Hit the road on a driving circuit of the stunning island state of Tasmania. You’ll discover remote wilderness, intriguing art and heart-pumping adventure.
By Lara Picone
What to expect
- Experience dramatic landscapes at Cradle Mountain, the Bay of Fires and Wineglass Bay
- Explore the rare and pristine wilderness in Tasmania’s remote south-west
- Put your limits to the test with daring outdoor adventures
- Time: 8 days
- Distance: 1,061 kilometres (660 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Hobart
- Price: $$
Journey from Hobart to the pristine south-west wilderness and around to the east coast, and you’ll be floored by Tasmania’s incredible beauty. This road trip will introduce you to captivating scenery, adrenaline-inducing adventure and a culture attuned to the land underneath your feet. You might even learn something about yourself along the way.
Day 1: Hobart
Welcome to Hobart, Australia’s second-oldest and most southerly city. Sitting under the protective peak of kunanyi/Mount Wellington and huddled around the shoreline of the Derwent River, historic Hobart is one of Australia’s must-visit destinations. An incredible art scene is combined with fascinating convict and colonial history, all set against the backdrop of stunning natural beauty. This harbour city, with its offbeat vibe, is the perfect place to begin your exploration of Australia’s smallest state. Orient yourself with the hop-on, hop-off Mt Wellington shuttle, before strolling through the city centre to land in Salamanca just in time for aperitivo hour. Try the delicious cocktails of locally distilled spirits at Botanica Bar and The Den or, if you’re there on a Friday, head to the free weekly music event Rektango at Salamanca Arts Centre. If you're interested in wacky and wonderful art, head to the state's most famous museum, Mona. The coming days promise plenty of adventures, so tuck yourself in at the Alabama Hotel for a good night’s rest.
Day 2: Hobart to Queenstown
Inhale deeply. Tasmania has some of the cleanest air in the world - and you can feel it. The south-west corner of Tassie is true wilderness, so prep yourself for the adventure with a strong coffee just a 30-minute drive from Hobart at Badger’s Bike Cafe in New Norfolk. Roam the town’s vintage stores before continuing west for about three hours to Queenstown. If you have extra time, stop in Mt Field National Park to go hiking or take the Franklin River Nature Trail, a perfect introduction for novice hikers. It’s not called the wild west coast without reason and real heart-racing adventure awaits. This is the place to test yourself and learn to better understand the power of teamwork. Start with white-water rafting at King River, just out of Queenstown, or consider spending a few extra days venturing deep into the wilderness on a five-day Franklin River rafting tour. If you’re feeling truly brave, abseil the 140-metre (450-foot) drop at Gordon Dam with Aardvark Adventures. You’ll find a much-needed hot shower and soft bed in nearby Queenstown.
Day 3: Queenstown to Cradle Mountain
Whichever way you turn at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, there’s a shot worthy of Instagram. Once you’ve got the perfect photo, pocket the phone and begin the two-hour Dove Lake Circuit. This walk follows a largely boardwalked trail that hugs the shoreline and is surrounded by the towering peaks of Cradle Mountain. You're likely to spot wombats, wallabies and pademelons along the route. If you’re keen to master something a bit more serious, book a canyoning tour with Cradle Mountain Canyons. Don’t miss a visit to Devils@Cradle to meet the bashful local Tasmanian devils. After all that, bed down at Waldheim Cabins.
Day 4: Cradle Mountain to Launceston
If hiking is your idea of the perfect holiday, you could easily spend several days in Cradle Mountain discovering its trails. But if time is precious, rise early to start the 2.5-hour drive towards Launceston. “Launnie” is the gateway to the the nearby Tamar Valley, a stunning area famous for its sparkling wine and pinot noir, as well as delicious fresh produce. Fuel yourself with espresso from Sweetbrew and replace your fat stores from yesterday’s hike with buttery baked goods from Bread + Butter. If it’s a Saturday, fill your pockets with take-home treats from the Harvest Market, before exploring the city’s art scene at Design Tasmania. Perhaps one of the most remarkable features of Launceston is the dramatic natural Cataract Gorge, just a short stroll away. You could spend a lazy afternoon in this free urban retreat, lolling on the grassy lawns and dangling your feet in the swimming pool. Or you could take an affordable one-hour tour with Walk Cataract Gorge. Skip back to the city for craft beer and food truck feasts at Saint John Craft Beer Bar before slipping into a futuristic sleep capsule at Pod Inn.
Day 5: Launceston to Bay of Fires
This morning you'll be heading eastward towards the Bay of Fires. Be sure to factor in a few hours to experience one of northern Tasmania’s most popular attractions, mountain biking. Blue Derby is the epicentre of fun for cyclists and you can hire a bike in town to ride the free trails. Once your heart has resumed its normal pace, continue the drive to the astonishing beautiful Bay of Fires (about a 1.5-hour drive from Derby). This 50-kilometre (30-mile) stretch of coast is renowned for its bright-orange lichen-covered rocks, blindingly white sands and beckoning blue water. The uncommon arrangement of colour has earned the Bay of Fires a place on almost every Instagrammer's bucket list. Take it all in before continuing south for 40 minutes to St Helens. Grab a beer at Social with fellow adventurers and, if the budget allows, spend the night at Bay of Fires Bush Retreat and get up for a sunrise paddleboard in the stillness of the morning at Binalong Bay.
Day 6: Binalong Bay to Coles Bay
As you cruise the east coast towards Wineglass Bay (just under a two-hour drive south from St Helens), top up your morning coffee quota at Swims. This low-key cafe housed in a recycled shipping container keeps it simple with good coffee and humble toasted sandwiches, but it’s enough to fortify you for a three-hour kayak tour in the spectacular Freycinet National Park with Freycinet Adventures. Back on land, take the Wineglass Bay Lookout walk to survey the beauty below. After two days of wholesome, open-air exploration, the lure of a little wine tasting might be too powerful to ignore. Nominate a designated driver, then wind your way to Swansea for the night via the East Coast Wine Trail, stopping at some of the area's best cellar doors such as Devil’s Corner, Milton and Spring Vale.
Day 7: Swansea to Port Arthur
Break up the 2.5-hour drive from Swansea to the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur with a stop at the naturally cubist formations of the Eaglehawk Neck Tessellated Pavement. Connecting the Tasman Peninsula with Tasmania, this narrow isthmus is seemingly “paved” with a pattern of rectangular pools, making for incredible Instagram photo ops. Muse over this environmental marvel with a coffee at the dramatically backdropped Cubed, but don’t delay too long. Port Arthur’s ghosts are expecting you this evening. Entry to this historic colonial convict site covers two days, but the Ghost Tour will set you back a small additional fee and perhaps a good night’s sleep thanks to the chills down your spine. Spend the night nearby, as the lure of this absorbing penal colony will draw you back again in the morning.
Day 8: Port Arthur to Hobart
After your adventurous week, it’s time to head back to the city and treat yourself to a good brunch at Room For A Pony, Pigeon Hole or the sustainable Born In Brunswick. Then head to Brooke Street Pier and hop on the 30-minute fast ferry to experience the internationally acclaimed Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). The spectacular, river-fronted building is no ordinary museum. Housing some boundary-pushing collections and hosting two wild festivals (Mofo in summer and Dark Mofo in winter), Mona has a contemporary and sometimes confronting spirit. Go for the art but stay for a drink or two at Wine Bar or the onsite craft brewery Moo Brew. Continue the merriment back in town at Preachers on the Salamanca bar strip for a beer and burger. If you’ve finished your stay in Tasmania with a little money left in your pocket, end big and splurge on a six-hour Par Avion Ultimate Wilderness Adventure. Soar above the jagged, desolate coastline in a small plane before landing in the heart of Tassie's wilderness. This trip will spark a serious respect for the island's natural environment and is guaranteed to end your journey on an absolute high.
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