A driving journey around Tasmania offers a taste of everything the Apple Isle has to offer. Roads sweep through diverse landscapes of dramatic coastlines, tranquil bushland and lush pastures. From vineyards and farms to picturesque historical towns, Tasmania is delightful. Driving the long route from Hobart to Launceston can take you right around Tasmania.
One fifth of the island is World Heritage wilderness and the World Heritage convict sites are some of Australia’s best.
It’s easy to combine a self-drive Tasmania road trip with an active holiday in Tasmania as there are plenty of nature-based activities almost everywhere you go.
There’s a range of accommodation, from cute cottages to luxury resorts. As Tasmania has stunning landscapes and wherever you go there’s a pretty good chance of snagging a room with a view. Being a small island, it’s not difficult to find a room with a view of the water either.
Day 1 – Hobart to Launceston the long way
Hobart’s historic charm never fails to captivate. It’s easy to be charmed by the history of Battery Point and the cobblestone streets of Salamanca Place. Factories, warehouses and mansions are now hotels, hip boutiques, bars, cafes and craft shops.
Tip: Everyone raves about MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), which is located within Moorilla Winery. Treat yourself to a stay at the MONA Pavilions.
Day 2 – On the road: Hobart to Tasman Peninsula
When it comes to history, Hobart is the entrée while the Tasman Peninsula delivers the main course.
The Port Arthur Historic Sites, which was granted World Heritage status as part of a group of ten other Australian convict sites, is a jewel in Tasmania’s historic crown.
The atmosphere is best at night when guides tell spooky stories on the ghost tour and evoke chilling images of Port Arthur’s eerie past.
Tip: Stay at Stewart’s Bay Lodge which is connected to Port Arthur by a waterfront walking track.
Day 3 – Port Arthur to the east coast, self-drive Tasmania
The picturesque coastline around Swansea is the place to enjoy a seafood platter and to explore beaches and bays.
A stop at Kates Berry Farm, 3km south of Swansea, dishes up mouth-watering homemade ice creams, waffles and chocolates, all made with real fruit from the farm.
A little further on from Swansea, Freycinet National Park offers a menu of nature and adventure activities including whale spotting, kayaking and four-wheel motorbike tours.
Kayaking around the Freycinet Peninsula is an iconic experience.
Tip: Humpback and southern right whales are sighted regularly; orca sightings (January to March).
Day 4 – East coast to Launceston
On the way to Launceston, a detour to East Coast Natureworld in Bicheno offers the opportunity to get a close look at the endangered Tasmanian devils that are under threat of extinction from Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).
There’s ample time to explore Cataract Gorge, Launceston’s star attraction. The gorge is a unique slice of wilderness that’s only a 15-minute walk along the banks of the Tamar River from the city.
The best way to experience the gorge’s spectacular scenery is on the 457m chairlift ride across the gorge. For adventurous types, rock climbing and abseiling the gorge is one of the best things to do in Tasmania’s north east.
Tip: Book a table at Stillwater, a fine-dining restaurant in historic Ritchie’s Mill at the mouth of Cataract Gorge.
Day 5 – Launceston
Tip: Visit Josef Chromy for fine wine, views and a fascinating tale about how Josef escaped from war-torn Europe.
Day 6 – On the road: Launceston to Mole Creek
About an hour’s drive west of Launceston, Mole Creek is a country town renowned for its caves.
Mole Creek has a couple of show caves with permanent lighting and paths but a guided adventure exploring Mole Creek’s wild caves is an experience to remember.
Tip: The Mole Creek Pub’s ‘Tiger Bar’ has photos, models and trinkets relating to the presumably-extinct Tasmanian tiger.
Day 7 – Mole Creek to Burnie
The road to Burnie offers an excellent opportunity to discover gourmet delights in Tasmania’s North West along the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail.
Pop into Hellyer’s Road Distillery for a dram. The distillery is Australia’s largest boutique distillery of whisky.
A 90-minute drive from Burnie, on the northwest tip of the island, is a thrilling forest adventure.
Dismal Swamp is a natural Blackwood forest sinkhole that was formed over thousands of years ago by dissolving dolomite.
Between Dismal Swamp and Burnie, Stanley is a picturesque seaside town and a launching point for wildlife tours to Bull Rock to see Australian fur seals in their natural environment.
Tip: Visit 41 Degrees South Salmon and Ginseng Farm to find out about a rare root more precious than gold.
Day 8 – Burnie to Corinna
Tasmania’s Tarkine is an unspoilt World Heritage-listed wilderness that is home to Australia’s largest temperate rainforest.
A good introduction to the Tarkine is to stay at Corinna, a former gold-mining town that has been transformed into an isolated wilderness getaway.
Tip: Make sure to fill up your tank before getting to Corinna as there’s no petrol available in this forest outpost.
Day 9 – Corinna to Strahan
It’s an easy 4km walk through the rainforest. 30kms away, a stroll through the historic mining town of Zeehan is a blast from the past.
Day 10 – Strahan
Strahan’s waterfront village has a Disney-like appeal. There are several tours to the Western Wilderness, including a multi-day Franklin River rafting adventure. However, the multi-day Franklin rafting adventure is accessed via Hobart or Launceston.
If you only have a short time, the best choices are a cruise on the Gordon River or the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
The steam railway runs on a 19th-century rack and pinion system through dense rainforests, gorges, with tight curves and spectacular bridge crossings between the mining town of Queenstown and the port at Strahan
Tip: Wildlife lovers should try the Bonnet Island Penguin Experience, which offers a close-up look at little penguins emerging out of the water at night.
Day 11 – Strahan to Lake St Clair
One of Australia’s most famous walking trails, the Overland Track ends in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. But even if you’re not keen on hiking, the park is worth visiting for its scenery and there are plenty of easier walking trails.
Tip: Make sure to pack warm clothes for hiking. With an average daily temperature in of around 12°C, there’s plenty of opportunity to snuggle up by the fire.
Day 12 – Lake St Clair to Hobart
On the way back to Hobart, it’s worth visiting Mount Field National Park. The park is a lush magical forest with enchanting views and there’s always the chance you might spot a platypus.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Tourism Tasmania.