1.The pristine blue East Coast
What to do in Tasmania?
Our personal itinerary...
We landed in Tasmania, at Hobart with absolute no idea of what we were going to do! If you are planning a trip down there, this post can be useful! Follow us on the roads of Tassie, we give you our best tips, quirky places to visit and what is not to be missed either, even if this is off the beaten track. Let’s go!
Tasmania in 15 days!
All the way around
Area 90 758 km2 Population 512 000
February, 20th 2014
How long there? Ideally spend 3-4 days but can be more if you love hiking, beach holidaying, diving…
The East Coast is absolutely stunning. The highlight if this region is no doubt : Freycinet National Park. Here you can kayak the bays, take a scenic flight over the world class Wineglass Bay or simply walk! What we did and what we really enjoyed. The walk tracks are well maintained and the choice is yours between all the ranges of walks (from 30 min to a few days…). Spend a few hours or 5 days exploring the national park and be amazed by the aqua blue beaches. I recommend you to go for the Hazards Beach Circuit which will take you to Wineglass Bay Lookout, the famous beach of the same name Wineglass beach _voted one of the 10 beaches in the world _ (where you can see wallabies) and then onto Hazards Beach. It took us 5 hours but we did many ”photos breaks” and enjoyed a picnic on the beach. We didn’t find this walk particularly difficult, you just need to be a little bit fit.
Very close from Freycinet (a few km), don’t miss Friendly Beaches which are beautiful. We loved the scenery between giant granite orange boulders, turquoise water and white sand: breath taking!
Drive less than 1 hour and stop to Bicheno for a night. Here the attraction are the little penguins. That’s very spectacular and we very much enjoyed the tours organised by Bicheno Penguins every night (www.bichenopenguintours.com.au). The groups are kept in small number so that you can get a good personal experience and ask all the questions you may have to your guide.
A great wildlife encounter!
After the penguins, it’s time to learn more about the icon of the island: the Tasmanian Devil? Go into Nature World (www.natureworld.com.au) (10min from Bicheno) and see them up close. Feeding time is every afternoon at 3:30. In this wildlife park, you can see the eastern quoll which is a very cute Australian carnivorous animal!
Finish your trip at St Helens, a good place to stay for a night and from here explore the beautiful Bay of Fires NP.
Binalong Bay is stunning. There are many walk tracks in this national park, then it’s just a matter of time and envy.
Where to stay...
Freycinet NP: Saffire: if you have the budget, stay in this luxurious lodge in the heart of the national park : www.saffire-freycinet.com.au
Bicheno: Bicheno Backpackers: www.bichenobackpackers.com
Saint Helens: Tidal waters: all the comfort you are looking for in this resort, beautifully located on the water’s edge.
The Picturesque East Cost:
We wish we had time to do:
We didn’t have time to explore: Maria Island National Park, which is a great wild place to spot wildlife : something to do next time!
The East Coast has many free wifi spots, which can be pretty useful! (like Bicheno, Coles Bay...)
The wild coast to get lost in the wilderness : for the adventurers and lonely souls
The side of the blue turquoise beaches and orange granite boulders: for the beach lovers
2. NORTH: The green dairy fields with awesome fresh products : for the food lovers
For the modern art lovers, history fans (and still for the food lovers!)
The North's pics:
How long there? Ideally spend 3-4 days depending if you are a gourmet eater and/or love the country side.
Leave St Helens and drive direction Scottsdale, the scenery will be suddenly different. The road leaded us first to the green fields of Pyengana, endless emerald green valleys. We crossed cow pastures and saw magnificent waterfalls. Such a big change, it felt like another country!
Between St Helens and Launceston, there are a few attractions not to be missed.
First, we drove and stopped in a quirky pub (The Pub in the Paddock) hosting a princess… Priscilla, Princess of the Paddock… she is a world famous pig and you know why? Because she loves bier! What a concept, but the pub is worth the detour not only for Priscilla but also for the old-world country atmosphere and great home-cooked meals!
Then, a café caught our attention and we decided to check it out. Holy Cow! Café is a very cool place. We enjoyed delicious rich ice creams done with “real” milk while observing the cows getting a massage by roll brush in the paddock! We tasted the awarded cheddars and was just great to enjoy the peaceful view but we better had to keep driving.
Hopped on the car and went further down the valley to stroll in the lush rainforest, this felt like being in a fairy tale surrounded by giant fern trees. After a short 15 minutes, we arrived at the base of St Columba Falls which were pretty impressive: 90 m high!
On the road again, we did a short detour to have a look at an amazing artist work at Legerwood. The little town community was forced to lop gigantic trees in its main street, planted one day to commemorate its WWI soldiers. They came up with a novel idea: they commissioned chainsaw sculptor Eddie Freeman to carve figures of the soldiers from the tree stumps that remained. Clever thought! Different.
We reached Scottsdale and decided to keep going until the lavender fields of Bridestowe Lavender Farm, even if this was not the best moment to visit the site. The bloom is in December before the harvest in January. We arrived too late but it was still pretty and got this nice fragrance in the fields. We had the feeling to be in the Provence in South of France! They sell all you can imagine with lavender there!
Launceston was a perfect stop over for the night. A lovely pocket-sized city, large enough to feel sophisticated but small enough for staying a very friendly place. Launceston melds historic and contemporary, urbane with country character. We loved its interesting architecture, enjoyed good restaurants and feel the artist vibe. We loved the wall: Before I die, I want to… where everyone can write down wishes! Very cool!
Something not to miss if you like gourmet food, is to drive along the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail, a genuine touring route with all the best local producers. Leave Launceston and drive half an hour west direction Deloraine to reach the first stop: 41 south which offers salmon and smoked products. Follow with Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm, the Ashgrove Farm Cheese to taste different variety of cheddars (and I thought that cheddar was a boring cheese with only one flavour!!) Follow the track and visit dozens of farms and vineyards. Great initiative to discover the local products. www.cradletocoasttastingtrail.com.au
By the end of the day, we reached Burnie, kept driving to Wynyard and stop for the night. Many accommodations are available, we stayed at the Wharf Hotel which is good value for money and the restaurant has good seafood!
The day after, we drove to Table Cape and took in the scenery from up there. Wow! Walked to lighthouse and watch the crops of poppies from far.
2.The Northern fields
We wish we had time to do:
Drive the Tamar Valley…
I told you Tassie is not that small!
Where to stay...
Arthouse Backpackers : The building dates from 1881 and inside it's really spacious, relax & friendly! Perfect after a day touring around ! www.arthousehostel.com.au
Wharf hotel: an economic option
Waterfront motel: a more trendy option
The Wild West in Images:
How long there? Ideally spend 4 days, a lot of driving on windy roads.
The must do in this region is the well-known Cradle Mountain National Park. Hiking paradise plenty of walk tracks suitable for all level of fitness. Alpine peaks, untouched wilderness and glacial lakes: the scenery is breath taking.. This is also the start of the Overland Track, only for the experienced hikers. Again, choose to stay one afternoon or a couple of days. Be aware that the accommodation on offer is pretty restricted as this is a National Park area, don’t do like us, book well in advance if you want to spend the night here in this great environment. This option can be a bit expensive depending where you stay.
Our road trip leaded us to Strahan, which is a pretty little town, nestled between the waters of Macquarie Harbour and the rainforest. We spent the night in the YHA, the ones with nice wood huts. At Strahan, you can go on a cruise tour on the Gordon River, which I heard was really good or also take a scenic flight over the wilderness area. We didn’t have time at all to stop much more than a night, which considerably restricted our possibilities…
We drove next between Strahan to Hamilton, via Queenstown. Allow time to drive on this winding road! We were shocked by the landscape arriving at Queenstown. Moonscape of bare, dusty hills and eroded gullies. Hard to believe that forests once grew here...it’s a clear testimony of the impact of mining. Queenstown is now a touristic hub where you can visit the mines underground.
Mt Field National Park is a Tasmanian gem. Very close from Hamilton, it’s an easy accessible national park. The amazing Russel Falls are just 10 min walking time from the carpark. Stunning, I don’t find other qualification. Walk a bit further on the track and see the Horseshoe falls as well.
From there we discovered the picturesque Derwent Valley, which we liked, especially because we found very nice places to stay and met friendly people, which makes all the difference. We slept in a gypsy wagon for Valentine’s day and spent a very cool night in this new and quirky accommodation! Unique in Tasmania, we wanted to try that! We never had this kind of experience beforehand. Very cosy, Linda and Franck the owners of Heimat Chalets (www.heimatchalets.com) paid attention to details to make this wagon an unforgettable place to stay. We loved feeding the alpacas, mini goats, and donkey in the morning! Why staying in a boring hotel when you can experience that? The best part is that this is an affordable place, so you know what you can book for the Valentine’s day next year! Hurry there is only one at the moment…!
Next stop before reaching Hobart: the genuine Curringa Farm just next to Hamilton. Welcomed by Tim and Jane Parsons, the owners of this 750 acre family sheep farm, we were invited to the salon... Jane had just finished to bake some scones, it smelled divine and they tasted even better! After this delicious morning tea, we hopped on the 4WD and headed for a farm tour. Tim explained to us all the activities they do, they run 3000 sheep but also find time to crop opium poppies, cabbage, onions and more! Not to forget the 4 pretty cottages they rent all year round and of course the farm tours they organize. We arrived to the sheep shed and Tim grabbed one of them, ready for a haircut? We assisted to the shearing of the animal, wow not easy! Imagine when you get thousands of them…! The dog demonstrated us how they know how to gather the sheep, impressive! I liked this tour because this is not a farm done for tourism purposes, this is a real farm with real farmers who show you what they do and how. Very interesting and beautiful site too, we need to come back to sleep in one the cottages, they are so cosy and assure privacy as they stand far from each other in the middle of the paddock, just great!
To visit the farm, you need to book direct with them (www.curringafarm.com.au) or you can also book a guide to visit the region at the same time and get translations if you need (French, german etc) have a look at Premier Travel Tasmania :www.premiertraveltasmania.com
3.“The Wild West”
DID YOU KNOW?
Tasmania actually produces 50% of the legal opium production in the world. Why? Because of its temperate climate and also for safety reason. The island is not populated and it wouldn’t be easy to go away with the opium for an eventual thief. You will see plenty of poppies fields while travelling in Tasmania, the warning signs are very clear, keep out!
Where to stay...
Curringa Farm: for the cosy cottages in the open fields and of course for the farm tour
Heimat Chalets : nice chalets and of course the Gypsy Wagon! : www.heimatchalets.com
Hobart & South Region:
How long there? Ideally spend 5 days depending on if you are interesting in art, history, wildlife...
Hobart is a cosmopolitan city, combining great pubs and cafes, brilliant restaurants and a heritage vibe. Tasmania has got relatively small driving distances (in comparison with the mainland) so it’s easy to use Hobart as a hub and plan a few day trips around. Keep some energy for the last adventures, you will need it!
An absolute must do is the eclectic MONA (Museum of Old & New Art) www.mona.net.au ) . This is actually Tasmania’s first attraction. First because of the beauty of the site, between the Derwent River and the vineyards, 3,5 hectare to stroll around. Second, for the quality of the artists exposed of course. Sometimes deranging, often surprising, a visit you won’t soon forget!
Another must see, the Historic Site of Port Arthur, to experience the grim convict stories and learn more about the tragic and grey past of Tasmania. The Tasman Peninsula, with its dramatic cliffs is just next doors, so you can do all in a day. I recommend you to book a day tour to be guided around and maximise your time. Adventure Island Tours (www.adventureislandtours.com ) are experts of this region, so it’s a good idea to trust them on this one!
If you have a bit of time (2 days are the minimum), don’t miss the beautiful Bruny Island, South of Hobart. Easy to reach, you just have to board the ferry at Kettering (45 minutes from the CBD) for a short journey of 15 min (no need to pre book the ferry, one every hour, about $30 return for a car).
Bruny is a microcosm of the best of Tasmania. It’s all about good and fresh food (the oysters are exquisite, fine cheese, Australia’s most southerly wines), relax and nature. Go on a cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys (www.pennicottjourneys.com.au) to experience at its best the scenic rugged coast and to observe wildlife (seals, dolphins, albatross, shear waters etc). The cruises are very well organised and done, we loved it! Just a detail, whatever the season, go warmly dressed! To ensure a perfect relax stay on Bruny, contact Allegra and Adrian for a enquiry about their two lovely exclusive houses: Chez Discovery and Cloudy Bay. They will make sure you live the dream and have the greatest experience ever. The highlights of our trip with no doubt .Just have a look and you will understand why: www.brunyislandexperience.com.
It’s great because Allegra & Adrian take the time to simply welcome you and make you feel at home.… They can also take you on their special boat "Aquila" (sealeg) wich will provide you with an unforgettable experience!
And don’t forget to plan a day just to stroll in Hobart and visit its pubs, restaurants and cafes. Enjoy its cosmopolitan ambience and if this day is a Saturday, even better, as there is the famous Salamanca Market.
If you want to try good pies, go the Jackman & Mcross Bakery (32 Cross St, New Town TAS 7008) and fancy of something sweet: visit Sweet Envy (341 Elizabeth StreetNorth Hobart TAS 7000) !
4. Hobart and the South region
Where to stay...
The Pickled Frog: for the ambience, the deco and the friendly staff. www.thepickledfrog.com
YHA Hobart: great location, very central, perfect to visit the city. Possibility of double room with private bathroom. www3.yha.com.au
On Bruny Island:
Bruny Island Experience: House Chez Discovery: for an absolute romantic retreat in nature, with the ocean for view.
min stay 2 nights www.brunyislandexperience.com
Before to let you go, some important advices:
Get a car!
Of course you can also travel on coaches or book a tour, but the freedom you get by hiring your own car is the best!
The cheapest way: choose a car with a tent on the roof:
Do rely too much on the travel time distance indicated in the tourism map: you are a tourist, it will take you longer to get from A to B! We realised that pretty quickly and arrived late everywhere…we expected doing much per day but we pulled over the road a lot and took beautiful pictures!
Same with GPS: don’t trust them too much…better having a good old map at disposal and you won’t get lost!
Whatever the season, I highly recommend to go in Summer (Dec-Feb), take warm clothes! Weather can change very suddenly, especially in the mountains and it’s good to have some layers available!
Phone and internet coverage are a bit tricky in Tasmania and if you want to be able to receive signals in most of the part, you need to go with Telstra… otherwise you don’t get much. For example the East Coast is only covered by them…
You will see signs everywhere, but still it’s important to let you know that in Tasmania has got one of the highest rate of road kill, it’s really sad to see all this wildlife dead on the road, hit by cars…In order to avoid any accident, it’s better not to drive from dusk to dawn (hours they get active and jump over the roads…). We respected this rule and nothing happened to us. Just plan your itinerary thinking of that and don’t try to cram too much in one day…