Tasmania is one of those places on everyone’s to-do list. Most have heard of its rugged landscapes, its burgeoning cultural scene and, of course, its convenient proximity to “the mainland” (as it’s affectionately called by Tassie locals).
For those of us faced with a limited budget, a horde of screaming kids or an annual contract which stipulates just enough leave to make it to Europe and have to turn around again, Tassie is the ridiculously perfect solution to all of our problems.
If you’ve only got a week to spare, we’ve devised the perfect road trip for taking in everything the Apple Isle has to offer.
First thing’s first, choose your mode of transport…
The Spirit of Tasmania is the only way to transport yourself and your vehicle across the Bass Strait.
Departing from Melbourne at either 9am or 6pm and arriving in Devonport roughly 10 hours later, it’s a long journey not without its challenges and the occasional bout of seasickness.
Vehicle fares start from $87 one way, while human fares start at around $60 one way.
While cabins start at $180, they’re worth the money even for the day sails. They give you privacy, your own bathroom and a place to stretch out.
Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin have multiple flights a day to Launceston and Hobart out of all major Australian cities. Car rental companies Avis, Thrifty, Hertz and Europcar all have offices at either Launceston and Hobart airport.
Stay: For something that’s a bit further out of town but completely unique, stay at the Red Feather Inn in Hadspen (from $250 a night), a series of historic sandstone buildings transformed into a luxury retreat. Stay for dinner at the Inn’s cosy on-site restaurant. If you prefer to be closer to the centre of town, Hatherley House is a swanky bed and breakfast in a prime location (from $240 a night).
Eat: Geronimo is a bustling, dimly-lit hub of activity serving up killer cocktails and fresh, imaginative dishes like mussels with giant cous cous or squid ink tortellini. For a more classic vibe, try Stillwater, a restored 1830s flour mill on the Tamar River, which offers modern Australian fare in a gorgeous rustic dining room.
Do: Drive about half-an-hour out of town to the Tamar Valley and visit the various farms and producers in the area – Hillwood Strawberry Farm, Josef Chromy vineyard, Anvers Chocolate Factory, or the Bridestowe Lavender Farm. Cataract Gorge is just a 15-minute walk from the city centre so make a day of it and enjoy the chairlift and various hikes.
Bay of Fires
Eat: Given it’s a national park there aren’t many options for dining out so we recommend stocking up on groceries. Otherwise, the nearby towns of Binalong Bay and St Helens have plenty of small, relaxed dining options.
Do: If it’s warm, grab a towel and some sunscreen and settle in for a day at one of the area’s several pristine beaches. Otherwise, cooler weather calls for one of the many hikes in the area.
Freycinet National Park
Stay: Become one with nature at Freycinet Eco Retreat (from $300-450 a night), a series of environmentally friendly cabins with specatular views and modern comforts. Watch the sun set from the top of Mount Paul with a glass of local Milton Vineyard’s Pinot Rose.
Eat: A must-visit is the Freycinet Marine Farm, a roadside shack that serves up fresh oysters, mussels and fish. Order the chilli mussels and mop up the sauce with crusty white bread.
Do: Perhaps one of the most stunning spots in Tassie is Wineglass Bay. Hike to the lookout like most tourists but take it one step further and hike down the rocky trail to the beach itself. You won’t regret it.
Stay: Sleep amongst the treetops at Stewart’s Bay Lodge (from $150 a night). Able to fit an entire family, the Lodge’s cabins offer a kitchen, bathroom and views across the crystalline waters of Stewart’s Bay.
Eat: Doo-lishus, the fish and chip truck at nearby Doo Town, is famous for its fry-ups, so grab a cone of calamari and munch on it while you take in sites like the blowhole or the Tessellated Pavement at Eagle-Hawk Neck.
Do: A trip to Port Arthur is basically a prerequisite for all Australians. The convict settlement known for its heritage-listed buildings and rollicking history is fascinating and beautiful. The $37 entry pass will get you access to the site plus a 40-minute walking tour and a 20-minute cruise.
Stay: The trendy Henry Jones Art Hotel is the perfect spot from which to explore Hobart’s harbour and beyond (from $350 a night). Less well-located but entirely unique is the Islington, a gorgeous boutique hotel with old-world charm (from $395 a night).
Eat: Have a boozy lunch at Frank, a colourful, conceptual Argentinian restaurant on the harbour. For pre-dinner drinks, take in the stunning harbour view from the Glass House, a glam cocktail bar situated in the MONA ferry terminal. Book in for dinner at Franklin – fresh, modern Australian food in a hip minimalist setting.
Do: An obvious must-see is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), David Walsh’s weird and wonderful modern art mecca. Another Hobart hotspot is the Salamanca Market, on every Saturday from 8am to 3pm. Have a wander around Battery Point, a historic suburb with gorgeous homes, and grab coffee and a pastry at famed bakery Jackman & McRoss.
Stay: Spend the night in a piece of history at Ormiston House, a grand home transformed into a quaint bed and breakfast (from $160 a night).
Eat: The Risby Cove motel has a relaxed waterfront restaurant with pub-style food, perfect for a laid-back dinner.
Do: Take a World Heritage Cruise to Hells Gates, the notoriously dangerous entrance to Macquarie Harbour, or embark on a short walk to the idyllic Hogarth Falls in the Peoples Park. Finish the day by heading to Ocean Beach to watch the stunning sunset.
Stay: Sitting next to the giant fireplace at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge (from $320 a night), you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Canadian Rockies. Snuggle up in warm cabins amongst tranquil woodlands.
Eat: Let’s be honest, they’re aren’t plenty of options up a mountain and once it gets dark you won’t want to venture out onto the roadkill-laden roads. Stay in and dine at Pepper’s on-site restaurant, serving up tasty – albeit pricey – comfort food.
Do: There are plenty of walks in the area but a surefire hit is the two-hour Dove Lake circuit – you’ll feel like you’re walking through a Lord of the Rings set.
Photos: Getty and supplied.
The writer was a guest of Hatherley House, Stewart’s Bay Lodge and Freycinet Eco Retreat.