Let me show you the very best Tasmania highlights – what I like to call the ‘Big 12’ – and how to join them together to create the perfect Tasmania road trip!
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The 'Big 12' Tasmania highlights - What are they?
I know how important it is for you to make the most of your time in Tasmania. It is the holiday of a lifetime and you don’t want to miss out on any Tasmania highlights.
At the same time, one of the big things I like to achieve through the Lap of Tasmania is to encourage travellers to get outside Hobart and explore regional Tasmania.
What better way than to create a road trip itinerary that circles the island, taking you to the 12 most amazing, jaw-dropping, breath-taking sights and attractions you will find anywhere in the world?
Strap yourselves in, because this is one road trip you will never forget!
Quick Tip – National Parks Pass
Tasmania’s National Parks are a must see for your Tassie road trip, and you will need a ‘Parks Pass’ for entry.
If you plan on visiting only one park (excluding Cradle Mountain), then it makes sense to buy a ‘Daily’ pass for $40 per vehicle per day.
Cradle Mountain is more expensive, and is charged on a ‘per person’ basis – $25 for adults, $10 for children, or $60 for a family of five. This includes your shuttle ticket from Cradle Mountain Village to Dove Lake.
To be honest though, the best option for nearly every scenario is to buy a ‘Holiday’ pass for $80 per vehicle. It covers every single park in Tasmania (including Cradle Mountain and its shuttle bus) and it lasts for two months, which is more than enough for most visitors.
You can learn more and buy your pass online here, at Visitor Centres, or on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry.
1. Mt Wellington / kunanyi
My earliest Tassie memory is of Mt Wellington’s snowy peak. I had arrived the night before and hadn’t the faintest idea of the incredible sight that would greet my bleary eyes the next morning.
Soaring above the city skyline, its rocky cap and fluted columns can be seen for miles around, its rainforest-clad slopes a hiker’s wonderland.
Trails criss-cross its slopes, but the easiest way to experience the mountain is to start your day with a hot coffee at Lost Freight Cafe at The Springs, and then take the slowly winding road all the way to the summit.
First through grey forests of swamp gum and stringy bark, then green pockets of cool, wet rainforest, and as you climb ever higher opening up to alpine heaths and mottled, twisted Tasmanian snow gums.
And those views…wow…
It is a breathtaking panorama, up the Derwent Valley, across Hobart to the Tasman Peninsula and down the Channel to Bruny Island. And if you can get yourself out of bed early enough, a sunrise from the top of Mt Wellington is an unforgettable experience – sitting on a cold boulder, watching the shadows fall and fade to the morning glow.
Simply magic, and one of the top places to visit in Tasmania.
Pro Tip – Heavy snows can result in occasional road closures. Check the alerts page here for the latest information. It is also a lot colder and windier on the summit than what you will experience in Hobart around 10°C colder – so remember to pack for the conditions.
2. Mt Field National Park
Tasmania’s oldest national park, Mt Field has something to offer the whole family – and for that reason I think it’s one of the must see places in Tasmania.
Only an hour’s drive from Hobart, the lower section of Mt Field is perfect if you prefer short walks or have young children. Its rainforest escarpments sprout dancing waterfalls at every turn, with the ethereal Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls an easy 15 minute walk from the visitor’s centre.
Waterfalls Cafe and Gallery is ideally situated for a hot drink or light meal. They also have a fantastic range of artworks and crafts created by Tassie locals that make for the perfect souvenir!
If you’re feeling adventurous you can then drive up into the park’s alpine reaches near Lake Dobson, where icy tarns and sphagnum mosses await. The bushwalking options are incredible, especially in autumn during the ‘turning of the fagus’ when the valleys are awash in gold, red and green.
Exploring Mt Field National Park is like stepping back to prehistoric times, and it’s a must for any Tasmania road trip.
Pro Tip – The 3hr loop walk linking Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Tall Trees and Lady Barron Falls is an easy/medium circuit, offering fantastic value for effort. Experienced hikers will also love the Tarn Shelf hike. Don’t forget to buy your Parks Pass online (here), or at the park Visitor Centre.
They don’t call it the Western Wilds for nothing!
Tasmania’s west coast is a land of contrast, and the best way to experience this is by spending a couple of nights on the shores of Macquarie Harbour in the pretty little village of Strahan.
There are two huge attractions here that I recommend to every visitor to Tasmania – a Macquarie Harbour Cruise, and the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
The harbour cruise is unlike anything my wife and I have experienced anywhere else in the world. Mirror-flat water reflecting the vast Tasmanian wilderness, ancient Huon Pines holding back the lush, green rainforest, and the brutal yet absorbing convict history of tiny Sarah Island.
It’s a day of relaxed adventure in one of the world’s most pristine regions!
⚓ World Heritage Cruises - 10% OFF!
Use my LAPOFTAS code and receive 10% OFF all tours with World Heritage Cruises!
Choose ‘the red boat’ and support this wonderful, locally owned company for the best day out on the Gordon River.
Day 2? You have got to soak up Tasmania’s rugged landscape by steam train on the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
This beautifully restored train departs daily from Strahan (or Queenstown), retracing the steps of colonial loggers and miners, deep into the pristine and seemingly impenetrable West Coast Ranges.
Taste wild leatherwood honey with tales of fate and folly in your ears, and surround yourself with every possible shade of green as you stroll across the rainforest floor.
Pro tip – Book a morning cruise to see the best reflections on the water!
Cost: Exploring Strahan is FREE! Harbour cruises from $135 per adult. Wilderness Railway from $120 per adult.
Where to stay: Harrison House B&B (read my review)
Tours: World Heritage Cruises (check prices – use my LAPOFTAS code for 10% OFF) / West Coast Wilderness Railway (check prices)
4. Cradle Mountain
Of course, no roundup of Tasmania highlights would be complete without Cradle Mountain!
Nestled high in the alpine reaches of the UNESCO Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Cradle Mountain is a natural wonder.
The best way to get up close to this iconic mountain is to do the extremely popular Dove Lake Circuit walk.
Starting at the historic King Billy pine boat shed on the shores of the lake, leading you through the ‘Ballroom Forest’ full of myrtle-beech trees draped in dropping mosses, and then skipping past the watchful eye of Cradle Mountain itself, this is by far one of Tasmania’s most beautiful walks.
Starting at the main car park the 2-3hr trail has only one gentle hill and a couple of sections with stairs, making it perfect for the whole family.
Accommodation options are plentiful in nearby Cradle Mountain Village, and there are so many things to do in the area that you could easily stay a few nights.
Pro tip – Native Tasmanian wildlife is everywhere. Keep your eyes open and you will spy pademelons, bandicoots and even furry wombats (Ronnie Creek is brilliant at dusk)!
Cost: Parks Pass – From $25 per adult (includes free shuttle bus to Dove Lake)
Where to stay: Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village (check availability)
Tour options: Cradle Mountain Day Tour (more information)
5. 'The Nut'
With the wild and woolly Roaring 40s in your hair and feet dangling over the seaside village of Stanley, you’ll understand why a chairlift is the best way to explore the ‘Nut’.
An ancient volcanic plug, the ‘Nut’ can be seen for miles around with its flat table-top sitting high above the shores of Bass Strait like a giant Lego brick.
Once you’ve finished the loop walk and admired the views from Fisherman’s Wharf Lookout, we recommend returning via the steps before stopping at Godfrey’s Beach for a stroll along its golden sands.
Keep driving up to the elegant Highfield Historic Site where you can not only learn more about this colonial ‘Gentleman’s Home’, but also find the best place for a photo of The Nut.
Pro tip – Visit the Jimmy Lane Memorial Lookout and have fun setting up an awesome Insta photo inside the bright orange photo frame!
Cost: By foot it is FREE! Chairlift tickets cost from $11 per adult.
Where to stay: The Ark Stanley (read my review)
6. Cataract Gorge
One of the best things about Tasmania is how close everything is, and one of the best examples of this is Cataract Gorge.
Launceston is a buzzing little city, but just 15 minutes walk away is King’s Bridge and the first of many walking trails that work their way up the steep banks of the South Esk River to Cataract Gorge Reserve.
It’s a lovely place to spend a few hours. Multi-coloured peacocks strut their way through the cool gardens on the northern side, while the southern side is perfect for a picnic or dip in the water at Launceston ‘beach’.
The gently swaying Alexandra Suspension Bridge links both sides – and the many trails that extend to the further reaches of the park – or you can take the scenic route across the rushing waters via the longest single-span chairlift in the world!
Pro Tip – For a different perspective on the gorge I suggest booking a leisurely cruise on the Lady Launceston.
7. Tamar Valley Wine Route
Tasmania to used barely rate a mention when it came to wine. But the last 15 years have seen it explode onto the international scene in a big way, offering exceptional, boutique cool-climate wines for all tastes.
There are many excellent wine regions around the island, and the Tamar Valley is one of the best. Dozens of little wineries hide along the valley’s rolling banks, waiting for you to pull up and have a taste of their delicious vintages.
Everyone has a different palate, but a few Tamar Valley wineries that I feel provide amazing hospitality and the true taste of Tasmania include:
- Wines for Joanie – Stunning countryside and a fascinating story behind the winery.
- Velo Wines – Great wines and gourmet lunches at Timbre Restaurant
- Moore’s Hill – Award winning Rieslings from Tassie’s most eco-friendly vineyard.
- Holm Oak Winery – Excellent Pinots. Say hi to Pinot d’pig 🐷
- Iron Pot Bay Vineyard – Try their wonderful cool-climate wines, followed by a delicious light luncheon
- Clover Hill – Our favourite Tasmanian sparkling wine maker 🍾
- Jansz – Exceptional value for their sparkling wines.
Pro Tip– You could draw straws for the (dis)pleasure of being the designated driver, but I think it makes a lot more sense to book a full-day wine tour!
8. Bay of Fires
Cool, turquoise waters sparkling in the sunlight? Check.
Pure white sand, squeaking between your toes? Check.
Salt ‘n’ pepper speckled boulders, splashed in red? You betcha!
This is the Bay of Fires, easily one of Australia’s most beautiful beachside destinations – and with a lot less people than you would expect.
This chain of beaches, bays and coves stretches all the way from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point. Camping options are plentiful, and you could easily lose yourself for days exploring all its hidden corners.
Pro tip – Accommodation in Binalong Bay is limited. If you have trouble finding the right place, expand your search to include nearby St Helens and Beaumaris Beach.
9. Freycinet National Park
It’s tough picking a winner between the Bay of Fires and Freycinet. So, why not visit both and decide for yourself?
Freycinet National Park is one of Tasmania’s gems, and the fantastic thing is that you don’t need to be an ultrafit athlete to see its best bits.
If you don’t feel like a long walk then it only takes 40 minutes to reach the Wineglass Bay Lookout where you can take in the graceful curve of this shining, pristine beach.
But if you’ve gone that far why not keep going all the way down to the beach? It’s just another 60 miutes but the effort is well worth it.
I suggest taking a picnic lunch and a rug so you can relax on its pure white sands and soak up the rays. Keen for a dip? Why not – you only live once!
The tiny town of Coles Bay is right on Freycinet’s doorstep and it’s a fun place to base yourself. A walk along the coastline reveals fantastic views of the Hazards, jaggedly reaching for the sky. Or you could do the short drive to Tourville Lighthouse for stunning views back across Freycinet.
Pro Tip – Accommodation in Coles Bay is always in high demand and can be very expensive. For a much more budget-friendly place to stay – without skimping on quality – have a look at the accommodation options in the beachside town of Swansea (45mins drive from Coles Bay).
Cost: Parks Pass – From $40 per vehicle
Where to stay: Freycinet Waters B&B (read my review) – OR – Freycinet Lodge (check prices)
Tour options: Bus Tour (prices) | Boat Cruise (prices) | Kayak Tour (prices) | Wineglass Bay Flight (prices)
10. Maria Island
If I asked 100 people about their favourite place in Tasmania, I’m guessing 99 would say Cradle Mountain.
But have they visited Maria Island? Probably not!
No cars. No shops. The only sounds are the wind in your hair, waves on golden sand, and the occasional wombat snuffling its way to its next feed – a day on Maria Island is like taking a deep breath of the purest, most relaxing air in the world.
A weekend would be ideal, but even a day trip to Maria Island is all you need to see the swirling colours of the Painted Cliffs, discover ancient fossils at Fossil Bay, and learn about Darlington’s fascinating colonial history. Hiking options are plentiful – my wife and I love the walk to Bishop and Clerk, and the Mt Maria hike has incredible views.
The ferry from Triabunna to Maria Island leaves a number of times throughout the day (schedule) and only takes 30 minutes.
This is Tasmania’s most amazing hidden gem, just don’t tell anyone else – okay? 😆
Pro Tip – Hire a bike when you book your ferry tickets, or from P&WS when you arrive on the island. It’s a heap of fun, and the best way to get around the island!
Cost: $47 per adult (return) + Parks Pass
Where to stay: Freycinet Waters (read my review) or on Maria Island in the old penitentiary building (more).
Tour options: Maria Island Cruises (click here to use my LAPOFTAS code and receive 10% OFF all cruise tours)
11. Port Arthur Historic Site
It is hard to comprehend how a place of such beauty could have been Australia’s harshest and most brutal penal settlement.
Only the worst of the worst were sent to Port Arthur, and while the conditions were unthinkable you can’t help but admire the stunning harbour, lush green lawns and intricate Georgian architecture throughout the sprawling grounds.
There’s plenty to see and your entry ticket provides not one but two days to explore the site. Also included in the ticket price is a 25-minute cruise on the harbour and a 40-minute guided walking tour, making this one of the best-value experiences in Tasmania.
12. Richmond Village
A visit to Richmond Village, just 25 minutes from Hobart, is like stepping back in time.
Richmond was settled way back in 1824 and it fast became a thriving regional centre. Convict labour played a big part in its swift growth and you can see evidence of this in Richmond’s old gaol, the Richmond Bridge and St John church.
The best way to explore Richmond is by foot. I recommend starting at St John’s church, then strolling by the willow trees on the banks of the Coal River before doing a lap of Richmond’s main street. Plenty of shops and cafes have sprung up in the old lovingly restored Georgian buildings and you’re sure to find a fantastic souvenir of your Lap of Tasmania road trip.
Pro Tip – The Richmond Village Market Fair is held every weekend in the town hall. It’s the perfect opportunity to taste some of the local produce, browse for knick-knacks and support the local artists.
Other Tasmania highlights...
Seeing the ‘Big 12’ is the perfect way to plan your road trip, but there are plenty of other Tasmania highlights that you should consider including in your your itinerary.
- MONA – This eclectic museum put Hobart and Tasmania on the map when it opened in 2011. The exhibitions are world-class and downright bizarre. Thought-provoking, funny, smelly at times, artistically challenging, and very, very adult. My MONA Guide has everything you need to know – including a day trip itinerary.
- Bruny Island – A fantastic Hobart day trip option. There are plenty of walking trails, gourmet food options everywhere, and Tasmania’s best island cruise with Pennicotts.
- Tessellated Pavement – This natural wonder at Eaglehawk Neck has to be seen to be believed. Low tide exposes the geometric lines and angles of this bizarre rock formation, and it looks stunning at sunrise. Stop by on your way to Port Arthur.
- Ben Lomond – This mountain is the best place to see snow near Launceston, and they even have a ski field! Jacob’s Ladder is also one of Tasmania’s most scenic – ad some say scary – roads on the island.
- Huon Valley – You could easily spend a few days slowly driving down the Huon Valley and beyond to Tassie’s far south. It’s called the Apple Isle for good reason, and this is where you’ll find the best cider in the state.
- Bridestowe Estate – If only Tasmania lavender farms could stay in flower 365 days of the year! December to February is the time to see Bridestowe Estate lavender farm. Its gracefully curved rows of purple are an Instagram dream.
- Table Cape Tulips – Tasmania is one of the world’s best places to grow tulips, and Table Cape in spring is a riot of colour. September/October is the best time to visit – read more here – and you could easily drop by as you drive between Stanley and Launceston.
Start your Tasmania road trip!
We’ve also got a fantastic Facebook community who are super keen to help you with road trip planning. It’s the perfect place to ask all your questions! Click here to join our Facebook group.
We hope this guide to Tasmania’s ‘Big 12’ has helped you plan your Tassie road trip. If you’ve got any questions at all please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Happy road tripping!
Travel planning resources
Tasmania’s remote location means there are internet ‘black spots’ across the island.
A hard copy travel guide or map is the perfect backup, and we love the range from Lonely Planet.