Bay of Fires

The Best Tasmania Itinerary (+ Tasmania Road Trip Map)

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Tasmania is an island state in Australia known for its rugged landscape, sparse population and of course Tasmanian devils. Affectionately called “Tassie” by Australians, it is rugged and wild and easy to fall for.   Outdoor enthusiasts will love the awesome hiking opportunities and city lovers will appreciate the rich foodie and art culture.

In this guide, we want to help you plan the best Tasmania itinerary with our tips for the best things to do in Tasmania and how to make the most of your Tasmania road trip.

When to Go to Tasmania

Tasmania’s weather is very different from what most people think of when they think of Australia.  Tasmania experiences four seasons and parts of the island see snow in winter.  Christmas through to early February is peak time on the island as it is school holidays and temperatures are the warmest – a comfortable low 20s (C).  If you are looking to avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons are a great time to travel (March-April and October-November).  Winter offers the best value, but will require lots of layers and winter clothing.

Weather in Tasmania can be very variable and change quickly regardless of which time of year you visit.  Pack lots of clothes to layer and be prepared for swift weather changes. We experienced 12 degree weather and lots of rain at Cradle Mountain, even in January.

Tasmania Itinerary + Map

Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state and with a maximum width and length of 300 km, it is manageable to explore many of the highlights on one visit.  You could race around and see the east coast sights in one week, but 10-14 days will give you a chance to slow down and explore a little bit deeper.  This 1 and 2 week itinerary includes the Tasmania must see highlights and the best places to visit in Tasmania.

1 Week Tasmania Itinerary: Hobart, Port Arthur, Wineglass Bay (Freycinet National Park)

2 Week Tasmania Itinerary: Hobart, Port Arthur, Wineglass Bay, Bay of Fires, Launceston, Cradle Mountain National Park

If you have more time, consider including Bruny Island, the wild west coast, the Huon Valley, the Tamar Valley, Bicheno or Penguin to your itinerary.

Hobart

Hobart is the capital and largest city of Tasmania with a population of 220,000.  It’s walkable, has a relaxing vibe, a huge arts and culture scene and plenty of farm to table foodie restaurants.  It’s harbourside setting with mountains and valleys surrounding the city make it a great base to explore the outdoors.

Start your visit by wandering the city, climbing Kelly’s Steps to the Battery Point neighborhood with its quaint cottages and views.

Hobart is best known for its famous Salamanca Markets, held every Saturday.  The markets are a food lover’s gem with beautiful fresh produce, local honey, preserves, oils, spirits and many food trucks and stalls to tempt you.  The market also offers unique handcrafted goodies from wood carvings to merino socks to handmade clothes.  Try to organize your Tasmania itinerary to include a Saturday in Hobart so you can visit the markets, as this is one of the best things to do in Hobart.Salamanca Market

Hobart is famous for being home to MONA, the Museum of Old & New.  This Hobart attraction is a privately funded museum that the owner describes as a “subversive adult Disneyland” and for many, it is the highlight of their time in Hobart.   MONA is open from 10-6 in the summer, closed on Tuesdays and the entrance fee is $30/adult. It is located 11 km outside of Hobart.  You can take a ferry or arrive by road.

Mt. Wellington rises up over the city of Hobart and cloaks the city often in mist.  You can drive to the summit along a narrow sealed road.  The views from the top are spectacular looking out over the city and the bays and beaches nearby.  Being 4000 ft above sea level, it gets quite chilly at the top and even snow in summer is not unheard of.View from top of Mt WEllington

Mawson’s Hut Replica Museum is a recreation of the hunt that Sir Douglas Mawson’s team built for their Antarctica expedition in 1911-1914.   This is an interesting place to learn more about Antarctica, the polar explorers, and their scientific work. You only need an hour to visit the museum.  It is open daily from 9-5 in the summer and 10-4 in the winter months.  Entrance tickets are $15/adult, $5/child, $35/family.

Where to Stay Hobart

Salamanca Inn – situated right in Battery Park, this mid-range hotel is a great option.  With spacious apartments, an in-door pool, free parking and right in the centre of Hobart, this hotel consistently gets great reviews.  Click here to check the latest prices.

The Henry Jones Art Hotel – an uber cool hotel that looks more like a modern art gallery, this hotel is well situated in central Hobart and offers great service and a great atmosphere.  Click here to check the latest prices.

Camping – the Discovery Park Hobart is convenient for accessing central Hobart, but is located alongside a busy highway.

Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula

Port Arthur is the best preserved convict site in Australia and was actually a penal colony for the penal colony.  It is located 1.5 hours from Hobart, so you can visit on a day trip.  However, the Tasman Peninsula in which Port Arthur sits on is worth spending a night or two.

Port Arthur is now an open air museum where historical ruins, buildings and gardens come to life to paint a picture of what convent life was like in the 19th century.  The entrance includes a 40 minute introductory tour, a 25 minute boat cruise and entrance to the vast complex of buildings and ruins.  Allocate half a day to explore this fascinating site.  You can also add on a tour of the Isle of the Dead (final resting place of 1000+ convicts and officers) and/or Point Puer Boys’ Prison, where children as young as 9 were imprisoned in the mid 1800s. The site does a wonderful job of showcasing the history and explaining the various buildings and exhibits.  This is one of the most popular Tasmania attractions and something you don’t want to miss.  Port Arthur buildings

Port Arthur is a fascinating place due to its historical significance not just from the convict era, but in more recent times as well.  In 1996, 35 people lost their lives at the tourist site of Port Arthur as a  gunman went on a shooting spree.  Australia quickly took action and amended their gun control laws prohibiting semi-automatic weapons.  Twenty years on and the government’s action has proven successful with a decline in mass shootings and firearm deaths.

Practical Information: Port Arthur is open every day of the year, 9 am to dusk.  Tickets cost $40 AUD/adult, $18/child, $102/family (up to 6 children).  There is a canteen on site serving meals, drinks and snacks.

Port Arthur touring

Learning, learning, lots of learning.

While most visitors come to the Tasman Peninsula to visit Port Arthur, there are many other interesting things to see on the Peninsula.  You can camp and hike at Tasman National Park at Fortescue Bay and visit many geological wonders including the Tesselated Pavement, Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen, and Eaglehawk Neck.  You can also take a boat cruise, visit a lavender farm and enjoy delicious Tasmanian cuisine.

Tasman Arch

Tasman Arch

Where to Stay Port Arthur  

Stewarts Bay Lodge – within walking distance to Port Arthur Historic Site, this is the best accommodation if you want to be really close to Port Arthur.  The lodge is cozy and homey with its own private beach and spacious cabins.  Click here to check the latest prices.

Camping – We recommend staying at Fortescue Bay in Tasman National Park. The camp sites are located right near a beautiful beach and is a jumping off point for hikers doing multi-day hikes. Facilities are basic, but the wildlife opportunities are worth it.  Note that the campground is 12 km off the highway, down a rough unsealed road.   This is a popular campground, so booking are essential.  Sites are $13-16/night.  It is 17 km from the campground to the Port Arthur Historic Site.

Freycinet National Park – Wineglass Bay

Freycinet National Park surrounds Coles Bay on the east coast of Tasmania.  The National Park is best known for Wineglass Bay, a gorgeous stretch of sandy beach and turquoise waters dotted with pink granite cliffs.  It is one of the most popular things to see in Tasmania, so be prepared to share this special spot with other visitors.

The most common walk is to the Wineglass Bay Lookout, a 2.4 km return loop that takes 1-1.5 hours.  From the lookout you can continue your hike down to Wineglass Bay, which will add 3.5 km return and another 1.5 hours.  While Freycinet National Park is synonymous with Wineglass Bay, there are many other incredible places to explore in the National Park.

Where to Stay Freycinet National Park

You have a few choices of where to base yourself when visiting Freycinet National Park.  You can stay in Coles Bay, or nearby Bicheno or Swansea.

Edge of the Bay Resort – located 4 km outside of Coles Bay, the rooms have gorgeous views and you will have wildlife on your doorstep.  Located 5 minutes from town, but peaceful and tranquil, Edge of the Bay Resort is a great choice when visiting Freycinet.  Click here to check the latest prices.

Saffire Freycinet (Luxury) – this architectural gem is gorgeous with modern luxe suites, views from every room, an award winning restaurant and top notch hospitality.  Worth the splurge!  Click here to check the latest prices.

Big 4 Iluka Camping and Cabins – great location opposite Muir’s Beach with nice water views, an IGA down the street and good access to Freycinet National Park.  Click here to check the latest prices.

Bay of Fires

Bay of Fires has gained quite a bit of attention recently as one of the most beautiful places in Australia.  The unique orange covered boulders that litter the coast shine against the white sand beaches and turquoise waters, making for a photographer’s dream.  Best of all, it is still off-the-beaten path so you can find deserted bays.  While the water may look inviting, even in summer it never gets above 65 degrees, making for a very refreshing experience.

We spent hours climbing the big boulders, finding secret passages through the rocks, and exploring the tidal pools.  The sunsets are incredible .  The best way to experience the Bay of Fires is by camping, however you can stay in nearby Binalong Bay or St. Helens too.

Where to Stay Bay of Fires

Pelican Point Sanctuary – located just north of St. Helens, this quiet place really is a sanctuary.  Located near the sea with abundant birdlife, the clean rooms and friendly staff, make this a great choice.  Click here to check the latest prices.

Airbnb – there are a number of great airbnbs near the Bay of Fires.  Burgess Cottage is a great choice.  If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to save $50 off your first booking.

CampingCosy Corner South campground is a basic free camping area with stunning views right on the water.  It is first-come-first-serve and incredibly popular.  There are a couple of drop toilets, but you need to bring in your own water and take out your waste.

Launceston

Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city and is best known for the beautiful Cataract Gorge. In the late 1800s, someone had the foresight to create this beautiful park around this breathtaking Gorge with walking trails, a large swimming pool, restaurants and even a chairlift across the water.

A 3.4 km walking track will take you around the Gorge and over the long suspension bridge.  The free and chilly public swimming pool can be a great place to cool down or you can go for a swim in the river.  You can ride the First Basin Scenic Chairlift across the river for $13/adult and $8/child, one-way.  The chairlift is open everyday from 9 am.

Other ideas for things to do in Launceston include visiting the Saturday Harvest Market, City Park Launceston, Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery and of course the Tamar Valley wineries.

Where to Stay Launceston

Peppers Silo – this modern and comfortable hotel offers good value with great views of the city and river. Some of the rooms are located inside a renovated grain silo, making this a unique place to stay.   Click here to check the latest prices.

Camping – the Big 4  Lauceston campground is very kid friendly with a playground and jumping pillow for the kids.

Cradle Mountain National Park

Cradle Mountain National Park was one of the highlights of our time in Tasmania and we wish we had allocated more than just one night here.  The terrain is really unique – Lord of the Rings-like with wild alpine moorlands, glacial lakes and moss covered rainforest.  The higher altitude makes it cool even in summer and it is known for its misty and moody weather.  The hiking opportunities are fabulous with everything from short day hikes to multi-day epic trails.

To protect this fragile environment, the National Park provides mandatory shuttle service between the Visitor Centre and the most popular sights and hikes.  A 24 hour Cradle Mountain pass costs $16.50/adult, $8.25/child, $41.25/family (2+3).  Holiday passes for up to 8 weeks are also available.

The most popular hike is the Dove Lake circuit with gorgeous views of Cradle Mountain on a clear day.  The circuit is 6 km and takes 2 hours.  There are numerous other short hikes if you have time.  You can almost guarantee that you will see a wombat in the National Park.

We only wishes we could have spent more than one night there and that it didn’t rain most of the time we were there.

Tassie is well known for its fabulous produce and food.  On our 2.5 hour drive from Launceston to Cradle Mountain we did stop to sample some local foods highlighted in the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail.   We enjoyed the chocolates at Anvers Chocolates, tasted delicious cheeses at Ashgrove Cheese, sampled some yummy craft beer at 7 Sheds Brewery and visited enjoyed a lovely meal at the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm.

Between Launceston and Cradle Mountain are a number of caves where you can see glow worms and impressive stalactites and stalagmites.  Mole Creek is the departure point for exploring the Marakoopa and King Solomans caves.  You have to visit the caves as part of a tour, which depart daily from 10 am -3 pm.  Adults $19, children $9.50, family (2+3) $47.50.  Dress warmly as the caves stay a chilly 9 degrees all year long.Marakoopa cave

Where to Stay Cradle Mountain

Camping or Cabins –  Located right on the edge of the National Park, the Discovery Holidays Parks campground offers a wilderness experience right at your doorstep. The campground has a wonderful chalet building with a wood burning stove, a camp kitchen and travelers from all over the world to hang out with.  They also have comfortable cottages and cabins if you are looking for more comfort.  Click here to check the latest prices.

Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge –  a luxury experience in the wilderness, this lodge is picturesque and cozy with open fireplaces, postcard views and even a spa to soothe your sore muscles.  Did we mention the lodge is located right in the National Park?  Click here to check the latest prices.

Getting to TasmaniaSpirit of Tasmania 1

Since Tasmania is an island, you have two choices of how to get here: you can fly or take a boat.

The main airports in Tasmania are in Hobart and Launceston which offer frequent directs flights to Melbourne and Sydney.  Flights are 1-2 hours and cost AUD $100-200/each way.

The Spirit of Tasmania is a ferry that sails between Melbourne and Davenport in Tasmania.  We opted for the ferry since we were bringing our car and thought it would be an interesting way to get across the Bass Strait. The Bass Strait is known to be a rough passage as the warm waters of the Indian ocean meet the Pacific through this narrow and shallow strait. Read our Tips For Taking the Spirit of Tasmania here.   Spirit of Tasmania fares start at $89/person and $99/vehicle, but increase drastically during peak times.

Getting Around Tasmania (+Renting a Car in Tasmania)

The best way to explore Tasmania really is by car which gives you the most freedom.  Many of the most beautiful spots are in between popular Tasmania tourist attractions and with your own car you can stop to enjoy a deserted beach that beckons or buy some fresh cherries from the farm stand.

Most visitors will rent a car from Hobart or Launceston.  A 2WD is perfectly suitable for exploring the east coast of Tasmania.  You will have to be comfortable driving on the left, but the roads are quiet and small.  Similar to New Zealand, it does take longer to get around on the smaller roads.

Click here to check the latest prices of car rentals in Tasmania.

Tasmania with Kids

There are so many wonderful activities that both kids and parents will love in Tasmania.  Here were our top things to do in Tasmania with kids:

  • climbing the boulders and finding hidden caves at the Bay of Fires
  • learning about Antarctic exploration at Mawson’s Hut Museum in Hobart
  • testing out the chilly waters of Cataract Gorge in Launceston
  • savoring fresh fruit from roadside vendors
  • spotting wombats at Cradle Mountain National Park
  • learning about Australia’s convict history at Port Arthur
  • seeing and learning about the geological formations on the Tasman peninsula
  • shopping for treats at the Salamanca Markets
  • spotting glow worms at Mole Creek
  • riding the Scenic Chairlift at Cataract Gorge, Launceston
  • climbing the boulders on the top of Mount Wellington

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