Circle Tasmania road trip
From the tranquil beaches of Tasmania’s east to the rugged mountains flanking the west, this six-day itinerary will leave you spellbound.
By Cole Latimer and Ellie Schneider
Circle Tasmania in six days, starting and ending your journey in the capital city of Hobart. This spectacular trip takes in the untouched beaches along the east coast, the rugged wilderness of the west and must-see attractions including Wineglass Bay, Cradle Mountain and the Bay of Fires.
What to expect
- Wander along deserted beaches and through lush fern forests
- Visit historic riverside towns
- Try the freshest Tasmanian seafood
- Time: 6 days
- Distance: 1,158 kilometres (720 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Hobart
- Price: $$$
Day 1: Hobart to Freycinet National Park
Start your day with a stroll among the pretty 19th century sandstone warehouses of Sullivans Cove in Hobart along the waterfront to Salamanca Place. The Salamanca Markets take place here every Saturday, when more than 300 stallholders sell everything from fresh produce to arts and crafts. Afterwards hop in the car for the 120-kilometre (75-mile) drive north – the views of Great Oyster Bay and Maria Island along the way are incredible. Stop at Swansea for a taste of freshly made jams at Kate’s Berry Farm and from here it’s a 45-minute drive to the seaside holiday village of Coles Bay, a great base for exploring Freycinet National Park. Enjoy a lunch of fresh Tasmanian seafood at Freycinet Marine Farm (the oysters are legendary), before heading into the national park. Choose whatever walk suits you, ranging from the easy 10-minute walk to Sleepy Bay to the challenging three-hour (return) walk to the summit of Mount Amos in the range of granite mountains known as the Hazards. Follow the Wineglass Bay lookout walk (90 minutes return) for spectacular views over the blond sandy arc and ice-blue water of Wineglass Bay. Camping in Freycinet National Park can be booked through the Freycinet Visitor Centre, or alternatively, there is a great range of accommodation in Coles Bay, Bicheno or Swansea.
Day 2: Freycinet National Park to Launceston
Drive 90 minutes north to St Helens, where you can swim, surf and tuck into fresh seafood or follow the one-hour return walk along the spectacular Peron Dunes. From St Helens it’s a short drive to Binalong Bay, the gateway to the Bay of Fires. This is a beautiful region of sandy beaches flanked by orange lichen-covered granite boulders. From here, head west to the tiny riverside village of Derby. Take either the 65-kilometre (40-mile) direct route or the scenic 2.5-hour drive through the Mount Victoria Forest Reserve. Derby is home to world-class mountain biking trails as well as lovely antique and craft stores. Continue along the road to Launceston, roughly 100 kilometres (62 miles) away, which is one of Australia’s oldest cities. In town you can visit art galleries and museums including the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery or the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania, while just a short walk from the city centre lies Cataract Gorge. Cross a suspension bridge above the water or ride the world’s longest single span chairlift. Spend the night at one of Launceston’s many delightful hotels.
If you have a day to spare, take a day trip north from Launceston. Golf enthusiasts will marvel at the beautifully designed Barnbougle Dunes Golf Links, located just an hour from Launceston by car. Alternatively, for something more laidback, head to Tamar Valley, which sits just north of Launceston along a calm estuary. Enjoy wines from over 20 vineyards that dot the shores of the valley.
Day 3: Launceston to Stanley
From Launceston, it’s a 30-minute drive west to the historic riverside town of Deloraine. Stop to browse local galleries and craft stores – the town hosts one of Australia’s biggest working craft fairs each November – and grab breakfast at a bakery. Then drive north for another 45 minutes until you hit Devonport, a bustling coastal city known for its great beaches and walking and cycling tracks. Stroll the waterfront, surf at the Bluff and row or sail the Mersey River. See wildlife at Narawntapu National Park, where kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and pademelons graze peacefully – you may even spot a Tasmanian devil. Head back along the coast for a leisurely hour long drive through the seaside villages of Ulverstone, Burnie and tulip-filled Wynyard. End the day an hour away in Stanley, a fishing village framed by the volcanic outcrop known as The Nut. Ride The Nut Chairlift to explore the plateau; a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) walk around the summit will reward you with sensational views. If you'd like to take your vantage point even higher, consider a scenic flight with Osborne Helitours. You'll take to the skies to gaze down upon dramatic coastline and off-shore islands. There's even a paddock to plate tour that combines the best of Tasmania's scenery and cuisine. After your feet are back on the ground, visit Stanley Village for boutique accommodation and a restaurant right on the waterfront.
Day 4: Stanley to Cradle Mountain
From Stanley, travel two hours inland to the World Heritage-listed wilderness of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Climb Cradle Mountain, walk around the mirrored waters of Dove Lake or begin the six-day, 65-kilometre (40-mile) Overland Track, all the way to Lake St Clair. Sit down to lunch at the upscale Highland Restaurant located within the luxury Cradle Mountain Lodge. To really appreciate the beauty of the national park, take a scenic flight with Cradle Mountain Helicopters. There are a number of flights to choose from, including trips above Dove Lake, Fury Gorge – Australia’s deepest gorge – Mount Ossa, and of course, Cradle Mountain. Alternatively, go fly fishing in the clear mountain streams and Dove Lake between September and April, or spot wallabies, wombats and possums on a nocturnal wildlife tour. Stay overnight at the family-friendly Cradle Mountain Hotel or at the incredible Pumphouse Point, a converted hydroelectric pumphouse suspended over the water.
Day 5: Cradle Mountain to Strahan
This morning you’ll follow the scenic route south along Anthony Road. This 100-kilometre (62-mile) drive, which passes through forests and shimmering lakes, will steer you to Queenstown, which once held the world's richest gold and copper mine. In Queenstown you can join an underground mine tour or walk among the wilderness to scenic lookouts. Enjoy lunch at The Empire, a grand landmark hotel, which hints at the grandeur of Queenstown's past. Just 45 minutes drive from Queenstown sits harbour-side Strahan, the gateway to Tasmania’s World Heritage-listed wild west. Spend the afternoon kayaking on Macquarie Harbour or walk along windswept Ocean Beach, the longest beach in Tasmania. At the end of the day, dine on fresh Tasmanian seafood at View 42° Restaurant & Bar at Strahan Village hotel.
Day 6: Strahan to Hobart
Travel along the Lyell Highway, back through the heart of Tasmania’s World Heritage-listed wilderness. Stop in Tarraleah, a 2.5-hour drive from Strahan, which was home to Australia’s first hydro-electric system. Many of the original 1930s-built cottages in the highland village have undergone restoration, some in stunning Art Deco style and don't forget to visit small luxury hotel The Lodge.
If you have the time, take a 100-kilometre (62-mile) side trip to Mount Field National Park, where you can bushwalk through lush fern forests to the spectacular Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls, and take in breathtaking views from the Tarn Shelf. Afterwards, check out the classic village square and specialty stores of New Norfolk, as well as the oldest salmon farms in the Southern Hemisphere. As you reach the outskirts of Hobart stop at Mona (the Museum of Old and New Art) to marvel at Australia’s largest privately owned art collection. Enjoy a meal at its onsite restaurant The Source, dining on inventive share plates while overlooking the River Derwent. Mona also offers luxury pavilions, each named after an influential Australian artist or architect, where you can stay the night.