Tasmania. The southernmost state of Australia, separated from the mainland by the wild and unpredictable Bass Strait. Dense rainforests, golden beaches, towering mountains, historic sites and mile after mile of winding tarmac all in an area not much larger than West Virginia. The perfect formula, in other words, for a spectacular road trip.
If you’re planning to bring your own vehicle from the mainland, you have only one choice – the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. There are two sailings per day during peak (summer) season and discounted fares are often offered. The trip takes nine hours from Melbourne to Devonport.
If you’d rather hire a car or motorhome once you arrive, you can fly into Hobart or Launceston and choose from any of the major (or minor) rental agencies at the airport or in the central city. Distances are short and the main roads in excellent condition, making your Tasmania road trip a pleasure no matter what option you choose. Just be aware of any restrictions that your rental company places on driving on gravel or dirt roads, as there’s plenty of them around once you get off the beaten trail.
What to seeAllow at least a fortnight to make your way around the entire island, and much longer if you plan on doing a lot of bush walking or want to spend a few days in each place – there’s plenty to see and do despite the island’s seemingly small size. If scenery and the outdoors are your thing, you are in for a treat: Cradle Mountain, Freycinet National Park and the beaches around the Bay of Fires are all breathtaking. Allow at least a full day in each place, although you could easily spend much longer. Be sure to pack enough food, water and protection from the elements (hat, sunscreen, waterproof clothing) to handle the unexpected even on the shorter day walks, as the weather can quickly change here.
If you prefer good bars and restaurants, head straight for Salamanca Place in Hobart – try to coincide your visit with a weekend, as things are pretty quiet at the start of the week and you can also take in the famous Saturday street market there at the same time. Eating and drinking around the rest of the island is often more functional than fantastic, but there’s plenty of hidden gems – check out the Deloraine Deli on the main road through Deloraine (strangely enough), for example, for great coffee and quality food.
HistoryTasmania oozes history, especially in and around Hobart – Australia’s second-oldest capital. Take some time wandering the city streets to check out the old Georgian buildings around the docks and CBD, and a day at the former penal colony at Port Arthur is a must. It can get busy in summer but is big enough that you can easily lose yourself away from the crowds.
Driving around the island is a highlight in itself, especially if you have a car (and travel companions) that can handle corners well! A quick trip to the top of Hobart’s Mount Wellington is great fun, as are the road between St Helens and Launceston (via Scottsville) in the north-east, and the drive in to Cradle Mountain. The hardest parts are keeping at least one eye on the road – with gorgeous vistas opening up seemingly around every corner – as well as avoiding the local wildlife. There are reduced night time speed limits in much of Tasmania for this very reason, but if possible it is best to avoid driving after dark on anything except the most major roads. Nobody needs a kangaroo joining them in the front seat.
Prices for most things (food, alcohol and petrol, for example) are the same or only slightly more expensive than on the mainland, and with plenty of budget accomodation options and short driving distances a road trip around Tasmania shouldn’t cost a fortune. Make the most of this ruggedly beautiful part of the world by giving yourself plenty of time to relax and explore the place, and you will be rewarded by discovering a very different side of Australia to the usual trail up the east coast seen by most visitors.