What should you consider when planning a Tasmania road trip?

Tasmania has the nick name Tassie and is Australia’s smallest state.  But just because it’s the smallest doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to explore: Tasmania is similar in size to Sri Lanka.

ideness and lack of public transport mean that the best way to get around this island state is by vehicle.  During a Tasmania road trip, you can expect to see everything from golden beaches to rugged mountain ranges and dense rainforests.

Its main two cities, Hobart and Launceston, are sociable and offer visitors all the modern conveniences found in any international city, while some of the smaller towns offer historic buildings, relaxing cafes and a glimpse into a time gone by.

It’s doesn’t matter if you only plan on visiting a few places, or doing the whole loop, a Tasmania Road trip is the best way to see the state.

Getting to Tasmania

There are no international flights to Tasmania, so if you’re flying into Tasmania chances are you will have to come via Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.

Departing from Melbourne is often the cheapest and has the most frequent flights to Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie Airports.

Car rental is available from the airport or most towns and cities in Tasmania. Campervans are also available for hire through some rental companies.

However, most Aussies prefer to bring their car along from the mainland via the Spirit of Tasmania ferry.  The Spirt of Tasmania departs from Port Melbourne and journeys 240km across the Bass Strait to Devonport in around 9-11 hours.

A basic ticket includes an airport style seat. Cabins with beds can be purchased for an extra cost.

There was a Spirit of Tasmania service from Sydney to Devonport, but it ceased operation in 2006.

Driving in Tasmania

Tasmania may seem like a small island when comparted to the rest of Australia but at almost 600 miles wide and long, there’s still plenty of opportunity to get lost.

Always plan your route beforehand and know where you are going to get fuel from. On long drives be aware that fuels stations can be few and far between in remote areas. Some small fuel stations are also closed in the evenings and on Sundays.

Mobile phone reception in and around Tasmanian National Parks is also limited. The Telstra network can be move expensive but generally has the best reception across the Island.

Driving is the same as other parts as Australia and is on the left-hand side of the road. When driving on the highway you should stay on the left unless overtaking.

Most rental cars are automatic although some larger rental companies might have to option to choose between manual or automatic transmission.

Watch out for animals on the side of the roads, wallabies are notorious for jumping out into traffic.

A 4×4 off-road vehicle is handy for exploring out of the way places but not a requirement. A normal road vehicle can reach most of the popular places in Tasmania.

Speed limits in Tasmania are:

  • 50 km/h in built up areas.
  • 100 km/h on rural roads
  • 110 km/h on freeways.

Note: non-Tasmanian residents who are fined for speeding will have the fines sent to their home address. If you have a rental car, they will charge an administration fee to pass it on to you.

Tasmania Road Trip: Places to See

Devonport

Devonport is Tasmania’s third largest city and if you’re arriving by the Spirit of Tasmania it will be the first stop off. Most people associate Devonport as just a terminal for the arriving and departing, but over the past few years, it has started to develop the city centre to attract more visitors.

The Bluff walkway provides our popular place to stroll along the waterfront up to the Mersey Bluff Lighthouse, passing the Harbour Master and Drif cafes along the way.

Sheffield

Sheffield is well known as Tasmania outdoor art gallery due to its many murals. Murals can be found around this quint township, shops with boutique shops and cafes.

Gowrie Park is 14km south west of Sheffield. It’s a start of the 4 hours climb to the top to the Mt Roland. From Gowrie Park, there are also walks to Minnow Falls and the top of Mt Vandyke.

Deloraine

Deloraine is Tasmania’s largest inland town which features many restored Georgian and Victorian buildings. It’s history back to the first European settlement of the 1820s. Many craft, antique and second handed shops for travellers to explore.

There’s also a 1950’s themed car diner that serves great burgers.

Mole Creek National Park

Mole Creek National Park is 25 km west of Deloraine. The national park has many caves and split up into small segments. The two main caves worth visiting are Marakoopa (which translates into handsome in Australia Aboriginal language) is a wet cave which also has a glowing warm display.

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain is a popular hiking spot that stretches from the Great Western tier south to Derwent Bridge. The national park includes Mt Ossa which at 1,670 meters is Tasmania’s highest peak.

Cradle Mountain is Dove Lake which can be walked in as little as 2-3 hours. Climbing to Cradle Mountain summit will take around 7 hours to 8 hours return.

Stanley

With a population of just 500, Stanley is a quiet place to retreat and spend a relaxing few days or weekend away from the crowds. It’s popular with visitors coming from other parts of Tasmania, Australia’s mainland, and overseas.

Life doesn’t get any more stress-free when all your day involves is climbing The Nut, relaxing on the beach, finally followed by eating too much ice cream at The Chocolate Gallery & Cafe.

Strahan

Strahan is a small town found on Tassie’s West Coast with river kayaking and plenty of accommodation options. Places like the Strahan Holiday Retreat offer full cooking facilities and a cosy cabin feel. On the Gordon River Cruise, it’s possible to enjoy views of Hell’s Gates, salmon farms, historic timber sites and Australia’s temperate rain forests.

The final stop is visiting Sarah Island.  Due to Sarah Island’s mountainous wilderness and distance from Hobart Town, it was chosen as the site of the former Macquarie Harbour Penal Station.

Queenstown

The drive into Queenstown from the Lyell Highway is picturesque and unforgettable. Queenstown is an old mining town and since the mines have closed it has become a popular place to visit. It also has wilderness railway that passes through forests and stops at several historic stations.

Mt Field National Park

Mt Field national park just 64km from Hobart and has some stunning mountain scenery, lakes, rain forests and waterfalls. The area around Russell Falls was made and reserved in 1885 and by 1916 had become one of the Australia’s first national parks.

The last known wild thylacine (Tasmania Tiger) was captured in the region in 1933.

Hobart

Formally known as Hobart town, Hobart was founded in 1804 and is Australia’s second oldest city after Sydney. Hobart has a rich colonial history which shows throughout the attractive buildings and busy harbour.

Battery Point and the sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place are popular. Also, check out the Museum of Old and New Art and nearby Mt Wellington.

Bruny Island

The island is only about 50 km long but with great cliffs overlooking long sandy beaches and amazing bushwalks to take it all in.

There are lots of options for accommodation, ranging from welcoming campsites to upmarket beachfront retreats. Bruny Island is accessed via a 20-min crossing on the vehic ferry from Kettering, around a 35-min drive south of Hobart. The ferry operates seven days a week.

Richmond

Richmond is just is 24km from Hobart and has over 50 buildings dating from the 19th century. It was originally a strategical military post and convict station. The Richmond Bridge is popular point for taking photographs, being built by convicts in 1823, it’s the oldest bridge in Australia.

Port Arthur

From 1833 until 1853, Port Arthur was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals, those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here, a quite undesirable punishment.

In addition, Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.

Swansea

Swansea lies on the western shore of the sheltered Great Oyster Bay and is popular for camping, boating, fishing, and surfing. Originally known as the Great Swanport, it is part of Australia’s oldest rural municipality and the town has some interesting historic buildings.

Freycinet National Park

Freycinet National Park is a well-known for its white sand beaches, secluded coves, rocky cliffs and except bushwalks. The gateway to the park is the township of Coles Bay, which is often used as stopping point for those travelling to Wineglass bay.

St Helens

St Helens is an old whaling town that dates to 1830 and is now one of Tasmania’s biggest fishing ports. The flat waters of Georges Bay are elect for canoeing, windsurfing and diving.

Out on St Helens point you can find the Peron dunes. Just a few kilometres away from Binalong Bay and the southern end of the beautiful beaches of the Bay of Fires, one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 regions in the world.

Mt William National Park

Mt William National Park often gets over looked on a Tasmania road trip. It was created as national park in 1973 to protect the Forest Kangaroo and is home to long beaches and costal wildflowers. Even though Mt William is only 216meters high it provides a perfect viewing point to take in Tasmania.

Tamar Valley

The Tamar Valley offers some great fishing spots and has some of the best vineyards in the region.  Any wine lover will enjoy driving through nearly 60 km of vineyard country past orchards, scenic pastures and forests.

Launceston

Launceston is the twelfth-largest non-capital city in Australia and the only inland city in Tasmania. Named after Launceston, Cornwall in the UK, it was first settled by Europeans in March 1806 and is one of Australia’s oldest cities.

Popular places to visit are the Cataract Gorge Reserve, which has the world longest single span chairlift and the James Boag’s brewery.

Also every Saturday between 8.30am – 12.30pm the Launceston Harvest Market features Tasmanian growers and producers selling products.

Other Places to Visit

Triabunna – a scenic port-side town that is the gateway to the natural wonders and historic sites of Maria Island.

Bridgeport – overlooking Anderson Bay, Bridport offers excellent river and sea fishing, bushwalking and beach activities.

Evandale – another one of the best-preserved historic towns in Australia

Ross – arguably the finest nineteenth century village in Australia. Cobble-style paths and grand old elm trees line the main street.

Penguin – a picturesque seaside town with a relaxing esplanade, scenic walking trails, great coastal drives and a quirky collection of penguins on the street.

Useful Tassie Links

Webjet  AU – flights, hotels and car hire in Tasmania

Spirit of Tasmania – ferry from Melbourne to Devonport and back

RACT – provides services such as roadside assistance

TAS Road Trips – Lonely Planet Tasmania road trip ebook

Camping Tasmania – guide to camping in Tasmania 

Telstra – mobile phone sim card with the widest network coverage in Tasmania

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