Tasmania Starters Kit
Tasmania is Australia’s island state, situated approximately 240km to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. It is well known for its pristine beauty and untouched wilderness, and it is for this reason that many people visit Tasmania – to get away from it all. However, whilst there are long deserted beaches, rugged mountains, virgin rainforest and rushing wild rivers, there is also a vibrant pub, café and arts scene in the capital, Hobart, in the south of the state. There certainly is something for everyone here.
Interestingly, many travellers to Australia leave Tasmania off their itineraries. Moreover, for every ten travellers I meet who have been to Australia, only one of these has visited Tasmania. However, that one traveller always says it was their favourite part of the country!
Population: Approximately 500,000. That’s half a million people on an island the size of Denmark!
State Capital: Hobart, in the state’s south.
Currency: Australian dollar, AUD
Time Zone: Tasmania is located in UTC+10 (+11 DST).
Emergency Numbers: 000 (all emergency services)
Elevation: The highest point is Mount Ossa at 1,614m.
Tasmania has a cool temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Summer lasts from December to February when the average maximum sea temperature is 21 °C and inland areas around Launceston reach 24 °C. However, the weather can be as high as the mid thirties or in the low teens during these months. Winter is from June to August and these months are generally the wettest and coolest. Autumn lasts between March and May, and Spring between September and November, and both of these seasons experience changeable weather.
Hobart is the state’s capital, with a population of approximately 210,000. It is Australia's second oldest capital city after Sydney, as well as the financial and administrative heart of Tasmania. The city is located in the state's south-east on the estuary of the Derwent River, and the skyline is dominated by Mount Wellington, at 1,271 metres high. Hobart makes a good base for trips to the Tasman Peninsula, Bruny Island, and other areas of the state’s South.
Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city, located in the state’s north with a population of approximately 105,000. It is one of Australia’s oldest cities and home to one of the largest selection of nineteenth century buildings in the country. It makes a good base for trips to Cradle Mountain, the Central Highlands, Ben Lomond or the North and North West coasts.
Tasmania, despite its isolation, is very easy to reach. Major Australian carriers such as Qantas, Jet Star, Virgin Blue and Tiger Airways operate direct flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Hobart and Launceston. There are also direct flights from Brisbane and Adelaide, although these are always subject to change. Lesser known regional aircraft Rex operate flights to smaller towns on the North West coast. It is also possible to come over on an overnight boat, the Spirit of Tasmania, which leaves Melbourne and arrives in the northern city of Devonport, just an hour from Launceston. It is possible to bring a car on this.
Getting around Tasmania on your own can be tough without a car. There are bus services with Tassie Link and Red Line, which travel between the major destinations, although it can be a little harder to get to national parks or places less frequented. In this case, it’s probably best to hire a car, or try your hand at hitchhiking!
Where to stay
Tasmania caters for all kinds of travellers, with accommodation available in most parts of the state ranging from hostels through to five star hotels. Camping is also a very popular pastime for Tasmanians, and it certainly the best way to see the state’s national parks. Discover Tasmania has some more detailed information on travel and accommodation
What to see
There is simply too much to see in Tasmania to do it all in a week or a couple of days like most people try to do. Given a week you could probably see two or three of the major sights, but in order to fully experience the state’s natural beauty and sense of isolation I would recommend at least two to four weeks.
There is plenty to see in and around Hobart. The waterfront and Salamanca Place have a plethora of restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs, as does North Hobart. Every Saturday from 9am to 3pm Australia’s largest outdoor market is held at Salamanca place, and every visitor should try to make sure they’re in town as to miss it would be unforgivable. It really is unique, with everything from arts and crafts, souvenirs, fresh fruit and vegetables, second hand books and cds through to antiques and other memorabilia being sold. The view from the summit of Mount Wellington is also world class, and should not be missed.
Port Arthur is about an hour and a half south east of Hobart, located on the Tasman Peninsula. A former penal settlement, it is one of the state’s major tourist attractions and heritage areas, with the largest set of ruins in the country. There is no better place to get an insight into the state’s dark penal history. Nearby are Australia’s highest sea cliffs, a number of other interesting natural phenomena including the Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen, Blowhole and Tesselated Pavement, as well as the world renowned Tasmanian Devil Park.
The West Coast
Wild and rugged, the former mining towns of Queenstown and Strahan are situated amongst magnificent scenery, and are well worth a vist.
An easy afternoon out of Hobart. Also close to the Tahune Airwalk, a walkway constructed among some of the tallest trees in the world.
Tasmania has 19 national parks, each offering something different. I have personally visited most of these parks on a number of occasions, so if you need more specific info about any of them please contact me. There is also some basic information at the Parks and Wildlife site.
Ben Lomond – Less than an hour from Launceston, with facilities for skiers in the winter months.
Cradle Mountain - The most well known, where you can see the iconic cradle mountain and dove lake. It is also the base for the 6 day “overland track” which traverses 80km through the central highlands through stunning world heritage wilderness to Lake St Clair.
Douglas-Apsley – Dry sclerophyll forest and Apsley Gorge.
Freycinet – Spectacular scenery, including the world famous Wineglass Bay and Hazards.
Hartz Mountains – Alpine scenery a few hours south of Hobart. The road was quite bad the last time I went, so I would suggest using a 4WD to get there.
Kent Group – Remote Bass strait islands.
Lake St Clair – Plenty of hiking opportunities in the end of the Overland track.
Maria Island – My personal favourite. A rich history, walks to peaks with tremendous views over the east coast, deserted beaches and abundant wildlife.
Mole Creek Karst – Home to a number of spectacular caves.
Mt Field – Waterfalls, virgin rainforest and snow-capped peaks.
Mt William – Deserted beaches, wildlife and plant life.
Narawntapu - The "Serengeti" of Tasmania, rich in wildlife.
Rocky Cape - Aboriginal heritage, shipwrecks and more.
Savage River - A remote, wilderness park of temperate rainforest. Difficult to Access.
South Bruny - Spectacular coastal scenery.
Southwest - The heart of the Tasmanian wilderness, with hundreds kilometres of hiking trails and no roads. Come here to truly get away from it all. Requires fitness and time, as it can’t be seen in a day or even three.
Strzelecki - Home of rare flora and fauna on Flinders Island.
Tasman - Superb coastal scenery and stunning sea cliffs.
Walls of Jerusalem - Rich alpine flora set among rugged mountains.
Wild Rivers - Dramatic peaks, rainforest, wild rivers and gorges.
What to do
What NOT to do is more like it! Tasmania really has something for everyone. For the art and culture buffs, there’s plenty to see in Hobart. For History buffs, there’s no better place to learn about Australia’s penal history. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are over 3000km of hiking trails through some of the most beautiful and untouched scenery you’ll see anywhere. And for those who simply want to do nothing but enjoy a coffee or beer, take your pick along Hobart’s waterfront. For the more extreme, there are hundreds of places to surf, there’s skiing and snowboarding in the winter, some amazing spots to go diving or snorkelling, as well as opportunities for skydiving, abseiling, jetboating and rafting.