More than 20 per cent of the island state is World Heritage-listed national park.
It’s a magical wilderness of mossy forests,
rugged mountains and cascading waterfalls, and home to many a rare and unique species.
Natural wonders aside, Tassie is renowned for its colonial history. Sandstone relics still stand proud and picturesque today.
The state is easy to cover, and – with super-friendly locals, backpacker-friendly prices and few tourist crowds – it’s rapidly becoming de rigeur among travellers in the know.
Getting to Tasmania
Tasmania is well serviced by air, and the Spirit of Tasmania ferries run from Melbourne to Devonport daily; you can also take vehicles across on the ferries.
Your arrival point could be Hobart, Launceston or Devonport, depending on how you get there.
Air: Shop around for the best price.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia all fly from the Australian mainland to Hobart and Launceston. Qantas also has connections to Devonport and Burnie through Qantaslink.
Regional carrier, Regional Express (REX), operates services to Burnie and King Island, with special deals for backpackers (see rex.com.au ).
There are also a couple of smaller state-based airlines that operate on local routes.
Sea: The over-sea route to Tassie from Melbourne is covered by two superfast ships, Spirit of Tasmania I and II.
These vessels offer an overnight service in both directions to Devonport seven days a week, year round, with additional daytime services in the high season (December-January).
The ferry also takes cars over for $83, motorbikes for $57 and bicycles for $6.
Getting around Tasmania
Coach services link all the main towns (some services close during winter), as well as bus tours geared for independent travellers. Cycling is an option for fi t legs. See discovertasmania.com.au
Australia’s most picturesque city has a rich heritage, Georgian architecture, an expansive harbour and beautiful nearby areas to visit.
With sandstone wharves, yachts, Antarctic icebreakers, quaint streets and a vast harbour all nestling under the protective slopes of Mount Wellington, Hobart has to be one of Australia’s bestlooking cities.
It’s also the country’s second oldest, having been founded as a convict settlement in 1804.
That heritage is perhaps more alive here in Hobart than anywhere else in Australia and often makes for some fascinating insights.
Getting around Hobart
The airport is 26km from the city. The Airporter shuttle meets every fl ight and can drop you to your hostel. Head to tasredline.com.au for more info.
See metrotas.com.au for info on city public buses.
There are several good hostels in central Hobart; see TNT Magazine and tourist info centres for more info. If you’re staying a while and want to find a flat, try The Mercury newspaper, which has a rental accommodation section.
Though accommodation varies across the state, most towns have backpackerfriendly options, from caravan parks to campsites to shared beach chalets.
Out on the town
The area around the docks and Salamanca Place houses many historic pubs, including the oldest in Australia, licensed in 1804.
You can even take a tour of them to learn more about their history while sampling the beers.
Salamanca in particular has a lively nightlife, with clubs and backstreet parties strewn among the old sandstone pubs. Sandy Bay is also popular with Hobart’s young things.
East Hobart is excellent for a lively mish-mash of Thai, Mediterranean and boutique eateries and bars.
Battery Point: A pretty village of early 19th century cottages, some of the oldest in Australia.
Can be reached by climbing the historic Kelly Steps from Salamanca Place – great for a wander around. Bonorong Wildlife Park: See baby wombats, Tasmanian devils and the Bush Tucker Shed.
Botanic Gardens: Huge collection of English and Tasmanian plants.
Cascade Brewery: See how the local beer is made (and then try a few) in this still-working 1824 sandstone brewery. Bookings essential.
The Docks: Along the waterfront from Salamanca lie Old Wharf, Victoria Dock and Constitution Dock, which houses all the yachts that come in for the Sydney to Hobart and Melbourne to Hobart yacht races.
These famous races are held between
Boxing Day and New Year every year, and Hobart’s population almost doubles in size.
During this time there is also The Taste Festival, incorporating the Hobart Summer Festival and the famous Taste of Tasmania – one of the large wharf buildings becomes a huge food hall where all the state’s finest restaurants and providores (not to mention beer and winemakers) sell samples direct to the public.
It’s a fabulous time to be in Hobart.
Kayaks: Get out on the harbour and paddle across the yacht race fi nishing line.
Mountain bikes: A great way to see the sights – you can even cycle at breakneck pace down Mt Wellington.
Mt Wellington: Stunning views of Hobart and the Derwent River. Take the No 48 Fern Tree bus from Franklin Square to the base. Usually covered with snow during winter, there’s a road all the way to the top.
Salamanca Place: A row of old Georgian warehouses which now house shops, restaurants and galleries.
Also home to the famous street market where you can pick up Tassie treats, from books, fruit and vegetables to second-hand goods and antiques.
It’s on every Saturday from 7am to mid-afternoon.
The Tasman Peninsula sits on the south-east corner of Tassie, and is a sparsely-populated wilderness area and home to historic Port Arthur.
Port Arthur was once known as “Hell on Earth” for convicts between the 1830s and 1870s, and today is a partly-ruined relic of Australia’s violent colonial birth.
It’s actually a strangely peaceful and pretty spot, though it has some spooky vibes. You can make the most of them on a ghost tour.
Mount Field National Park is home to spectacular Russell Falls, only a 10-minute walk from the entrance, plus the refreshing Tall Trees Walk, an easy wander through tall, slender, moss-covered forests inhabited by shy pademelons (small wallabies).
On the banks of the Coal River, 24km from Hobart, Richmond has the feel of an English country village thanks to its many 19th century buildings.
It’s also famous for its much-photographed bridge, which was built by convicts in 1823 and is Australia’s oldest road bridge.
There is an old convict jail here and, for those wanting to lose an unwanted travel buddy, a maze at the nearby tea rooms.
South of Hobart, The Huon Valley is the real core of the ‘Apple Isle’ and it’s unlikely you’ll have chomped on tastier ones before.
There’s also whitewater rafting, jet boats, waterfalls and farming.
If you like fresh scones and jam you must visit Emma’s Choice – also known as Granny Gibbons jam factory on the coastal road between Geeveston and Dover.
The often-overlooked and unspoilt Far South is very pretty too; with Antarctic winds whistling across lonely beaches, it’s a great spot for those “finding yourself” moments.
Nearby Bruny Island is actually two islands connected by a narrow isthmus and is a fave with the locals, offering delicious seafood.
There’s also penguin watching, surfing, bushwalking, swimming and fishing.
Centrally located Launceston is Tassie’s secondlargest city and the country’s third oldest.
Surrounded by imposing mountains, it has earned its title of ‘Garden City’ and has an interesting history. Its main attractions are the nearby Cataract Gorge, colonial gardens, tea shops and old mills. It’s 14km from the airport to the city centre. The city is easily explored on foot, but there is good public transport.
Adventure activities: Central Tasmania offers a range of soft or challenging adventure activities, including kayaking, caving, bushwalking, climbing and abseiling, all accessible from Launceston.
Cataract Gorge: Excellent walks, views and swimming just fi ve minutes walk from the city. Floodlit until 9pm nightly.
City Park: Has an open-air enclosure of entertaining Japanese macaque monkeys and lots of lovely gardens.
Penny Royal World: Nineteenth-century watermills, windmills, gunpowder mills and model boats. You can take a ride on a barge (a restored tram) or cruise up the lovely Cataract Gorge by paddle steamer.
Trowunna Wildlife Park: A very popular animal sanctuary in Mole Creek. There are also limestone caves nearby.
The famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park consists of some 126,025ha of mountain peaks and alpine moorlands, south-west of Launceston. Cradle Mountain sits amid bare, rugged peaks littered with boulders, streams, marshes and sheltered woods.
Pay a visit to Waldheim, the restored mountain chalet of the park’s Austrian founder, Gustav Weindorfer, which sits on the edge of a forest overlooking the windswept moors.
At the other end of the park is Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest, with a backdrop of forest-clad mountains.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is also the home of The Overland Track, Tasmania’s best-known bushwalk and reason enough to visit the island.
There are no roads through the park, so you need to be fully prepared for fi ve to seven days of walking.
There are only camping sites and basic huts along the route, with no cooking facilities and no fires allowed (bring a camp stove).
Walkers must be completely self-sufficient.
There are also camping grounds with facilities at either end of the park. You must register with the rangers before setting out, even on day walks. Remember to check out on your return.
Devonport is on the north coast, in a major vegetable-growing area, and is the closest entry point to Melbourne.
The Spirit of Tasmania ferries dock at the mouth of the Mersey River; shuttle buses operate from Devonport airport, 8km east of the city.
Devonport is an excellent place to prepare for your travels, with a range of specialist backpacker services, particularly if you’re planning on visiting the famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, 80km to the south. Buses leave daily. Devonport is also another great place for cycling.
Deloraine is a charming historic town with many restored buildings just off the highway, 149km south-east of Devonport at the foot of the Great Western Tiers.
Explore the stunning natural beauty of this region with its waterfalls and walking tracks.
Gunns Plains is the home of hop growing, and offers limestone caves and rural scenery.
The historic township of Latrobe is an easy 9km bike ride away, along Mersey River. Talking of rivers, Port Sorell is nestled on the beautiful Rubicon River Estuary.
Visit Asbestos Range National Park, home to 80 species of animals, or the gorgeous coastal town of Stanley.
It’s west of Devonport and is the home of the famous Nut, Tassie’s own Uluru – a giant ‘volcanic plug’ that can be tackled in a number of fun ways.
King and Flinders Islands are unique destinations in Bass Strait. King Island is famous for great dairy products and shellfi sh. It also has an eerie, calcified forest, shipwrecks, penguins and beaches.
The east coast gets the best of Tassie’s weather, being generally much drier than the ‘wild west’.
It’s a string of long beaches, small fishing villages, marshland and aquatic wildlife such as penguins, seals and whales.
Nestled in Tasmania’s north-east is the Bay of Fires, an idyllic sweep of icing sugar white sand, dotted with fl ame-coloured boulders. A great spot to set up camp.
Bicheno is a quiet fi shing town with a top beach, penguins, coastal walks and an explosive blowhole.
It’s also the centre of Tassie’s scuba diving area.
Swansea is a beautiful historic village on the shores of Great Oyster Bay with views of Freycinet National Park, a craggy, foresty wilderness with stunning beaches.
The park is made up of the Freycinet Peninsula and Schouten Island.
It’s the highlight of the east coast and arguably the most beautiful spot in Tasmania. Red granite mountains, great coastline, lagoons, beaches and 27km of walking tracks, plus the utterly gorgeous Wineglass Bay, home to one of Australia’s best beaches.
Maria Island National Park is a nature lovers’ wonderland where you can spot all types of animal, including forester kangaroos, Cape Barren geese and emus.
This peaceful island has spectacular scenery, including fossil-lined sandstone and limestone cliffs.
There’s also a semi-ruined village, originally a convict settlement, which adds an air of quiet history to this traffic-free haven.
It has good diving, with loads of marine life. You can stay in the old penitentiary.
Queenstown is an old mining town with bare hills – it looks a bit like a lunar landscape. The locals fed all the foliage into their furnaces decades ago and are now weirdly fond of the lifeless terrain.
Pronounced “Strawn”, Strahan is a historic convict town which is today a charming harbourside resort and gateway to the mirror-like Gordon River. Take a cruise down the Gordon to appreciate its beauty.
Tullah sits on the shores of the recently-dammed Lake Murchison, which is full of platypuses and drowned forests. Horse riding along the shore is stunning, as are twilight canoe trips to platypus-spot.
At Arthur River, by Marrawah, Tassie’s northwest tip, you can cruise through rainforest to the confluence of the Arthur and Franklin rivers.
Explore the protected area’s beaches, waterfalls and lagoons.
Fossil Bluff at Wynyard is the area where Australia’s oldest marsupial fossil was found – by Hollywood hero Errol Flynn’s dad, no less.
One of Australia’s most remote wilderness regions and a World Heritage area. This is really a place for intrepid adventurers and requires experience and careful preparation.
There are few roads and access is limited (the area hasn’t even been fully mapped).
Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon cover more than 500km and form Australia’s largest freshwater storage area.
There’s some great trout fishing.
Experienced bushwalkers might try the tracks leading to Port Davey and the south coast through the South West National Park’s beautiful cold rainforest, which is part of Tasmania’s World Heritage wilderness area.