A land mass the same size as Ireland but with a population of just over half a million, Tasmania is a nature lover’s dream, offering mountains, forests, dramatic seascapes and plenty of curious wombats and wallabies. Australia’s Apple Isle is also famed for its produce. You simply can’t go to Tasmania and not sample the state’s many cheeses, oysters, wines or chocolate, with each available in abundance wherever you go. We found best way to explore this ruggedly beautiful part of Australia was with a self drive Tasmania road trip, featuring must-see sights and culinary delights.
A Self Drive Tasmania Itinerary
Getting to Tasmania
- Unless you are a local, a Tasmania self-drive holiday will begin as more as a fly-drive Tasmania vacation. Australia’s only island state, flights land daily direct from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
- Hobart airport is about 20 minutes drive from the CBD and rental cars are available for pick up at the airport. Pre-book your rental car before you arrive.
Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park
Often touted as one of Australia’s most iconic mountain regions and home to the world-renowned Overland Track, Cradle Mountain and the surrounding national park is a wilderness experience like no other and must be on any Tasmania itinerary.
Visiting in mid-autumn is highly recommended, when the vibrant colour palette of burnt orange fagus trees contrasts against the pale yellow of the alpine heath and placid wombats lurk round every corner. With daytime temperatures averaging 2°-10°C, it also makes for comfortable walking weather (though don’t forget to pack your thermals.).
There are Cradle Mountain walks to suit most fitness levels. A hike to Marion’s Lookout is a decent 90 minute climb, whilst a trek to the summit beckons to more experienced climbers (note it involves some scrambling up cliff faces). The sedate, family-friendly Dove Lake circuit is perhaps one of Tasmania’s most Instagrammed locations, and is easy to get to on the shuttle bus.
Your abode of choice has to be Waldheim Cabins, one of the few accomodation to be located inside the national park itself, and with direct access to the walking tracks of Cradle Mountain. Waldheim translates to ‘forest home’ and is exactly that, nestled within a forest of myrtle, pandani and King Billy pine, with resident wombats and wallabies just a few steps from your front door. Facilities are basic – though each cabin is equipped with a heater, essential for the chilly temperatures – making it the perfect opportunity to get ‘off grid’. Bring supplies for a hearty stew, a game of Monopoly and your finest bottle of red, and you’re set.
If, like us, you forget to bring the tea bags, you can grab a cup of the good stuff at Cradle Mountain Lodge. Their snug-cum-dining room is open to visitors every day of the week, and is the perfect place to warm up whilst devouring a book in front of the log fire. For those looking for more luxurious lodgings than the cabins, this is also a great place to spend the night.
Freycinet Scenic Flight
The arid east coast of Tasmania offers a different type of gem in the form of the turquoise bays of Freycinet National Park. Visitors flock to this part of Tasmania for the Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay and the beaches of Honeymoon Bay, each bordered by white sand and rugged coastline.
Whilst a climb to the top of Mount Amos rewards intrepid hikers with a vista of Wineglass Bay quite like no other, a Freycinet scenic flight is not to be missed. Hop aboard the four seater Cessna, operated by the friendly guys at Freycinet Air and breath in the magic of Friendly Beaches, Maria Island and Dolphin Sands from above. A sunset flight, if you can nab one, is the cherry on the cake.
Be sure to make a detour to Bicheno, a sleepy fishing port located 35km from Coles Bay, the heart of Freycinet National Park. It’s got beautiful beaches as well as some of the best fish and chips in Australia at The Gulch. Order the fluffy cold water cod, creamy succulent oysters and salty chips and enjoy it on the water’s edge as the resident seagulls look on.
The furrowed and wild township of Eaglehawk Neck connects the Tasman Peninsula with the Forestier Peninsula, the gateway to historic Port Arthur. Eaglehawk Neck itself is a narrow isthmus, thus making it the perfect location to house convicts in the 1800s as it was easy to patrol and monitor the whereabouts of prisoners. The Peninsula is characterised by beautiful seascapes and dramatic cliff formations; wide expanses of beaches and white crested foam lashing against rocks. Be sure to check out one of the most popular Tasman Peninsula attractions, the Tasman Arch, an impressive geological formation created by wave action over many thousands of years.
For those keen to explore the rugged local area a little deeper, allow some time in your Tasmania itinerary to do one of the Tasman Peninsula walks, such as the picturesque Three Capes Track.
Stay for a few days at The Tin Lantern, an eco-hut nestled in a wood overlooking Pirates Bay, crammed with sailing paraphernalia including flags, maps and bells from owner Nick’s transoceanic voyages. Described as a place for “dreamers, stargazers, hikers, divers, thinkers and surfers”, it’s also a book lovers dream, where tomes jostle next to copies of The New Yorker, Smith Journal and Suitcase. Sleeping with the blinds up in the master bedroom on the first storey is an absolute must – the tall gum trees cast a shadow in the moonlight, the sky is a carpet of stars and, once the sun has risen, you can catch a glimpse of the Tasman Sea – and beyond that, Antarctica – all without leaving your bed. If you are on a 5-star budget, Eaglehawk Pavilions is another Eaglehawk accommodation option that may suit too.
Underwater lovers should make a beeline for Eaglehawk Dive Centre, who offer a range of dives including Cathedral Cave and the historic wreck SS Nord, as well as an opportunity to frolic with curious and playful fur seals.
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A Day in Hobart
There’s definitely a sense of things being ‘on the up’ in the state’s capital city. Any Hobart itinerary must feature their famed fine dining restaurants, high end distilleries and sumptuous bakeries making it a foodies paradise.
Plan your visit to arrive on a Saturday and fossick for delights at the Salamanca Markets, where you’ll find local cheeses, oysters, chocolate and the famous Tasman scallop pie. Grab a seafarers lunch at The Whaler, and, if you’ve left enough room, swing by Jackman & McRoss in Battery Point for a sumptuous selection of delectable sweet treats. The area was named after the battery of guns placed on the southern side of the point in 1818 as part of the coastal defences for the deep water port established at Hobart. Today, Battery Point is home to workers cottages, cute bakeries and boutiques.
Many Hobart hotels feature local charm with plenty of rich stories from the past to share. The stunning Henry Jones Art Hotel, located on the water at Hunter Street is the perfect example. A former jam factory, this hotel is steeped in history and combines luxurious touches (such as dual head rainforest shower and plush carpets) with exposed brickwork and modern art.
Hobart is nothing without the behemoth that is MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), an attraction that not only transformed tourism in the town, but gave Australia bragging rights on the international art stage. Leave all of your prejudices about art at the door – MONA is as much an immersive experience as it is an aesthetic delight, dubbed a ‘subversive Disneyland’ by billionaire owner David Walsh and with central themes of sex and death.
You’ll head underground via a network of tunnels and read about each exhibit on your iPhone using MONA’s custom app. There’s also an on-site winery, brewery, plenty of restaurants and five star accommodation. Catch the ferry to MONA from Brook St Pier – if you’re feeling fancy, the Posh Pit is a first class experience in which travellers are plied with as much free champagne (or coffee, if that’s your thing) and canapes they can wolf down in the 25 minute crossing.
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Bruny Island Day Trip
Bruny Island is unique in that its actually an island-off-an-island, and is famed for it’s abundance of eateries and the very Insta-worthy isthmus, the Neck lookout. A Bruny Island day trip is well worth the time in your schedule, if you plan properly. We made an error when we visited Bruny. Firstly, by going an an unseasonably-warm Sunday, the crowds were at their peak and arriving at the ferry port at the town of Kettering by mid-morning. Consequently, we queued for two hours just to get a ferry to Bruny Island. That left us with only the same time again on the island before it got dark.
My advice is to get the ferry to Bruny Island early, at around 7 or 8 am. Drive to the southern-most tip of the island and work your way back to the north. Definitely factor in stops at Bruny Island Cheese Co and Get Shucked for succulent, creamy oysters. Of course, don’t miss The Neck, if only for the ‘gram.
A Breathtaking Tasmania Itinerary
From the white sand and perfectly clear waters on the east coast, to the verdant rainforest of the west and the dramatic igneous rock of Cradle Mountain, a self drive Tasmania itinerary can be as diverse as the island is wild. In a state where 40% of its population live in the capital city, there’s a beautiful solace to be found traversing across the island.
You’ll find wildlife here that you can’t find anywhere else in Australia such as The Tasmanian Devil that is much revered and protected by Tasmanians. The Tasmanian cool climate produces some of the country’s most stunning pinot noir wines, cheeses and oysters.
The Apple Isle makes up for its diminutive size with both beauty and serenity. Whether you make a beeline for the culinary shores of Hobart, the mountainscape of Cradle or the immune-boosting waters of Freycinet National Park, it’s an Australian destination not to be missed.
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Lauren is a UK to Sydney expat and is inspired by the great outdoors, adventures, good food and telling stories through words and beautiful visuals.