PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2006, 12:00am

1 Cradle Mountain-Lake

St Clair National Park

World Heritage listed in 1982, the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair national park covers more than 161,000 square hectares and you just have to walk through this pristine world. Mount Ossa is Tasmania's highest mountain (1,617 metres) and is on the overland trail, a five- to six-day walk linking Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair, the deepest lake in Australia (200 metres). The walks cater to all levels of experience. Be careful, though: the weather is notorious for changing rapidly at any time (www.discovertasmania.com.au).

2 King's Run Wildlife Tours

Geoff King runs a 300-hectare wildlife haven and operates tours of beach and bush in search of rare birds, pointing out Aboriginal sites as he goes. But his speciality is feeding the devil.

The nocturnal Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial, with adults growing to the size of a small dog. Devils are endemic to Tasmania and King's Run at Marrawah is one of only two places in the world where you can watch wild devils feeding under controlled conditions. King's Run operates five-hour tours that include coastal-walking and bird-watching, as well as devil-feeding. To prevent their becoming dependent on food from visitors, tours operate only five days a fortnight and no more often than three days in a row (tel [613] 6457 1191, or e-mail jonesking@tassie.net.au).

3 Three Hummock Island

This remote island, with a population of two, is situated in the Bass Strait, the body of water separating Tasmania and the Australian mainland. For those who crave Crusoe-like spaces there must be few more suitable places. The island is a wildlife haven, with more than 800 pairs of kangaroos and 2,500 pairs of penguins. The island was run as a farm, but the cattle were removed and almost the entire 7,400 hectares has been turned over to nature. Guests can stay in a lodge with kangaroos at the front door. Access is by light plane or charter boat (www.threehummockisland.com.au).

4 West Coast Wilderness Railway

In 1897, a railway to haul copper from Queenstown to the port of Strahan was completed by labourers using axes, shovels and wheelbarrows. In 2000, after a A$30 million (HK$177 million) upgrade, the railway, including original steam trains, was reborn as the West Coast Wilderness Railway - and passengers, not copper, are now hauled along the narrow line. The track, steep as a cliff in some places, occasionally rides above the King River and crosses hulking trestle bridges. The views are sensational. At times, the track is shrouded by rainforest, including myrtles, King Billy pines and man ferns. Passengers in Premier Class carriages have a luxurious time of it, with champagne, beer, pastries and coffee, as well as lunch - including smoked salmon rolls - during the four-hour journey (www.puretasmania.com.au).

5 Gordon River Cruise

The sleek Lady Jane Franklin II cruises expansive Macquarie Harbour before taking you into an apparently virgin wilderness. The river glides through thick rainforest that is home to Huon pines, which are among the oldest trees in the world (tel [613] 6471 4300).

6 Dismal Swamp

Opened in September 2004, Dismal Swamp is a fusion of nature and fun park. The swamp occurs in a phenomenon known as a polje (pronounced poll-yer) or, less exotically, a giant sink hole. The polje is the home of a blackwood forest, but the region's surfeit of rain ensures the swamp's sobriquet. At the edge of the polje the ground turns into a cliff and plunges 70 metres to the swamp floor. There are two ways to enter: on foot or, infinitely more exciting, by a 110-metre slide. The rate of hurtle is astonishing and disconcerting. Having regained your composure, you'll learn that poljes are extremely rare in Australia and that this one has been described as an important remnant of the once extensive wetlands of northwest Tasmania. Dismal Swamp is open seven days a week except major holidays (tel [613] 6456 7199).

7 Stanley

Isolated Stanley feels as if it was created as a set for a 19th-century movie. Named after Lord Stanley, the British secretary of state for the colonies in the 1840s, Stanley's solid stone cottages are watched over by a landmark known as the Nut, the remains of a long-extinct volcano that rises behind the town after the fashion of the Rock of Gibraltar. This is the main fishing port for the northwest, although the antiques shops, tea houses and galleries enjoy a more thriving trade than the fisherfolk.

8 Boat Harbour

This could be the perfect place to stay at the end of your island adventure. It's 90 minutes from Cradle Mountain, 30 minutes from Stanley, and little more than an hour from Devonport and the Spirit of Tasmania overnight ferry to Melbourne. At the Harbour Houses (www.harbourhouse.com.au) you can stay at the edge of a beach made for long, leisurely walks. With expansive sea views and beach-themed furnishings, the Harbour Houses epitomise a village as laid-back as they come.

9 Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area

This area stretches across more than 100,000 hectares of the wild northwest. There are few roads, so one of the best ways to develop a feeling for the area is to walk the beaches, which are among Tasmania's best, near the small settlement at Arthur River. Beyond the beaches is a dense forest of myrtles, blackwoods and giant ferns. Not for nothing do people around Arthur River describe this as the edge of the world.

10 The platypus

Is it a mammal? Is it a bird? On the mainland, the platypus, which is native to Australia, can prove elusive. In Tasmania's northwest, it's almost common. Hire a car, pack a picnic blanket, load up on tucker and, weather permitting, picnic beside a stream - and keep your eyes peeled. This duck-billed, egg-laying mammal is fascinating, and sighting one in the wild is always a thrill, even when they're found in healthy numbers.