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We always learn as we go, and Tasmania was no exception.

Airbnb: Our Airbnb in Tea Tree was different. We enjoyed the view out over a vineyard, but it was a bit more rustic than we like. I didn’t mind the geese, but we did have to watch our steps.

Car: We rented a Kia Rio through Budget and though we had no problems, the car was underpowered. It’s a good thing there aren’t any real mountain passes in Tasmania.

Cost of Living: A recent TV report put Tasmania as the fourth most active economy of the Australian states. Tourism is climbing and the cost of housing is not falling as it is elsewhere in Australia. Food costs are comparable to Chicago and food purchased at a farmer’s market usually costs more than the grocery store. Most of the seafood that is consumed is farmed locally. Fresh oysters, shrimp, lobster, and salmon are available and delicious. We found few other choices and almost no whole fresh fish. Having lived in Peru for a while, we are used to looking at the eyes and gills of a fish to asses freshness–you can’t do that with a plastic wrapped fillet.

National Parks: Every state in Australia make their own rules for National Parks, so you can’t buy a pass to use all around Australia. If you are staying in the Hobart area for a few weeks, you can purchase a $40 month long pass and use it to visit three beautiful places, Fortescue Bay in Tasman National Park; Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park; and Mount Field National Park. Though each of these parks merits a longer visit they can be reached by car as a day trip from Hobart. Individually, they cost $24 per car (up to 8 passengers), thus the month long pass is economical.

In the summer, these parks are very popular. The road in to Fortescue Bay is 14 km of bumpy dirt. There is a sign 2 km in letting visitors know if there are already no vacant campsites, so that visitors don’t bump all the way in just to find out there is no space to stay overnight. When we arrived, the ranger asked us why we weren’t staying for five days! She really likes it there. We met two couples who had just emerged from a hike they called both short and family friendly, the new Three Capes trail–a four day three night hike. (Australians are outdoorsy.)

People: Everyone has been friendly and helpful. We’ve chatted with people who have visited many places in the US, though mostly California. I’ve been promoting Chicago as a tourist destination–just not in the winter.

Phone: We bought Optus SIM cards and service that costs between $20 and $30 per month per phone. This plan has worked well and we had enough data to find directions and look up random facts all month. We’ll keep these the entire six months of our visit.

Weather: I cannot recall any place we’ve visited where the weather changed so dramatically from one day to the next. Several times the temperature has soared to well over 90°, and the next day the high has been closer to 60°. Occasionally it’s been even more extreme. We have clothing for all weathers, and have used it all in a single week. It takes some getting used to.

Wine: We learned a lot about Tasmanian wines by visiting the “cellar door” at wineries and tasting wine, lots of tasty whites and pinot noirs. Most tastings cost $5, waived if you purchase a bottle. We found that few producers export wine beyond the Australian mainland, though they can ship cases of wine to the US. Tasmanian wine is not produced on a massive scale yet, and a number of wineries don’t own their own wine-making equipment. Frogmore Creek Vineyards makes wine for several labels. Inexpensive wine comes from Australia. Most Tasmanian wine starts at about $20 (AU) per bottle. Not expensive, but there is no Two Buck Chuck.

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