This is a guest post from Cath Isakson who moved to Tasmania early this year with her partner and elderly cat.
Well, we did it! In the space of a few months my partner (Peter), myself and our cat made the move from mainland Australia to New Norfolk, Tasmania.
We’d lived in Melbourne for a long time. Peter had spent his entire life there. I’d moved to Melbourne in my late teens. Twenty-five years later, I needed a change. I was tired of the stresses of living in a big city. Peter also was ready for a change – he wanted to study at university in Hobart.
Finding a new place to live in Tasmania was hampered by the needs of our elderly cat. One of us had to stay behind and give her the attention (and medication) required to keep her healthy. So I stayed in Melbourne and Peter flew to Hobart. As he was preparing for life as a student, he found the cheapest temporary accommodation he could.
Back in Melbourne, I was glued to real estate websites, feeding Peter information on what properties to target. As we were unfamiliar with southern Tasmania, we decided to rent. Unlike Melbourne, parts of Hobart and regional Tasmania can vary wildly in demographics and types of housing. Some areas of Hobart are also very steep, making access difficult – and they don’t mention that on the real estate websites!
It was difficult to find a property that would accommodate our cat. Real estate agents in Hobart are less flexible about pets than in Melbourne. Many agents won’t allow animals at all – even well-behaved ones.
Peter spent two weeks tramping around Hobart, looking at potential houses. He found many rental properties were poorly maintained. They looked quite different to the online photos. And we hadn’t accounted for the shortage of rental stock during February. This is peak time for students looking for places to stay while studying.
Coordinating the move itself was difficult. We had to shift all our belongings, vacate our Melbourne house, take the car, ourselves and the cat to southern Tasmania. We also needed to dispose of things we couldn’t take – like pot plants. In the end, I had to beg neighbours to accept our potted fruit trees. Quarantine laws mean you can’t take plant material to Tasmania.
We decided to put the cat on the aeroplane. Overall, the flight would mean she’d be caged for a far shorter time than if we put her on the Spirit of Tasmania. I asked our vet if she thought the cat would survive the trip. Of course, the vet didn’t know – our cat is 18 years old, gets stressed easily and requires twice-daily medication.
Peter took the same flight as the cat. Four days later, once I had finalised things in Melbourne, I drove the car onto the Spirit of Tasmania. I did feel a little sad, looking back at the bright lights of Melbourne.
Advantages of life in Tasmania
The scenery. Everywhere you go in Tasmania, there are stunning views. Hobart has the backdrop of Mt Wellington and there is the beautiful Hobart Harbour. From my house in New Norfolk, I have views across the township and Derwent Valley.
Proximity to the country. It’s quick and easy to get out of town for bushwalking, boating, or a drive to a charming, historic town for afternoon tea or a country market.
Seasonal produce. I’m sure there are Melbournians who won’t believe me when I say the fruit and vegetables are fresher in Tasmania than on the mainland. In New Norfolk, I’m surrounded by farms growing cherries, raspberries, potatoes and more. The quality is amazing.
Sense of community. Neighbours are happy to have a chat. Kids ride their bikes everywhere. There are rowing clubs, footy clubs, bushwalking clubs, community choirs and brass bands. Every weekend there are community events – markets, community ‘feasts’, trivia nights and school fetes.
Disadvantages of life in Tasmania
The weather. While I enjoy the climate, many don’t like the dry air and are surprised by the high UV levels. In Winter, it can get cold.
Cost of living. Living in Tasmania is not necessarily cheaper than on the mainland. Electricity rates are comparable to Melbourne. Food can be more expensive, especially if it’s shipped in. However if you want to buy a house, there are bargains to be found.
Internet and phone reception. Just because you’re in Hobart doesn’t mean you’ll get reasonable internet or mobile phone service. If you depend on good internet and mobile phone reception, I’d suggest researching your chosen area before settling on a place to live.
Overall, I found the move to Tasmania to be hugely stressful and hugely rewarding. I’d recommend setting aside time to visit your new location. If you can’t, use knowledgeable locals like Jo and Dale Reardon.
And if you’re wondering – our cat survived the move. She spends most of the day sunning herself on the deck.
Cath Isakson is a children’s author and publisher and now has a communications business.