Road Tripper’s Guide to Southport, Tasmania

Are you looking for a place to relax, unwind, and get away from it all?

Let us introduce you to the tiny town of Southport, Tasmania. It is a real favourite with local Tasmanians, and this guide shows you how to make the most of your time in this wonderful beachside location.

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Glow-worms, Mystery Creek Cave
See glow worms at Mystery Creek Cave | Photo: Pierre Destribats

The Village People told us ‘Go west, life is peaceful there’… but you know what? We’d rather head south!

From the equator. Head south!

From Australia. Go south!

From Tasmania. More south!

From Hobart. Waaaay south!

South through the green vales and budding orchards of the Huon Valley. The Egg Islands to your left and Franklin to your right. 

Surges Bay, Glendevie, Dover, Raminea, until finally, less than two blissful hours of driving later you’ll be pulling into the most southerly town in all of Australia…Southport!

Southport, Tasmania - A quick history

I’ll let you in on a little secret… I am ashamed to say that before writing this guide I didn’t know a lot about Southport.

I mean, I knew it was nearly as far south as you could possibly drive, and that there was colonial history in the region. But what I didn’t realise was just how rich that history was, and is.

Did you know that on the back of a booming whaling and timber industry in the mid 1800s Southport was close to becoming the capital city of Van Diemens Land? It was the second largest town in Tasmania, and Europe couldn’t get enough of the sublime hardwoods that grew in the region.

But it was when I dug even deeper that things got REALLY interesting.

So many atrocities have been committed against Australia’s aboriginal population, and when you hear about the story of French explorers Bruni d’ Entrecasteaux and Jacques Labillardiere you will wonder how different things might have been.

While the British were intent on using convicts to set up colonies around the world in the 1780s, the French were more interested in discovery, sailing the mysterious southern seas, setting foot on new lands and making friendly contact with the inhabitants.

Southport Tasmania - Recherche Bay Map
A map of Recherche Bay from 1793

It was in both 1792 and 1793 that the French dropped anchor at Recherche Bay, just 15km south of Southport, to stock up on supplies and to make repairs to their ships.

200 years might seem like a long time ago, but anyone who has walked through Tasmania’s ancient forests will understand the depth of emotion felt by d’Entrecasteaux as he wrote these words…

It will be difficult to describe my feelings at the sight of this solitary harbour situated at the extremities of the globe, so perfectly enclosed that one feels separated from the rest of the universe. Everything is influenced by the wilderness of the rugged landscape. With each step, one encounters the beauties of unspoilt nature…trees reaching a very great height, and of corresponding diameter.” – Bruni d’Entrecasteaux

They only spent 5 weeks in the area in 1793, but their accounts of contact with the Lyluequonny Aborigines are fascinating, and so different to anything else I’ve read.

Sharing shellfish caught fresh from the sea by the women divers, singing songs together, learning their language (which they used with success when they sailed later to Bruny Island), and even helping each other to clear fallen trees and other obstructions from the walking trails linking Recherche Bay, Southport Lagoon Tasmania and Blackswan Lagoon.

If our path was interrupted by heaps of dry branches, some of them walked before, and removed them to either side. We could not walk on the dry grass without slipping every moment, particularly where the ground was sloping: but these good savages, to prevent our falling, took hold of us by the arm, and thus supported us.

and,

The kindness and gentleness which seemed to be the basis of their character, gave to our meetings rather an air of reunion of friends rather than a meeting of individuals who were quite different in every way.Jacques-Mallo La Motta du Portail

It really makes you wonder doesn’t it?

There are plenty more interesting stories to be discovered from both the 1792 and 1793 French landings. If you’d like to learn more I strongly recommend reading these interesting articles:

  • ‘The Axe Had Never Sounded’ [read more]
  • ‘A French Garden in Tasmania’ [read more]
  • ‘The Lost Garden of Recherche Bay’ [read more]

Top 10 Things to Do in Southport Tasmania

So that’s a very brief history of Southport, but what about now? What are some of the best things to do in Southport Tasmania and why would you visit?

I think I can sum it up in just a few words:

“Aussies visit Tasmania to relax and get back to nature.

Tasmanians? They go to Southport!”

It’s a far cry from the buzz and hum of yesteryear. Holiday shacks, swimming, fishing, gem-fossicking and bushwalking are now the main attractions for folks wanting to ‘get away’ from it all.

The town itself is only tiny, but it is the perfect base for exploring the plentiful options of far-south of Tasmania.

Here are some of the best Southport Tasmania attractions. I’ll start in town, and slowly expand to include the surrounding area.

1. Roaring Beach

Follow Lady Bay Road for just a couple of minutes drive east of Southport and you’ll find yourself at the white sands of Roaring Beach. This south-east facing beach has a lovely sandy foreshore and surfers will enjoy moderate swells. The beach has two sections separated by a small creek and some rocks – the western side is a bit larger and is easily accessible, whereas you will need to walk to the smaller eastern section (great for a quiet picnic!).

2. Lady Bay

Keep following Lady Bay Road past Burnett Point Nature Reserve and after a few more minutes you’ll be at Lady Bay. This is a much rockier beach, but I hear that snorkellers and divers might be rewarded with fields of bull kelp below the surface.

3. Aurora Watching

Tasmania Aurora Australis - Southern Lights
Aurora Australis / Southern Lights in Tasmania

Surprise, surprise, Southport faces south. 

Considering how little light pollution there is you have perfect conditions for going aurora watching. The small headland at the end of Cathkit Street in Southport would be a good spot to base yourself, but Roaring Beach would be better as there there is nothing between it and Antarctica.

Click here to learn how you can see the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) in Tasmania.

4. Esperance Adventures

A kayak tour with Esperance Adventures is the ideal way to explore the gorgeous waterways of far south Tasmania, while also learning about the history of the region. 

Matt Wardell is the owner, and he is one of many Tasmanians who began their life abroad, only to realise Tassie was the place to settle down and raise a family. 

He offers a few different tours, but the one that really catches my eye is the Recherche Bay Kayak Tour. The French explorers arrived by boat, which means there are so many little snippets of history dotted around the bay that you could never experience by foot.

More info here: Esperance Adventures

5. Lune River Gem Fossicking and Lunaris Gemstones

Here’s something I never knew…Lune River is famous for its gem and mineral fossicking!

There is an area about 5km2 to the south of Ida Bay where you and the children can fossick to your hearts content. The most common finds include petrified fern, agate, petrified wood and jasper. 

There are many areas nearby where it is strictly prohibited to fossick, so before you go I strongly recommend checking this page on the Mineral Resources Tasmania website.

Southport Tasmania - Lune River Fossicking Map
Lune River Fossicking Map

Can’t be bothered finding your own gems? 

You can also stop by Lunaris Gemstones at 175 Lune River Road. Boris and Chrys have an extensive collection of stunning minerals that you can peruse and purchase. They also make regular appearances at Salamanca Market in Hobart on Saturday mornings.

Dare I say it… this is a real ‘hidden gem’…

6. Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs

Hastings Caves
Hastings Caves | Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Rob Burnett

A great experience for the kids, these twin attractions are just 15 minutes drive from Southport. You’ll be pleased to hear that the road is now 100% sealed as well.

Newdegate cave is described by many as being one of the most beautiful in the country. In an unusual twist, it is made of dolomite, not limestone like most other caves.

A guided tour will cost around $24 for adults, and $12 for children. Tour times vary thoughout the year, so make sure you check their website.

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs - Thermal Swimming Pool
Relax in the warm waters of Hastings Thermal Springs | Photo: Sarajayne Lada

Nearby you’ll also find the Hastings Thermal Springs. These mineral-rich waters bubble up from deep beneath the forest and at a temperate 28°C it’s a nice place to soak and relax.

To avoid disappointment, don’t expect natural streams/lakes in the middle of the forest… as you can see from the photo above this is more like a swimming pool in the forest… but still a lot of fun. 

Tickets are $5 for adults and $2.50 for children.

Another bonus for this attraction is that even though it is run by P&WS, you don’t need a Parks Pass!

7. Platypus Walk + Hot Springs Walk

Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs
Explore the Platypus Walk and Hot Springs Circuit at Hastings Caves | Photo: Osborne Images

Hastings Caves State Reserve also has a couple of walks for you to explore. 

The Platypus Walk is wheelchair accessible and very easy, while the Hot Springs Walk is a bit longer and gives the kids (and grownups) the chance to feel for themselves how the hot spring waters from underground mix with the cool waters of a regular creek.

8. Ida Bay Railway

Surfing near Southport Lagoon Tasmania
Surfing near Southport Lagoon Tasmania | Photo: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett

Unfortunately the Ida Bay Railway is currently closed, but I really hope this changes because I’ve heard fantastic reports from previous travellers.

Regardless, if you’re up for a decent half-day bushwalk then you can still walk the tracks of the railway, all the way in to Southport Lagoon, and Southport Bluff Beach. I haven’t done this walk myself, but the terrain is flat and allowing 4-5hrs should be enough (plus a bit extra if you’d like to explore the beach or have a bite to eat).

At the northern end of Southport Bluff Beach is the monument to drowning victims of the sinking of the George III convict ship back in 1835. Historic whispers suggest that the guards preferred to shoot the convicts as the ship went down, rather than risk them panicking and possibly escaping!

Unfortunately access to the monument is currently prohibited to protect the highly endangered coastal ecosystem nearby.

A picnic shelter with BBQ facilities and toilets are available at Elliott’s Beach – about 1.5hrs walk from Ida Bay – and it is a good place to stop and turn back if you are short on time.

9. Mystery Creek Cave

Old Boots - Mystery Creek Cave
Old Boots - Mystery Creek Cave

This is an awesome short walk, but also one of the strangest.

To get there, drive about 1km south from Ida Bay and turn right onto South Lune Road, and then left onto Limestone Quarry Road. Follow this to the signed start of the walk.

It’s starts out normal, taking you along the old tramway track through lush forest and across a broad bubbling stream, but as you get closer to the quarry site you start to see relics from past making an appearance. Old leather shoes, plates, cans and other weird and wonderful oddments surprise at every step.

Not much further on among the green ferns is Mystery Creek Cave, which you can explore to your hearts content (flash floods have happened in the past, so please be careful). It is dark, so best to take a torch for exploring and then switch it off to plunge yourself into darkness and spot some glow-worms!

Overall this walk is pretty easy, with only the stream crossing and last little scramble down into the cave mouth needing any sort of dexterity. A few hours total should find you back at your car.

10. Project 'X'

Watch this space!

Dark MOFO plan on constructing what I like to call a ‘bush kaleidoscope’ in Ida Bay. Knowing their wacky left-field approach to art I can only imagine how good this is going to be.

December 2021 is the planned opening date [more].

Other places further afield...

When you base yourself at Southport there are so many other places to explore that are a little bit further away.

We’ll make these the subject of a separate article, but in the meantime we suggest googling:

  • Cockle Creek
  • Tahune Airwalk
  • South Cape Bay bushwalk
  • Duckhole Lake
  • Hartz Mountains National Park
  • Adamsons Peak bushwalk

Where to Stay - Southport Tasmania Accommodation

If you’re thinking visiting Southport Tasmania, accommodation is a very important consideration for both convenience and your budget.

There are simply too many places to stay in Southport for me to list them all, but the ones I do present here are what I consider the ‘best of the best’. They all get great traveller reviews and offer excellent value, no matter what your style or budget.

Splurge - Sirens @ Southport

Sirens @ Southport
Sirens @ Southport

You just need to look at the photos of Sirens @ Southport to see the level of attention to detail in this modern property. 

Floor-to-ceiling windows, stunning views across the water, easy walk to the beach, timber accents…this would be my ‘go to’ option for a special weekend away with my wife.

Paul and Marta are the owners of Sirens, and they also happen to be long-time members of the Lap of Tasmania Facebook Group. I reached out to them and they are generously offering a FREE bottle of Josef Chromy Tasmanian Cuvée NV when you mention the Lap of Tasmania in your online Airbnb booking!

Low Cost and Families - Kingfisher Kottage

If you aren’t keen on camping then Kingfisher Kottage is one of the best value options for accommodation in Southport.

It is so close to Kingfisher Beach that you’ll fall asleep with the gentle sound of lightly crashing waves in your ears. There’s a log fire and lots of space on the block for the kids to play. You’ll also love the fully-equipped kitchen to help keep your food costs down.

This beach shack sleeps up to 5, and is available on Airbnb.

Families and Groups - Southport Sound Beach Shack

You can’t get any closer to the water than Southport Sound Beach Shack. It is so close you can even cast a line from the front balcony!

With 3 rooms and sleeping up to 6 people, this light and breezy holiday home is nicely set up for families or groups wanting to reconnect and escape the digital world. The kitchen is recently renovated and will suit self-caterers brilliantly. Keep in mind that TV and WiFi are not available…a great incentive to get out and explore the Far South.

Historic - The Jetty House

‘The Jetty House’ – built in 1875 – is one of the few historic buildings in Southport that survived the 1967 bushfires that swept across southern Tasmania.

Relax with a book on the wide verandahs, snuggle in front of the cosy fire, or discover the many pieces of woodwork lovingly created by owner Carl – The Jetty House is perfect for large families or groups wanting a taste of colonial Southport.

Before you get a shock, keep in mind that when you book The Jetty House you are booking the entire property that sleeps up to 12 people. Prices are very reasonable if you can share costs with a large group of friends, or extended family.

Caravans and Campers - Southport Caravan Park Tasmania

Just 10-15 minutes walk from the beach, Rodney and Kerrie have put a lot of love into the Southport Hotel and Caravan Park, making it a great place to set up camp.

You can explore their 12 acres of native bushland, use their camp-kitchen to prepare your own meals, stock up at their on-site shop, or have a meal at the Hotel.

There are all sorts of options depending on your style of travels.

  • Powered sites (~$28 per double per night + $5 per additional person – Children under 5 are free)
  • Unpowered sites (~$9 per person per night – Children under 5 are free)
    Self-contained cabins (~$69 per double per night + $10 per extra person)
  • Self-contained motel units ($120 per double per night + $20 per extra person)

Unlike a lot of caravan parks these days there is plenty of space between sites, so you won’t have to worry about things getting too cosy either. WiFi is also available.

There is no dump point at Southport. Your closest options further north are:

  • Geeveston, Heritage Park (40mins)
  • Shipwrights Point (40mins)
  • Franklin (1hr)

Where to Eat and Drink in Southport

With a population of less than 200, you can understand that dining options are limited in Southport.

Don’t worry though, there are still enough options in Southport, and nearby towns, to keep you well fed.

Southport Hotel Tasmania

Proudly wearing the label of ‘most southerly pub in Australia‘, the Southport Hotel Tasmania is the place to be to meet the locals, have a good feed, or sink a cold post-kayak beer.

We hear the Tassie scallops and F&C are very good, and in winter you’ll love the cosy log fire.

Rocket @ the End of the Road

The what?!

I couldn’t believe it when I found this fantastic little coffee/icecream/cafe popup near the Southport jetty. The Rocket at the End of the Road (RATEOTR?) open their doors once a week on either a Friday, Saturday or Sunday between 9am and 12pm.

Which day? It depends on the weather! So check their Facebook Page here to get their latest updates. I suspect this will change once covid restrictions are lifted and they start seeing more travellers down south.

Nearby dining options...

Here are some other dining options in nearby towns that you’ll enjoy:
  • Post Office 6985 (Dover) – Pizzas, Aussie, Italian. My wife and I have tried the pizza here and it was delicious!
  • Dover RSL (Dover) – Great value for a decent family feed.
  • 19th Bar and Bistro (Dover) – Excellent pub fare from the Dover Golf Club.
  • Bakehouse Distillery (Dover) – I’m yet to try their locally distilled ‘Sassafras Spirit’ but it sounds intriguing. As their name suggests, they also run an historic bakehouse, producing fresh sourdough loaves and other baked goods. Open Saturdays and Sundays for tastings, purchases and tours of the distillery.
  • St Imre Winery (Dover) – This boutique winery is just outside Dover. We hear it is currently on the market – hopefully the new owners will continue providing tastings and light meals.

Other information

  • I couldn’t find any playgrounds for the children in Southport itself, but there are a couple of fantastic options at Heritage Park in Geeveston (platypus as well – click here to learn more), and at Shipwrights Point just outside Geeveston.
  • Southport is the last place to get fuel if you’re heading down to Cockle Creek.
  • I am trying to check this with locals, but I have heard that unlike most of Tasmania Optus may have better phone reception in Southport.
  • Beyond Southport the road turns to gravel. If you are in a rental vehicle  and wanting to get to Cockle Creek than make sure you check that you are allowed to drive on dirt roads [click here for our review of Tassie car rentals]
Southport Map
Southport Map

Final thoughts, and suggested reading...

We hope you’ve found this article helpful in discovering the tiny town of Southport, and including it in your Tasmania road trip itinerary!

Are you still a little bit unsure which place to visit? Or maybe you’d like to bounce some ideas off other travellers or Tassie locals?

We welcome questions over at our Facebook group, so please stop by and say g’day!

We also have plenty more articles like this to help with your planning. Here are some of our most popular ones:

Happy travels!
Andrew.

Travel planning resources

Tasmania’s remote location means there are internet ‘black spots’ across the island. 

A paper travel guide or map is the perfect backup, and we love the range from Lonely Planet.

Andrew Strikis

Andrew Strikis

Andrew is an award-winning travel writer and photographer from Tasmania. Over the last 10 years he has been an advocate for Tasmanian tourism, working with and supporting many of Tasmania's prominent organisations such as Tourism Northern Tasmania, Hobart and Beyond, and MONA. Together with his wife he enjoys exploring Tasmania by road, and he looks forward to helping others plan and enjoy their own Lap of Tasmania road trip.

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Dog and bear in suitcase - Lap of Tasmania Road trip