This story first appeared on former NRMA travel site LIve4 on March 26, 2015. Images by Mick Ross.
With its small size and diverse landscapes, Tasmania was made for road tripping. Whether you’ve got a little or a lot of time, you’ll be surprised how much you can see and do. Here’s what we took in from 10 wonderful days on the road.
Driving your way around Tassie is a great way to see the state, and depending on your preference and budget, you can stay at hostels, hotels or B&Bs along the way – or go bush and camp. However, if you’re after something a little different, consider hiring a campervan.
Holidaying in a campervan is hard to go past if you like the freedom of travelling at your own pace and being able to park for the night wherever you end up. Tassie is great for this, with many RV-friendly towns providing handy facilities and parks for campervans.
It can also offer a few more creature comforts than camping – although you get what you pay for. Our campervan was a cheap rental that rattled loudly on the road and came with more than a few quirks, but it had a toilet, a shower, a stovetop and battery power that ran lights, a bar fridge and a water pump.
We started and finished our great journey in Hobart. If it’s your first visit to the city, don’t go past the Museum of Old and New (MONA) in Berriedale and the Salamanca Markets (every Saturday, 8.30am to 3pm). They’re two attractions worth the hype.
Tasmania is well known for its food and wine, and the dining scene around town reflects this. Grab brunch or some sweet treats at the Jackman and McRoss bakery-cafes in Battery Point and New Town, and stock up on local gourmet goodies at Elizabeth Street Food + Wine (285 Elizabeth Street, Hobart). We also enjoyed a fancy dinner and warm service at The Westend Pumphouse (105 Murray Street, Hobart) – a casual eatery with a modern grazing-style menu. For beers, head to the New Sydney Hotel (87 Bathurst Street, Hobart) or Franklin (30 Argyle Street, Hobart) – a cool bar and restaurant for cocktails and wine.
East coast calling
From Hobart, we passed through the nearby town of Sorell (home to many vintage stores and charity op shops bursting with finds) and made our way towards the stunning east coast. It’s an area of rugged coastline, with beaches that look more at home in a Thailand holiday brochure and sprawling national parks. There are a handful of parks in this region alone, of which Freycinet National Park, home to the photogenic Wineglass Bay, is perhaps the most popular. Take walks, go swimming, fish, eat tasty meals at town pubs, meet quirky locals and relish the region’s famed cool-climate wine and fresh seafood.
St Helens and Bicheno are the biggest towns in the east. From St Helens, you can easily access the famed Bay of Fires in Binalong Bay, as well as The Blue Tier – an area that thrived during the tin mining boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s but is now largely abandoned.
We camped atop The Blue Tier, where Poimena – a town of some 3000 residents – once sat but is now home to a wild, green, strangely beautiful park dotted with rusted mining equipment and historical remnants. Nearby, the quaint former mining town of Derby is emerging as a world-class mountain-biking destination, with the recent opening of the Blue Derby Trails.
Launceston and the north-west
From the east, we traced a path to Launceston, which feels more like a big, charming town than Tassie’s second biggest city. Take in all the beautiful heritage architecture with a walk around the city and finish with some drinks at the cool Saint John Craft Beer Bar (133 Saint John Street, Launceston).
Onwards to the north-west – it’s Tasmania’s prime agricultural region and home to the famous Cradle Mountain. It’s also dotted with nature reserves and parklands. We were charmed by Stanley – a town marked by its pretty colonial architecture, cute cafes and pubs. It overlooks The Nut, a flat-topped, looming volcanic plug that sits on the ocean’s edge.
Often called ‘the wild west’, Tasmania’s west coast is an area of stark contradictions – where mountainous, green World Heritage-listed parks neighbour areas stripped by logging and towns gone quiet after their former mining days of glory. Scenic Strahan is the place to stay here and take in some of the region’s convict history.
We ventured south-west to Strathgordon – a tiny township populated by a few souls in this remote and wild corner of Tassie. Here we walked the 140-metre-high wall of Gordon Dam – a project that saw the flooding and re-creation of the original Lake Pedder into the country’s biggest freshwater catchment. An eerie, but startlingly beautiful place to visit.
Road tripping tips
- Petrol stations and supermarkets can be few and far between in some parts of Tassie. So be sure to keep your campervan well stocked with petrol, water and munchies.
- Phone coverage can be patchy if you get off the beaten track. Consider taking an old-school paper map and a GPS as backup.
- Take out insurance – it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
- Sites such as Campin Australia are great resources for finding accommodation on the move. They offer listings for campsites, hostels, caravan parks and rest areas.
- If at first you don’t find a campsite that suits, keep looking. With a bit of perseverance and creativity, you’re bound to strike it lucky.
- If you’re holidaying in a campervan, get chatting to the other caravanners you meet on the road – they often have a wealth of knowledge, and the caravanning experts we met pointed us to some of the best places we visited.