I arrived in Tasmania Australia with absolutely no expectations. I love it when that happens. Sometimes it’s on purpose and other times it’s just because we are busy and have not really planned our visit. Usually this results in wonderful surprises and discoveries – and this is exactly what happened for us in Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.
Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise
Island Paradise? Absolutely. But maybe not in the way you are thinking. It’s not tropical…but there are beautiful beaches. You’ll love that it’s not crowded…most of it wild and undeveloped. Also it’s not hot…with four seasons but rarely getting over 75 – 80F degrees in the short summer.
And yet it truly is a little Eden. About half the size of the State of Washington, the heart shaped island is home to a fascinating collection of birds, animals and plants. With miles of undeveloped coast, rain forests, mountains, waterfalls, lakes and meadows. A hardy local population of about 540,000 are friendly, patriotic and helpful.
Tasmania has a rich history. Home to aboriginal tribes for tens of thousands of years, the tribes were nearly wiped out when Europeans arrived. Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer, first named the island Van Diemen’s Land in the 1640’s. The British began “transportation” in the early 1800’s, transporting convicts to gaols (jails) throughout Australia including Tasmania. In an effort to colonize the area, more than 162,000 men, women and children served hard labor between 1788 and 1868. Most of them stayed, and populated the Australian mainland and Tasmania. It is estimated that 20% of today’s Australian population can trace their roots to British convicts transported during this time.
What’s Your Pleasure?
During our visit, Tasmania provided us activities that we enjoy the most; bird and wildlife spotting, hiking, walking, learning about history, eating seafood and drinking local wine and beer! We did all that and more during our four week visit to Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.
Most people probably aren’t going to spend an entire month. But hopefully this post will help you set your priorities for visiting Tasmania.
By the way – if you plan to visit more than one national park in Tasmania, it’s worth it to purchase an annual pass which we did. Definitely worth it for us at US$60. Learn more about it here.
We spent an entire month in a wonderful historic Airbnb in Hobart. All but two of the activities listed below we did as day trips from Hobart. One overnight was to Freycinet National Park, although we could have done that in a day trip too. Additionally we took two nights to go north and visit Launceston and Cradle Mountain. It was great to use Hobart as our home base, since we had such a lot of time to work with. If you have less time, be sure to spend at least a few days in lovely Hobart because there is much to do. Read all about the amazing things we did while living in Hobart for a month here Hobart Australia’s Most Surprising Town.
DISTANCE FROM HOBART – 35 min drive and 30 min ferry ride.
A short drive from Hobart to the small town of Kettering, you catch a small ferry to Bruny Island. Plan ahead because sometimes you wait a couple of ferries – it’s really small. Once on the island, there are some fun things to do…we did it as a day trip but depending on how much time you have it could be a great overnight. Bruny is home to some great hikes including Fluted Cape Walk, which we did. It involved a pretty steep climb but that gave us some wonderful views. We had hoped to see the famous Bruny Island white wallaby but unfortunately we didn’t. Hopefully you will. There are about 200 on the island.
Bruny has beautiful beaches and several wineries. We took some time to visit a local brewery that also makes cheese Bruny Island Beer and Cheese Company and enjoyed a little lunch.
A popular thing to do on Bruny is get out on the water on an organized boat cruise. We didn’t do this, but there are many ways to enjoy the water…and many other things as well. Learn all about what to do on Bruny Island here.
DISTANCE FROM HOBART Just over an hour to Tasman Peninsula and an additional 20 min to Port Arthur
We started early for this day trip and enjoyed everything we did. Starting on the Tasman Peninsula we made several stops to enjoy the beauty of this astounding scenery of this area. This is home to the multi day hike known as the Three Capes. On this visit to Tasmania we were not prepared to do overnight hiking, but it’s one of the most popular things to do in Tasmania. Learn more about it here.
However our day trip included some short walks that provided us outstanding views of this rugged and beautiful area. Starting with a couple of short loop walks that took us to the Tasman’s Arch and then to the Devils Kitchen. Another short walk in this same area is to a Blow Hole at Fossil Bay, with spectacular panoramas along the gorgeous coast. I highly recommend a stop at the Tessellated Pavement too. It’s also a short walk and worth it to view this very unique rock formation, created by the expanding salt in the rock cracks. Unreal and bewitching.
At the end of the Tasman Peninsula we come to Port Arthur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former penal colony. Between 1830 and 1877 nearly 13,000 convicts came to this remote point of the Tasman Peninsula, at that time reachable only by water. The convicts that were housed here were those who recommitted crimes. A high offender penitentiary. The museum and self-guided tour is so perfectly presented and easy to understand. At the start of the tour you receive a playing card with the name and picture of someone who either lived or worked in Port Arthur. As you tour the grounds you read the interpretive signage and try to find your person. It was fun and interesting for young and old alike. This unique historical site of Port Arthur is sad, but frankly beautiful too. Port Arthur is a not to be missed attraction of Tasmania.
As we returned to Hobart we stopped at one of the dozens of wineries in this area. Visiting Bangor Vineyard winery we enjoyed an early dinner in their incredible restaurant and some delicious wine too.
DISTANCE FROM HOBART one hour and ten minutes
At 600 feet, you’ll enter this beautiful national park and find a cool rain forest and home to some of Tasmania’s tallest Eucalyptus trees. We enjoyed a full day hike doing the three waterfalls loop. On our visit we hiked about 7 miles but there are short and easy wilderness walks that take you through the beautiful fern trees and to the popular Russell Falls, one of Tasmania’s most beautiful waterfalls. After our hike and picnic lunch we drove up to Lake Dobson. It was noticeably colder at this elevation of 3500 feet. In the winter it’s popular for snow activities at Mount Mawson Ski Field. Mount Fields National Park is not as popular as some of the other national parks close to Hobart, we loved how few people were there on our visit. I highly recommend you visit.
DISTANCE FROM HOBART One hour by car and then 30 min by boat.
One of our favorite things we did on Tasmania was visiting Maria Island (pronounced mar – EYE – ah). Another national park, it is remote and beautiful and home to abundant wildlife. I recommend booking your boat ahead, especially during high season. It’s recommended you arrive at the ferry 45 min before your departure. The passenger-only ferry with Encounter Maria departs from the small town of Triabunna. At the ferry you will find parking, rest rooms and a small place for coffee and fish and chips.
One day or More
The boat ride can be a bit bumpy, so if you are like me plan ahead with your motion meds. On arrival there are multiple hiking options depending on your fitness level. We did three different hikes; first to the Fossil Cliffs, about an hour and half. The fossils are pretty cool and the hike along the rocky cliff side of the island is windswept and beautiful. We encountered kangaroo on this section.
We walked through the Darlington Township, another of Australia’s penal colonies of the 1800’s and enjoyed our picnic lunch at one of the provided tables. It was here that we encountered the rare Cape Barren Goose.
Next we walked along the beautiful Rutherford Beach cove to the Painted Cliffs, one of the most beautiful areas of the island. A fascinating geological feature of Maria you don’t want to miss. Make sure to check on the tide however, to properly see the Painted Cliffs the tide must be low enough to walk to them.
Walking back to the ferry we encountered wombats. Several wombats, including a Mama and a baby. Such a treat to see these incredible marsupials up close.
We took the 10:00 AM boat out of Triabunna and returned on the 4:15 departure from Maria. This gave us plenty of time to do all of the above. There are longer hikes as well, and you can stay the night in both small historic lodging or camping. Don’t miss Maria Island when visiting Tasmania.
DISTANCE FROM HOBART 2 hours 40 minutes
We visited Freycinet as an overnight but you could do it as a day trip from Hobart. Deciding to make it an overnight, we stayed in the tiny town of Swansea, about an hour from the park, in a small cabin in a caravan park. Swansea has a few restaurants but not much else. We did enjoy a walk through town and along the waterfront.
Wine Glass Bay
Wine Glass Bay is the main thing most people come to see. There is a fairly steep hike up to the viewpoint that includes about 1000 stairs. Once at the top the view makes you forget all about that. At the lookout, you can choose to walk another 1000 steps down to the beautiful sandy beach. Then, turn around and back up, and down the other side. It is a bit difficult, but if you take your time, I think nearly anyone could do it. Be sure and bring water.
Cape Tourville Light
It’s also worth it to visit Cape Tourville Light. The view is incredibly, and although very windy I definitely recommend the short walk around the light. The view from the windy cliff where the light house sits is stunning.
OVERNIGHT – we did Launceston as part of a two day tour of Launceston, Devonport and Cradle Mountain (see below)
Distance from Hobart 2 hours 30 minutes
Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city. Located on the Tamar River, it’s home to James Boag’s Brewery – Australia’s largest brewery. It’s a small town with lots of historic charm in the Victorian style architecture. It’s easy to do a self-guided walking tour. Don’t miss the Old Umbrella Shop, owned by National Trust Tasmania.
If the weather is fine make sure to visit the Cataract Gorge and ride the old school Cataract Chair Lift over the gorge.
Cradle Mountain National Park and Devonport
Distance from Hobart 4 hours. From Devonport it’s about 1 hour 30 min.
We drove from Launceston on to Devonport (about an hour) where we rented a tiny cottage in a caravan park with views of the the Bass Strait. We chose Devonport because it was easy to access Cradle Mountain National Park which was our main reason for coming to this area. The region is very agarian, a bit windy and absolutely beautiful. Devonport is home to the ferry that crosses the Bass Strait, the treacherous span of water to mainland Australia.
We didn’t have much time in Devonport, and frankly there isn’t a lot to do. We enjoyed a leisurely walk along the waterfront a long and well maintained Torquay Heritage Trail.
The best thing we did in Devonport was go at sunset to see the Little Penguins. Often called Fairy Penguins these little cuties leave their chicks on shore and go out to fish from just before sunup until after sunset. Conservation volunteers man the overlook at Lillico Penguin Viewing Platform each evening to help visitors spot the little penguins as they come ashore. It was cold and windy and of course dark…but I’m sure glad we did it.
We arrived at Cradle Mountain National Park about 10am. It was the week after Christmas and it was really busy with tourists and locals too. We hadn’t realized that visiting Cradle Mountain means a shuttle bus inside the park. At first I was annoyed about that…always wanting to be able to control my timeline. However, it was a very efficient system, even on a very busy day. The shuttles are large and comfortable and frequent. Even if you already have a parks pass, you’ll need to stop at the visitor center to get your shuttle tickets.
The park is about 3000 feet, and even in early summer, it can be chilly. When packing up that morning in Devonport where it was 75 Fahrenheit, we had only thrown in our down jackets and hats as an afterthought. Thankfully. We wore all of it most the day. Beginning our hiking around 11am with the Dove Lake Circuit, one of the most popular hikes in the park. We followed that with a nice stretch of the Overland Track – most of which is on a raised platform. Next we enjoyed our picnic lunch and were just heading out to do a portion of the river gorge track, which wanders back down to the Visitor Center. But right then it started to rain…a nasty, misty, soaking rain, and we decided we had enough for the day, and headed back towards Devonport.
And We Didn’t See It All
There are a few things we did not squeeze into our visit. Despite the compact size of Tasmania, if you like nature, you’ll never run out of things to see and do. The people are so friendly, prices are good, roads are passable to all the places I mentioned here, and summer and fall provide comfortable temperatures. Spending the holidays here we observed how laid-back life is – even as Christmas approached. People are unpretentious, happy, and completely at home in this beautiful state.
We loved everything about our time in Australia, and Tasmania is a place we would love to return to again. If I can help you plan a visit to this remarkable place, let me know. Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.
See last week’s post about Hobart Tasmania – Australia’s Most Surprising Town here. Be sure to come back NEXT FRIDAY for our ANNUAL TRAVEL AWARDS post – which incidentally has a lot of Australia in it too! You don’t want to miss it – always one of our top posts of the year.
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