Tasmania is home to: the Tasmanian Devil; some of the world’s most beautiful beaches; and the bizarre world of MONA. It’s becoming ever more cosmopolitan in it’s capital Hobart but remains remote the further you get from this hub. Surprisingly there’s something for everyone in this tiny island state off the South Coast of Australia and it’s well worth a quick detour from the mainland or a separate trip in its own right.
Flying into Tasmania is simple with connections to several major cities on the mainland of Australia. We flew from Melbourne to Tasmania on a flight that was quick (less than 1 hour), reasonably priced (using budget airline tigerair), and hassle free (you can carry any size liquid). There are also ferry options but we found these to be much more expensive for the dates and duration we were looking at.
By far the best way to explore the island is with your own set of wheels. This is much cheaper than trying to book onto some of the all inclusive but expensive tours that can be done of the island often using Hobart or Lauceston as a base. Cars and camper vans to suit all budgets can be hired directly from the airport. We went with the car option, which turned out to be an automatic – this seems to be the norm. As UK drivers we were much more accustomed to manual drive but it was easy to get the hang off and driving on the left was a big plus for us!
Top tip: As always shop around and be sure to read the T&Cs to ensure you have adequate cover if you do have an accident. Car hire can become very expensive when you start adding all the extras on. We used Atlaschoice which is a great car comparison site we used in South Africa too.
As the capital of Tasmania, this is a place which is undergoing a lot of development and becoming ever more cosmopolitan. Similar to most cities in its facilities it’s a good first port of call if flying in. It’s easy to navigate on foot allowing you to stroll around the city centre, visit the harbour or on a Saturday morning enjoy the famous Salamanca market. Transport options for those without a car can also be arranged here allowing you to visit nearby museums and beaches.
The Museum of Old and New Art seems to be on the top of anyone’s list when you ask: “What’s the best thing to do in Hobart?” It’s easy to reach by car, bus or ferry but don’t be led to believe you must get the ferry as parking is limited as we found there to be plenty of space saving us $40 for a return ferry trip. However, if you want to see Hobart from the water then this could be a good option to consider.
The museum itself is hi-tech providing you with a brand new iPod touch to engage with each piece – this will give you detailed information as well as interviews surrounding the art. You don’t even have to read this information as there is an option to have it read to you allowing you to spend more time looking. The pieces are controversial at times, bizarre, thought provoking and for us often confusing. It would be unfair to discuss publicly any of the pieces and spoil the experience for those wanting to go. However, please feel free to contact us if you did want more information.
Personally we would recommend others to go to explore the bizarre world which is MONA. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone is an important part of travel and Tasmanians are generally very proud of this museum. However, if you’re short on time and hate contemporary art then this might not be the best place for you. Likewise, I would do some research about the place (I don’t want to give it all away publicly so contact me privately) before taking young children particularly if you’re on a budget or haven’t much time – it may be you decide that this place isn’t suitable for your children.
If you can time your visit to be in Hobart on a Saturday then you’ll be able to partake in the Salamanca Market. Although set up for tourists it’s more of a local thing to do with the people of Hobart all mingling together to sell their wares, food and anything else they have a passion for as well as those looking for a bargain, a gift or a bite to eat. It’s a busy place so be prepared to slow your pace and just let the friendly tide take you round. When it all gets too much then grab some food with choices ranging from a local wallaby burrito to European, Persian, Asian and more. Find somewhere to sit down and watch the constant flux of the market as you listen to one of the mainly live sets, the majority of which were being performed by younger children and teenagers.
Top Tip: If you’re travelling by car there are several car parks offering the first 90 minutes free and then you can walk or catch the free shuttle bus to the market itself.
We chose to visit Richmond on the way to see a friend in Launceston. It was a second choice to Port Arthur but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to go that far South. It does, like Port Arthur, explain some of the history of Tasmania with regard to the convicts that were shipped over, their life in the local gaol and the work they did such as the building of bridges. Unlike Port Arthur, the site at Richmond is also fully intact and is but a short walk from Australia’s oldest bridge which was built by convicts and is very picturesque as well as impressive considering they were unskilled bridge builders. The whole place has a lovely village atmosphere reminding us of Britain, with plenty of small independent cafés and a village green to have a picnic.
Hidden Gems in and around Lauceston:
A brief stop in Lauceston allowed us to visit Cataract Gorge. With several walks to suit all levels you can get some impressive views of the Gorge, can pass over the swing bridge and even loop back along the basin walk. There is also excellent wheelchair/pushchair friendly access if needed as well as toilets, a swimming pool and a café.
Just outside Launceston, on our way to Bay of Fires, we stopped at Lilydale. Only a short walk from the car park and you’ll find Lilydale waterfalls which you can walk down to for an even better viewpoint. If you’ll lucky you’ll spot wallabys in the bushes though they’re quite shy! With toilet facilities and picnic tables this was the perfect setting for a picnic lunch though if you’re really prepared you can use the free BBQ station here to make something hot.
Legerwood Tree Carvings
Still on the route from Launceston to Bay of Fires, the small community of Legerwood is worth a quick detour. A row of trees were planted in memory to the locals who left, served in World War I and many who did not return. Once it was noticed that these trees posed a health and safety risk, and not wanting them (& the memorial) to be destroyed, an artist was brought in to carve them. The tree carvings you’ll see now are created from those original trees and depict the men they are honouring in a number of postures taken from their lives both prior to and during the war. It’s a well made memorial and very personal too, to remember the sacrifice that was made by the men from this small community in the Great War.
Bay of Fires
Up there in some of the worlds greatest beaches, you’ll find brilliant white sand as far as the eye can see. Large rocks strewn on the beach make for the perfect place to sit and watch the waves of the Southern Ocean crash onto the beach. You’ll soon want to take a dip in the clear waters.
A number of campsites line the Bay of Fires and some of the no-frills sites are free to stay for up to a month so what are you waiting for? Nearby St Helens is also worth a quick visit if only to pick up supplies, eat out or get some local information.
Top Tip: It’s worth noting that phone signal may be non-existent and if necessary you should check the coverage with your phone provider. At the time of writing the Vodafone SIM did not work anywhere along the East Coast.
Freycinet National Park
One of the most popular spots along the East Coast with Tasmania’s cleanest beaches, popular hikes and lots of other outdoor activities from the relaxing to the adventurous. You will need to pay park fees which is charged per vehicle (unless you enter on foot and then it’s per person). It pays to stay longer as the fees for three separate days is more than the two month pass. Furthermore the pass is transferable to all other Tasmanian National Parks except for Cradle Mountain which requires an additional fee. Although there are no free camping sites within the park, these can be found just before you enter. The visitor centre will be able to point these out along with sorting your park pass; organising any paid accommodation you require; as well as talking you through the various hikes, activities and beaches on offer. You can also refill your water bottle for a small charge which is much cheaper (& better for the environment) than buying more water bottles from the local stores.
With only a day to spare we opted for the Wineglass Bay hike up to the lookout before heading down onto the beach itself. Seeing yet more wallabys on the way as well as picturesque views of both Cole’s Bay and Wineglass Bay – this began as the perfect hike. For those wanting more you can head down to the beach itself. We quickly made the trip down to walk on yet more brilliant white sand that literally squeaked beneath our feet. Once more it’s sand as far as the eye can see and since the beach can only be reached on foot it’s not very busy. We went in April and saw less than 10 people the whole time we were there. Being Autumn the crystal clear water was a little cooler but still perfect to paddle in. The hike up was a bit harder than it had been coming down but you’ll feel great for it once you make it back to the top.
Top Tip: If you require WIFI and you don’t have it at your accommodation then there is free WIFI just as you enter the National Park in Coles Bay. The coffee shops, restaurant and petrol station will all allow you to use their wifi for no cost – though we did buy a hot chocolate from the cafe.
With only five days as a quick detour from our mainland tour of Australia, we didn’t have long enough. There is so much more to see such as historic Port Arthur, Cradle Mountain and the rugged West Coast. So if you have time then do your research and go for longer. If you’ve been and have any tips on what to see and do then please comment below so we can share more with our readers.