No longer isolated from mainland Australia, Aussies and tourists alike are discovering the dazzling beauty and uniqueness of Tasmania or “Tassie” as it’s fondly known. There are vast areas of gorgeous wilderness, mostly untouched by man. In fact, 45% of the state comes under the category of National Parks and Reserves, one of them being the Narawntapu National Park, also known as “Tasmania’s Serengeti”. Add to that, gourmet food, stellar wines and a swinging cultural scene, all making Tasmania a popular destination. There are a number of outdoor activities from cycling to rafting or bush walking the many trails that abound in Tassie. Here is a guide to self-driving in Tasmania, probably the best way to explore this island state – one of Southern Hemisphere’s last frontiers.
Where to Begin
Hobart is the capital of Tasmania. This city, with its rich colonial heritage and excellent food and wine options, is the ideal place to start your exploration. With the snow-capped peak of Mt Wellington as its backdrop, Hobart has natural beauty in spades, combined with many heritage buildings, the newly built MONA (museum) and a rich maritime past, most obvious in the historical Battery Point village. This popular Hobart to Hobart self-drive trip will take you through Tasmania’s varied landscapes and will cover most of the important points of interest.
Hobart to Port Arthur (95 kilometres) – Drive to Port Arthur, stopping by at the Colonial and Convict Exhibition at Copping and the magnificent beaches at Pirates Bay and Crescent Bay.
Port Arthur to Freycinet (200 kilometres) – Head to Freycinet with a stopover at Coles Bay to enjoy its picturesque scenery and beaches. Freycinet National Park is worth a visit.
Freycinet to Launceston (150 kilometres) – Make your way onward to Launceston, stopping at Elephant Pass and Fingal Valley. Also stop by at the beautifully restored 19th century Clarendon House in the historic town of Evandale, where the Sunday Morning Market is very popular.
Launceston – It is the second largest city in Tasmania and a major tourist attraction. Check out the longest single span chairlift at Cataract Gorge and nearby is Tasmania Zoo where you can see the famed Tasmanian Devils.
Launceston to Cradle Mountain (150 kilometres) – Drive to Cradle Mountain via the sprawling and scenic Woolmers Estate, the historic township of Deloraine. Arrive at Lake St Claire National Park, which is the gate to the panoramic Cradle Mountain – one of Tasmania’s principal tourist sites.
Cradle Mountain to Hobart (330 kilometres) – You have come around and now you can head back to Hobart, via the Strahan, Derwent Bridge and Russell Falls.
You could do this entire itinerary between 14-21 days, depending upon what routes you take and where you choose to stop. Of course, you can skip some of the places mentioned and take a shorter circuit around the island.
You can consider some other (shorter) itineraries depending upon your travel interests and time availability.
Nature Lovers – Explore Tasmania’s northwest region starting with Narawntapu National Park where you can see indigenous kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. Then drive to Port Sorell’s attractive beach or the Tasmanian Arboretum at Eugenana. You can also take a detour to explore the caves and canyons at Gunns Plains.
Culture-vultures – Try the ‘Heritage Highway’ between Launceston and Hobart. You will drive past rolling farmlands, pretty Georgian villages and colonial homesteads.
Foodies – For food and wine aficionados, a drive through the Tamar Valley drive will be most memorable. Follow the majestic Tamar River from Launceston to Bass Strait as you make your way around vineyards, orchards and pastures. Make sure you sample delicious local produce, including cheese, fruits and wines, along the way.
Things to Remember
Driving in Tasmania is fairly easy and so is renting a car. Big companies such as Avis and Hertz have a presence, along with Budget, Thrifty and Europcar. There are several websites that help you compare rates and make a booking without any upfront payment. They might even throw in a free upgrade, so look around a bit before deciding. The Indian driver’s license is valid for driving in Tasmania. In the unlikely event that your license is not in English, you need to carry an official translation or an International Driving Permit. Of course your license and permit should be current (not expired, suspended or cancelled).
It’s also important to remember that Tasmania has very strict quarantine regulations. Several fruits, vegetables and miscellaneous items are prohibited, so take a look at this government-issued checklist and ensure they don’t make it to your luggage.
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