The Best Things to Do in Tasmania
Australia’s most remote state is arguably its most rewarding. Tasmania (“Tassie” to locals) features wild and rugged scenery, a thriving artisan food and drink scene, and one of the most talked-about art museums in the world. All the appeal of Tasmania—stunning scenery, empty beaches, weird wildlife—still applies. But now there’s even more to lure you way down under.
60 Rowbottoms Rd, Granton TAS 7030, Australia
Two of Tasmania’s most abundant wine regions ripen within a 20-minute drive from Hobart. With a similar latitude to the famous wine regions of France and Germany, the Derwent and Cole valleys produce wines more like those of Europe than mainland Australia. Sip a wide range at such wineries as Stefano Lubiana Wines—the first Tasmanian winery to achieve biodynamic certification—and Frogmore Creek, a pioneer of organic wine and artistic cuisine. There’s also hand-pumped beer (try one of the seasonal sours) and cider at the Two Metre Tall Farm Bar Wednesday through Friday and on Sunday afternoons; award-winning whiskeys at Sullivans Cove; and probably the best paddock-to-plate dining in all of Tasmania at the Agrarian Kitchen Eatery.
Salamanca Pl, Hobart TAS 7001, Australia
Hobart’s most famous cobblestoned square was once known for whalers and sailors. Today, it’s inhabited by artists and food purveyors, who mix and mingle every Saturday at the Salamanca Market—the largest outdoor market in Australia, which boasts some 300 food and craft vendors. Sample locally produced cheeses, chocolates, and jams; browse jewelry, ceramics, photography, wool scarves, and bowls hand-hewn from local Huon pine; or do your organic grocery shopping for the trip. Also on this blessed square is the Salamanca Arts Centre, a collection of 1830s Georgian sandstone warehouses converted into more than a dozen galleries and performance spaces. Look for timeless tunics and capes by designer Leonie Struthers at The Maker, and some of Australia’s best cheeses at the Bruny Island Cheese Co.
655 Main Rd, Berriedale TAS 7011, Australia
This unusual contemporary art museum is located in a series of dimly lit caverns and tunnels built into the side of a cliff in Berriedale, a Hobart suburb. Inside, mind-bending installations include a stinky model of the human digestive system that poops daily at 2 p.m. Founder David Walsh, a professional gambler turned art maverick, displays more than 400 edgy works from his private collection. The new Pharos wing that debuted in late 2017 is heavy on light spaces by James Turrell. MONA also stages two standout annual festivals: Mona Foma (which stands for Festival of Music and Art, sometimes further shortened to Mofo) in January, curated by Brian Ritchie of the rock band Violent Femmes, and Dark Mofo, the disturbing winter version held in June.
Huon Valley, TAS, Australia
The Huon Valley, southwest of Hobart, has long been known for apple farming. More recently, cider has revived the industry, helping Tasmania live up to its moniker “the Apple Isle” once again. Four cideries—Willie Smith’s, Pagan, Frank’s, and Red Sails—are all based around the Huon Valley. Willie Smith’s Apple Shed is a tasting room–cum-museum that highlights Tasmania’s apple-farming and cider-producing heritage. A distillery specializing in apple brandy was added in 2016. But cider and spirits are not the only reason to take a spin through the valley. It’s also home to the Tahune AirWalk and Franklin’s Wooden Boat Centre as well as Cygneture and the Cat’s Tongue chocolatiers; farm-to-table restaurants such as Lotus Eaters Cafe; the Woodbridge Smokehouse; and the Cygnet Market, held on the first and third Sunday.
Saddle-shaped Cradle Mountain is the state’s most popular peak and the starting point for the 64-kilometer (40-mile), six-day Overland Track. For day-trippers, there are quicker walks, including the Dove Lake Loop, which traverses temperate rain forest on the slopes of the park’s namesake peak, as well as rafting and rappelling adventures run by outfitters such as Cradle Mountain Canyons Tours. Other highlights include Waldheim Chalet, a replica of the home of Gustav Weindorfer, the park’s founding father.
Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia
One of the most stunning natural sites in Tasmania, the Freycinet Peninsula is most famous for a short but steep hike to the perfect white-and-turquoise horseshoe beach known as Wineglass Bay. It’s hard to believe the name comes from a gruesome whaling history that once dyed the bay the shade of red wine. Travelers on an expedition with Freycinet Adventures can kayak the electric-blue waters of Coles Bay and stay in a private camp on secluded Hazards Beach, where they’ll wake up to views of the rocky shoreline, sheathed in orange lichen, and the zigzagging Hazard Mountains, circled by sea eagles. No trip to the Freycinet Peninsula is complete without freshly shucked oysters from the Freycinet Marine Farm.
Haven Lake Track, Tasmania, Australia
The 53-mile South Coast Track is the most epic odyssey in Tasmania’s most epic national park. It’s challenging and requires camping, not to mention advanced mountaineering skills, but it’s worth the effort for the primordial scenery, the sheer solitude, and sightings of such rare Tasmania wildlife as the near-extinct orange-bellied parrot. For a water-based expedition, Roaring 40s Kayaking arranges three- and seven-day trips that fly to the gravel airstrip at Melaleuca and paddle through the tannin-stained waters of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey—maybe to forested islands or through The Narrows; it all depends on the notorious weather. Either way, you’ll stay at the pre-erected Forest Lagoon camp and savor your dinner and drinks like never before.
This J-shaped peninsula southeast of Hobart is home to natural, historic, and man-made surprises. The Three Capes Track is an awe-inspiring way to take in the landscape, home to Australia’s tallest sea cliffs; Shipstern Bluff (“Shippy’s” and “Devil’s Point” to locals), known for giant waves and shark encounters; and the Totem Pole and the Candlestick, two dolerite sea stacks popular among crazy rock climbers and rappellers. Port Arthur is Tasmania’s most famous convict site, and a variety of tours—including a lantern-lit ghost tour—are designed for families. Before you leave, toast the trip of a lifetime at McHenry Distillery, one of the world’s most southern distilleries, with a sloe gin made from locally foraged berries.
330 Mayberry Rd, Mayberry TAS 7304, Australia
Mole Creek Karst National Park, along with the surrounding Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, offers subterranean streams and pools, plus at least 300 caves. At Marakoopa Cave, you’ll feel as though you’re in mother nature’s planetarium—the walls are lit up by Australia’s largest colony of glowworms. Caves like Honeycomb and Westmorland are best explored during a half- or full-day trip with Deb from Wild Cave Tours. Unlike most guides, she holds a PhD in speleology. But if one day is not enough, make it a wild caving weekend to progress from walking and wading to scrambling and squeezing through tight crevices. Local beer and wine await you at Mole Creek Guesthouse.
Home to one of the largest remaining swaths of temperate rain forest in the world, dating to the supercontinent Gondwana, the Tarkine Wilderness is a stronghold for rare species including black cockatoos, wedge-tailed eagles, and spotted-tailed quolls. The Western Explorer Road takes you to Corinna, part of which is unsealed and bright white, built from tailings from the nearby silica mine. That hints at the mining settlement to come, where the Corinna Wilderness Experience transformed old prospector huts into modern cabins that run on solar power and rainwater. Hike deeper into the rain forest or to Aboriginal middens along the coast with Tarkine Trails, or visit a 1,540-acre sinkhole before riding down a 360-foot-long tube slide at Tarkine Forest Adventures.
7 Waldhorn Dr, Grindelwald TAS 7277, Australia
The drive from Launceston through the Tamar River Valley meanders for 37 miles past orchards, lavender farms, and more than 30 vineyards. For good vibes alongside your cool-climate wines, head to Goaty Hill, which occupies a beautiful perch in Kayena. The chalet-style Jansz cellar door, or tasting room, pours premium sparkling wines, and Holm Oak Vineyards is loved for its pinot noir, chardonnay, and cider. The mascot there is a well-fed pig named Pinot, and kids are encouraged to toss apples to him over the fence. End the day at Narawntapu National Park for a picnic and bubbles overlooking Badger Head and the Bass Strait.
66 Lake Dobson Rd, National Park TAS 7140, Australia
Located along the eastern border of the four-million-acre Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the island’s first national park mixes swamp gums, stringybarks, and massive tree ferns with snow gums and deciduous beech trees at higher elevations. Depending on the season, you might walk the suspension bridge to the three-tier stunner Russell Falls or take the Pandani Grove walk around Lake Dobson—keep your eyes peeled for platypus. In winter, skiers, snowboarders, and backcountry trekkers can explore the lakes and glacial terrain of the Tarn Shelf. In autumn, the same area blazes red and orange on hikes to the Twilight Tarn Hut, an unofficial ski museum. Five other huts offer basic accommodation year-round at 3,280 feet.
Lyell Hwy, Franklin- Gordon TAS 7001, Australia
A region of dramatic mountain peaks, ancient rain forest, deep river valleys, and spectacular gorges, this park is most famous for the pristine rivers that twist their way through the wilderness. The Franklin River itself has become synonymous with Australia’s largest conservation battle—a fight that lasted from the 1960s into the ‘80s to save the Franklin from a proposed hydroelectric dam and power plant, which would have flooded several natural features and lakes. The legendary waterway, which Outside named one of the world’s best white-water journeys on earth, was the impetus for the establishment of the Wilderness Society as well as the Green Party (both founded by Tasmanian conservationist Bob Brown) and continues to inspire awe and action among locals and travelers today.
From September to March, every evening around dusk, little (fairy) penguins noisily waddle around Parsonage Point on the western end of West Beach in Burnie to nest in their igloolike burrows. And each evening during the season, volunteers from Friends of Burnie Penguins come to watch the show and offer free talks and interpretative tours to share their knowledge along with fun facts about these adorable creatures—the smallest of all penguins—like how they can dive nearly 100 feet down, and only sleep for four minutes at a time. Little penguins don’t migrate, so this is Burnie’s home colony, which the Friends have gotten to know well and love over the years. That much is obvious.
257 Richmond Rd, Cambridge TAS 7170, Australia
In 1992, Bill Lark opened the first new Australian distillery in 150 years, pioneering a now thriving Tasmanian industry that boasts more than 10 producers of single-malt whiskey islandwide. Most are concentrated in the south, and Drink Tasmania’s whiskey tours visit the best of them. At the original Lark Distillery in the Coal Valley, whiskey connoisseurs can learn the whole process, from brewing to peat smoking to distillation. Old Kempton Distillery produces apple liqueur, spiced schnapps, and lavender malt in addition to its single-malt, which features barley grown here at the historic Dysart House in Kempton. Belgrove Distillery takes that a few steps further, growing its own rye, spelt, wheat, and barley and using a smoker that head distiller Peter Bignell designed himself.
Arthur Hwy, Port Arthur TAS 7182, Australia
One of Tasmania’s top tourist attractions is the crumbling ruins of a penal colony, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the penitentiary, where 60 stone buildings remain, for a sobering glimpse into the brutal lives of the 12,500 convicts incarcerated here between 1830 and 1877. Visitors can also tour the Dockyard and Port Arthur gardens. There’s so much to see that a guided tour is recommended—especially the one that covers paranormal activity. (There’s also a lantern-lit ghost tour, for brave families only.)
The second-oldest museum in Australia, this is where you’ll learn about Tasmania’s Aboriginal heritage, its history since settlement and the island’s wildlife. There’s also a collection of Tasmanian colonial art. A spectacular redevelopment in 2013 opened up new public and exhibition spaces, making this an unmissable stop on any Hobart cultural tour. Admission is free, and there are free 40-minute guided tours Wednesdays through Saturdays.
An 80-minute drive from Hobart, this spine-tingling walk above the pristine forest canopy of the Tahune Forest is like chicken soup for the soul. Immerse yourself in nature, look down onto the magnificent treetops and enjoy the stunning panorama of the Huon and Picton Rivers. The Airwalk varies between 20 and 50 meters (65 to 165 feet) in height, and the walk itself will take around 50 minutes. If you have time after, be sure to walk at ground level through the magnificent Huon pines.