YOU can take a trip to "another country" without requiring foreign exchange or a passport. The country is called Tasmania.
I know, I know … Tasmania is part of Australia.
But this gem of an island off the mainland is so unique and diverse and refreshingly different, you feel like you are visiting another country.
And after the devastation of the latest fires, there may never be a more important time to include Tasmania in your tourist itinerary.
I'll confess, my inclination to visit Tasmania was small.
I thought a return to New Zealand would be a better investment of my holiday dollars.
Had we done this, we would have missed out on a fantastic family holiday that will be hard to beat.
We were on a low budget, so we decided to pack the tents and combine camping with hotel stays as needed.
This was a fabulous decision as the best spot on the Freycinet Peninsula is definitely in a tent.
Our camping site, which cost about $16, overlooked the bay and was surrounded by bush so we felt we had no neighbours.
It was while we were in Hobart that Lonely Planet came out with its latest ratings and put this city in the top five of the world.
I can understand why. Hobart reminded me so much of Cape Town with its harbour setting at the foot of a mountain.
We went in late October and flowers were in bloom every-where.
The air was still crisp and fresh and the water in the harbour twinkled with promise.
The drive up Mount Wellington was beautiful and the view from the top is breathtaking.
But what literally takes your breathe away is the sudden drop in temperature at the top - it is freezing!
We had a choice between going south to Hastings Caves or Port Arthur - I'm so glad we chose the caves.
Not only were they incredibly beautiful and interesting, the tour also includes a trip to warm water springs.
The springs are only about 25 degrees, warm enough to swim in but too cold to stay in for long.
The best part is warming up at the log fires in the undercover picnic areas.
We decided to experience the "air walk" at Tahune forest, also south of Hobart.
For me, the air walk was second to the forest "hang gliding" experience - a hang glider attached to a flying fox type contraption that hoists you across the river.
This experience can be done at almost any age - my four-year-old did it on her own - but it is by no means timid or boring.
From Tahune, we headed north to the famous Freycinet Peninsula.
Wineglass Bay has long been rated as one of the best beaches in the country, but it's not only the bay that earns the rating.
The long walk there is a welcome challenge.
The waters looked so inviting, with dolphins swimming metres offshore, that my children ran in, oblivious to the freezing temperatures.
It wasn't long before they were out complaining there legs were "on fire" from the cold.
Tasmania is best seen by car as you can stop off and enjoy many places enroute to the main destinations.
We loved our night in Swansea, experiencing the boulders at Bicheno and stopping in to see a Tasmanian devil at East Coast Nature World to Cradle Mountain.
Cradle Mountain is one of those unique places in the world that will create a permanent postcard image in your memory.
Adding to the experience of walking around Dove Lake and seeing wombats and the wild was waking up to discover our world covered in white.
Yes, it snowed, in late October, and provided the setting for a fantastic family snow fight.
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