Tasmania is about the size of Ireland and at times, you may think that’s where you are! The two-lane roads wind through hills dotted with sheep, as well as long stretches of road known as the “long paddock” – meaning, cattle grazing along unfenced roads! Stop in quaint villages for some tea and scones.
Forty percent of Tasmania is covered with rugged National Parks which offer world class hiking. A few hikes can be taken with guides, but serious hikers come from all over the world to explore the trails through these parks.
Tasmania offers fantastic cheese and wine, and is also well known for its crafts. A visit to the Salamanca Markets, held on Saturdays in Hobart, is a must. A visit to the old prison at Port Arthur shows you the darker side of Australia’s settlement history. Wildlife is abundant, and this is a world-class spot for trout fishing as well.
Best touring time is November through March. There are flights to Hobart on the south, from Sydney and Melbourne; and on the north, flights from Melbourne to Devonport and Launceston.
A Circular Drive Around Tasmania
Self-driving is your best bet. Go in a circle, which will take 7 – 10 days including time to explore a bit. Driving through the center is not advised as many roads are unsealed and require 4WD. If your time is limited, we help you pick which parts of the circle are most appealing. This route starts and ends in Hobart, going counter clock-wise. But it can go either way.
Hobart is Australia’s second oldest city. For years artists and craftspeople came to paint, carve, blow glass, and weave. We plan itineraries to make sure you are in the city on a Saturday so you can enjoy the Salamanca Markets. Some 300 stalls are open from 8 am until 3 pm. On a clear day, go up Mt. Wellington to soak up the magnificent views of the city and harbor. Stroll Battery Point and visit the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery on the waterfront. Definitely visit MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. Take a daytrip to Bruny Island for a boat ride along some rugged coast.
Port Arthur is to Australia what Sing Sing is to the USA. But unlike Sing Sing, it is a poignant reminder that Australia was Great Britain’s dumping ground for prisoners ranging from women who had stolen a loaf of bread, to harden criminals. Built of stone on a peninsula surrounded by stormy, shark-infested waters, few escaped. A visit here helps you understand Australia unusual heritage — and the ruins are hauntingly beautiful.
The Freycinet National Park
The Freycinet National Park is on the east coast. The turquoise waters will make you think you are in the Caribbean! Walk up the hill to see Half Moon Bay, one of the most photographed places in Australia. Wildlife abounds, especially the little wallabies, but these days it is unlikely you will see the Tasmanian Devil, who have been decimated by a horrid eye disease. (They can be seen in a number of wildlife preserves elsewhere in Australia.) There is a lovely lodge in the National Park as well as luxury lodges and simple motels in the area. In Bicheno at dusk you can see the wee “fairy penguins” come in from the sea and trudge to their burrows.
People with time to spare can continue north up the coast to charming villages like St. Mary’s and St Helens, but most will drive the inland road to Launceston.
This charming city has architecture from Colonial and Victorian times, lovely parks. Cataract Gorge is a short walk from the center of town. Just outside town like the Tamar Island Wetlands.
Drive the northerly road west from Launceston to Devonport, where the ferries come in from Melbourne. You can then continue along the northern coast Burnie, Wynyard and Stanley. But travelers with limited time will take the southerly route west from Launceston and head toward the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. Cradle Mountain is on the north of this huge park, and a two night stay at the Lodge here will reward travelers with an easy walk around Dove Lake. Those with more energy can climb the summit of Cradle Mountain. Serious hikers come here to start the rugged Overland Track.
Departing the Cradle Mountain area, drive southwest to the coast so you can visit Strahan, a historic village by the sea. What catches your eyes are the charming cottages. Overnight here in a B&Bs and take time for a boat ride on the Gordon River, a spectacular trip into the edge of the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
There are no sealed roads through the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, but continue on the main highway here with that Park on your right and the Lake St. Clair part of that National Park on your left. Driving through dense pine forest, you pass glacial lakes and cross streams pouring down the mountains. There is accommodation in the Lake St. Clair area, varying from hikers’ huts to simple cabins and luxurious lodges.
After departing the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park area, you come to Tarraleah – another tiny spot on the map that has earned praise from our clients. Accommodation varies from huts and cabins to luxury. Continue the drive south and soon you are in Hobart and have come full circle.