How to Plan a Driving Tour of Tasmania
Tasmania is fast becoming a tourist mecca and one needn’t ponder or wander for long to realise why.
Packed into this tiny little island parked off the coast of a somewhat larger island (or as the locals say, the ‘mainland’) there’s something for everyone in Tasmania.
Whether you’re into outdoor adventuring, gourmet local food, micro-brewed alcoholic beverages (cider, wine, whisky, gin, you name it!), eccentric festivals, mind expanding art, Australian wildlife or history – surely it’s an impossibility to get bored here.
But beneath the overwhelming rapture of Tasmania’s outward beauty, I found an unexpected kind of solace within. It was in the serene solitude of experiencing this little island paradise during the onset of Winter which provided me the most joyous of times.
On more occasions than not, I found myself in the following situations:
- Riding solo on the country roads (no snail trails of RVs)
- Feeling like the only human left on earth as I pitched my tent at the empty campsites (no late night bonfires and rowdy campers keeping me up past my bedtime)
- Basking in stunning mountain top vistas in complete solitude (no fighting the masses for the perfect Instagram picture)
Yes, these little perks of travelling Tasmania in the winter are some I’d rather keep to myself. So I’ll keep reinforcing popular thought that the cold and unpredictable weather isn’t worth it. Stay home. Don’t bother.
For those who are brave enough to venture down, here are a few little tips and highlights to help you in planning your future adventure.
I opted to take the self drive option, bringing myself and my car over the water via the Spirit of Tasmania. It’s a fun little adventure in itself but not necessarily the most economical option if you’re only coming over for a short time. In this case, simply fly into Hobart or Launceston and you can hire a car from there.
Self driving is the preferred mode of transport for most and what I would recommend as it allows you to make the most of the small island.
The roads are easily navigable even for the directionless like myself and coming from the mainland, I found myself in awe at how I could drive from North to South in half a day with rest stops and plenty of sightseeing in between.
Furthermore, this little state is easily the most RV and camping friendly place I’ve ever travelled.
Many small towns make a point to provide facilities for such (varying between free, by donation or paid). Some of my favourite nights were spent sleeping out under the stars in my tent (yes, while a little brisk, this is doable even for a tropical girl like myself).
While I spent plenty of time in Tasmania experiencing the natural wilderness through hiking and camping, I did also disperse my time between the gorgeous cities and country towns. I essentially did a loop from the north down the east coast, and back up to the north via the west. Here are just some of my highlights and recommendations.
Hobart & The South
Mt Wellington towers over the capital in a rather theatrical manner. You’ll be treated to jaw dropping views if you make the windy drive up but beware, the winds can be ferocious and bitterly cold, so dress accordingly.
The world famous MONA art gallery which put Hobart on the global artsy map, is considered a bit of an ‘art wank’ (their words, not mine) but one totally worth checking out. You may laugh, you may cry and you may be completely left without words. Come with an open mind and you will leave with a mind blown.
The foodie scene is alive and well in Hobart.
If you’re in town on a Saturday, make sure to stop by the famous Salamanca Markets, drawing in an abundance of locally produced food from the surrounding regions. From here, a stroll through the historic corner of Battery Point will leave you enchanted. While in the area, treat yourself to a famous scallop & wakame pie from Jackman & McRoss on Hampden Road.
I literally lost my mind in the buttery and flaky goodness of their pastry encasing Tasmania’s fresh seafood delights. The Pollen Tea Room across the road is a snug retreat in a quaint little cottage setting if the cold becomes too much to bear.
A short drive south west from Hobart, you’ll find yourself winding your way through the Huon Valley. Delight in the abundance of wineries, cideries and distilleries to suit every taste.
Here you’ll find apples and more apples.
I recommend stopping in at the Willie Smith’s cidery. They’re Australia’s largest supplier of organic apples and their little apple museum is very educating and entertaining. One can’t forget to mention their chic industrial cellar door and delicious cider. Did I mention it’s organic? Need I say more?
I also spent some time in Cygnet exploring the surrounding food scene. There’s so much going on here agriculturally and ecologically speaking – you might be challenged to rethink the plausibility of what’s possible on a small and ethical scale if ever you doubted it!
There are several walking trails around the Wineglass Bay National Park (above). I selected the 3 hour return hike up to Mt Amos as the clear blue day promised me pristine views over Wineglass Bay. Despite huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, I was not left disappointed.
Beware, this hike is not for the faint of heart. It’s a straight up climb traversing and scrambling over large boulders (which means you will probably end up sliding your way down on your bum in some places).
Do not, I repeat, do not attempt if raining, wet or you have a severe aversion to slipping off a rock and down the side of a mountain.
Mt Field National Park
Only a couple scenic hours from Hobart, the famous Russell Falls is nestled away at the base of the (sometimes) alpine ski fields of Mt Field National Park. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, head up to Lake Dobson, a 30 minute drive up the mountain from the visitor centre. From here, there are a number of hikes to select from with stunning vistas across the valley.
In the winter, the mountains are usually capped with a solid amount of snow so be wary if setting out for a day hike from here and come prepared. I speak from personal experience when I say, conditions can change rapidly and it can get quite perilous even faster.
Driving from the north to south along the east coast of Tasmania is an easy day’s drive allowing you to saunter your way around the many stunning white sandy beaches spotted with the famous red rocks. Popular stops include The Bay of Fires, Binalong and Friendly Beaches.
If you’re up for a night of camping, I would highly recommend Friendly Beaches. It’s a free camp site just north of Wineglass Bay and offers the most glorious sunrises over the ocean of a morning. The campsites are a plenty and you might even be greeted by a friendly local wombat or two!
Below: Sunrise at Friendly Beaches and a Common Wombat.
Launceston & Surrounds
Nothing describes Launceston as accurately than the word ‘adorable.’ It truly felt like a picture from a fairytale. Nestled at the feet of a hilly backdrop and greeted by the Tamar River, it maintains a more ‘country town’ appeal you won’t be able to help but fall in love with.
For the foodies, you can’t go past Bryher for their delectable modern twist using local produce. Amelia Coffee and Sweet Brew both serve up a delightful locally roasted cup of coffee. The Saturday markets are a treat if you’re looking to further stock up on delicious local food.
North of Launceston you’ll find the picturesque Tamar Valley. You’ll find no shortage of wineries and berry farms offering up tasting opportunities.
Just south, head to the quaint little historic village of Evandale. Or get lost on the back-roads weaving your way up north to the coast. I stopped in at Baker’s Beach for an afternoon walk and was treated to kilometres of unadulterated coastline all to myself. Truly spectacular.
Western & Central Highlands Wilderness
While the weather can certainly be more precarious the further west you go, it’s worth adding to your itinerary if times permits for the sheer contrast to the east coast. Other than my obvious recommendation to explore the mountains in and around the Overland Track (you can read more about this here), a drive out to the west is frequently overlooked.
From Derwent Valley to Queenstown and Strahan, you’ll be taken through some jaw-dropping scenery. Snow capped mountains on one side and lush forests on another. If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself cringing at the drabs of mining and logging still running its course in these areas.
Thankfully there’s still plenty of pristine wilderness being preserved to admire and (somewhat) offset the rather depressing reality of human impact.
North West Coast
Wrapping up my time in Tasmania, I drove along the North coast, stopping in at some of the coastal villages such as Penguin (yes, it’s home to penguins but they’re not around in the winter). The beaches here are gorgeous and quiet at this time of year (dare if you will to take a dip!).
I highly recommend the intensely steep (but very short) walk up the famous ‘Nut’ poking out from the small township of Stanley. It provides a lovely view looking back over the rolling green hills of farmlands and mountains.
Tasmania is home to some of the world’s most protected, isolated and thus, pristine wilderness.
While travelling around this glorious state, take steps to do your part in preserving this precious place. Be an eco-conscious traveller – take only photographs and leave only footprints (preferably on the marked trails so as to not further damage plant and animal life).