Hobart Round Trip: A Taste of Tasmania
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The phrase “Australian road trip” means something a little bit different to everyone. For some, it’s about driving for days through the dusty outback with scarcely a soul in sight. For others it’s a trip along the coastline, hopping from city to city with a bit of whale watching in between. But one of Australia’s road trip routes that is often overlooked is a road trip from Hobart in the wild and wonderful island state of Tasmania. Its southern climate and extensive tracts of forested wilderness makes it feel like you’ve arrived in an entirely different country, one that is just asking to be explored.
Those seeking an experience that’s a little out of the ordinary will find that picking up a campervan hire in Tasmania and striking out across this primeval landscape provides just that. This Tasmania itinerary, optimised for motorhome travel, will guide you through the very best that the state has to offer. Our Australia driving guide will keep you safe and confident on the road. Now #LetsGoMotorhome !
Leg 1 Hobart to Strahan
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Starting with the urban attractions of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital city, and heading out into the state’s World Heritage-listed wilderness, this leg of your journey is full of striking contrasts. As eager as you may be to head out on your way, remember to take a little time to explore Hobart first - this city has quite a few surprises in store for the inquisitive traveller no matter what time of year you choose to visit.
When it comes to a launch point for your Tasmanian odyssey, there’s no way that you can pass up the state’s capital, Hobart. This coastal city is brimming with exciting things to see and do: massive outdoor markets, wine tours, unique museums and one of the finest small orchestras in the world are just a few of the reasons that you should take the time to discover what this city has in store for you before picking up your motorhome hire and driving west on your great Tasmanian circuit.
While many of Australia’s regions are too hot to enjoy in the summertime, Tasmania’s cooler climes mean that summer is one of the very best times to be in Hobart. The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is a huge event here - the boats launch from Sydney on Boxing Day (December 26th), and their arrival in Hobart is celebrated as part of the city’s Summer Festival. There’s far more to this fest than just yacht racing though.
The Taste of Tasmania is a huge part of the festival, and while it highlights both local and international food and wine, Tassie delicacies are a special focus for Taste. Epicures will find themselves spoiled for choice, with a vast array of fine food and drink on offer over the course of the festival. If you are able to plan the start of your trip between late December and early January then you definitely should. Sampling the culinary delights of the Taste of Tasmania and getting caught up in the excitement as the yachts race into Hobart are experiences you really won’t want to miss.
No matter what time of year you visit Tasmania, Hobart’s Salamanca Market is still a must-see attraction. The market has a proud tradition stretching back to the 1970’s and today it’s become a hugely popular weekly event, beloved by tourists and locals alike. This is a great place to come to pick up some fresh produce, get a good look at the work of local artisans, enjoy a delicious breakfast/lunch from the food stalls or one of the nearby cafes and sample a few of the local delicacies. The market is held every Saturday (unless it falls on Christmas or Anzac Day) at Salamanca Place - it’s best to head along around mid-morning as most of the stalls will start packing up around 2:30.
Every city has its museums and to be honest, after a while they all start looking the same. But every now and again one will stand out by offering a strikingly different experience - and Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum stands tall amongst them. Commemorating the adventurous spirit of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition explorers who set out from Hobart in 1911, the museum has recreated the expedition huts that team wintered in. The huts still stand in Antarctica, the only physical vestige remaining on the frozen continent of early Australian Antarctic research, and Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum supports the ongoing preservation of these historical buildings. Head down to the Hobart waterfront to find this unique window into history on the corner of Argyle and Morrison Streets.
If you’ve got the kids along for the ride, one of the Hobart attractions you won’t want to miss is Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Children and adults alike will be able to get hands on with a variety of Aussie animals and see many others in lovingly crafted versions of their natural environment. What sets Bonorong apart as a truly extraordinary experience though is their special nighttime tours. Bundle up the kids in something warm, take the 30 minute drive north of Hobart and prepare to witness an entirely different side to Australia’s wildlife. Many of Bonorong’s denizens are nocturnal creatures, so seeing them come to life as dusk turns into night is a fascinating experience.
This barely scratches the surface of what the city has in store for you, but in spite of the many things to do in Hobart, there will come a time when you need to head onward and begin your journey, starting with a plunge into Tasmanian wilderness on the road from Hobart to Strahan.
About 45 minutes out of Hobart you’ll pass through New Norfolk, a town set on the banks of the Derwent River. While many may not wish to stop so soon after leaving the city, New Norfolk is a great place to pull over for a spot of morning tea and to admire the beautiful historical sites that the town has become famous for. One of Australia’s oldest churches, the grave of the first white woman to set foot on Australian soil, the country’s oldest synagogue - all are here in New Norfolk, along with many more beautiful old buildings. You may not stay long but it’s certainly worth at least having a wander around this history-steeped settlement.
Mount Field National Park
If you’re not in any particular rush to reach Strahan, taking a slight detour off course into Mount Field National Park is highly recommended. Right near the entrance to the park you’ll find the famous tiered cascades of Russell Falls along with a lovely picnic area. For some, this will be as far as they go into park before heading back onto the A10 toward Strahan but if you really want to taste the full potential of this park, you can head a little further in, to Lake Dobson where you’ll discover skiing areas (during the winter, of course) and day long walks through the Tassie bush. You may choose to bypass Mount Field altogether - admittedly it’s not directly on your way - but this place is such a scenic treat that it would be a shame not to mention it.
Assuming that you choose to forgo the scenery of Mount Field National Park (this won’t be the last well-loved national park on your journey) you’ll come across the small town of Tarraleah about an hour and half after you leave New Norfolk. Built in the 1930’s to accommodate those working on some of Australia’s first hydro-electric dams, the town has since undergone a multi-million dollar redevelopment, transforming it into a resort village. This is the sort of place that would be worth a standalone visit, if you like the sound of relaxing in a boutique luxury hotel, sampling some of the establishment’s fine wines and whiskeys and indulging in a spa treatment or two. Those who are just passing through can still enjoy a charming village pub and cafe along with a range of nature walks within easy reach.
Lake Saint Clair
Less than an hour up the road from Tarraleah you’ll come to Derwent Bridge, just to the south of the gorgeous Lake Saint Clair. Set in the midst of the Cradle Mountain - Lake Saint Clair National Park, this is the deepest lake in Australia, plunging to a depth of 200 metres. Despite the fact that this is a World Heritage listed area, a very special lodge is located here, one of only two resorts worldwide to be allowed within World Heritage territory. Lake Saint Clair Lodge has developed state of the art eco-friendly accommodation to ensure that the ecological integrity of the surrounding area is preserved, while at the same time offering visitors a serene, luxurious stay. Even if you’ve just come for the lake, the area surrounding Lake Saint Clair is perfect for a rest stop.
From Derwent Bridge it’s a little over an hour and a half to your final destination for this leg of the journey: the port town of Strahan.
Leg 2 Strahan to Devonport
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Welcome to Tasmania’s sparsely populated northwest. This is a region known for its delicious locally grown produce, wide open spaces and quaint little towns dotted across the landscape. From Strahan on the west coast to Devonport on Tasmania’s northern coast, this leg of your journey will be one of small delights. Don’t rush by the tiny towns and expansive landscapes, but take the time to enjoy each new vista and you’ll be surprised at the secrets you’ll uncover.
Founded in the 19th century to take advantage of Macquarie Harbour, Strahan has since become a centre for tourism in the region. For such a small place (Strahan’s permanent population is well under 1000) there are a remarkable number of things to do here - from steam trains to cruises, theatre to prison island tours, this town never fails to provide exciting tourism opportunities.
One of leading attractions in Strahan is the World Heritage Cruises. Although the entire voyage on one of these cruises will last for only 6 hours, the diversity of experiences is superb. Discover Australia’s oldest convict settlement ruins on Sarah Island, a brutal penal colony designed to strike fear in the hearts of hardened criminals - expert guides bring the era to life with tales of extreme adversity and human triumph. See the rugged majesty of South West National Park’s alpine vistas. Bask in the serenity of the Gordon River and step into the surrounding rainforest. Plus, there’s a freshly prepared buffet meal included in each voyage. Morning departures are the norm, leaving at 9:00 AM, although afternoon cruises are available from the 29th of December to the 20th of January.
Another well loved excursion near Strahan is a steam train journey on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. Starting from either Queenstown (about a 45 minute drive east of Strahan) or Strahan itself, take a step back in time to an age of hard-bitten pioneers, miners and railway workers. You can choose from one of three amazing experiences but no matter what route you opt for this will be a journey of discovery that’s bound to stay with you for many years to come.
Before you leave, there’s one more iconic Strahan experience that you have to try. The Ship That Never Was is Australia’s longest running play with more than 5000 performances, and there’s good reason for its longevity. Suitable for all ages, this is a history lesson and a rollicking comedy rolled into one - it’s received near universal acclaim as a fun and surprisingly informative night out. The show is live at the Richard Davey Amphitheatre in Strahan between the months of September and May. Even if you’re not normally a theatre-goer, make sure you attend this show.
A little less than an hour up the road from Strahan is the small town of Zeehan. For those looking to break up the journey before the long drive north, this is a great place to stop and discover a little bit of Tasmanian west coast history. The West Coast Heritage Centre gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of early pioneers - old mining machinery, locomotives, a blacksmith shop and an historic theatre that plays Edwardian films all help to transport you back to a simpler time.
Around two hours northeast of Zeehan, you’ll discover the northern coast of Tasmania and the port city of Burnie. This is a city that is home to artisans of many different kinds - from boutique paper makers to those who craft cheese from some of the finest milk in the world, Burnie hosts a huge amount of talent. A visit to The Cheese Shop is a must for dairy lovers, and those who are fond of a wee dram should definitely detour to Hellyers Road Distillery - an acclaimed whiskey distillery that takes tours and tastings 7 days a week.
If you’re keen to get out and about, stretching your legs after the long drive, call in to Fern Glade Reserve which is less than 4 kilometres out of the city centre. This tranquil heaven runs alongside the Emu River, offering visitors the chance to admire more than a dozen species of native orchids as the spring up beside the walking tracks, and even see platypus as they surface in the river.
Once you leave Burnie behind, it’s only another 40 minutes along the coast to the city of Devonport.
Leg 3 Devonport to Launceston
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It’s not a huge city, only slightly larger than nearby Burnie in fact, but in spite of that there’s plenty to catch your attention in and around Devonport. From chocolate factory to heritage home, antique emporium to cider brewery, you’ll find that this city at the mouth of the Mersey River has a quite a number of surprises in store for you.
*If you'd prefer to start your journey at this point, you can pick up a Devonport campervan rental.
When most people think of antique shops, the image of a cramped little store full of miscellaneous oddments comes to mind. But the acclaimed Antique Emporium in Devonport is something else entirely. 1600 square metres spread over 4 floors house fascinating old things from a variety of exotic places around the world. Of course you’ll find Australian antiques here, but the owners of Antique Emporium also spend up to 3 months every year travelling in places like India, Vietnam, China, Pakistan and Java to source unique artifacts that would never otherwise reach Aussie shores.
As if the singular nature and massive range of the antiques on offer wasn’t enough, the Emporium also features a two-story pirate ship, an old-fashioned lolly shop and a European garden centre. This place is certainly worth a visit, regardless of whether you’re an antique lover or not.
Just 15 minutes down the road from Devonport centre in the town of Latrobe is House of Anvers, a chocolate factory with a strong Belgian tradition and a dedication to using only the highest quality ingredients. For those interested in the origin of their favourite dairy confection, Anvers has a museum that traces chocolate’s journey from the ancient Aztecs to the modern day treat that we all know and love. If that sounds a little too academic, they also have a tasting centre where you can try out some free samples and browse through their selection of Tasmanian products. House of Anvers is unmissable for travellers with a sweet tooth.
Chocolate isn’t the only delicious thing available in the Devonport area for your taste testing pleasure. Spreyton Cider is based just 10 minutes south of Devonport, and well worth the short trip. The folk behind Spreyton Cider have been growing apples in the Spreyton valley since the early days of the 20th century, and although they’ve only turned to brewing cider in the last few years, the cidery is already garnering widespread acclaim. The tasting tour in particular has a stellar reputation - the cost is low, the cider is delicious and you get to take a bottle of your favourite flavour home with you. Plus you get an insight into how the stuff is brewed. Informative and tasty.
To get an insight into the history of the area, look no further than Home Hill. This former home of Tasmania’s only Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, is remarkably well preserved and is full of fascinating memorabilia from the early 1900’s - it even has the original furniture still in place. Lyons and his wife Dame Enid saw Australia through a tumultuous period that encompassed both the Great Depression and the Second World War, and getting a glimpse into their home life provides an entirely different perspective on this turbulent time.
Once you’ve explored Devonport to your heart’s content, it’s time to strike inland and ever eastward toward the city of Launceston.
Leg 4 Launceston to St Helens
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This leg of your journey will take you from a city steeped in history, past the quaint sights of northeast Tasmanian settlements, all the way back to the east coast of the island. Along the way you might discover a new favourite wine, get a glimpse of creatures that few have ever seen or glide above a massive fissure in the earth. Even when you’re far away from any major cities, Tasmania still has plenty to delight and surprise you.
*To start your trip here instead of Hobart, just pick up a Launceston campervan rental.
This is one of Australia’s oldest cities, having been settled by Europeans in 1806, and is still home to many historic buildings. There’s far more to this place than just history however. Launceston has become a major tourism centre in recent years thanks to its wide array of attractions and its central location in northern Tasmania. Whether you’re keen to catch a glimpse of rarely seen creatures, take in the grandeur of magnificent man-made wonders or just sample a fine vintage or two, Launceston is happy to oblige.
Launceston’s most well known and well loved attraction is arguably the Cataract Gorge. It’s only a short trip out to the gorge, around 15 minutes or so from the city centre, and in that brief time you’ll pass out of the urban environment into Launceston’s own piece of wilderness, a playground of both man-made and natural delights: walking and hiking trails, gardens, a suspension bridge - and the longest single span chairlift in the world. Constructed in 1972, this impressive structure spans the huge natural basin that is often filled by the waters of the South Esk River, stretching some 457 metres in total. Taking the trip high above the yawning void of the basin is an unforgettable (and very safe) experience. If you don’t consider yourself the adventurous type, that’s fine - the slow speed of the chairlift puts the emphasis firmly on scenic appreciation of the spectacular gorge rather than heart racing thrills.
Half an hour west of Launceston, in the Tamar Valley, is one of Australia’s most unique zoos. Tasmania Zoo is a privately owned, family run establishment with a strong emphasis on conservation. It has one of the largest collections of primates in any private Australian zoo, and is the only place in Australasia where you can see the strikingly distinctive Celebes Crested Macaque. Of course, you’d expect any Tasmanian zoo worth its salt to host the evasive yet ferocious Tasmanian Devil, and Tasmania Zoo certainly doesn’t disappoint. You won’t want to miss feeding time so make sure you get to the Tassie enclosure at 10:30am, 1:00pm or 3:30pm. The Zoo is also very reasonably priced, so it makes for the perfect family outing.
Tamar Valley has more waiting for you than just Tasmania Zoo however. This area is also famous for its wineries, with more than thirty cellar doors spread across this beautiful region. Fortunately it’s not hard to discover them, thanks to a series of distinctive yellow and blue signs pointing the way. Of course, driving yourself around the local vineyards isn’t the best idea as you’d have to miss out on trying all the different vintages but don’t despair - there are several different companies in the area offering winery tours so you can indulge in all that the Tamar Valley has to offer without having to fight over who’s the sober driver.
About an hour northeast of Launceston up the A3 you’ll come across Scottsdale. While this pretty little agricultural town might not be somewhere you’ll stop for long, consider taking enough time to enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat at the Scottsdale Art Gallery Cafe. This quaint little coffee house displays a range of local art and has garnered quite a bit of acclaim from the travellers who have passed through Scottsdale, Tasmania.
From Scottsdale just continue on the A3 for another hour and a half, and you’ll find yourself on the east coast of Tasmania once more, in the town of St Helens.
Leg 5 St Helens to Freycinet National Park
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You’ve now reached Tasmania’s beautiful upper east coast. This region is home to some of the most incredible nature reserves and national parks not only in Tasmania but in the whole of Australia. Make sure you plan enough time to really bask in the glory of these pristine places - whether you’re a Tassie local or visiting from the other side of the world, this is a place to be savoured.
A visit to St Helens is less about the town itself than the surrounding area. It’s not that the town isn’t a nice enough place - it certainly is, but in all honesty it’s outshone by the natural beauty all around it. Just to the north of the town is the Bay of Fires - Tasmania offers few finer coastal views; even Lonely Planet once declared the Bay of Fires to be the hottest travel destination in the world. So what exactly is there to do here?
The Bay of Fires Walk is a popular activity for many who come to the region. It’s a four day journey that allows you to really immerse yourself in this extraordinary environment. You won’t be roughing it either - a beautifully designed beach camp with timber floors and full kitchen facilities or a luxury eco-lodge await you at the end of the day. Not only that, but your guides will prepare mouthwatering three course meals from fresh local ingredients for you every night, to be enjoyed with a selection of Tasmanian wine. Natural beauty and ultimate luxury have never gone hand in hand so perfectly.
For those who would prefer to strike out on their own, St Helens makes for a perfect base for your forays into the Bay of Fires, allowing you to take day trips to discover the secrets of this special place before returning to your caravan park. Alternatively, the southern section of the Bay of Fires Conservation Area has a number of campsites that accommodate motorhomes including Grant’s Lagoon, Jeanneret Beach and Cosy Corner.
St Helens is also known as the game fishing capital of Tasmania, and for those who can imagine no better way to spend a day than pursuing “the big one”, chartering a boat and setting out in search of marlin and albacore is a great option.
You may be tempted to put down roots and stay in the Bay of Fires region forever but just remember that ahead of you, about an hour and a half down a winding, coastal section of the A3, is the legendary Freycinet National Park.
Leg 6 Freycinet National Park to Port Arthur
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You’re only a few hours away from Hobart now, but there’s still a whole world of experiences awaiting you before you come full circle. You’ve come to Freycinet National Park, one of Australia’s most well loved parks. Be aware that if you’re travelling between the 18th of December and the 10th of February, campground availability is subject to a ballot system - you’ll need to get in early to have a shot at a campsite.
Freycinet National Park
Although its picture perfect beaches and dramatic granite peaks are the stuff of dreams, Freycinet has flown under the radar of many holidaymakers because of its relatively remote Tasmanian location. This just makes it all the more special for those who are in the know - and once you’ve experienced it for yourself, you may find it difficult not to tell all your friends about this gorgeous place.
One particular highlight of the park, and a must-see location while you’re there, is Wineglass Bay. Freycinet National Park has many beautiful beaches, but Wineglass Bay stands head and shoulders above the lot of them. Declared to be among the top ten beaches in the world by multiple travel authorities, this perfectly formed paradise of silky sands surrounded by lush greenery and magnificent peaks seems too good to be true but Wineglass Bay, Tasmania is very much a real place.
Many choose to make the most of their time in the Wineglass Bay area by setting out on a day trip to Hazards Beach and back again. The 11 kilometre circuit takes about 4 to 5 hours to complete and takes visitors across a low, marshy isthmus with low granite hills rising periodically on either side. This walk best taken at a easy-going pace, stopping every now and again for a picnic or to walk on the beach for a while and dip your feet into the clear blue water.
For those searching for something a little more adventurous to do in Freycinet National Park, All4adventure offers All Terrain Vehicle tours. Departing from Coles Bay, this tour will take you along bush tracks, through forests of eucalyptus trees and off the beaten track to discover incredible vistas.
Great Oyster Bay
Once you manage to tear yourself away from the remarkable Freycinet, you’ll soon come to Great Oyster Bay, a broad, sheltered bay that is home to a spectacular array of sea life. Your journey from Freycinet down to Port Arthur will take you along the Great Oyster Bay coastline for many kilometres before you follow the A3 inland. While the sea is in sight, keep an eye out for dolphins and fur seals; these creatures often frequent the calm waters of the bay. If you’re travelling in winter you might even be lucky enough to spot whales, so keep your eyes peeled while you’re driving this stretch of road for the chance to see something amazing.
Instead of following the A3 on to Hobart, when the road divides stick to the A9 to discover one last extraordinary location before your trip comes to a close: Port Arthur.
Leg 7 Port Arthur to Hobart
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It might seem that you’re going well out of your way to visit Port Arthur, especially with your final destination almost in sight, but rest assured - there’s a good reason why this town is Tasmania’s top tourist attraction. Coming so close to this unique place without stopping by for a visit is quite simply unthinkable.
In the mid-1800’s, Port Arthur, Tasmania was a destination for the very worst of convicted British criminals. These were men who had reoffended once they reached Australia and rebellious inmates from other convict stations. After the prison closed it wasn’t long before people began to realise its potential as a tourism destination, and now, almost 150 years later, this place has become one of Australia’s most important heritage areas. Classified as an open air museum, the site has more than 30 buildings, ruins and restored period dwellings, set amidst 40 hectares of landscaped grounds.
Site entry tickets are valid for two consecutive days, and include a guided tour, museum access and a harbour cruise. The two day tickets are actually pretty handy as there’s a lot to take in here, and it’s best to discover these sights at a modest pace, considering the solemn tranquility of the atmosphere. There are even nighttime “ghost story” tours and the option to head out to the Isle of the Dead, Port Arthur’s old convict graveyard. If you’re not sure where to stay the night, Port Arthur Holiday Park is just one kilometre north of the town and offers both powered and unpowered sites. If you’re travelling during peak tourist season (i.e. over the summer months of December - February) it’s prudent to book well ahead of time to ensure that you get a spot.
There’s more to Port Arthur than just the historic prison site though. About 10 minutes south of the town, down Safety Cove Road, is Remarkable Cave. It would be easy to say that “the name says it all” but it really doesn’t - remarkable is far too mild an adjective to describe this awe-inspiring natural wonder. Just be aware that you do have to descend a series of about 150 steps to get there, so those with mobility issues may have to give this a miss. Otherwise, this is certainly a place you’ll want to experience before you leave Port Arthur.
Return to Hobart
At last the time has come to turn toward Hobart for your final hour and a half journey back to the point where it all started. Although you’ll soon be leaving the rich bushlands and beautiful beaches of Tasmania behind, there’s no doubt that they’ll stay fresh in your memory for a long time yet, and who knows - you may one day return to Tasmanian shores to rediscover old favourite landmarks or delve into completely new places and experiences. One thing is for sure: as much as you may have discovered this time, Tasmania will always have more to surprise you.