The earliest human dwelling dates back to 30,000 years when Aborigines first discovered the area. At that time, Tasmania was still linked to continental Australia, but waters rose to form today's Bass Strait at the end of Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. The Bass Strait is 200km wide, separating Tasmania with mainland Australia. 296km from north to south and 315km from east to west, Tasmania is about the size of Ireland or Switzerland and is ideal for a driving vacation. It has a diverse landscape of glacial mountains, dense forests, and dashing green hills matching the English countryside.
Apart from the remarkable landscape, Tasmania is also historically wealthy. Evidence of colonial past has survived here more than any other corner of Australia. The island's European history can be traced back to 1642 when Dutch navigator Abel Tasman stumbled upon its shores and named it "Anthony van Diemen's Land" in honor of the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Following Tasman were the arrival of Cook, Bligh, and Flinders, with the latter discovering and confirming Tasmania actually an island after circumnavigating the island. Later in 1802, the French expedition of Baudin propelled the British government into settling on the island.
The isolation of the island was perfect for a penal settlement for repeat offenders. In 1832, an 'escape-proof' prison was established at Port Arthur. Until 1856, when transportation to the colony was abolished, this was the most dreaded outpost in Australia.
At the same time, free settlers were coming into conflict with the Tasmanian Aborigines. A frontier war began when white farmers started to claim land and draw territories. Following such incidents, martial law was declared and soldiers were used to 'clear' the land of natives in 1828. The few survivors were sent off to a mission station on Flinders Island in the Bass Strait, where they all promptly died of European diseases. This genocide of the Tasmanian Aborigines remains one of the bleakest chapters of Australia's grim colonial past.
Today, Tasmania is a wealth of national parks and colonial history perfect for wildlife lovers, hikers, and skiers. Major attractions in Tasmania include the cities Devonport, Launceston, Hobart, Richmond, and Port Arthur. Apart from the cities, Cradle Mountain Lake St. Clair National Park and Flinders Island are also popular tourist attractions.
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