Breathtaking Tasmania is Kate's beautiful island home
IT HAS been 10 months since I was last home, but it feels like forever.
I can feel the butterflies build up in my stomach as the tip of the island appears out the window of the plane.
A typical build-up of dark clouds gather on the horizon as the first drops of rain sparkle through the sky.
The plane does a u-turn over blackened tree tops - the leftovers of a bushfire a few weeks earlier, and prepares to land in the paddock-style airport.
I decided to go against my normal grain of travel and plan out my two-week holiday in Tasmania.
Although I grew up here, there is much of the state I have yet to explore and have made a pact with myself to do so this holiday.
First stop from the plane is a food and wine festival in Launceston, in the north of the state.
Festivale is a three-day celebration designed to showcase the very best of Tasmanian food, wine, beer, arts and entertainment and attracts more than 35,000 people each year.
Tempura mushrooms, fresh calamari, pancakes with raspberries are washed down with a combination of local wines by Josef Chromy and Pipers Brook.
The fresh-tasting Tasmanian produce is above anything else in Australia, and with good reason.
We grow, milk, herd and catch most of the produce available in restaurants and local stores, all of which are proud to display the home-grown stamp.
The following day my boyfriend Rhys (who had only been to the island once) and I hit the road towards Bridport, a little coastal town about 45 minutes north-east of Launceston.
The beaches here are small and divided by mounds of rocks, but the sand is as white as paper and sinks likes snow under your feet.
Bridport's population of 1000 is mostly made up of fishermen and forestry workers, with the logging town of Scottsdale just a stone's throw down the road.
A cruise along the Tamar River in a yacht, blackberry picking and sightseeing at Launceston's Cataract Gorge fill the days that follow before we hit the road again to explore the other side of the island.
St Helens is a coastal town on the East Coast, about two hours' drive from Launceston.
It is known as the game fishing capital of Tasmania, but could also be renowned for its oyster farms.
Bunkering down at a friend's shack,
we are just walking distance from the water and about a kilometre from some of the East Coast's best surf spots.
The water is not warm - about 17 degrees - but can be managed in a wetsuit if you're game.
Determined to catch our own dinner we head off to well-known surf beach called Beer Barrel, at the point of St Helens.
Using the $30 rods we bought from a man at the local tackle store on the drive out, we cast in to the crystal blue water.
The cold snap of the water is hardly noticeable even in the later afternoon as the sun still sits high in the sky thanks to daylight savings.
The next day is spent at the breathtaking Bay of Fires, nominated by Lonely Planet as the third most "you must visit" location in the world.
The beaches here are truly beautiful and completely untouched, surrounded by national park and dunes, which are home to thousands of penguin colonies.
Hobart, the capital, is about a three-hour drive from St Helens, travelling either the scenic coast road or the highway.
We decided to take the coast, passing through seaside towns of Scamander, Bicheno and Coles Bay, before stopping to gawk at the magnificent convict buildings at Swansea and Triabunna.
We reach Hobart in the early morning and head straight to Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art.
Mona was established in 2001 by Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh who transformed the Berriedale peninsula into an underground museum. It's worth $75 million.
The museum has become one of the most must-see places in the state, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.
Entering the museum, we are told to start at the bottom of three levels and work our way up, taking a spiral staircase into a windowless exhibition space that has an almost creepy appeal.
The French curator talks us through the exhibits using headphones attached to an i-Phone, which each person receives upon entry.
You would be lost without it, confused and most likely disgusted as you are struck by weird photographs of male vaginas, a headless dummy corpse and a fishbowl with a single knife inside.
It takes about four hours to make our way around the museum before we hit the road to our hotel on Hobart's waterfront for a delicious dinner of pasta and fresh pizza.
With the trip almost over and many kilometres travelled, we spend the last few nights indulging in family company and filling our bellies and suitcases with food.
Tasmania has a lot to offer, even for a local who still has so much to see.
How to get there:
- You can cross the great Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania, which leaves twice a day, every day.
- Jump on a plane and arrive in either Hobart, Launceston or Devonport. Flights depart most major cities throughout the day, every day.
- If you take the ferry, you'll be able to take your own car. If not there are hire car options at every airport.
- Remember, although Tasmania is a small state by Australian standards, it's actually the same size as the Republic of Ireland, so you will need some sort of transport to make your way around the 68,000 sq km island.