View from Mt Wellington Photo credits: Tourism Australia, Photographer Ellenor Argyropoulos
Tasmania may not be the first or even second region in Australia that most people visit, but maybe it should be. Tasmania, or "Tassie" as the Aussies call it, may be "Small in size but it certainly is big in experience".
A short one hour flight from Melbourne and two from Sydney, Tasmania is a great self drive destination. The smallest of all Australian states, it is similar in size to Ireland, and with quiet roads, it is easy to get around. One can get a flavor of the area in three days, but a week allows you to really explore this beautiful state and experience all Tasmania has to offer.
Tasmania's biggest draw is its wilderness areas. Approximately 40% of Tasmania is protected, with one-fifth of the total island designated a world heritage area. With 19 national parks, hundreds of reserves and over 1700 miles in walking tracks, one can find natural beauty all around. Tasmania is also home to diverse plant and wildlife - some you will only find here, including the endangered Tasmanian Devil.
Historical sites and fabulous museums will please those seeking a cultural focus, and
foodies are not left out either. Tasmania has become everything food and wine (and even beer and whiskey) lovers are looking for, from local eateries and pubs to high end venues and genuine farm to plate dining.
Read on to check out the various areas to explore and top activities to experience in Tasmania.
Tasmania is basically broken down into 5 different regions. In the South, you have Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and home to over 220,000 residents. The East Coast is home to long beautiful beaches, including the Bay of Fires, one of Lonely Planet's top 10 regions in the world. The North includes Launceston, the second largest city in Tasmania, rich in farmland and premier cool climate wineries. The North West and West Coast are both gateways to some of Tasmania's most beautiful natural places, including Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area located in the West Coast.
Hobart and South
Originally founded as a penal colony and defensive outpost, today Hobart is an easy going yet lively city full of historic and modern charm. A great place to start your tour of Tasmania. Be sure to give yourself a few days here though - there is so much to experience!
Some of the top things to do include a visit to MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. A quirky museum located about 9 miles outside of Hobart, MONA combines art with wonderful dining and the Moorilla Winery and Moo Brew brewery on the same grounds. When in town on a Saturday, you can't miss the Salamanca Market, where you can get your fill of organic and artisanal foods. You'll find a great story behind the convict history in Port Arthur, approximately an hour outside of Hobart on the Tasman Peninsula. If you have the time, go after dark and take in the Port Arthur Ghost tour, inspired by tales dating back 200 years. The base of Mt. Wellington is a short 10 minute drive from Hobart. You can drive or take a bus to the top, and for the more active and adventurous, hike or cycle to the top. Stunning views of Hobart and the surround await. On your way back into town, stop by Australia's oldest brewery, The Cascade Brewery. Allow 3 hours if you want to take a tour.
Wine lovers can explore the Southern Wine route, which takes you through Derwent, Coal River and Huon Valleys, an easy drive from Hobart.
Hobart Harbor; Moorilla Wineray at MONA - Moorilla Estate; Cascade Brewery, Photo by Greg Vance
The east coast of Tasmania is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery. The Great Eastern Drive, which stretches just over 100 miles, is described as an attraction packed drive. Discover Wineglass Bay, one of the world's best beaches, on Freycinet Peninsula. Here you will find not only secluded sandy beaches but several luxurious eco-lodges, and fine cuisine. A short walk or a challenging hike to Mount Amos will provide breathtaking views of the area. The Bay of Fires is also a beautiful stretch of beach with pristine water in the northeastern section, running between Binalong Bay on the southern end and Eddystone Point at the northern end. Even though the drive is only 100 miles, one can easily spend 5 days between Hobart and Launceston exploring all the area has to offer.
For the active and adventurous, try one of the four great walks in this region. Check out the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, Freycinet Experience Walk, Maria Island Walk and Wineglass Bay.
Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park (Pirie Bath Photography, by Lauren Bath); Bay of Fires
Launceston and North
Launceston is Tasmania's second largest city, approximately two and half hours from Hobart. The city has some of the most well preserved Victorian and Colonial architecture, and is known for it's historic streetscapes and heritage estates. A beautiful natural attraction, the Cataract Gorge Reserve is just a short walk from city center. Launceston has a number of art galleries, including the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Museum, and beer lovers will enjoy Boag's Brewery, founded in 1883.
Follow the Tamar River north through Tasmania's premium wine country. The Tamar Valley Wine Route will take you through wetlands, wildlife parks and wineries. The coastal road leads you to the quaint ports of Devenport, Burnie and Stanley, a fishing village where you can see seal and fairy penguins around the port.
The Northwest region is best known for the World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park. The north entrance is approximately an hour and half from Devenport, two and half hours from Launceston. The south entrance is also about two and half hours from Launceston as well as Hobart.
The park is a wonderful combination of rainforest, glacial lakes and mountains, and is rich in wildlife, including Tasmanian devils, quolls, platypus and echnida. Take a two hour walk around Dove Lake, or for the more adventurous, tackle Cradle Mountain summit or hike the world famous Overland Track. There are a large number of short and longer walks available, as well as fishing opportunities for the area's wonderful trout.
Camp or stay overnight in simple cabin or indulge with a stay in one of the lodges just outside the park.
About four hours from Hobart in the west coast region is the wonderful small fishing town of Strahan, gateway to the World Heritage "wild west". It sits on the scenic Macquarie Harbor. Strahan, like Port Arthur, has an interesting convict history. Here you can visit Sarah Island, Tasmania's oldest penal settlement. The area offers white water rafting, kayaking, scenic harbor and Gordon River cruises and a rail ride on the Wilderness Railway through rainforests and river gorges.
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder