A holiday in Tasmania combines the buzz of city life with incredible natural scenery, as well as a healthy dose of sun, sea and wine. Hobart is home to the state’s major airport hub, so it’s best to start the journey from here before heading out to explore. The state is so easily navigated, it’s practically asking for visitors to embark on a road trip, and with this itinerary the highlights of the major stop-off points can be found less than a three-hour drive away from each other. If hiring a car isn’t possible, there are a variety of organised tours and coach transfers to take visitors from one stop to another.
Pro tip: Park passes are required at all times for entry into Tasmania’s national parks. If the plan is to visit more than one or two, it may be cheaper to opt for a holiday pass, which is either $60 (£30) or $80 (£40) per car, depending on the season. With this, it’s possible to visit any national park within a two-month period.
Driving really is the best way to get around Tasmania, so pick up a car from the airport and head into Hobart. Tasmania’s capital city has been coming into its own for the past 10 years, so there has never been a better time to visit. Try to stay in or near the harbour, which is bustling with activity, and if the whole day is on offer then head straight to Brooke Street Pier for the 20-minute scenic ferry ride to the MONA.
From the return ferry, walk along the waterfront to Elizabeth Street Pier for a lunch of fish and chips overlooking the harbour. The afternoon can be spent wandering around the historic suburbs of Battery Point and Salamanca, exploring the cobbled streets and small shops and cafés. Visitors to Hobart are spoilt for choice with fantastic dinner options; Dier Makr and Aloft are two restaurants making waves in the city, so make sure to book ahead and enjoy a feast to round off the first day.
Before heading off to the wilderness, take the winding road up to the pinnacle of Kunanyi / Mt Wellington for the best view of Hobart. If more time is available, this can also be done as a day hike, weather permitting. From the city, it’s then a scenic 2.5-hour drive to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, home to Australia’s deepest lake, which was carved out by glaciers over millions of years. There are lots of little towns and villages on the way, so make sure to stop off at some of the fruit and berry farms where snacks and local honey can be bought for the trip. Also along the way via a small detour is the Mount Field National Park, where the breathtaking Russell Falls can be found just a 20-minute walk from the car park.
Once at Lake St Clair, there is a range of accommodation available, from camping to cabins, and even luxury hotels. Lakeside accommodation would be ideal, as a lot of the area’s walks start at various points on the shore. Head to the visitor’s centre for more information and to get familiar with the surroundings, and perhaps take a short stroll in the evening to take in the incredible scenery.
Get an early start and venture out for one of the longer walks in the park. Echo Point can be started from the visitor’s centre, taking three to four hours in one direction; plus, if timed correctly, the ferry collects walkers from the end to bring them back. It’s best to book this in advance as spaces get snapped up fast, otherwise the only way back is the same trek in reverse!
If sustenance is needed after all that walking, then head to The Wall in The Wilderness, an art project by sculptor Greg Duncan, found in the middle of the forest just outside the entrance to the national park. The café here serves a generous daily soup special, so once appetites have been sated you can take in the incredible artwork. Currently measuring 100 metres long (328ft) and telling the story of the Tasmanian Highlands, the project’s incredibly lifelike depictions have to be seen to be believed. The work is still in progress, as Duncan continues to carve some of the wooden panels, and his plan is for it to eventually be 300 square metres (3,230sq ft) in size.
Finish the day watching the sunset over the lake – with the right weather, the sky will be a tapestry of fiery reds and oranges.
Head back to civilisation on the drive to Launceston, another 2.5 hours from the entrance to the national park. Opt for the route via the dirt tracks through the highlands, which are very well maintained and can be driven in a regular car, and be rewarded with views over The Great Lake and through the mountains and forests of eucalyptus.
Launceston is a large town just outside the Tamar Valley wine region, and is full of interesting architecture, quaint cafés and restaurants. Have a walk around before jumping back in the car to go in search of the best vineyards in the area, follow signs to the Tamar Valley and they’ll start popping up left and right. It’s also possible to book on to organised wine tasting tours in the area, which means more wine can be enjoyed without worrying about driving.
Back in Launceston, dinner can be found on the waterfront, where a number of restaurants have opened; otherwise, there are smaller eateries in town. Check out Geronimo for excellent wine and sharing plates.
The ocean will be calling by day five, so pack up the car and head off from Launceston for the 2.5 hour drive to the east coast and Bay of Fires – one of Tasmania’s most popular natural attractions. The conservation area stretches 50km (31mi) along the coast from Eddystone Point down to Binalong Bay, and visitors can expect beautiful scenery, a range of self-guided walks and diving and snorkelling opportunities, too. The area is also famous for the orange lichen that covers the boulders along the beaches, but in fact takes its name from the fires seen along the coast from a British navigator’s ship.
This is the place to sit back and relax, so take a good book and stock up on supplies on the way in – including some factor 50 suncream. Camping is allowed in certain areas only, but accommodation can also be found in St Helens and Binalong Bay.
Head down the coast the next morning to the Freycinet National Park, roughly a two-hour drive from the Bay of Fires. Home to the instantly recognisable Wineglass Bay, the park combines sea, sand and mountains for some truly dramatic scenery. There are many places to stay within the national park; otherwise, Coles Bay is a waterfront town found just 10 minutes from the park’s entrance.
There are a number of different hikes to do from the national park, Wineglass Bay being the most famous. At a gentle pace from the carpark, it will take 30-40 minutes to reach the viewpoint, and make sure to stay a while and enjoy the scenery. The return hike takes a different route through a boulder field, and gives visitors the chance to get up close to the unusual pink granite formations. Longer hikes are available for the more ambitious, so bring plenty of water as drinking water stations are few and far between. Make the most of the park pass and stop at Honeymoon Bay and Cape Tourville Lighthouse for more beautiful scenery.
If time allows on the final day, journey back to Hobart via Port Arthur – one of Tasmania’s World Heritage listed sites dating back to 1830. It’s had various incarnations over the years but started life as a penal station, and can be found on a peninsula east of Hobart that is also home to the Tasman National Park. It adds roughly a two- to three-hour detour to the route back but provides fascinating insight into the colonial life of the state.
Once back in Hobart, check out some of the spots that slipped through the net on the first night, and maybe look up flights leaving Tasmania a bit later than planned.