Where the forest meets the sea

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By water, on foot and now in a seaplane – a luxury On Board expedition around Tasmania’s south west wilderness takes nature’s drama to jaw-dropping
new heights.

Some parts of the world are best appreciated with perspective. Welcome to Tasmania’s wild southern coast, where people are few and far between, and roads even scarcer. Unless you’re on foot, the only other way to experience this postcard-perfect pocket of the state is from the air.

It’s a reality with family-owned and -operated On Board, whose newest fleet member is a sleek Cessna Caravan Seaplane. The aircraft is the first of its kind in Hobart, and it’s on standby to whisk guests to the company’s other freshly minted vessel: the 24-metre Odalisque III catamaran, moored in Port Davey.

Your ride, piloted by local aircraft operator Above & Beyond, departs the Tasmanian capital, flying low over one of Australia’s last frontiers – a patchwork of greens and blues, where age-old silvery gums stand tall on rugged cliffs that appear to cleave off the edge of the Earth. This place is so untouched that much of the flora and fauna is endemic, found here and nowhere else on the planet.

If you want to feel small, in the best possible way, a bird’s-eye view of the South West Wilderness doesn’t disappoint.

This World Heritage Site is your base after touching down in Port Davey, where On Board’s Odalisque III prepares for a slower, more contemplative pace of exploration around Bathurst Harbour. Nothing has been spared in the design of your upscale ‘floating lodge’, but neither is any detail extraneous – because when your backdrop is this hauntingly beautiful, over-the-top embellishments are unnecessary.

Four- to six-night cruises access remote valleys and glaciated waterways that most people don’t know exist, and will likely never glimpse. In today’s world, this exclusivity may well be travel’s greatest luxury.

It doesn’t hurt that top Tasmanian wines are poured after a day of hiking or bird-watching, complemented by fare that embodies the Apple Isle in a mouthful: think Bruny Island oysters with a flute of bubbles, just-caught crayfish paired with chardonnay, King Island brie with a delicate pinot noir. With space for just 12 guests, you can expect every on-board experience to be intimate and personal, and every bite to be considered and tailored to your preferences.

Keeping food miles to a minimum is just one way On Board ensures the South West Wilderness remains primeval for future generations of explorers. The Odalisque III was also designed with sustainability in mind, with a focus on local materials and suppliers in construction and furnishings, from the tinted windows (reducing reliance on air conditioning) to the large lithium-ion battery bank to minimise the use of generators.

When guests are on land, sensitivity toward flora and fauna becomes top of mind – your guides hold an encyclopaedic knowledge of this fragile setting and explain how to tread lightly, creating environmental ambassadors in the process.

Stroll along powdery beaches, where yours will be the only footprints, perhaps steeling yourself for a swim in the Southern Ocean. Heart-starting is one way to describe the experience. Then climb mountains to gaze over the mirror-still waters of Bathurst Harbour, reflecting the quartzite peaks, ancient rainforests and buttongrass plains that surround.

Discover caves carved into islands by millennia of winds and waves, alongside remote bays, tannin-streaked rivers and inlets, reachable solely by your experienced captain.

In this part of the world, neither streetlights, nor car high-beams, nor the neon glow from skyscrapers intrude. In the absence of light pollution, you’re guaranteed dazzling Southern Hemisphere stargazing after dark – ask the ship’s team to point out constellations, or to offer tips on how best to capture the overhead glitter-bomb, during a night photography tutorial.

It’s an outlook you won’t want to end – thankfully, there’s still that return seaplane ride back to Hobart…

On Board’s four- and six-night expeditions uniting the new Cessna Caravan Seaplane and Odalisque III depart from January 2023. Book now at

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