When planning a road trip around Australia, you most likely think of vast red landscapes, scorching heat, rainforest and deserted beaches stretching as far as you can see. Not so much of impressive mountain ranges, canyons, alpine lakes and so on. Long story short: a Tasmania road trip doesn’t usually come to mind first.
Since we had almost half a year for our loop around Australia, we decided to not miss out on Australia’s island state and quickly booked a ferry across the Bass Strait for 10 days (12 including ferry crossings). And all we can say is: It was a great decision! The ferry crossing with a car does come in at AU$200 to 500 each way, but when you think of your whole trip, it’s a reasonable expense, and it’s more than worth it. Flying into Tasmania and renting a car would work out a lot more expensive anyway.
Top Tip: Use day sailings rather than night sailings! They only go a few times per week, but they are a lot cheaper (sometimes literally half the price) and you don’t have to book accommodation on the ferry, which is mandatory for night sailings. If you do find yourself on a night sailing, there are dorm beds for as little as AU$20, but you can also book a whole dorm (4 beds) for AU$80, much cheaper than a regular room.
We booked a “Red Hot Fare”, which only costs AU$70 per person each way, plus AU$80 per car each way.
The following itinerary basically displays what we did during our Tasmania road trip. Seen as Tasmania is a fairly round island with roads all across, it really doesn’t matter what order you do the different sights. You should allow a minimum of 10 full days, but closer to 15 days would be better to really soak in all its glory. We did it in 10 days and just about made it to most places, but it was fairly rushed. We were simply overwhelmed by how many amazing things there were to see in Tasmania!
If you’re coming in on the ferry, you’ll start and finish your Tasmania road trip in Devonport. From there you could choose a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction to discover Tasmania. We went clockwise simply because of the weather forecast.
Complete Guide: 10 Day Tasmania Road Trip
Day 1: Great Western Tiers
On the first day, you can explore some dramatic cliffs and mountain ranges. From Devonport, head south towards Mount Roland, which clearly dominates the surrounding area.
From there, you can then go across to the Great Western Tiers. You can go on a loop drive around the Great Lake from Deloraine, on which you would visit the town of Miena, take in the views from all the different lookouts, or hike to Liffey Falls. Unfortunately we experienced very poor weather with rain, wind, fog and low clouds while we were in the area.
You can spend the night anywhere between Deloraine and Launceston, a very nice farming area.
Day 2: (North Coast), Launceston and Ben Lomond National Park
Launceston is the second biggest city in Tasmania, with around 80,000 people living here. You can hang out by one of the rivers flowing right through the centre or go on a beer brewery tour. A must do for all visitors is Cataract Gorge. A beautiful gorge right next to the centre of Launceston, which also features a swimming pool, a scenic chairlift, as well as a few short to medium length walks.
Whether you’re here in summer or winter, Ben Lomond is worth a trip! It’s about an hour on the main road from Launceston to the turn off, and then another hour on gravel to the skiing village of Ben Lomond, from which you can enjoy fabulous views.
In summer it’s usually fine for every car, but in winter it may become impassable for 2WD vehicles. Snow chains and anti-freeze are required to make it up there!
The actual village (don’t expect it to look like in the Alps or the Rocky Mountains) is deserted in summer. We didn’t see a single car in over three hours. The drive up the switchbacks is absolutely spectacular, but not for the faint-hearted. Be sure to use engine break on your way back down.
After Ben Lomond, you could either drive back to Launceston and up to the coast from there, or head straight up north to the area around Derby via lots of rural gravel roads.
Day 3: (Mount William) and Bay of Fires
Little Blue Lake:
The whole north-eastern coastal areas of Tasmania, including Mount William National Park and the northernmost part of the Bay of Fires, is only accessible by (well maintained) gravel roads. If the sun is out, this is an absolute must. You’ll see beaches as white as snow with nobody apart from yourself on them. Head out to Eddystone Point Lighthouse, and don’t miss out on the quick 10 minute walk down to the beach from a little parking bay with a sign saying “Bay of Fires”, just a couple of minutes before reaching the lighthouse. The beach down there is absolutely fantastic!
Afterwards, just head further south along the coast until you reach St. Helens. This little town is the base for exploring the Bay of Fires. You can just drive over to Binalong Bay for some of the iconic photo shots with lichen-covered boulders and turquoise waters. To explore more of the fantastic beaches in this region, drive north along Gardens Road (C848). All along this road, you’ll have access to multiple beautiful and free beachfront campsites and photo spots.
Day 4: Freycinet National Park
On day four, you can go on a drive down south all along the coast. A stop in Freycinet National Park with the famous Wineglass Bay is a must for anyone passing through the area, it was actually one of our favourites places on our Tasmania road trip so please don’t miss out on it! Freycinet has a lot to offer besides Wineglass Bay, but most of those walks would take a couple of days.
Wineglass Bay itself can be reached by a three hour return walk up and down a hill. Alternatively, walking up to the lookout and back down should take just over an hour round-trip. On the way up, there’s another little lookout, offering panoramic views of Coles Bay and all the way across to Swansea:
We were planning to do the whole thing, but unfortunately it was rather cloudy and grey down in Wineglass Bay. We were rewarded with a gap in the clouds though, while we patiently waited at the lookout for this to happen:
It went back to grey not long after, and seen as we had been spoilt with beaches on the previous day, we decided to head back to the car. If you feel like cooling down after the walk, drive a few minutes up the road to Honeymoon Bay, where you can go for a quick swim:
We then spent the rest of the day driving all the way down to the Tasman Peninsula, a nice route along the coast:
If this drive seems too long to do in a day, you could fit an extra day in and go to Maria Island on the way from Freycinet National Park to the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur.
Day 5: Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur and Hobart
Port Arthur is home to one of the most famous convict settlements in Australia. You can pay AU$39 per person to gain entry to this very informative site, or, if you’re not that interested in convict history, there’s an old convict coal mine further up near Lime Bay State Reserve, which you can access completely free of charge:
But there is much more to the Tasman Peninsula than its rich history. In particular, the stunning landscapes are the main reason for people to come for a visit. The Tasman National Park features some very impressive sea cliffs only accessible by hikes upwards of four hours. In addition, there are many scenic spots inside and around the National Park which are accessible by car and very short walks. A few examples are:
(Tasman National Park) Lookout on Pirates Bay Drive:
Safety Cove Beach:
Remarkable Cave / Maingon Bay:
Depending on how much you’ve done, you could either sleep in the area, or drive on to see Hobart. If you do the latter, be sure to check out the town centre…
…and then head up to Mount Wellington for sunset and / or stargazing.
Day 6: Hobart and Bruny Island
Don’t worry if you didn’t make it for sunset, as sunrise is even more spectacular:
You can spend today exploring Bruny Island and / or the southern parts of Tasmania. Bruny Island was one of the things we found a lot of people raving about.
There are different options for tours: You can either take your car across on the ferry and go for a nice drive around Bruny Island, or you can go on a package tour straight from Hobart. If you have an own car, definitely go by yourself. Not only are you independent to see the rest of Bruny Island, but it works out a lot cheaper as well. The car ferry (check schedule here) is only AU$33 round-trip, but the boat tours are not cheap at roughly AU$135 a person. A package from Hobart costs almost twice that though!
The Neck Lookout is probably the main attraction accessible without a boat tour. It offers stunning views over the neck linking North Bruny and South Bruny.
If you’ve got a bit more time, you can spend the afternoon on the B68 scenic loop drive via Verona Sands. If you’ve got another day to spend, definitely drive down to the Hartz Mountains National Park! An absolutely beautiful National Park, which we couldn’t visit because of the weather. Be aware the weather is often very harsh in this National Park. You’ll have to come prepared, as most hikes are quite strenuous.
Day 7: Mount Field National Park and Drive Across A10
Now it’s time for the drive across to the other side of Tasmania. Again, there are plenty of things to see along the way. Mount Field National Park is one of the more famous stops, with plenty of short and long hikes available. Russel Falls and Horseshoe Falls can be accessed by a 40 minute return walk, which is what we did:
The park does have a lot more to offer, if you go further up the road and go on half day walks into the mountains.
Tip: If you’ve got a bit more time to spare than us, head all the way out to Strathgordon. The mountainous landscape together with Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon make for some great scenery. Be sure to carry adequate supplies of fuel, food and water before you head out there though.
After Mount Field National Park, you can drive up to Ouse and further along the A10 for however long daylight permits. It was mostly cold, cloudy and rainy when we were here, so we covered quite a bit of distance. The A10 will take you through Tarraleah with it’s astonishing hydro projects…
…past the southern end of Lake St. Clair (which must be a lot prettier when the sun is out!)…
…through the mountains and to Nelson Falls…
…right past Lake Burbury…
…and finally to Iron Bluff Lookout…
… before finishing up in the old mining settlement of Queenstown, where you could either hop onto the old scenic railway to Strahan (from AU$110 a person), or just drive down to Strahan in about half an hour, which isn’t quite as scenic, but certainly a lot more affordable. And you still get some nice views:
Day 8: West Coast
If you fancy going on a river cruise, Strahan might be the place to do so. Cruises into the magnificent Gordon River depart from here, but again, be prepared to spend over AU$100 per person.
Now, there are a few options to get back up north. For example, you could head up north just inland from the coastline, all the way to Arthur River. This includes a long but good gravel road and also requires a AU$25 ferry crossing across Pieman River in a little place called Corinna.
Arthur River is another good spot for a river cruise. It’s a lot less busy up there and only small boats go up the Arthur River, which is also known to be the only “truly wild” river in Tasmania, as it has never been dammed or similarly exploited for human use.
If you’ve got a bit of spare time (especially if you’re not going on the river cruises), head out to explore the Tarkine Drive with its beautiful rainforests, rivers, sinkholes and more on the way up to Arthur River:
Day 9: North Coast
A day full of beaches and rocky sea cliffs! The western part of the north coast has a lot to offer. Rolling hills and fields which suddenly drop into the crystal clear sea, the remains of former volcanoes standing high above the surrounding blue waters, and you can even spot plenty of penguins in this area!
Starting the day off in Arthur River, the Edge of the World lookout should be on your list, if you haven’t already watched the sunset from there the night before. A bit further up north is West Point, a similar place by the beach with frequent rough seas and strong winds.
From here, take the main road A2 or the quieter C215 to Smithton and on to Stanley. Stanley is famous for its volcanic remains, the Stanley Nut. This is an elevated plateau accessible by a short but very steep walk, or by chairlift. Once at the top, you can walk around the plateau in about 30 to 45 minutes, including plenty of stops for photos from all those viewpoints.
From Stanley, just follow the coast and stop anywhere you like. Notable places are the lighthouse at the top of Rocky Cape National Park with great views…
… as well as Sisters Beach or Boat Harbour Beach, both pristine bays with amazing water colours:
Take the C234 along the sea cliffs to Table Cape, another former volcano. You can drive up onto this one and either visit the lighthouse, or just take in the views from Table Cape Lookout.
Why not end the day seeing some little penguins coming out of the sea just after dark at the Little Penguin Observation Centre in Burnie. It’s free!
Day 10: Cradle Mountain and Leven Canyon
Heading south from Burnie, you can reach Cradle Mountain in less than 1.5 hours. The little town of Waratah is only a few kilometres off the the main road. A very unusual place worth stopping for, with a waterfall right in the middle of town!
Once at Cradle Mountain, be prepared for temperatures well below those in Burnie. Cradle Mountain and its surrounding walks are part of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park. The most popular walk in the park is Dove Lake Circuit. It takes around 2 hours including a few photo stops and is very flat with a few steps here and there.
If you’re after a little more of a challenge, the trail up to Marions Lookout starts right from Dive Lake Circuit. It would add another couple of hours to the trip and offers great views of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. As always in Tasmania, there are countless options for overnight hikes too.
On the way back up to the coast, do not give Leven Canyon a miss! If it’s too much walking for one day, consider adding another day of half a day to see Leven Canyon. It’s one of those hidden gems that not many people know of. We hadn’t heard of it until we picked up a random flyer at a visitor centre, and most people we met along the way hadn’t heard of it either. When we got there, we were almost the only ones in the car park. By the time we finished the walk an hour later, we had seen no more than four other people. There are two lookouts connected by a 45 minute loop walk from the car park:
In addition, you could drive to another car park a little further down the road, and then walk to the bottom of the canyon. This takes a little longer but should be on your list if you’ve got extra time for this area.
While you’re in the area, also visit Preston Falls. Not the most spectacular falls around, but certainly worth a quick stop and five minutes down some stairs. Just make sure to properly look up where it is before you leave, there are hardly any signs for it.
Another great sight in the area are the Gunns Plains Caves. You have to go on a guided tour in order to see the caves, but it’s a family run business and well worth it, according to a friend of us who has been there recently.
Finally, you can head back up to Devonport from here in less than an hour to sadly end your Tasmania road trip and catch your ferry back over to the mainland.
Keep this in mind: Tasmania is a very big hiking destination. Lots of National Parks have got multiple hiking trails to choose from, ranging between half a day and a week in duration. Especially Cradle Mountain Lake St. Clair NP, Freycinet NP and Tasman NP have all got many fantastic overnight trails to choose from.
We did a few walks of up to four hours. But if you’re really into hiking, at least double your time on a Tasmania road trip.
One more thing before you head off to the National Parks: Definitely consider buying a vehicle pass for AU$60 at the first National Park you go to, or even on board the ferry. It’s good for two months for a car and up to 8 people. As long as you visit at least two or three parks (depending on the number of people in the car), you’ll be better off with this option, compared to paying for each park separately.
Have you been to Tasmania or thinking of doing an epic Tasmania road trip like us? We’d love to know, just comment below!
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