I spent two weeks driving through and exploring Australia’s pubic area (check a map) and got to know, not only the two major cities of Hobart and Launceston, but the eastern and western regions as well. The west offers rugged mountains and deserted towns you might expect to see in a 1950’s western. The east provides some of the most sumptuous sandy beaches and opulent coastline I’ve ever seen.
Talk to most people and they’ll tell you not to spend more than a few days in Tasmania. Well, if your plan is to see Hobart and Launceston, that’s all you’ll need. But why take a ferry or airplane just to spend time in another city? The real beauty of this small island lies outside the city limits.
Your First Week in Tasmania
Starting in Melbourne, rent a car. You’ll definitely need your owns wheels to explore this coveted island. Take the Spirit of Tasmania ferry to Devonport and head west.
Burnie, just a short drive west, is an idyllic beach town that’s worth exploring for a couple of hours.
Make sure you detour to the Hellyers Road Distillery for some whisky tasting. They’ll show you around the whole place, teach you about their history, explain the brewing process and let you taste lots and lots of delicious whiskys. They also make some very interesting flavored vodkas.
A bit farther along the coast you’ll find Stanley, home of The Nut, an old volcanic formation. There’s a gondola you can ride to the top for $10 if you’d prefer to save 30 minutes of energy for…the car ride. Take in the view and then get going. You won’t need to spend more than a couple hours here as there’s not much more to see.
From there, head south towards Cradle Mountain. There are a few different hikes you can take, depending on your level of fitness and the amount of time you’re able to commit. If you’ve got a full day, hike to the summit. You’d better be pretty limber and prepared to climb vertical rock walls. If it’s cloudy at the beginning of the hike, no worries. Expect the clouds to hover at eye-level and lift by the time you reach the summit.
If you’re up for it, and interested in the coal mining history of Tasmania, check out Corrina, Zeehan,Strahan and Queenstown. Quaint little towns, if you’re into that kind of thing, and they’re very rich in history and Tasmanian culture. Be sure to talk to the locals as they’ll give you the best advice on things to do and see around town.m
Hobart would be your next stop, home of the Cascade Brewery and David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). The first and last on that list are absolute must-do’s. Any nightlife or shopping will take place on the waterfront by Salamanca Place. Make sure you stop by the Cargo Bar Pizza Lounge for drinks and gourmet pizzas you’ve never heard of. Though on the pricey side, you’ll love every bite.
Your Second Week in Tasmania
From Hobart, head to Port Arthur. It’s a bit out of the way but if you’re interested in the history of convicts in Australia, this is where you’ll want to go. Spend a day walking the grounds of the ancient penal colony and take a boat ride to some of the haunted islands just off the coast.
A lot of Port Arthur has fallen apart at this point, and much of it is undergoing renovations, but that shouldn’t stop you. I’m not a big history buff but Port Arthur definitely got my wheels spinning. Talk to any of the locals around town and, if you want to save $30, they’ll give you the low-down on how to sneak in through the side. It’s easier than you’d think.
On your way out, there’s a great Tasmanian Devil sanctuary somewhere along the road, so be sure to stop off and say hello. Cutest, most vicious little brats you’ll ever see. They’re like nature’s garbage disposal…too slow, blind and stupid to find their own food!
From Port Arthur to Coles Bay you’ll find a lot of things to distract you along the side of the road (i.e. Devil’s Kitchen and the Tasman Arch). When you finally get there, you’ll discover there’s only one place to stay. Explore Freycinet National Park and hike to Wineglass Bay. Stop off in Bicheno on your way out and check out the red rocks and the geyser. I (luckily) went on a stormy day and saw 20 meter wave crashes against the rocks!
Now we’re getting to the good stuff.
Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires lie just north of here. Here, I found my heavenly kingdom. I drove, sat, explored, swam and navigated the northeastern bit of Tasmania with nothing but a smile on my face. Even as a kid I never played on a jungle gym quite like this. And neither will you. If there’s one place to see in Tasmania–this is it. Give yourself at least half a day to get lost and hang out in the sun, water and on the sand.
The final stop before heading back to Devonport is Launceston. If you can return your car on Tassie and fly back from Launceston (or even Hobart) instead, I’d recommend it. As fun as it is, you won’t want to take that ferry more than once.
The James Boags brewery is located here in Launceston, along with the Tasmania Zoo. If you’re into wildlife (especially birds) you’ll want to make a pit stop. It’s a bit run-down but they do have Tasmanian Devil feeding sessions. And if there’s one thing you can’t leave Tassie without seeing, it’s The Devil!