Circumnativate Tasmania drive - 7 days
In 1798-99, British explorers Matthew Flinders and George Bass took three months to circumnavigated Tasmania by ship. Today it can be done by road in seven days. That having been said, this is very much a flying visit as there is a lot to see in Tasmania and seven days is nowhere near enough time to see it all. What it does give is an overall view of the island, taking in the major attractions that people go to Tasmania to see. The drive starts and finishes in Hobart, but you can easily start and finish the drive at any point along the way, such as Launceston, or Devonport if you plan on coming Tasmania on the car ferry from Melbourne. Simply by picking up the drive at that location and ending up back where you started from.
Can start from any locality on the route as the drive is a round trip.
Features and Attractions
Port Arthur; Tasman National Park; Freycinet National Park; Bicheno; St Helens; Bay of Fires; St Columba Falls; Scottsdale; Launceston; Devonport; Burnie; Stanley; Zeehan; Rosebery; Strahan; Queenstown; Hamilton; New Norfolk; Hobart.
Leave Hobart via Brooker Highway, turn left onto Lyell Highway before crossing the bridge at Bridgewater. The gentle undulations of the countryside on either side of the Derwent River, and its mirror-like reflection on the water on a still, crisp morning make this one of the most enjoyable drives one could imagine. The first town reached is New Norfolk, so named because the town's founding pioneers were re-settled from Norfolk Island in 1808. The richness and variety of its historic buildings, the old Oast Houses all give the towns and villages of this region a character and feel that is unique in Australia to them.
Follow Glenora Rd through Plenty (with its superb Salmon Ponds) to Bushy Park, the hop capital of Tasmania. This is another wonderfully atmospheric destination, a real piece of Europe with its old houses, hop kilns, deciduous trees and hopfields which seem to envelop every building and road. Mount Field National Park, with cascading waterfalls, deep gorges and a large variety of plants and trees, is accessed by road from Bushy Park or Rosegarland, a small village on Lyell Highway. Continue on to the highway to Hamilton, yet another pretty colonial-era town on the Clyde River. Hamilton is full of history, from quaint old cottages that now house craft galleries or offer bed and breakfast accommodation to its convict built schoolhouse. Jackson's Emporium, built in 1856, is a quaintly different kind of village store specialising in Derwent Valley products.
Travelling north, the next major town is Ouse. It was in the hills around Ouse that bushranger Martin Cash roamed. Nearby are Cluny Dam and the Repulse Dam; both are small, but typical Hydro Power Station dams. Millbrook water mill off Victoria Valley Road dates back to 1843. Further north on Lyell Highway, a road to the right leads to Tarraleah, a town created to house workers on a 1930's hydro-electric scheme on the upper Derwent. A visitors centre sits on the hilltop above the huge hydro-electric pipes, a spectacular sight. The whole town of 1920s and 1930s wooden homes has been restored as an elegant wilderness adventure resort. Back on the highway, the next dot on the map is Derwent Bridge, a small community in the Central Highlands where the highway crosses the River Derwent near Lake St Clair (5 km). There are several short walking trails that can be taken at the southern end of Lake St Clair, ranging from 30-40 minutes lakeside to a 7 hour round trip to Mt Rufus.
After Derwent Bridge, Lyell Highway winds for 56 kilometres through the heart of the Wild Rivers National Park, which lies in the heart of the Franklin - Gorden Rivers Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is a region of dramatic mountain peaks, beautiful rainforest, deep river valleys and spectacular gorges. There are several short walks and picnic stops along the way that will allow you to discover the grandeur and beauty of the Wild Rivers region. One of these is a short walk to Nelson Falls provides a welcome break from what can be a tedious drive through the mountains, depending on the weather conditions and traffic.
After passing the man-made Lake Burbury, the highway climbs the mountains up past the remnants of the mining town of Gormanston, before winding its way down through the stark, treeless lunar-like landscape that surrounds the somewhat quirky capital of Tasmania's west coast - Queenstown. Spend the night at Queenstown. 248 km
Continue north on Lyell Highway, taking the road to Strahan, a few kms out of town. Located at the top end of Macquarie Harbour, Strahan is the gateway to the world Heritage-listed wilderness area of Western Tasmania; it's a tourist magnet; cruises on Macquarie Harbour and up the King, Franklin and Gordon Rivers and to the former convict prison, Sarah Island, are always full so book in advance. The short drive to Hogarth Falls is also very popular. Be on the road again by mid afternoon to reach tonight's destination before nightfall.
Don't leave Strahan the way you came in, rather, drive north along Andrew Street into Henty Rd. This takes you on a scenic back road to the old mining town of Zeehan. The town features some interesting architecture. Leave Zeehan via Zeehan Hwy, turning left into Murchison Highway towards the mining town of Rosebery. Continue driving north through Tullah and some very picturesque mountain scenery, eventually reaching the north coast of Tasmania at Somerset, on the outskirts of Burnie, a major port and industrial city on the north coast. Spend the night at Burnie. 226 km
Follow Bass Highway west to Wynyard, a leisurely paced town on Bass Strait. Follow the signs to Table Cape and take in the view across Bass Strait. Continue west on Table Cape Road, rejoining Bass Highway. Follow the Highway to Stanley, feeling free to visit Rocky Cape, Dip Falls or Detention Falls along the way. At Stanley, walk (or chairlift) up to the top of The Nut, the core of an extinct volcano, for a panoramic view of the north-west tip of Tasmania.
A visit to the Highfield Historic Site north of Stanley is recommended. Return to Bass Highway and follow the signs to Smithton, an industrial and administrative centre for the surrounding district. Smithton is the last major township on the north coast. Return along the Bass Highway through Wynyard to Burnie. From Burnie continue to follow the coast through the pretty village of Penguin, then Ulverstone and Devonport to spend the night there.
Alternatively, you might prefer to visit Cradle Mountain on Day 3. The northern end of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is approximately 60 km south of Burnie, a 90-minute drive each way via the B18, the A10 and the C132. If Cradle Mountain is on your agenda, we suggested you leave early and go there from Burnie first, take one of the shorter walks, then visit Stanley and as much as the north coast as you can afterwards, ending up at Devonport for the night. 220 km
From Devonport, follow Bass Highway to Deloraine, passing through Latrobe, Sassafras, Elizabeth Town (cheese factory and raspberry farm). Deloraine is a charming riverside town, and the gateway to the Great Western Tiers mountains region. Continue along Bass Highway to Launceston, the biggest city and major business centre in Tasmania's north. Launceston is a great place to have lunch before heading north along the West Tamar Highway to the goldmining town of Beaconsfield.
Return to Launceston on the east side of the Tamar River; cross via the Batman Bridge, following the signs. When you reach East Tamar Hwy, you can either turn left and visit George Town and Low Head (lightstation complex and noctural penguin tours) if time permits, or return to Launceston by travelling south along East Tamar Hwy. Take in a few of the sights around Launceston such as Cataract Gorge, where you can take a walk through tree fern glades and across the suspension bridge. Spend the night at Launceston. 225 km
Return along East Tamar Hwy towards George Town, turning right into George Town Rd at Newnham. Turn tight into Lilydale Rd at Rocherlea. Follow the signs to Pipers River, then along Bridport Rd to Pipers Brook, the location of some of Tasmania's most highly regarded cool-climate wineries. Pinot Noir and sparkling whites are the speciality wines from this region. Proceed to Bridport, the largest town on Tasmania's north-east coast, and a fishing port.
To the west of Bridport, surrounded by extensive sand dunes, is the near-ghost village of Waterhouse which had a brief moment of glory when gold was discovered there in 1869. Take Bridport Rd to Scottsdale. Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm is one of the world's largest lavender oil producers. Tasman Highway east leads to Tulendeena, picturesque Branxholm and the old tin mining town of Derby which has an interesting mining museum.
St Columba Falls is accessed from Pyengana in the forests of North-East Tasmania. Pub in the Paddock at Pyengana is one of Tasmania's oldest country pubs (circa 1880). Continue along Tasmania highway to the next overnight stop - St Helens, the major service town in Tasmania's north-east corner. If time permits, drive north along Binalong Bay Rd to Binalong Bay at the southern end of the Bay of Fires before returning to St Helens. The red lichen on the rocks is quite spectacular. If you go straight to St Helens, be sure to visit Binalong Bay in the morning before travelling south. 277 km
Leave early if you can to allow as much time as possible in Freycinet National Park. Continue south from St Helens to the surfing town of Scamander. Proceed along Tasman Highway, then right into Esk Highway to St Marys. Turn right at St Marys along Gray Road and into Elephant Pass Road. Travel down Elephant Pass, turning right into Tasman Hwy towards Bicheno. Proceed along Tasman Highway to Coles Bay, the gateway to Freycinet Peninsula.
Freycinet National Park offers a wide variety of activities. A popular walk is up to the pass overlooking the perfectly shaped Wineglass Bay; if you's prefer a less strenuous activity, beach strolls, swimming or wildlife spotting is recommended. Aim at leaving Coles Bay by mid afternoon. Proceed south along Tasman Highway through Swansea, Triabunna and Orford to Sorell. At Sorell, turn left into Arthur Highway and drive to Eagehawk Neck via Dunalley. The Pirates Bay Rd deviation before reaching Eaglehawk Neck is well worth taking, with panoramic vews down the coast. Lufra Country Hotel at Eaglehawk Neck is a good accommodation choice, as it has spectacular views down the coast to wake up to, though there is plenty of other accommodation choices in the area if you'd rather something different. 302 km
The Port Arthur convict settlement ruins are the main reason many people come to Tasman Peninsula. Well presented with guided and self-guided tours, it tells the story of life for the 19th British convicts who were banished to the other side of the world. The peninsula has many convict related relics and buildings other than Port Arthur that can be visited on Day 7 before making the journey to Hobart. If you have an interest in convict history, head north at Premaydena to the convict station and coal mine ruins beyond Saltwater River. Return along Nubeena Rd to Koonya and Taranna (both have former convict stations). If you'd prefer a bit of adventure, everything from boat tours & cruises, bushwalking in the Tasman National Park (9 walks of differing lengths and degrees of difficulty), diving, horse riding, fishing, sea kayaking to abseiling and rockclimbing are to be enjoyed here.
Visit the Tasman Peninsula website for all the options. Before you leave the peninsula, be sure to drive to the end of Safety Cove Rd past Port Arthur to Remarkable Cave, a huge water-filled rock cave/natural bridge on the coast. If you check the tidal information before you go and plan your visit to coincide with low tide, you can actually walk through the cave and onto a sandy beach on the ocean side. Return along Safety Cove Rd, past Port Arthur to Eaglehawk Neck, then head north along Arthur Hwy via Dunalley and Sorell to Hobart. 135 km