Port Arthur Historic Site, Port Arthur, Tasmania
Set out from Hobart to discover waterfalls, convict history, beaches, caves and a fine smorgasbord of cheese, oysters, cider and wine, and be back in the city in time for dinner.
By Andrew Bain
From Hobart, southern Tasmania peels open for exploration. Nothing here is more than about a two-hour drive from the capital city, and yet every road brings something fascinating and different. You can find yourself at the end of the most southerly road in Australia, or overlooking the country's highest sea cliffs, or simply tucking into the freshest lunch imaginable direct from the producers.
Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula
Australia's most famous colonial penitentiary, Port Arthur, is 90 minutes drive east of Hobart. Along the way, fuel up (your body, not your car) at the Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed outside of Dunalley, where you can sip and eat in sight of the oyster leases and vines. At Eaglehawk Neck, walk across the curious patterned geology of the Tessellated Pavement then detour to Waterfall Bay for a view along the coast towards Australia's highest line of sea cliffs. Allow a few hours at Port Arthur to tour the prison and the former town settlement before returning to Hobart.
Mount Field National Park
Tasmania's oldest national park, Mount Field National Park, is 75 kilometres (47 miles) west of Hobart, at the end of a beautiful drive through the Derwent Valley. From the park visitor centre, it's a 10-minute walk to one of Tasmania's most famous waterfalls, rainforest-wrapped Russell Falls. Drive up the mountain to Lake Dobson and walk around its shores to the Pandani Grove, a stunning stand of Tasmania's striking pandani trees, a subalpine plant found only in Tasmania. As you return to Hobart, grab afternoon tea on the deck of the Possum Shed in Westerway – platypuses are regularly sighted in the river below.
Just a 30 minute drive from Hobart is the cute-as-a-button historic town of Richmond. Wander through its colonial-style stores then stroll down to the river to the convict-built Richmond Bridge, constructed in 1825. From Richmond, drive 10 minutes through the vineyard-lined Coal Valley to lunch in style at Frogmore Creek Winery. In the afternoon, head out to the excellent Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can meet and learn about Tasmanian devils and other native animals.
Elongated Bruny Island is accessed via a short car-ferry ride from Kettering, 30 kilometres (19 miles) south of Hobart. See the island's imposing cliff-lined coast on a three hour boat trip with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys then graze your way through the island's gourmet treats at the Bruny Island Cheese Company, Get Shucked oyster farm, Bruny Island Premium Wines and the Tasmanian House of Whisky. Visit the Cape Bruny Lighthouse, built in 1838, and climb the steps to the top of the sand dunes on the Neck – the sandy isthmus that holds the island together – for a spectacular view along the island's coast.
See how Tasmania earned its nickname of the "Apple Isle" in the Huon Valley, south of Hobart. At Willie Smith's Apple Shed journey through the state's apple history in the museum and learn about Tasmania's booming cider industry. Admire the artistry of wooden boat construction at the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin then wander high through the forest canopy on the Tahune AirWalk, poised above the Huon River. Drive back to Hobart beside the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, stopping to sample the sheep's cheese and sheep whey vodka at Grandvewe Cheeses.
Cockle Creek and Hastings Caves
Go as far south as roads will take you, and still be only two hours from Hobart. Drive through the Huon Valley and on past Dover and Southport, turning into Hastings Caves for a tour of the subterranean world of stalagmites and stalactites. Bring your swimming gear and you can also take a warm soak in the adjoining thermal springs. At Lune River, the World War II-era Ida Bay Railway can take you through thick bush to a remote slice of coast at Deep Hole Bay. The road ends at Cockle Creek in the gorgeous Recherche Bay. Stroll along the beach here before turning back for the picturesque late afternoon drive to Hobart.
Oatlands and Ross
Journey north into the Midlands, where Tasmania's rural heart boasts a striking collection of colonial architecture. About an hour's drive north of Hobart, Oatlands has the largest collection of sandstone Georgian buildings in Australia. The 1837 Callington Mill still turns out flour and welcomes visitors. Further north, the elegant Ross Bridge, constructed by convict stonemasons, is Australia's third-oldest bridge. On the drive back to Hobart, detour to Kempton for a whisky tasting and a tour of Redlands Distillery, located inside a grand coaching inn built in 1842.
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