Tasmania is one of those off the radar places that is perfect for a holiday road trip solo, with a friend or with the family. If you are looking for a party, this probably isn’t the place for you.
I was living in Bali and getting ready to move to New Zealand and live there for 1 year on my work holiday Visa. I figured on my way over I would stop somewhere along the way to travel a little bit before I got to New Zealand since I would be there for so long.
When I opened up the map to see what was between Indonesia and New Zealand, I saw only Australia which has been the apple of my eye for places to visit since I was a little girl. I wanted longer than 3 weeks there though. But then I saw Tasmania, and knowing nothing about it, I chose it to visit for three weeks and didn’t regret it a single day I was there.
This little story will tell you how to travel all over Tasmania; where to go, what to do and see and even a few options of where to stay while you are there (on a budget, always).
I decided to fly into Hobart (the southernmost and biggest city in Tassie) and out of Launceston (the North) so that I could drive from one side to the other and not have to backtrack just to get to my flight on time. Later I found out from Hobart to Launceston was only a 3-hour drive so if you decided to make both of your flights out of one airport, it’s really not a huge inconvenience.
I used couchsurfing.com for the first time and filtered for locals with an extra room where I could stay for a few days to avoid spending a ton of money on an AirBnb or Hotels. Even hostels seemed to be a bit pricier than what I was used to coming in at $45 for dorm rooms and up to and over $100 for private rooms. I ended up staying with a nice local older man in his forties for 12 days in exchange for a few meals, beer, and travel stories back and forth. 12 days of free accommodation and a new friendship!
He even picked me up from the airport. This couchsurfing thing was already a success in my book at this point. He showed me around Hobart while I was there and was nothing but kind and respectful. I had used Couchsurfing before but only to meet up with locals to have them show me around for the day (also very successful) this was my first time using it to actually spend the night for free accommodation. If you are the type of person who would let traveling strangers into your home for a place to crash, I would definitely recommend it.
Below is a list of the places I went on my 3-week road trip around Tasmania. Although I spent the first 2 weeks in Hobart, I felt like the week road trip was enough, but like anywhere, you could easily spend an entire three weeks exploring all the nooks and crannies of this place.
Hobart: The city of Hobart is the largest city on Tassie but nothing compared to the cities you may be used to. While in Hobart you must visit:
MOMA Museum – One of the best museums I have been to in terms of not-your-regular-museum. It’s weird and funky and underground and well worth the ticket it costs to get in which might be $30. Locals get in for free, so find a local to go with you!
Mt. Wellington – Beautiful views of Tassie, but be prepared, it’s cold and can be very windy up there so bring a jacket and a hat. Mt. Wellington is best seen on a clear day. You can take a rental car up, hitch with a friend, walk(if you are hardcore) or take a bus up to see the beautiful view. If you take the bus, opt to spend at least 30-60 minutes at the top. I think there is a bus with a 15 minute stop to see the view, and it just isn’t enough to soak it all in.
Salamanca Market – On Saturday’s until 3pm, you will find Salamanca street filled with vendors, street music and food. You can easily spend 2-3 hours if it’s your first time there going up and down the street to see what they offer. The market isn’t cheap, but it’s full of local vendors and if you happen to buy something, you can rest assured you are helping out a small local business. The food is great also.
The Harbor area surrounding Salamanca Street – This is fun to walk around during the day – food, shops, pubs etc. and turns into a bit of a party scene at night on the weekends.
If you have an extra day, you can also toss in a ferry ride….anywhere. Google Ferry in Hobart and let your options speak to you.
From Hobart, we started the road trip by heading south towards the Tasmanian Peninsula and visited Port Arthur which is the oldest prison in Tassie. $40 for a tour guide for 40 minutes and then they let you free to explore the place on your own for as long as you want.
We stayed in Orford after visiting Port Arthur, but along the way up to Orford were several stops just off the road that allowed you to see some awesome natural sites. If and when you are on your way back up north along the coast and you see signs for Blowhole or Tasmanian Arch, take the few minutes and visit these awesome stops along the way!
Take a ferry to Maria Island:
Explore all day long seeing all the animals in their natural habitats such as wombats, kangaroos, exotic birds, porcupines and more. Maria Island is full of hikes for all ages and fitness levels, mountains full of fossils, beautiful beaches after the other and so much more. You can even volunteer on the island and stay a few days – organized before you arrive. Bring your own snacks and water, there isn’t a single restaurant or coffee shop on the island.
We stayed in a town called Swansea that night at a backpackers hostel. I wouldn’t really recommend this place but if you are on a budget… let’s just say it’s not the best hostel I’ve been to but it wasn’t the worst either. None of the places we stayed were stand out amazing, but they did the job for a place to stay between drives. The original plan was to hire a campervan but we went for it too last minute and there were none left to rent, so we got a car and stopped in budget hotels along the way.
TIP: Restaurants close early in these small towns! As early as 8pm (pretty much everywhere – these are super small towns you will be passing through), so make sure you get to any of these towns I’ve mentioned with enough time to get a bite to eat before you head to bed or you are straight out of luck for the night. These towns are so small, they may have only 1 restaurant, 1 takeaway place, maybe a few shops, a gas station and maybe a post office. I wouldn’t recommend landing in any of these towns past 7 pm if you plan to eat there.
Swansea is about an hour drive up the coast to wineglass bay which is a tourist attraction for a reason, but a good one that I wouldn’t skip. It’s a beautiful bay of clear blue waters and white sand beaches, wildlife, hikes, camping, BBQ areas – a great place for everyone. There are several hikes you can take and if you plan to stay and enjoy this National Park for more than a day, I would recommend taking camping gear with you and hiking down to wineglass bay (about 3 hours). I met someone before my trip who did this and couldn’t rave enough about, “yeah it’s absolutely beautiful from the hike above and seeing it from the viewpoint, but once he got to the beach, it was another level of beauty.” Again, bring your own snacks, water etc. You may be one of the only people down on the beach – and that’s one of the special parts about it as well.
Before you hit the main attraction – Wineglass bay, there are a few stops you can take to take in some more views. Follow signs for the Lighthouse. And along the way from the lighthouse to wineglass bay, make as many turns as you want to see some of the most amazing beaches with their white sand beaches, or pebble stone beaches, all with clear blue water.
Post up and use one of the free BBQs or just do a nice drive by, see the beaches, take your photos and move on, but don’t just drive straight to Wineglass Bay the beauty all around it in this National Park is absolutely stunning. Truly a campers paradise!
Bay of Fires & Tamar Valley:
We picked up two dozen oysters from the oyster farm and headed off towards the Bay of Fires (you can google oyster farm to find out where this is – Super delicious and affordable oysters). The Bay of Fires is a tourist stop along the Tasmanian freeway, but there was barely anyone else there which made this place quite special. There are no tourist shops there or stores or gift shops or restaurants, just a beautiful bay to enjoy. It’s a magical place to be. It seemed like Tasmania was mostly undiscovered, yet so many places set up to enjoy. You can’t really spend the whole day here but it is definitely a spot you should go out of your way a little bit while you make your way North on your Tassie road trip.
After you admire the view, take in the clean air and enjoy some oysters, head over to Tamar Valley to do some wine tasting. There are a lot of places to choose from to try some delicious Australian wines – but if you can only visit one place, I recommend Marion’s Vineyard. This vineyard has a beautiful view, (I don’t think it can get much better), an amazing variety of wine to taste (for free), is family-owned with the mom working the tasting room, her daughter is the winemaker and her son is the handyman around the property creating beautiful woodwork for places to enjoy the wine you are tasting or the bottle you have bought to enjoy the afternoon.
We picked this place by complete chance, and it happened to be near our AirBnB. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to visit this place that seems to be off the radar, but amazing enough that you need to mark it as a destination on part of your road trip.
After seven days of constant driving and admiring, it can get a little exhausting so we took 1 day as a chill day and drove around about an hour from Tamar Valley to another lighthouse, had a nice lunch by the beach, and finished the day with a little more wine tasting.
Go to Stanley and climb the Nut!
Stanly is a small town on your road trip going north which you can walk up a, well, huge hill with about 3-4 switchbacks before you are at the top, or you can take a chairlift for a small fee – TIP: chairlift closes at 4pm. The Nut was a beautiful top half of a no longer active volcano. Once you are at the top, it was a flat surface and so jungle like you will love walking around up there. The view is amazing at every angle and there is so much wildlife up there from wallabies to exotic birds to god knows what else was up there in that forest type place. I love a good view, and if you do too, you won’t want to miss this. Stanley is also a cute town to stay in, with a small array of stores and places to eat. One of the bigger “small towns” that we saw along the way.
We stayed in Somerset that night, so we semi backtracked back to our place from Stanley, and on the way back (or on the way to Stanley – however you want to go) there’s a sign off the freeway for a waterfall. It’s about a 30-minute drive in to see the fall, but again, even though this place yells tourist trap, there are none there! It’s like no one has yet discovered Tasmania and that’s what makes the place so freakin’ amazing.
Once you are on the road it goes from road to deep jungle where you can see a pretty nice waterfall (can’t really swim in it) and also a few huge trees that you will also see signs for. Don’t miss these! As stop-offs along the way are what make road trips the adventure that they are. And whatever else you see along the way, don’t be afraid to veer off and go see them and change your plans. Tassie is small and if you really wanted to, and with some serious determination, you could see all these things in about 6 days skipping the less desired – or you can take four weeks to deeply explore everything – So take your time and enjoy them all.
If you stay in Somerset or nearby, make sure you visit The Chapel for breakfast. There weren’t a lot of memorable meals on the trip, or memorable places to stay to be honest that were on a budgeter’s level, but The Chapel was one of them. It’s a delicious coffee shop with a buzzing vibe and great coffee and food.
National Park #3? 4? (There are a lot on Tassie!) Crater Lake:
Don’t skip Crater Lake on your visit to Tassie. It is in the middle of a National Park and to get around within the day, you need to park and ride the bus. After hours though, you can drive your car through the park on your own. There are some amazing hikes for all ages and all hiking levels. You can spend 3 days alone hiking around Crater Lake if you wanted to or you could spend a few hours – just depends how in-depth you want to go with it.
This was one of our last stops, it sounds like it might be a larger city or town but was no bigger, and even much smaller, than the rest we had been to. Just a few restaurants, a few pubs, and some old and I mean old Hotels from back when this was a mining town. From Queenstown, we drove to Lake St. Clair and went on a short hike there, where again, like Crater Mountain you could probably spend all day and up to a few days camping here and exploring. We just wanted to get a feel for the place and look at the beautiful nature, so we did a short hike and continued on our drive to Launceston, the state’s second-biggest city next to Hobart.
The coolest thing in Queenstown is probably the really old school train that they have there. It only departs 1-2 times a day and I’m not 100% sure where exactly it goes but I read a lot about it and heard from a local it was a great thing to do. It is though, a bit expensive, on the $100-150 per person Aussie dollars.
Launceston can be a 2-10 day stop or an evening dinner, walk around the town, and head to the airport in the morning kind of stop. We stayed in Launceston for 2 nights.
Launceston was full of shopping and food and cute cafes. It seemed like a huge city after being where we had been the last week so it was nice to be able to eat at restaurants past 8pm and hang out in bars at night that had actual people. There is an Irish bar that I 100% recommend visiting if you are into that sort of thing; they also serve food past 5pm. Also a Kebab shop on the main street that had affordable and really good kebabs. There were gyms and yoga studios. I mean I seriously felt like it had everything after the 1 restaurant towns we drove through.
Tasmania is full of wide-open roads and camping spot after camping spot of amazing places to see and discover and the best part is, it seems like you have the whole place to yourself while you are on the road. It’s also a super safe place for solo travelers. The place is not full of tourists and not overpopulated which is a huge advantage to this place. You could spend a full month on Tassie and still feel like you haven’t seen it all. There are so many nooks and crannies to stop off in and go see. Whoever is in charge of setting up these tourist areas to veer off and see did a great job.
This was roughly the road trip I took with a girl named Tina. She and I were complete strangers and met via Facebook one day after I posted about looking for a travel partner to go and explore the East coast. I spent about 12 days in Hobart before starting the road trip along the east coast which was more than enough to get to know the city. Tassie is a super cute island on the south of Australia that I would definitely recommend to any camping and nature lovers.
Have you been to Tasmania? What was your favorite part?? Let me know in the comments!