We spent 5 months working in the little town of Strahan, furiously saving for the next chapter of our travels. When April 2016 rolled around and Targa zoomed past in a cloud of dust, it was finally time to take full advantage of our unusually healthy financial situations and the pure luxury of ample time, two things backpackers are normally scraping the bottom of the barrel for. Our aim was simple; explore every nook and cranny within our reach, not forgetting to revisit places that had stolen our hearts on a previous visit to the island over a year before.
It took us just over 5 weeks until we felt both accomplished and exhausted. In that time we drove thousands of kilometres, braving the winter weather as we teetered and trudged along coastlines, amongst forests, across moorland, up mountains and through town after town. We came face to face with the most spectacular wildlife and scenery, which is now permanently imprinted on our minds like the stamps in our passports.
Although we started our journey in Strahan, our route can easily be picked up from any location and chopped and changed to suit your own time frame and preferences. So without further ado, here is 5 weeks worth of potentially useful information to sink your teeth into. Enjoy!
Day 1 – 2 | Strahan to Derwent Bridge/Lake St. Clair
Approx. 2 hours // 126km // via Lyell Highway // Overnight – Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel
The road from Strahan to Derwent Bridge is a fairly short drive, however it is full of ups, downs, twists and turns; making it a motion sickness sufferers’ nightmare. There is a great deal to see along the way, so I suggest giving yourself at least half a day to take in all the beautiful sights, which include mountainous lookouts, waterfalls and forest walks to name a few.
Things to see and do
Brave the infamous 99 Bends – Between Strahan and Queenstown, the Lyell highway is known by locals as the ’99 bends’. For some, this is a dream, as they gracefully glide their vehicles along the smooth, curvaceous tarmac through the mountains. For others, this is a one-way ticket to nausea island, population: vomit.
Marvel at Nelson Falls – A short rainforest walk to a stunning waterfall. You’ll find all the info here.
Walk to Donaghys Hill Lookout – A slightly longer walk, which rewards you with 360 degree views of some extraordinarily rugged wilderness. Click here for more.
Take a photo of Pumphouse Point – The hydroelectricity station turned luxury accommodation is one of Tasmania’s most photographed buildings, due to it’s position; 300m out into the lake.
Be inspired by the Wall in the Wilderness – I went in with low expectations, I came out feeling humbled and inspired. The wall is a work in progress and depicts some of Tasmania’s most important history. It is carved entirely by hand by artist Greg Duncan, who uses mostly Huon Pine. Read the raving reviews folks, this is an experience not to pass up on.
Hike in Lake St. Clair National Park – Lake St. Clair is the deepest lake in the southern hemisphere and offers a range of hiking opportunities, so I’d recommend staying a few days in the area and really taking your time. Read about the hikes I did here.
Day 3 | Derwent Bridge to Mt. Field National Park via Strathgordon
Approx. 3 hours one way // 207km // via Lyell Highway, A10 & B61 // Overnight – Camping in Mt. Field National Park
This was a long old drive and a busy day, so we set off early from our accommodation in Derwent Bridge. Originally our plan was to stay overnight in Strathgordon, however accommodation to suit our budget was scarce, so we ended up doubling back and camping overnight in the beautiful Mt. Field National Park. The stretch between Mt. Field and Strathgordon is fairly remote, so be sure you go prepared. We spent the day cruising along, hopping in and out of the car to admire the mountains, lake and dam.
Things to see and do
Admire the mountain ranges and enjoy the drive – This was one of the most visually stunning drives I experienced in Tasmania. Being late autumn, the trees made the landscape pop with colour, whilst the craggy mountains looked as though they had been painted into the backdrop.
Love Lake Pedder – Together with Lake Gordon, Lake Pedder is the largest freshwater lake in Australia and about as close to a fairytale as you’re going to get.
Walk along the Gordon Dam – an enormous, curved concrete structure standing at a dizzying 140m high, making it Tassie’s tallest and most impressive dam.
We arrived at Mt. Field National Park as the sun was beginning to disappear, so set up camp and planned to explore the following morning.
Day 4 – 6 | Mt. Field National Park to Bruny Island via an Overnight Stop in Hobart
Approx. 3 hours // 156km // via B66, requires ferry from Kettering // Overnight – Backpackers Imperial Hotel, Hobart & Bruny Island Escapes (the Explorers Cottage)
Things to see and do
Walk the Lady Barron Falls Circuit – Before we left Mt. Field National Park, we fit in an early morning hike, which encompassed 3 waterfalls along a wonderfully mossy forest walk. The Lady Barron Falls Circuit includes Russell Falls, a very popular waterfall for both locals and visitors alike. You can read more about my walk here.
We spent a night in Hobart to split up the journey and purchase food supplies for our visit to Bruny Island the next day. Island prices are higher and there are very few shops available to suit those on a budget.
Walk the Fluted Cape Circuit – A firm favourite of mine. Read all about the details here.
Indulge yourself with freshly shucked oysters – Get Shucked oyster farm and bar is a locally owned business located in North Bruny. You can’t get any fresher than these little babies.
Sample some of the Island’s artisan cheese – just down the road you’ll stumble across the Bruny Island Cheese Company.
Ascend the steps to the lookout: To get from North to South Bruny, you have to cross the isthmus of land known as Bruny Island Neck. Atop of the creaky, timber stairs, the 360 degree view is simply beautiful. Even on a grey day you can see for miles in every direction. If you visit at dusk or dawn, you may even get a glimpse of the resident penguins.
Day 7 – 19 | Bruny Island to Port Arthur via Hobart
Approx. 3.5 hours // 184km // via B66 // Overnight – The Pickled Frog, Hobart & BIG4 Port Arthur Holiday Park
After Bruny Island, we returned to Hobart to spend some time exploring the city and surrounds.
Things to see and do
Catch a sunrise/sunset from Mt. Wellington – absolutely worth the early start and bone-chilling wind. Just be wary of animals on the roads between dusk and dawn, even in the city they are a hazard.
Hike around Mt. Wellington – there are heaps of tracks to explore, all offering beautiful views of Hobart and beyond. Read more about my favourite hike here.
Take a day trip to the Tahune Airwalk – escape the city and enjoy an elevated walkway through the treetops. Details of my experience here.
Horse ride in the beautiful Huon Valley – I tried my hand at some natural horsemanship at Horsehaven Farmstay, which is located just 40 minutes from Hobart.
Check out Australia’s oldest bridge in Richmond – built in the 1820’s.
It was then off to the Tasman Peninsula, for some epic hiking and a history lesson:
Hike the Three Capes Track – a journey like no other. Read my blog post, Hiking the Three Capes Track for my entire experience and you may very well be inspired to give it a go!
Visit Port Arthur Historic Site – a very moving and emotional place to visit in my opinion. The history is brutal yet fascinating, as are the old buildings and the grounds are beautiful.
There are also an abundance of geographical treasures to explore on the Tasman Peninsula:
Enjoy the view from Eaglehawk Neck lookout – Eaglehawk Neck is the thin strip of land connecting the Tasman Peninsula to mainland Tasmania. In the old days, they chained dogs along the neck to deter convicts from escaping Port Arthur.
Appreciate the uniqueness of the Tessellated Pavement – where ‘ancient cracks create a modern phenomenon’.
Watch the ocean gush through the Remarkable Cave at high tide – and walk through the cave at low tide, when safe to do so.
Enjoy the rock formations of Tasman Arch and Devils Kitchen
Day 20 – 25 | Port Arthur to Freycinet National Park
Approx. 3 hours // 206km // via Tasman Highway, A3 // Overnight – YHA Coles Bay & Freycinet Lodge
Things to see and do
Stop by Spikey Bridge – built in 1843 by convicts.
Scramble up Mt. Amos – one of the best views I have ever seen, but a climb best suited to the experienced. Read all about my adventure here.
Walk the Hazards beach circuit – a relatively long hike, but a touch easier.
A popular alternative, which is somewhat more accessible and promises a view no less beautiful, is the moderately steep, 45 minute hike up to Wineglass Bay Lookout.
Visit a vineyard – there are tonnes to chose from along the East Coast, some are large and commercial, others have a boutique feel. Although not a wine drinker, I was attracted to Milton’s gorgeous setting.
The East Coast is full to the brim with places to visit and the most popular route for visitors and locals alike. Having already driven the length of the coast in the past, we skipped on a number of activities this time around.
[DON’T MISS] The Bay of Fires – I will never forget the colours we encountered. The sky was draped with angry grey and white clouds, the soft, powdery sand was pure white and sea was a brilliant turquoise. Then there were the rocks; blanketed in bright orange lichen.
Day 26 – 27 | Freycinet National Park to Launceston
Approx. 2 hours // 167km // via Lake Leake Highway, B34 & National Highway 1 // Overnight – Arthouse Hostel, Launceston
If you take this route, be sure to make a pit stop in Campbell Town if you are a fan of history and a good bakery.
Having visited Launceston before, this was just an overnight stop for us. I would definitely recommend spending some time here if you have never been; Cataract Gorge is a must-see. You can read all about my time in ‘Launny’ here.
Day 28 – 29 | Launceston to Stanley via Liffey Falls
Approx. 3.5 hours // 252km // via National Highway 1 & C513 // Overnight – Stanley Cabin and Tourist Park
Liffey Falls is roughly an hour drive from Launceston and most definitely worth a visit, either as a day trip from the city or in our case, en route to another destination. Be aware that part of the road to the falls is unsealed and potentially dangerous in bad weather conditions.
Things to see and do
Take a walk down to Liffey Falls – this was one of my favourite waterfalls in Tasmania. The walk beforehand is especially beautiful. Details here.
Stanley is a gorgeously quaint little town overlooked by ‘the Nut’. I adored the pretty old shop fronts, cute cafes and gift shops, as well as the beautifully green, surrounding farmland and lovely sandy beaches, which are perfect for aimlessly strolling along.
Climb the Nut – or catch the lift if you prefer. You’ll be treated to some spectacular views of Stanley and surrounds from the top. Details here.
Take a scenic drive – you can drive along the coast and up into the rolling hills for a different perspective of the Nut. The unsealed road takes you through farmland dotted with cows, to some historic ruins and eventually ends at a beach.
Spot penguins at dusk – head to the cemetery (if you dare!). The little penguins can be found here and along the shore as they come up to nest in the scrub overnight.
Day 30 – 37 | Stanley to Cradle Mountain National Park
Approx. 2 hours // 175km // via Bass Highway & A2 // Overnight – Discovery Parks & Cradle Mountain Hotel
Cradle Mountain National Park was one of my favourite places in Tasmania. The scenery was mind blowing and it was here that I saw my first wild wombat and platypus. The weather however, was atrocious, so all up we spent a week here. If you visit, I would recommend allotting yourself plenty of time in the area, as the weather is incredibly changeable all year round and there is SO much to see and do!
Things to see and do
Hike, hike, hike – Read about my favourite hikes in Cradle Mountain National Park here.
Try your hand at quad biking with Cradle Country Adventures – a little bit of torrential hail never stopped anyone, right?! Details here.
Experience the blood-curdling cries of the Tasmanian Devil – read all about my experience at the Devils@Cradle Sanctuary here.
Day 38 – 39 | Cradle Mountain National Park to Kimberley
Approx. 1 hour // 69km // via Cradle Mountain Road & C136 // Overnight – the Shearers Quarters, Kimberley
After a week of hiking around Cradle Mountain, we were kindly invited by Ray, owner of Cradle Country Adventures, for a spot of horse riding at his farm over in Kimberley.
Things to see and do
Grab lunch in Sheffield – known as the ‘Town of Murals’, Sheffield is a curious little town with a number of good spots to grab a bite.
Saddle up with Cradle Country Adventures – As well as quad-biking, the company also offers a range of horse riding experiences, from day trips to multi-day adventures across some of Tasmania’s beautiful countryside. Read about the fun I had here.
Also not to be missed:
The West Coast – We explored this area whilst living in Strahan, therefore it wasn’t part of our road trip. For further reading, check out West Coast Wanderings | Montezuma Falls to Macquarie Heads, West Coast Wanderings | Mt. Zeehan & Henty Sand Dunes, West Coast Wanderings | Off-Roading Adventures, West Coast Wanderings | A Soggy Cruise up the Gordon River and Horsing Around on Ocean Beach.
Useful hints and tips
How I got there – As I had my own car, I caught the Spirit of Tasmania from Melbourne to Devonport and vice versa. I opted to sail overnight, so I could pass the long journey time by sleeping. I also paid a bit extra for a bed in a 4-share female cabin; the crossing is notoriously rough and miserable for anyone who suffers from sea sickness. There are also recliners free of charge available.
Getting around – I found Tasmania incredibly easy to negotiate and the roads are well maintained and wonderfully quiet. If you don’t have your own car, you are going to be very limited to where you can go, as there are no trains and few buses out of the cities, so you should seriously consider renting one.
Give yourself plenty of time – Although just a little dot on the map in comparison to mainland Australia, Tasmania is surprisingly large in size. If you have just a short amount of time, spend it wisely. It’s far better to see less in more detail than to see more in the blink of an eye. If travel has taught me anything, it is to slow down and really take my time to appreciate each location.
Wildlife – Being rural, there is an abundance of wildlife in Tasmania, which sadly means there is also a great deal of road kill. On particularly bad roads, don’t be surprised to pass something every couple of hundred meters. I avoided driving between dusk and dawn completely, as cars are commonly written off by animals.
Weather – the weather is very changeable in Tassie and I have experienced just about everything it can throw at me. When it rains, it pours (I was very fortunate to leave the state just before the devastating floods in 2016). The sun is also exceptionally strong here due to the weakened o-zone layer and I still managed to burn badly on a cloudy day.
Park passes – Many of the national parks in Tasmania charge an entry fee, so it may be more economical to purchase a park pass. I found the Holiday Pass to be most suitable for my needs. For more info, click here.