The Tasman Peninsula is usually seen on a day trip from Hobart, but it deserves a few days to properly explore. Rent a car and escape the city for a weekend of spectacular scenery, native wildlife, and local delicacies.
By Ashlea Wheeler
It’s easy to see why the Tasman Peninsula, only an hour and a half drive from Hobart, is popular with visitors. This picturesque destination has stunning beaches that are nearly empty of people, rolling hills topped with deep green gum trees, towering sea cliffs, hikes through national parks, and an abundance of native animals that you are nearly guaranteed to see up close.
- Explore the ruins of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Port Arthur historic site.
- Spot fur seals, dolphins, and whales on a wilderness cruise along the rugged coastline.
- Sample some local delicacies such as lavender flavoured ice-cream, sloe gin, or sugar-free dark chocolate.
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Top things to do on the Tasman Peninsula
Visit the Port Arthur historic site
You can’t go to the Tasman Peninsula without visiting Port Arthur. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic site was one of the earliest convict settlements in Australia back in the 1800s and is now officially Tasmania’s most visited tourist attraction. Entry to the historic site is AUD $39 and your ticket includes a walking tour and a harbour cruise. The site is spread over an extensive landscape of gardens and building ruins, so prepare to spend a few hours exploring the grounds and learning about the convict history.
Do a wilderness cruise
A Tasman Island Wilderness Cruise with Pennicott Journeys is a must. This three hour cruise has won a large number of tourism awards, which is unsurprising considering just how amazing and unique this experience is. The cruise departs from Port Arthur and will take you around Tasman Island and up the coastline to Eaglehawk Neck. On the way, you’ll hopefully spot some ocean gulls, mutton birds, pods of bottlenose dolphins, migrating humpback whales, as well as Australian and New Zealand fur seals lazing about on the rocks. The cruise takes you by towering sea cliffs which are the tallest in the southern hemisphere at 300 metres (328 yards) high. There are also intriguing sea caves, massive rock arches, and waterfalls that flow down the cliff face along this spectacular coastline.
See Tassie Devils
Tasmanian Devils (affectionately known as Tassie Devils) are an endangered species, and it’s unlikely that you’ll see them in the wild. One place to see the devils in captivity is at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo on the Tasman Peninsula. This wildlife park is part of the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Project, making it a haven for the devils who can live in a setting similar to their natural environment. The Unzoo has four large enclosures which house kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons, quolls, possums, devils, and a selection of native birds. It’s also unique in that it has a glass dome that pops up from underneath the devil enclosure, so if you stick your head up into the dome while the devils are nearby, you may get a much closer look!
Hike the Three Capes Track
The Three Capes Track is one of Tasmania’s top hiking trails. This four day, 46 kilometre (29 mile) trek on the Tasman Peninsula is drawing visitors with its scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and rugged Tasmanian coastline. The trailheads are located at Fortescue Bay and Denmans Cove, and if you’d prefer a shorter hike you can attempt smaller sections of the trail from either end. The Cape Hauy track from Fortescue Bay is a popular choice as this easy to moderate trail takes three to four hours return and offers spectacular views as it follows the rim of massive sea cliffs. If you prefer your adventure with a side of luxury, experience this beautiful coastline on the Three Capes Lodge Walk. This guided walk includes gourmet food, Tasmanian wines and luxury accommodation in purpose-built lodges.
See incredible rock formations
One of the distinguishing features of the Tasman Peninsula is its rugged, rocky coastline. Once you pass Eaglehawk Neck, there are a few stops where you can pull over to see some of the rock formations. Tessellated Pavement is arguably the most famous. The flat rocks here have a naturally formed criss-cross pattern from fractures in the rock, and the tide often leaves pools of water sitting in the rectangles to create a reflective surface, making it popular with photographers at sunset. Some other rock formations to see are Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen, and the Blow Hole.
Frolick in a lavender field
Tasmania is well known for its vibrant purple lavender fields. The Port Arthur Lavender Farm on the Tasman Peninsula is one of the most picturesque, with endless rows of lavender grown beside a reflective lake. Visit in the summer months (December to February) to see the flowers in full bloom, and don’t forget to try some delicious lavender-infused ice cream or fudge from the café. Afterwards, check out the gift shop to purchase some delicious-smelling souvenirs such as lavender soaps, scented soy candles, or lavender tea.
Sample some local gin
McHenry Distillery is located down a long dirt road that winds its way into the middle of a forest. This hidden gem is actually the southernmost distillery in Australia and produces a range of top quality gins and whiskies. Try a few free samples of the sloe gin or barrel-aged gin, or for AUD $10 you can taste test the exceptional single malt whiskey. Free tours of the property are also an option, so you can see what goes on behind the scenes at this country distillery.
Indulge in a chocolate tasting
The perfect place to indulge is the Federation Chocolate Factory, located in the town of Taranna. This artisan chocolate shop uses as many local ingredients as possible in their products, and offers unique flavours like Apple & Cinnamon or Brandied Apricot. There are also a range of vegan chocolates available, including a sugar-free dark chocolate for those who want a healthier treat.
How to get there
Driving is the easiest way to get to the Tasman Peninsula. You can rent a car from Hobart Airport or Hobart city and drive towards Port Arthur. The journey takes around 1.5 hours and is very scenic, with lovely green rolling hills and farmland along the way.