A brief guide for travelling to Tasmania
The west is covered in rocky Dollerite mountains that tower out of the Earth with dense, remote cool-climate rainforest that spans across the different terrains out to the treacherous Southern Ocean that pounds the coastline. The east is more populated but quiet enough to still feel like you’re far away from the rest of the world and has some of the most stunning sandy beaches in the country.
Each twist and turn down the winding Tasmania roads hold a new site that will create a lasting memory.
Whether your desire is to hike over a mountain in the rugged wilderness or sit on the beach and watch the world go by, Tasmania will have a place that’s exactly what you’ve been hoping for.
Arriving in Tasmania
Tasmania is quite small compared other states and territories in Australia, but remember it’s still about a quarter of the size of Victoria and a bit smaller than half of England, so you’ll still need plenty of time to explore the entire island.
Hobart is the capital and sits right down in the south, it’s the main place that people fly into, although with Launceston being in the north, a shorter distance to travel to and surrounded by some of the top places to explore in Tasmania, it can make sense to head straight there. If you’ve decided to catch the ferry across from mainland Australia, you’ll arrive in Devonport, which is in the centre of the north coast.
Heading to the Wild West
The western part of Tasmania is much more remote than the east, where the majority of the towns and population are found. When you head out to the west, you’ve got to be prepared to not see a town or person for sometime and if you’re hiking in one of it’s many remote locations, you could go for days with just company of yourself and your own party.
Rocky towering mountains and dense forests cover most of this part of the island with countless opportunities to get out hiking and explore the thick bush on foot.
A large part of the west, particularly the south-west is so remote that without a guide, you might not even be able to visit or find some places. There are huge areas that don’t even have tracks and with the forest being so thick and impenetrable, that it’s still somewhat unexplored and not mapped. The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park covers most of the south-west and most of the national park is beyond the travelling limits for tourists, with the exception of some stunning areas like the Gordon Dam and Teds Beach on the Lake Pedder.
Mountains along the way
To explore the west and experience the remote bushland and harsh terrain, it’s a good idea to head out from the northern part of Tasmania, leaving from Devonport or Launceston. Devonport is where you’ll arrive from the Spirit of Tasmania ferry or if you’re flying into the north, you’ll most likely go straight to Launceston, which is quite central, but more to the eastern part of the territory. If you do happen to head to Launceston, you might want to spend at least a day or two and take a look around as the backdrop of the town is an attraction of its own. Going through the town, just the eastern edge of the main shopping precinct is the beauteous Cataract Gorge and a walk along its hiking trail will set the scene for the adventuring that lies ahead.
When you start making the journey west, once you’ve passed Cradle Mountain, the roads become narrow and extremely winding as they elevate and decline through the mountains. You could explore this entire part of the island with-in several days or if you had the time, there’s enough to keep you busy for several weeks.
A journey that allows you to experience some of the best that this part of Tassy has to offer is to head to Cradle Mountain, then over to Savage River and Corina Eco Park, afterwards, make your way to the coastline and spend some time at the remote and village of Trial Harbour. You could keep continuing to the south then go south towards the Gordon Dam and Hobart or loop around to the north, if you’re a bit shorter on time, head back to Devonport or Launceston.
Cradle Mountain is a bit over half way from Launceston to the coastline and the main attraction of the entire north-west part of Tasmania. It’s takes around 2.5 hours to drive there, if you don’t stop at some of the vantage points along the way.
It’s easy to spend days or even a week in the Cradle Mountain National Park, with loads of short hiking trails that can be completed with-in several hours, or even much longer trails such as the Overland Track that takes about a week to complete.
After exploring the mountains, you can head further west, deep into the forest.
Corinna and Savage River are in the Tarkine Rainforest, where there are some of the oldest trees on Earth. Although it’s only about 100-150 kilometres from Cradle Mountain to Corinna, Savage River and the Tarkine (depending what part you head to first), allow plenty of extra time as a lot of the road goes through steep hills and valleys, where you’ll need to drive slow.
Corinna Eco Park is the main place to stay in the area and it’s an incredible spot with lots to do nearby. It’s an old mining town that’s been repurposed and rebuilt as a large camping park with many small cottages turned into short-stay accommodation. Sitting right on the Pieman River, you’ll cross over to the park via a small ferry, then can set up camp beside the river at the campground or rent a cottage, then grab a meal and drink at the onsite restaurant.
Canoes and Kayaks can be rented at Corinna, then launch right from there and paddle down to Lovers Falls or Savage River. Otherwise set off on foot on one of the many short trails or head on a longer rainforest trek along the Savage River Walk.
Other than activities that can be completed right from Corinna, you can also consider hiking to the nearby summit of Mount Donaldson or heading for a drive to the coast.
Head over to our page on Corinna Eco Park for more photos and information, then take a look at more information here about the Savage River Walk.
& here’s some further photos and information about getting to Mount Donaldson and hiking to the summit.
A couple of hours drive to the coastline south of Corinna is the Trial Harbour where time seems to move a bit slower.
The entire town is off-grid and sits at the end of a dirt road. During the off-peak season, only a few people reside here, then during the holidays and summer months, a lot of regular tourists head down here and camp in town, while other part-time residents return.
Sitting on the Southern Ocean, the weather can be quite fierce with strong currents that pound against the coastline. The area attracts some decent surfers due to the large swell, otherwise it’s just a beautiful place to walk along the beach where you’ll hardly come across another person.
Travelling to the west of Tasmania, heading past Cradle Mountain and then going into the Tarkine Rainforest and eventually making your way to the rugged coastline, you’ll have a diverse experience and see some of the best natural sites on the island. After visiting Corinna and Trial Harbour, you can then continue to explore some similar places to the north and south or head over to the east to visit the pristine beaches.
Touring the East Coast
Tasmania’s east coast is protected from the harsh weather and swell that comes across the southern ocean from the west. From south to north, there are pristine beaches, old settlements and forest thriving with native vegetation and wildlife for the entire coast line.
The whole eastern half of Tasmania is much more established and populated. After exploring the west coast, you’ll notice that the east coast is far more set-up for holiday makers with plenty of towns full of hospitality and accommodation options geared towards tourists. With more places to stay and so many interesting sites to stop in at along the coastline and inland, it’s easy to make up a timeline and route that works around you.
Great Eastern Drive
Whether you’re starting your trip from the north or right down in the south at Hobart, a great way to explore the east of Tasmania is by travelling along the Great Eastern Drive that stretches 175 kilometres from Orford in the south to Saint Helens in the north. Orford is a bit over an hours drive from Hobart and Saint Helens is a bit less than 2.5 hours from Launceston.
From luxury accommodation and fine dining to campgrounds, forest walks and relaxing on one of the many world-class beaches, no matter what you’re after, you’ll find it on the east coast. If you’re travelling along the Great Eastern Drive, you can plan out your journey based upon your tastes and interests although there are several places that need to be on everyones agenda.
Around half way along the Great Eastern Drive is the Freycinet National Park. A lot of the national park is a peninsula running from north to south. The whole area is mostly covered in small Eucalyptus trees and other native flora with high peaks in the centre and multiple tight coves and bays on both sides of the peninsula.
To get a good feel for the national park with an easy short walk, try looping around the Cape Tourville Lighthouse, where you get beautiful views of ‘the nuggets’ and the famous Wineglass Bay.
For a more difficult walk where you’ll be rewarded with one of the best vantage points in the area, head up the steep trail to the Wineglass Bay viewing area. If you want to walk further, you can add on a further several kilometres (each way) and trek down onto the beach.
View from Cape Tourville Lighthouse
Bay of Fires
Further north along the east coast is the Bay of Fires. The multiple beaches and smaller bays running along a 35 kilometre stretch of the coastline. With many large rusty-orange rocks spread throughout the area, it’s easy to think these contributed to the name, although in 1730’s when some Europeans were sailing past the area, they spotted fires along the bay from Indigenous Australians and named the bay from that experience.
With most so much to see on the east coast of Tasmania with plenty of places that you might want to stay for a while, it’s worth allowing at least several days or a week (..or longer) for your trip. Then, with the almost all of the sites that will make it onto your list all being with-in about 200 kilometres of each other, a great way can be to pick somewhere to set-up base that’s quite central, then venture out on day trips.
Lagoon Beach Campground
Lagoon Beach Campground is around mid-way along the coast line, between the Freycinet National Park and Bay of Fires.
The campground is right on a sandy beach that’s decent for fishing. The campsites are well spread out and cater to multiple different types of camping and there are well-maintained facilities. It could be a good choice, if you’re looking to bring along a tent, camper or caravan to stay in.