As a kid, when I heard the name Tasmania, I associated it with everyone’s favorite disastrous slobbering, incoherent, hurricane-spinning Looney Toons character Taz, the Tasmanian Devil. As my love for geography grew (before traveling even became a hobby), Tasmania took on new meaning – it turned out to be a fantastically wild and raw Australian island with rivers, glaciated peaks and glittering coastlines. But it seemed so far away…
Imagine how happy I felt when I had a work trip to Melbourne in September, which was not only my first time in the great country of Australia, but it was only a 50-minute flight to Tasmania! Suddenly that vast distance that seemed much too out of the way before was now at my grasp, and I had my chance to visit this dream island. So I didn’t hesitate and booked my flight to Tassie, how Aussies affectionately refer to it.
Here are 25 must-do things in Tasmania if you have only 4 days. It’s not enough to see everything on the incredible island, but I’ve captured the best experiences to do out of Hobart and East Tasmania.
25. Explore the Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery
A complete opposite of the MoNa (#3), the TMAG is a more traditional museum exploring local historical artifacts – and there is free entry every day! This beautiful museum houses local artwork, capturing the cultural and natural wonders of Tasmania’s rich heritage and biodiversity. Note that it’s open daily until only 4:00 p.m.
24. Get friendly with furry friends at Hobart’s Cat Cafe
Okay, I recognize this is not for everyone, but being a cat lover, I figured I’d give this a try. Who doesn’t love getting a coffee while hanging out with 12 funny rescue cats? [If you have cat allergies, maybe skip this one.] However, if you do enjoy loving on cats with interesting, sometimes tragic rescue stories, then this might be worth a visit. The place looks like a giant jungle gym and dream playground for kitties. Note: bring a lint roller if any of the furry cats jump in your lap. Also, let them get to know you first, as they may claw you as a natural defense mechanism. I may have left with a few scratches!
23. Visit Australia’s oldest standing bridge
The Richmond Bridge, located in Richmond, just 25 miles outside of Hobart, is a quiet attraction, but it’s picturesque and absolutely beautiful. Built in 1825 by convicts based out of notorious prisons like Port Arthur Historic Site (#4) and still used today, it’s a constant reminder of hard labor that went into settling in the new colonies.
22. Enjoy the Salamanca Market on Saturdays
If you’re into local goods and food, then the Salamanca Market is the perfect place to see that local goods that are produced by Tasmanians. A free outdoor market every Saturday in downtown Hobart, the Salamanca market lets you check out local-made clothes, jewelry, produce, artwork, beauty products, leather goods and bags, homemade cheese, bread, drinks (alcoholic beverages included!) and yummy foods!
21. Explore Hobart, the beautiful and delicious capital
Oh Hobart, I did not expect to fall for you, but I most certainly did. In fact, I ended up looking at costs to buy homes and rentals while there – something I never do! In fact, Tassie is some of Australia’s cheapest real estate, and Hobart is a great place to live, according to many locals. There is a lot to explore by foot, historic and new, and of course, places to chow down (#10).
20. Do go chasing waterfalls at Russell Falls
If waterfalls speak to you, then you must drive out and do a short hike to Russel Falls further inland of Hobart. Located amidst lush greenery and towering pines, Russell Falls and neighboring Horseshoe Falls are a great escape from the city hustle and bustle with plenty of parking and a well-preserved landscape.
19. Relax in Bicheno
Just north of Freycinet National Park, you’ll find a relaxing town with local wildlife (including wild penguins), fresh seafood, beautiful beaches and even world class diving offshore Governor Island Marine Reserve. This is a good spot to stay overnight after spending the day in Freycinet.
18. Relax in the Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Enter by any donation amount you feel, this tranquil garden features everything from plants to food to tours you can enjoy and take in various collections of Mother Nature’s unique gifts. There are two restaurants you can eat at, Sprout Cafe and Succulent Restaurant, amidst the peaceful gardens with lovely views.
17. Visit the lavender fields of Port Arthur
A nice departure from the spooky historic prison just minutes away (#4), the colors and invigorating scents of the lavender fields nearby will certainly be a nice refresher. You can try high quality lavender products from honey to botanical oils and even try some lavender-infused dishes. And entry is free!
16. Wine tasting is always a good idea
The wine route in Southern Tassie is comprised of over 15 diverse wineries and cellars, nestled between Coal River and the fertile Derwent Valley. Some are open for walk-ins, others by just calling in advance. These wineries offer tastings, food pairing, cooking classes and a chance to learn the unique story of each winery (I personally love this!). There’s something for everyone, so be sure to visit a couple of wineries.
15. Drive the Great Eastern Drive
A gloriously stunning road trip from Hobart, hop in your car and take in the mountains, forests, rivers and sea views of Eastern Tasmania along the A3 highway. It takes about 2.5 hours to get from Hobart to Freycinet National Park (#13). Be sure to stop by and snap some photos along the way! Sometimes it’ll be just you alone with majestic nature.
14. See the dramatic Fortescue Bay
On your way in and out of Port Arthur Historic Site (#4)don’t forget to pull over and marvel at the white, sandy coastline of Fortescue Bay, surrounded by heavily forested hills. Plenty of activities to do in this area, even just walking around trails to breathe in the fresh Tasmanian Peninsular air!
13. Explore the astounding Freycinet National Park
Perhaps one of the most beautiful parks I’ve visited and hiked in recent years, Freycinet is a perfect place to go alone or with family. Get into nature, see long stretches of white sand and dramatic, forest-capped mountains. Tip: go on weekdays as it’s less crowded and bring your own picnic food, as there are no places in the park that sell food. There’s a visitor centre where you get buy a 24-hour parking pass and get information on all the parts of the park to visit. You can stay in lodges inside the park, Cole’s Bay or any of the nearby cities like Swansea or Bicheno (#19).
12. Visit Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
“Better the devil you know!” The Tasmanian devil, that is. The unique furry, black animal has a funny story on how it earned its name. When the first settlers came to Tasmania to explore the exotic land, they were startled one night to see two bright red eyes glaring at them in the dark. Terrified it was a demon and that the land was haunted, they aptly named the animal the local devil. The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, located just 25 minutes from Hobart, takes care in injured or ophaned wildlife, from Tasmanian devils and kangaroos to koalas and wombats. You pay an entrance fee of 30AUD (all proceeds go to helping heal wildlife, as the park is run by volunteers), and you can join a feeding tour to learn about specific animals, or explore on your own. They have a Kanga Country section where you can hang with scores of free roaming kangaroos, feed them animal pellets and enjoy the views in this part of Tasmania. It’s very rewarding and educational!
11. Catch the Southern Lights dancing in the sky
So I wasn’t lucky enough to see the Aurora Australis when I was in Tasmania, but it’s something unique you can catch closer to the Southern Pole as well, not just Northern Lights on the opposite side of the world. As such, southern Tasmania and Hobart are the BEST places to catch the Aurora Australis when the lights and geomagnetic fields are particularly active. Aurora, I learned, actually means dawn or early light in Latin, and there are Aurora forecasts you can follow to see if you have a higher chance of seeing the lights on a clear winter night.
10. Check out Hobart’s gourmet bar and food scene
Hobart is not only one of my new favorite world cities, but the range of food and restaurants available here is one to drool and marvel over. From dumplings to burgers to brunch and fine dining, there is something here for everyone! The most noteworthy bars and restaurants I enjoyed were The Glass House, a waterfront bar with amazing cocktails; Room for a Pony, great coffee shop by day and even better bar by night with a fantastic terrace; Dier Makr for beautiful food (hint: try the Jerusalem artichoke and fried leek); Monty’s for romantic fine dining; The Burger Haus for old-fashioned juicy burgers, and Small-fry Hobart for a super cosy, savory brunch.
9. Stop by Honeymoon Bay
Nestled in Freycinet National Park in Tassie’s glittering East Coast, the romantically-named tiny horseshoe-shaped bay will welcome you with dramatic mountains dipping into the ocean, with friendly seals sometimes basking in the sunshine. I liked this place as it was quite deserted – you can have it all to yourself.
8. Take in the views at Cape Tourville Lighthouse
There’s something about lighthouses I find so nostalgic and romantic – always shining, providing a guiding light to anyone lost, helping ships to avoid crashing ashore – you get it! But perhaps what’s most rewarding is catching the sunset here. How the sky changes color by the minute, casting lights on deserted islands and the soothing sound of crashing waves as the surf rises. While you can’t access the actual lighthouse, this is a noteworthy stop on your day in Freycinet National Park.
7. Maria Island nature getaway
Maria Island is accessible by a 30-minute ferry ride from Triabunna (1.5 hours north of Hobart on the Great Eastern Drive). It’s so pristine, you will surely catch sight of wild animals from wombats and Forester Kangaroos to wallabies and Tasmanian Devils. If you’re up for a rigorous hike, then check out the island’s two mountains of Bishop and Clerk. It has lovely biking and walking trails, and plenty of stories to learn about with its rich and well-preserved convict past. If you find yourself pressed for time, then opt for the equally beautiful Bruny Island (#5).
6. Take a cruise to witness Wine Glass Bay from the water
If you may not be suited to hiking, you can certainly take a cruise to see the magnificent Wine Glass Bay. It 4-hour long and departs daily from Cole’s Bay aboard a comfortable boat. You may get lucky and see dolphins, seals, whales and penguins. Relax, eat a delicious lunch aboard and see unique sea caves and hidden coves that would otherwise be difficult to access by foot.
5. Ferry your way to Bruny Island
Take a day to explore Bruny Island, the wildlife and food scene is amazing! There is a car ferry or eco-ferry that goes there from Kettering, just south of Hobart. Visiting this island is awesome for even more beautiful scenery, isolated beaches and delectable cuisine. There is a long isthmus called the Neck that connects what almost appears to be two islands connected by a narrow beach. If you love oysters, chocolate and cheese (not necessarily all together), then Bruny island has plenty of great restaurants to feed your appetite.
4. Tour the Port Arthur Prison
Beautifully preserved and a museum under open air, the Port Arthur Historic Siteis at times spooky and thrilling, telling immersive tales of the convict settlement from the first colonies. With loads of tours you can do (or not do), get lost in the sinister history that shaped so much of Australia and Tasmania. Through hard labor and work, convicts of all ages were sent to be “fixed” before being reintegrated into society as reformed citizens. Tour the prison cells, former insane asylum, punishment chambers, silent solitary confinement quarter, and the many significant buildings that housed hundreds of staff, soldiers, doctors and support staff. There is even a night tour by lantern that puts you in individual cells which housed the deadliest criminals in the silent ‘solitary’ chamber – do this tour if you dare!
3. Experience the MoNa, “A museum, or something”
Experience is really the only word that comes to mind when I think about the Museum of Old and New Art, or MoNa. From immersive, mind-altering exhibits to a wall of endless vagina molds to a robotic stomach that gets fed daily and actually digests food (mind the smell), this museum is unlike anything you’ll ever experience in your life. It’s subterranean, located deep below ground level, making it feel like you’re in a villain’s secret lair. It’s beautiful, wacky, entertaining and super weird – it will leave an impression all right, so plan to spend about half a day there. They have a nice bar and several restaurants as well. Honestly, when I finished touring this museum, I felt a range of emotions, but I was definitively impressed. People embrace and celebrate weirdness, and I love that! Bonus: You can take a ‘luxury’ ferry to the MoNa along the Derwent River, sipping on wine and priming yourself for the experience. This departs from the Brooke Street Pier.
2. Conquer Mount Wellington/Kunyani
Sitting atop Hobart, the looming Mount Wellington (Kunyani is its indigenous name) gives you the best and highest view of the Tasman peninsula. About a thirty-minute ride up a windy mountain road, enjoy the crisp air and play in the clouds (when I went, I was exactly at cloud level). Note that the roads leading to Wellington may ice over due to snowy conditions, so be sure to read the Pinnacle Road status before you go – if it’s closed. To ensure safety, roads will be closed for access if ice conditions are dangerous. However, when it’s open, there are hiking trails and horseback riding with plenty of look out points at the top (including an indoor enclosure to help you thaw a bit from the cold and wind).
1. Hike Mount Amos to get the best view of Wine Glass Bay
If you choose to do this advanced-level hike, be sure to wear the right shoes (hiking shoes preferred, but I managed fine with my Adidas as well). This trail varies between flat surfaces to huge rocks you need to scale, and the roundtrip hike takes around 3 hours. I may have slipped a couple of times and even cracked my phone screen… oops! The rock gets very slick on the flat surfaces, and fighting strong winds on this side of the peninsula can be a challenge. However, once you reach the peak and see the pristine and iconic Wine Glass Bay from above, a calm will wash over you as your heart rate settled after the steep hike. And if this hike is too rigorous, you can always choose to walk an easier path directly to the beach, just follow the signs at the junction. And fun fact: Wine Glass Bay is ranked one of the top 10 best beaches in the world!
There is a still an ENTIRE island to explore, so I’ve only really scratched the surface. Have you been to Tassie? Share your adventures below!
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