There’s an expression from the 1980s: ‘Wake up, Australia, Tasmania is floating away!’ Mainlanders might not have been too interested in Tasmania back then, but today Australia is wide awake to Tasmania's loveliness. Tree-change migrants are escaping to the island – with its natural beauty, fab food, compact cities and relatively affordable real estate – reversing the historical drift of young Tasmanians heading north for careers or study. Meanwhile, Tasmania's never-ending conservation battle continues: will tourism be the healer?

An Outdoor State of Mind

The modern Tasmanian identity is mirrored in the island’s ancient and remarkable landscape. Dark foliage and craggy peaks are whipped by notorious winds, and stunted winter days are infused with the stark clarity of southern light. This gothic environment fosters a keen sense of adventure and an understated resilience. Rather than hiding indoors behind sandstone walls, Tasmanians embrace their wilderness: getting into it, over it, or on top of it is something the Tasmanian work–life balance absolutely mandates. Beneath woollen beanies and layers of thermals, locals need little provocation to go camping, bushwalking, caving, kayaking…

On Your Plate & In Your Glass

A highlight of any Tasmanian trip is getting stuck into the island's food and drink, especially fresh seafood, luscious fruit, craft beer and stellar wines. This cool-climate combo is a hit with both Australian and international chefs: local salmon is served in the restaurants of Tokyo, while whiffy Tassie cheeses provide the perfect finish to meals in Melbourne and Sydney bistros. And how about the whisky! Hobart's Sullivans Cove whisky won the coveted gold medal at the 2014 World Whisky Masters in London. This success spawned a whisky explosion: there are now a dozen distillers across the state producing superb single malts. And, of course, the classic Tasmanian snack on-the-run remains the curried-scallop pie – a peppery, lurid-yellow concoction sheathed in pie pastry that will fuel your wilderness adventure, solve your morning hangover or prepare you for tomorrow's.

Small Island, Big Issues

The passionate environmental debates that regularly erupt in Tasmania often overflow to become federal issues, with conflict developing over what the big island thinks the little island should be protecting. Should it fight for a close-knit community, jobs for locals and a sequestered way of life? Or should it safeguard the wilderness, justly famous beyond these island shores? Meanwhile, tourism and hospitality have been bubbling away nicely here. It seems that, regardless of the bitter pro- and anti-conservation divide, Tasmania is perceived elsewhere as an increasingly desirable place to visit – perhaps tourism is the pathway to future prosperity.

Wanna Buy A House?

As the mainland Australian real-estate sector continues its dizzying ascent into uncharted price terrain – especially in Sydney and Melbourne, where first-home aspirants have next to no chance of breaking into the market – it's little wonder that buyers are now looking to Tasmania for a decent deal. Despite a mini-boom in 2016–17, median house prices here are still reasonable compared with the mainland, and the housing stock itself is a superb collation of well-preserved architectural styles. This is particularly evident in Launceston, where the city's historically lethargic economy has meant there's been little cash around to knock stuff down and rebuild. Now all you need to fast-track your move to Tassie is a job!

New Urban Vibes

Hobart and Launceston’s growing urban fizz is proving irresistible to ex-Tasmanians, who are heading back home, confident they’re not missing out on anything that Melbourne, Sydney or London can offer. Well, maybe not London…but Hobart does have water views to rival Sydney’s, and it continues to evolve into a cosmopolitan hub with craft-beer bars, hip coffee hang-outs, art-house cinema, gourmet providores and farmers markets. Meanwhile, Launceston has been busily transforming itself from 'bogan' backwater into a boutique river city full of students on the run from the books. If you're after a live band or a beer, you're in the right town. Tourism is doing well here, too, with two big new hotels being built.