectively two islands tied together by a paper-thin isthmus, with 700-meter-high mountains rearing out of the sea, copious wildlife and a World Heritage-listed convict station. Wombats, wallabies and even an insurance population of Tasmanian devils blithely wander the grasslands of the vehicle-free island. Visitors can take the Maria Island Pledge, promising to "explore with a sense of responsibility, adventure and kindness."
The island is also the focus of the four-day Maria Island Walk, which was named Australia's best ecotourism operator at the 2019 Australian Tourism Awards. The walk covers the length of the island, staying in semi-permanent camps raised off the ground to protect the landscape (the camps are dismantled at the end of each season). Guests clear rubbish from the beaches and coast as they walk. The company also plays a role in monitoring Tasmanian devil scat and revegetating parts of the island.