The Melbourne to Launceston Yacht Race (M2L) is the oldest ocean race in Australia and ranks fifth worldwide. Helly Hansen – HH – has naming rights for the 2011 event.

On December 27 the gun is fired and the fleet of beautiful yachts takes off on a two-day journey to the Beauty Point Marina in Tasmania.

It is an arduous journey crossing Bass Strait and requires crews to possess night sailing skills and immense stamina.

Bass Strait is renowned as one of the world's toughest stretches of water, adding to the excitement and intrigue that surrounds this great event every year.

Wild storms and aggressive waves have wreaked havoc on many a boat attempting to complete this difficult voyage, with a number of wrecks scattered about the islands and coastal areas.

If you are planning to be in Tasmania between Christmas and New Year this is a fantastic opportunity to see the leading yachts hit the finish line.

At Beauty Point you will be privileged to brilliant views of the closing stage.

When the race is over this is a great place to spend a few extra days visiting wineries and enjoying fine Tasmanian cuisine along the Tamar River.

Extasea winner of the 2009 M2L Image Credit: Teri Dodds

Port Dalrymple Beauty Point from Pomona Spa Cottages

Sailing at Beauty Point Image Credit: JohnHefener/Sail-World

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After a big build-up to Christmas and the inevitable process of winding down from all the feasting and socialising, it might be nice to take some time out and relax by seeing a quality theatre production.

On Tuesday December 27 the season of Port Arthur History Plays gets underway, giving Tasmanian audiences and visitors to the island state a chance to enjoy a wonderful series of short dramas depicting various stories from the region's fascinating past.

Running until January 27, 2012 the performances take place at different locations on the Port Arthur Historic Site, so you can either come along for one quick show or spend the day watching each unique play and wandering the historic grounds in between shows.

The Man Who Threw a Stone will be shown at the Separate Prison and tells the story of an old convict who protests through a hunger strike.

Behind the Penitentiary you can see The Shingle Strike, a play about Irish poet Francis Macnamara's endeavour to defy his bullying overseer, while A Boy's Life is centred around a London street kid's journey to Point Puer.

All three productions are the work of excellent Tasmanian playwrights and with admission to performances included in the cost of your entry to the site, it is an ideal activity for travellers on a budget.

Port Arthur Main Prison Building. Image Credit: TravelPod user Livingthedream5

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On the north coast of Tasmania – about 15 minutes' drive south of Devonport – sits Latrobe, a beautiful historic town well worth stopping to see on your drive around the island state.

This former port was once a bustling regional hub, but is now a smaller and more peaceful town housing 76 heritage-listed buildings and unique shopfronts lining the main street.

On a walking tour you can unravel the fascinating history of the region, as your guide takes you down and around Gilbert Street while reciting stories of the past.

Nestled on the eastern bank of the twisting and turning Mersey River, Latrobe is known as the platypus capital of the world.

At the Warrawee Forest Reserve you might be lucky enough to spot one of these unique flat-billed creatures from a viewing platform, or join a tour where a guide will ensure you get an up close and personal meeting.

The town's impressive list of achievements include hosting the country's oldest continuously playing brass band and richest wheel race, as well as being the birthplace of competitive wood chopping – a phenomenon that has since spread to agricultural shows across Australia.

You can learn about the heritage of this quintessential Australian sport at the Axeman's Hall of Fame on Bells Parade.

Throughout the year Latrobe puts on a number of fantastic festivals such as the Chocolate Winterfest and Frogmore Fair.

A highlight of the events calendar is the annual Henley on the Mersey festival, which takes place on Australia Day (January 26) and features the always-popular ferret race.

Perhaps you will spend a lazy afternoon picnicking at Bells Parade – the site of the old port – or head to The Cherry Shed to sample delicious exotic varieties of cherries such as Merchant, Stella and Sylvia.

If you love what you taste it is possible to have fresh cherries, jams or liqueurs sent interstate for you to enjoy when you get home. 

Entrance to the Reserve. Image Credit: Dirk Veltkamp

The relaxing enviroment inside the reserve. Image Credit: Dirk Veltkamp

The Mersey River in Latrobe. Image Credit: Dirk Veltkamp

Axemans Hall of Fame Image Credit: Dirk Veltkamp

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Located between Hobart, Strahan and Cradle Mountain, the small town of Derwent Bridge is the ideal place to take a well-earned rest stop on your extensive tour of beautiful Tasmania.

Weary travellers often relax in this scenic location after completing the tiring Overland Track, as it is situated just five kilometres from one of Australia's most stunning regions the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

The amazing 74 km Overland Track can take its toll on hikers, who often choose to cap off the journey with a comfortable ferry ride across Lake St Clair – which just happens to be Australia's deepest freshwater lake.

Departing from Narcissus Bay this scenic cruise docks at Cynthia Bay and is a wonderful way to view the spectacular southern peaks of the national park.

Visitors to Derwent Bridge shouldn't be fooled by its small size – as a gateway to the Western Wilderness, it is a popular overnight destination and as such has developed some excellent accommodation facilities to cater to passing travellers.

With a wonderful country pub and friendly locals, it is a delight to spend a few days here escaping from the hustle and bustle of your life back home or as a brief gap in your packed Tasmanian adventure schedule.

The ambitious sculpture known as the Wall in the Wilderness is Derwent Bridge's best-known feature. Made from rare Huon pine, the 100 metre carving depicting Central Highland history is due to be completed by 2015.

Visitors can walk along the wall to learn more about the hardships experienced by the pioneers who settled in the area.

Other activities available during your Derwent Bridge stopover include trout fishing, bird watching and trips to Nant Distillery or Australia's oldest golf course in Bothwell.

Wall in The Wilderness Detail, Image Credit: Matthew Newton Qantas Inflight Magazine

The high country of Cradle Mountain. Image Credit: wandererNJ (TripAdvisor)

Lake St Clair. Image Credit: Derwent Bridge Chalets & Studios

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For three weeks this summer art lovers will have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful Images of Tasmania 14 exhibition in Hobart, which brings together a huge variety of creative works by artists from across the state.

The exhibition will include pieces by individuals with a connection to the Tasmanian School of Art in its various incarnations over a period of seven decades.

Current graduates, post-graduates and alumni have all jumped at the chance to be involved in this exciting project and for visitors to the area it is well worth taking the time to view the results of their efforts.

Featuring entire bodies of work rather than individual items, the gallery will house paintings, prints, sculptures, furniture, photographs, jewellery, ceramics and mixed media pieces.

If you appreciate a broad spectrum of visual creativity this is something not to be missed on your Tasmanian summer holiday.

Images of Tasmania will be held at Long Gallery and Sidespace Gallery at the Salamanca Arts Centre from Saturday December 10 to Sunday January 1 between the hours of 10:00 and 18:00, excluding Christmas Day.

Tasmanian School of Art entrance

Tasmanian School of Art Building Inner Courtyard

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People from around Australia of varying fitness levels came together yesterday (December 4) to participate in the inaugural Mark Webber Adventure Run in Hobart, with the event proving to be a huge success.

On a cool summer's day 233 competitors took to the streets to test themselves on the 6.5 km course from Henry Jones Hotel, over the Queens Domain and back again.

While organisers were relatively pleased with the turnout, they believed that up to double the number of participants may have entered on a sunny day.

Webber was there to mingle with other runners and complete the journey as well, but the winner of last week's Brazilian Grand Prix said he had no intention of trying to finish the race first.

"No, but it was good to see everyone out here enjoying it and that's what it's all about," he told The Mercury.

"It was a nice run over the Domain and through the memorial area for servicemen up there as well, which was inspirational."

A focus on fun, fitness and camaraderie was the order of the day, with Webber saying there was plenty of friendly banter among the heavy breathing out on the course.

"We were talking about the season and people were asking me about the F1 racing," he said.

"The atmosphere was great and to see families and people of all different levels coming out and having a crack, it was very good."

Webber is due to take part in a promotional photo shoot in Hobart this morning, before flying by helicopter to Freycinet to meet the athletes who have signed up for the 2011 Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge – a five-day adventure race for charity.

Celebrities such as Bathurst 1000 champion Rick Kelly, Olympic gold medal kayaker Ken Wallace and AFL legend Glenn Archer will take part in the challenge along with a host of other determined athletes.

Mark Webber leads the start / Image Credit: Perfect Prints Hobart

In the lead up to start time Mark Webber was happy to relax and autograph all manner of objects. Image Credit: Perfect Prints Hobart

Interview time before the race gets underway. Image Credit: Perfect Prints Hobart

Powering through. Image Credit: Perfect Prints Hobart

Finish line and signage. Image Credit: Perfect Prints Hobart

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If you're looking for something different to ring in the new year it might be worth heading to Launceston for the spectacular Gimme Gimme Some Fun show by Australian Björn Again, the only ABBA tribute band to be endorsed by the originals.

Bjorn Again have performed over 5,000 shows across more than 70 countries worldwide, guaranteeing a polished and visually delightful display in front of what promises to be a packed crowd at the Country Club Casino on New Year's Eve.

ABBA fans will not be disappointed, with former member Benny Andresson stating: "Fans had better make the most out of Bjorn Again because that's the closest they are going to get to seeing ABBA. ABBA will never reform."

With a string of classic ABBA hits on the set list guests are sure to be singing and dancing well after the clock strikes midnight.

Tasmania is an exciting place to be over summer, so why not consider visiting the island state for a week or more and making this New Year's Eve one you will never forget?

Tickets are just $48.50 – a fantastic price to see such a world renowned act on the biggest night of the year.

Björn Again performing Image Credit: their website
Björn Again in math

Björn Again performing Image Credit: their website

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If you are looking for an opportunity to get back to nature over the summer break, there's no better place than Tasmania – especially if you want a close encounter with some of the state's most fascinating wildlife!

Narawntapu National Park – which was formerly known as Asbestos Range – spans a total of 4,349 hectares on Tasmania's northern coast and is a brilliant place to spot creatures of all sizes.

If you are travelling with children, they will love the opportunity to see wombats, pademelons, Forester kangaroos and Bennetts wallabies.

These animals are particularly active at dawn and dusk and – if you are quiet – they are relatively calm and comfortable when people are present.

While you should not feed the animals, it is a great chance to get a firsthand experience of some of Australia's famous wildlife.

When you're not wombat-spotting or looking for kangaroos, you'll find Narawntapu National Park is also a great place to enjoy a coastal walk, take a swim or try your luck at line fishing.

You will find camping is permitted at Springlawn, Griffiths Point and Bakers Point. These facilities – which include a choice of powered or unpowered sites – are located in the park's western section and campers will need to self-register at the Springlawn information hut.

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If you love the water, why not spend some time sailing or yachting on your next trip to Tasmania?

The island state has a higher percentage of boats per head of population than anywhere else in Australia – and whether you are a novice sailor or an experienced pro, you'll find the waters here have something to offer everyone.

Whether you want to bring your own boat, hire a craft on the island or prefer to sign up for one of the numerous sailing and yachting experiences available right across Tasmania, you'll find plenty of choices.

Adrenaline junkies will find plenty of thrills at Port Davey, which – along with Bathurst Harbour – is even larger than the famous Sydney Harbour.

Here, you'll be able to experience the dramatic winds of the Roaring Forties – and take in some truly spectacular sights. The wilderness here is World Heritage-listed and you'll be amazed by its vast size and ancient history.

Alternatively, you'll find plenty of great sailing near Hobart, the capital city. Most sailors prefer the route along the east coast, which offers plenty of protected anchorages in the costal villages.

Wherever – and however – you choose to take to the water, you'll want to ensure you remain abreast of the latest weather and condition updates. You can keep track of the latest news and developments at Marine and Safety Australia – it's a wise idea to check for any notices for sailors before you begin your voyage.

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Dance lovers from across Tasmania and around the country are now able to access an in-depth online archive documenting three decades of dance on the island state.

Launceston's Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery has launched a new website titled Vault, which chronicles more than 30 years of Tasdance in photographs and video performances.

With new productions planned all the time, it is important to reflect on the successes of the past and learn from the company's previous performances, according to museum director Richard Mulvaney.

He told the ABC: "How often do we sort of think about the upcoming performance and forget all about the last one we went to, let alone 30 years of performances and people that have made it all happen?"

2012 looks to be an interesting year for Tasdance, with artistic director Annie Greig currently on sabbatical to research dance hub models across Europe.

During her four weeks abroad, Greig is set to spend time at the DanceXchange in Birmingham, UK, Dance Ireland in Dublin and Forum Danca in Lisbon, Portugal, where she will gain firsthand experience of these three organisations' practice in artist development and engagement with local communities.

A complete list of productions and touring dates for 2012 is expected to be announced in the new year.

Composite of TasDance Dancers and Productions. Image credit: TasDance web site collage

Ice Ocean 2007 Performance - Vault Collection

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