Tasmanian travel writer Andrew Strikis of Lap of Tasmania shares the best things to do in Tasmania on a road trip around the Australian island.
On the other side of the world – an island off an island – Tasmania is the slice of paradise you never knew you needed.
Even among Aussies on ‘mainland’ Australia, Tasmania is seen as something a little bit quirky – a little bit different.
Its colonial history and slow pace of life have been the traditional attractions, but recent years have revealed its other, more exciting talents to curious travelers.
Things to do in Tasmania
From the golden beaches of the sun-drenched East Coast to the raw, brooding energy of the West Coast Wilds, Tasmania is a nature lover and photographer’s idyll.
From the effervescent wineries of the Tamar to the vibrant festivals of Hobart city in the south, it is a foodie’s dream.
The best thing? The island is tiny, making road trips the perfect way to explore Tasmania’s rivers, valleys, and snow-dusted alpine peaks.
What to see on a Tasmania Road Trip
Click on this link for your map of this Tasmania Road Trip.
Two weeks on the island is ideal, and these are 11 of the most amazing things you can do while completing your very own Lap of Tasmania.
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1. Sip and stroll up the Tamar Valley
On the banks of the Tamar River is Launceston, Tasmania’s second-largest city and a fantastic place to base yourself for your first night or two on the island.
Check for accommodation in Launceston and reviews on our go-to booking sites.
Cataract Gorge is a real highlight and you could easily spend a half-day walking the trails, soaking up the views from the world’s longest single-span chairlift, or simply relaxing on the lush lawns by the riverside.
A drive up the Tamar Valley is a must.
Tamar Valley Wine Route
Dozens of wineries dot the western bank between Launceston and Beauty Point, and this is where you’ll find some of Tassie’s best cool-climate vino.
Wines for Joanie is one of the prettiest options, while at Holm Oak Winery after a sip or two you can say g’day to Pinot d’Pig!
Foodies won’t go disappointed, as the region has experienced an explosion in gourmet options in recent years.
Breakfast at Stillwater is a real treat, while Bryher has built a fierce reputation as one of the region’s best lunch options.
2. Soak up the Colours of Bay of Fires
The Bay of Fires is a very special corner of Tasmania, and you’ll never forget your first glimpse of its russet rocks, white sand, and turquoise water.
It’s a kaleidoscope of colours – very Insta-friendly – and Binalong Bay is the best place to stay a night and experience this natural wonder.
Binalong Bay is a tiny town full of holiday shacks, bobbing boats and friendly faces.
The short coastal drive to The Gardens is wonderful, and you can either continue through the dunes by foot to find your own secluded paradise or do a boat tour with Bay of Fires Eco Tours.
- Hot tip – Walk down to the Binalong Bay foreshore at sunrise to see its iconic ‘Lone Tree’!
3. Relax on world-class beaches at Freycinet National Park
You could easily spend a week slowly cruising down the gorgeous East Coast of Tasmania on your way to Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park.
A seafood lunch at the seaside town of Bicheno is recommended, before scrambling across the rocks to see its famous blowhole.
Coles Bay isn’t much further down the coast, and after a delicious oyster or two from Freycinet Marine Farm you could either settle in at your accommodation or grab a few photos of the iconic ‘Hazards’ silhouetted against the sunset sky.
If there is one walk you must do in Tasmania it’s the hike to Wineglass Bay.
This beach inside Freycinet National Park has been voted among the world’s Top 10, and when you emerge from the eucalypt-scented forest you’ll see why. It is simply stunning, with its pure, white sand curving perfectly towards the horizon.
If you’re not up for a 2-3hr return hike you’ll be pleased to know you can also stop half way at the Wineglass Bay lookout and get some fantastic photos.
4. Learn about convict history at Port Arthur (and see a Tassie Devil)
Port Arthur on the rugged Tasman Peninsula is one of Tasmania’s most popular destinations, and while it is beautiful there are important lessons to be learned as you wander the jumbled ruins and impeccably manicured lawns of this incredible UNESCO World Heritage site.
Only 200 years ago Tasmania was one of the British Empire’s harshest, most brutal penal colonies. It didn’t take much to be deported to ‘Van Dieman’s Land’, as it was known then, and Port Arthur was where the worst of the worst offenders would often see out their days.
It’s a thought-provoking experience, so we recommend allowing at least a half-day at Port Arthur.
Plenty of other attractions are scattered across the Tasman Peninsula, such as Remarkable Cave, the Tessellated Pavement, the delicious treats of Federation Chcocolate, and the iconic Three Capes hiking trail.
The Three Capes track also one of the best places on the island to get up close and personal with a Tasmanian Devil!
5. Immerse yourself in Hobart’s exciting festivals
With the icy waters of the Derwent River lapping at its feet, and the soaring cliffs of Mt Wellington for its pillow, Hobart is one of the prettiest cities in Australia.
Its reputation as a sleepy backwater has well and truly been blown away in recent years. The city has undergone an amazing transformation and is now one of Australia’s hottest festival destinations.
Things to do in Tasmania in Winter
Visiting Tasmania in winter? That’s when things really heat up!
Tasmania is famous for its fresh food and delicious wines, and the best place to try it all in one place is the annual Taste of Tasmania foodie festival held between Christmas and New Years Day.
With a glass of bubbles and a tasting plate in hand, there’s no better place to watch the finish of the Sydney-to-Hobart sailing race or to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Dark MOFO festival is a crazy mix of bizarre art, wacky theatre, and more great food and drink. You can even join 20,000+ other loonies in a winter solstice swim!
Despite these incredibly exciting festivals, Hobart is a quiet place for much of the year and it’s the perfect place to base yourself for a few days, taking day trips to the Huon Valley, Bruny Island, and the Coal River Valley.
6. Experience the holy duo – Mount Wellington and MONA
Ask a local about the two things they recommend that every visitor should experience in Hobart and we guarantee Mt Wellington and MONA will be at the top of the list.
Mt Wellington is impossible to ignore, rising high above the city with its alpine cap, fluted columns and lush, rainforest-clad slopes.
A drive to the 1,200m summit is easy in your own vehicle or with a guided tour, or if you’re really keen you can hike one of the many trails from its base all the way to the top.
On reaching the summit your jaw will hit the floor. It’s got to be one of the best views in Australia – especially at sunrise – sweeping up the picturesque Derwent Valley, across Hobart and the Tasman Bridge, and down the d’Entrecasteaux Channel to Bruny Island and beyond.
Hobart – MONA
On returning to Hobart and a quick lunch at either Dandy Lane or Tom McHugos, hop over to Brooke Street Pier and catch the quirky ferry to the Museum of Old and New Art – more commonly known as MONA.
This eclectic museum put Hobart and Tasmania on the map when it opened in 2011.
The exhibitions are world-class and downright bizarre. Thought-provoking, funny, smelly at times, artistically challenging, and very, very adult!
Hot tip – For a little extra, upgrade to a ‘Posh Pit’ ferry ticket for complimentary drinks and canapes in their exclusive lounge as you cruise up the Derwent River!
7. See a platypus and explore the waterfalls of the Derwent Valley
As much as we love experiencing the most popular attractions around the world, there’s something special about taking the road less-traveled and discovering the local gems that fly under the radar.
The Derwent Valley is often treated as an afterthought for road trippers heading to the West Coast Wilds, but we recommend spending at least a couple of days in this lush valley, on the doorstep to the great South West Wilderness.
In the lower valley is the pioneering town of New Norfolk – just 30 minutes from Hobart – where you can enjoy a cheeky drink at Australia’s oldest pub at The Bush Inn.
And as you slowly wind your way north along the broad banks of the Derwent there’s hop fields, pick-your-own raspberry farms, and even a beautiful salmon pond where you can go platypus spotting!
Russell Falls, at the foot of Mount Field National Park, is without doubt the biggest attraction in the area, and the short walk to this graceful waterfall is easily accessible no matter what your level of fitness or mobility.
Keep an eye out for the multi-coloured mushrooms during fall.
Tarraleah and Tungatinah
Then, continuing north there are the hydro towns of Tarraleah and Tungatinah, shrouded in the ethereal mists of the Tassie highlands.
The Wall in the Wilderness is a must-see – more than 100m of hand carved panels of Tasmanian timber telling stories of Tasmania’s colonial past – before reaching the glacial waters and magic hiking trails of Lake St Clair.
Hot tip – For a room with a view, stay the night at Pumphouse Point and you’ll feel like you’re floating on the lake!
8. Embrace your wild side on Tasmania’s West Coast
If you want to escape the rat race and experience nature at its most raw, then you’ll love Tasmania’s wild West Coast.
Cold streams race and leap their way down craggy, misty ranges to be swallowed by dank, lush rainforests and mirror-still harbours.
Pioneering railways eke their way up through the gorges, whispering of fortunes built on gold, tin and copper in one of earth’s toughest, most brutal landscapes imaginable.
Descend from Derwent Bridge down to the lunar landscape of Queenstown.
As you drive along the winding road to harbour-side Strahan it’s hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for the early settlers to forge a pathway through this ancient land. They not only survived, but ultimately flourished.
The mining hey-day is over and tourism is now the main attraction. An overnight stay in Strahan is a popular option, but to make the most of the region we suggest staying at least two nights.
Search for accommodation in Strahan and reviews on our go-to booking sites.
Tassie’s West Coast is wild alright, so don’t forget your rain jacket!
Things to do near Strahan
A cruise on Macquarie Harbour to the Gordon River is a must.
This fantastic tour will show you so much that remains hidden from the road, like Sarah Island penitentiary, the fury of Hell’s Gates, and the pristine waterways and ancient Huon pines of the Gordon River.
The other option we strongly recommend is either a half-day or full-day tour on the West Coast Wilderness Railway, departing from both Queenstown and Strahan.
This gorgeously restored steam train is a lot of fun, taking you deep into the rainforest where you can learn more about the trials and tribulations of the hardy pioneers that settled the region.
9. See iconic Cradle Mountain
Probably the natural attraction for which Tasmania is most famous is Cradle Mountain.
Located at the northern end of the UNESCO Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is Cradle Mountain.
The jewel of the north and only a couple of hours drive from Strahan or Launceston, or a 5-hour drive from Hobart.
Its unique profile is instantly recognisable, and if the conditions are right you can even see it with the southern lights dancing in the background!
Cradle Mountain is so much more than just a mountain though, with plenty of things to do for at least a couple of days.
Things to do at Cradle Mountain
- Adrenaline junkies will have a blast abseiling down its canyons and floating along its cool streams in summer.
- Nature lovers could spend hours wandering the many trails that criss-cross the park – the Dove Lake circuit is easy but rewarding – spying furry wombats or Tasmanian devils after dark.
- The famous multi-night Overland Track starts nearby (you can do it in luxury if you like!)
- If you love the arts you can chill out with some of the world’s best short films at the annual Cradle Mountain Adventure Film Festival.
- You can also enjoy a different perspective on Tasmania’s outback through the lens of Tasmania’s best landscape photographers at the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery.
Accommodation options are plentiful in nearby Cradle Mountain Village, or for a lower rate you could stay in the pretty ‘Mural Town’ of Sheffield.
Hot tip – Don’t forget to buy a Tasmanian Parks Pass online or from the Visitor Centre.
If you plan on visiting a few parks during your Tasmania road trip (eg. Freycinet, Mt Field or Cradle Mountain) then the ‘Holiday Pass’ is the best value.
10. Climb ‘The Nut’ and wander the Tarkine Rainforest
Speaking to other travellers, it seems many people drive straight through to Launceston after their visit to Cradle Mountain.
What they don’t realise is that they are missing out on two of Tasmania’s best natural attractions
- the ‘Nut’ at Stanley,
- and the nearby Tarkine Drive.
As you drive into the pretty village of Stanley it’s impossible not to notice the enormous volcanic ‘plug’ of rock on which it sits.
There’s a thigh-busting trail you can take to the top, but for the best 360-degree views you can take the chairlift instead.
After a light lunch in one of Stanley’s cafes you’ll be fueled up and ready for your half-day mini road trip through the Tarkine – home to the world’s second-largest cool temperate rainforest.
The Tarkine Drive takes you on a 70km loop from the graceful rock arch of Trowutta, through the tall trees of the Milkshake Hills.
You’ll pass the cool temperate rainforest of the Julius River Forest Reserve, and go up to the sweeping views from Sumac Lookout.
There are plenty of walking trails scattered along the route, providing fantastic opportunities to get close to the Myrtle forests and flooded sinkholes of this ancient relic of Gondwanaland.
11. Taste Tasmania’s gourmet delights along the Cradle Coast
Tasmania’s north is lush and green making it one of the most beautiful places to visit in Australia. Many call Tasmania it the breadbasket of Australia.
If you’re a foodie you’ll be in heaven as you drive from Stanley back to Launceston.
There are so many places to stop and have a nibble that they’ve even created a road trip route called the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail.
Top Foodie Picks
If we had to narrow it down to our favourite eats, it would be:
- The gourmet chocolates from House of Anvers (near Latrobe),
- The cheese from Ashgrove Cheese
- And something sweet from Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm.
- Stop for lunch at Tuckshop at Barringwood is also a great option.
And for a delicious wine or two you’ll love Barrington Vineyard and Ghost Rock Vineyard – but don’t forget to nominate a designated driver for the day.
Whether you’re catching the ferry back to the mainland from Devonport or flying out from Launceston, a lazy day of gazing on the Cradle Coast is the perfect way to finish up your perfect Tasmania road trip.
Getting to Tasmania
Flights depart from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to Hobart and Launceston.
You can also take a ferry from Melbourne to Devonport. The Spirit of Tasmania is a car ferry from the mainland starting at $99 AUD.
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Andrew is an award-winning travel writer, foodie and photographer from Tasmania who runs the website Lap of Tasmania
Together with his wife he enjoys exploring Tasmania by road – eating all the pies – while helping others plan and enjoy their own Lap of Tasmania road trip.
Cradle Mountain Photo Credit by pen_ash