Going on a trip to Burnie and want to know all the best things to do in Burnie, Tasmania? As well as where to stay and everything else you need to know about visiting here? We have you covered! Below, you will find our guide to everything you need to know about Burnie things to do to plan your ultimate trip.
Sitting at the gateway to Tasmania’s wilderness, Burnie is one of the biggest towns on the northwest coast. Get ready to discover a downtown full of shops and eateries – mostly tinged with an art-deco flavour. There’s West Beach just a block from the central business district, Little Penguins at dusk on the foreshore, and Hellyers Road Distillery for a world-class tipple!
Dive into Burnie’s industrial history at the fabulous local museum, and enjoy world-class dining with tasty local produce from nearby fertile farmlands and seafood fresh out of Bass Strait.
A newer attraction is the superb Maker’s Workshop – part museum, gallery, workshop and arts centre – all housed in a spectacular award-winning modern building. And wander art galleries, take walks along country trails or adventurous bushwalks, drop by Burnie Park for a lazy picnic, or enjoy half and full day trips to places such as beautiful Boat Harbour and rugged Table Cape. All the time breathing what is possibly the cleanest air in the world due to the powerful Roaring Forties westerly winds!
Whether going under the old name of ‘The City By The Sea’ or the newer ‘City Of Makers’, Burnie is an ideal stop when exploring the northwest coast – perfect for history lovers, nature lovers or anyone looking to explore their creative streak. We’re sure you’ll agree, there’s loads to love about Burnie!
My sister lived here for many years and I have been to Burnie many times with the extra added bonus of local insights!
Below, you will find our guide to what to do in Burnie with everything you need to know about Burnie Tasmania attractions as well as the best places to stay for your ultimate holiday. We also include information about how to get to Burnie, and there’s a handy map of everything mentioned in this guide.
- 1 An Introduction To Burnie Tasmania
- 2 Top 11 Things To Do In Burnie Tasmania
- 3 Burnie Tasmania Attractions Map
- 4 Top Burnie Accommodation
- 5 How To Get To Burnie, Tasmania
- 6 Flights To Burnie Tasmania From Melbourne
- 7 Hobart To Burnie
- 8 Burnie to Devonport
- 9 Burnie to Launceston
- 10 Burnie With Kids
- 11 Final Words
An Introduction To Burnie Tasmania
Situated on Emu Bay, a small inlet of Bass Strait at the mouth of the Emu River, Burnie was originally established in the late 1820’s. Back then it was known as the Emu Bay Settlement but in 1842 was renamed to honour a company director of Van Diemen’s Land Company, William Burnie.
From early days, Burnie was a timber port. Timber was being used for everything from roof shingles to road pavings, from house building to ship building, and exported to Melbourne and Adelaide. And from 1937-2010, Burnie was best known for its massive waterfront Pulp Mill, the heart of the city’s industrial base.
Today, Burnie is a key commercial centre for the important northwestern Tasmania region. The deepwater harbour is a busy port, handling copper, lead, zinc and tin, along with cereals, potatoes and livestock from this agriculturally rich region.
However, this busy port city has recently reinvented itself, pulling in both local and international tourists keen to see the art-deco buildings, experience the futuristic Maker’s Workshop, and explore this beautiful coastal region of Tasmania.
Top 11 Things To Do In Burnie Tasmania
If you are looking for Burnie attractions, there are some great choices. From visiting the area’s beaches to the well presented Burnie Regional Museum to seeing penguins, the best Burnie Tasmania things to do are below!
Burnie Regional Museum
Perhaps the absolute top choice of the things to do in Burnie Tas is to visit the Burnie Regional Museum. Its collection showcases the history of Burnie and the surrounding northwest region, stretching back to the arrival of Europeans in the 1800’s – who explored the wilderness regions – right through to modern day.
Home to what is said to be the third largest collection in the state, you’re almost certain to get lost browsing the 400,000 photographic images of early Tas life. Yet follow this by taking a walk along the famous Federation Street…
A replica of shops and businesses in ‘Federation Street’, that once existed in Burnie, the street takes you through the sights, sounds and smells at the turn of the 20th Century. You’ll visit the saddler and the boot maker’s shop, marvel at the blacksmith’s forge, and view the printers, photographers and dentist shop.
A standout thing to do in Burnie, it’s easy to spend a couple of hours lost in the charm and detail of these shops and watching demonstrations of spinning, weaving and lace-making. We were left thankful that modern times have upgraded kitchens and laundry appliances, but the charm of the general store made us yearn for years gone by!
Leaving the Street behind, move on to the exhibition named Early Burnie. Here you’ll see the town’s progress through the 19th century, when Van Diemen’s Land Company commenced exploiting the landscape that gave rise to the turn of the 20th century economic boom.
And don’t leave before checking out the onsite Museum Shop. We found some lovely items here with vintage and antique-inspired gifts, Tasmanian history books and souvenirs. An absolute gem of a place!
Located in Alexander Street, Burnie, the museum is usually open weekdays from 10am-4.30pm, 11am-4pm on Saturday. Check here for the latest details and exhibits.
One of the top attractions in Burnie Tasmania is Makers Workshop. Celebrating local makers, innovators and artists, all housed in a futuristic-looking building that won the Tasmanian Architectural Award in 2010, the Makers Workshop is a total must-see in Burnie.
Filled with a myriad of things to do, visitors can enjoy interactive paper-making tours, encounters with artists, wander historic displays and view a wonderful art gallery, plus lots more!
- Learn more about Burnie’s industrial heritage and connection with paper at Australia’s largest handmade paper mill – known as Creative Paper. This takes visitors on a journey through the history of papermaking, before showing how paper is made. We then had a blast trying to make it for ourselves!
- Next up, discover the Makers’ Program, where you can let your creative side run wild. Made up of a consortium of 20+ local artisans, there’s a variety of art forms to watch and try: blow glass, create ceramics, develop textiles or learn to paint, sculpt or draw.
There’s still more to see with a fascinating range of exhibitions at the contemporary gallery space – one of the most sought after exhibition spaces in Tasmania. Plus, you’ll find an annual programme that focuses on exhibitions of work from Tasmania’s visual artists, curators, designers and more.
And this being Tasmania, there’s fabulous food and coffee at the licensed cafe (locally-roasted barista-made coffee), and a Cheese Shop that offers some of the finest Tasmanian dairy products.
Located at 2 Bass Highways, at the western end of West Beach, the venue is usually open Tuesday to Friday 9.30am-4.30pm and Saturday 8.30am-3.30pm, check here for latest details.
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Burnie is Fern Glades. Less than 4km from the centre of town, Fern Glades is ideal for a half-day activity in Burnie. A delightful riverside walk along an easy and level track, Fern Glades is noted as one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks.
Stroll alongside the picturesque Emu River that calmly reflects the forest greenery. And keep an eye out early in the morning or just before dusk for duck-billed platypuses.
Other wildlife here include quolls, small wallabies and wombats, and an amazing abundance of birds. In fact, the forest feels alive with sounds as you follow the track, winding past towering tree ferns, moss-covered rocks and even a small waterfall. There’s an intangible beauty that made Fern Glade one of our most favoured memories of Burnie.
This short loop is a stunning walk that takes you anything from 15 minutes to 1 hour as it’s just a short 1 kilometre return hike. Take it slow and breathe-in the healthy air, enjoying the tranquility and the beauty of nature – there’s over a dozen native species of orchids recorded here. Stay longer, lingering over a bbq or picnic, as there are good facilities along with parking and toilets.
But if you’re up for an adventure, leave the creek behind and take a longer three-hour bush walk through native vegetation.
To reach this beautiful Burnie spot, take the Fern Glade Road from the Bass Highway (A1) on the eastern approach to Burnie. And always remember that you’re sharing the road with native wildlife, so keep an eye out and drive slow! Opening 7.30am daily, the reserve closes at dusk.
Burnie Regional Fine Art Gallery
Slapbang in the middle of the city in the Civic Plaza arts precinct, the Burnie Regional Fine Art Gallery (informally known as BRAG) has a national reputation that’s built on its exceptional print collection. There’s even an annual prize – the Burnie Print Prize – that celebrates the highest standards of printmaking in Australia and Oceania.
With free admission for most exhibitions, the gallery aims to celebrate, promote and exhibit the best of art, craft and design in northwest Tasmania. Check out what’s on here.
Little Penguin Observation Centre
Surely the most fun thing to do in Burnie! Time your visit well as from October 1st though until March 31st you can glimpse Burnie’s famous colony of Little Penguins. Arriving at dusk near the foreshore at the Maker’s Workshop, you can park just behind the Workshop or visit on foot from your hotel along the boardwalk.
The Little Penguin is the smallest of all penguins and they only breed in colonies in southern Australia and New Zealand, with the majority of the population found in Tasmania. Building an igloo-like burrow they return night after night to the same spot, spending their days feeding in the ocean.
Adults only weigh around 1 kilogram and grow to a maximum height of 40cm. Living only 5-6 years, their breeding season varies but is usually within winter. Two eggs are incubated by both parents across 35 days and at around eight weeks old the super cute chicks move out to sea to feed!
Not just a fun place to visit in Burnie, there’s also a great educational element to the viewing too. Knowledgeable volunteer guides talk you through what you’re seeing… courtship, chick-rearing and moulting adults at the end of their breeding season, along with fun facts such as how they can dive nearly 100 feet down and only sleep for four minutes at a time! There is a lot to learn here for all ages.
Regardless of the weather, you’ll always find a friendly guide waiting at the Burnie Penguin Observation Centre at dusk. But don’t forget, the Little Penguins are enjoying the weather but you’ll need to wrap up warmly as the viewing area is exposed to all elements. Wear warm clothing, turn off your flash on camera or video, and use a red cellophane cover if you’re planning on taking a torch.
Hellyers Road Distillery
If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty, our top pick for things to do around Burnie Tasmania is Hellyers Road Distillery. Here, you can taste their great whiskey or other beverages, have a meal or go on a distillery tour.
The tour runs in the afternoon and takes you behind the scenes of their distillery so you can see how they make their single malt whiskies. For an extra charge, you can also pour and wax seal your own bottle.
With less time, you can come in and taste the whiskeys, buy a bottle or have a meal.
We very much enjoyed lunch in their cafe overlooking the surrounding countryside while sipping on a nip of their whiskey. We especially enjoyed the tasting platter. There’s also a kids version of this so this is also a very valid choice of the things to see in Burnie if you are travelling with kids.
Federation Walking Trail and Art Deco Trail
Burnie has a wide range of walking trails and tracks, spanning urban and wilderness settings within Council’s parks and reserves. Below, we’re highlighting a couple of the top trails within the city.
Pick up a self-guided map and brochure – with interesting facts on the buildings that you’ll see along the routes – from the Burnie Visitor Information Centre at Makers Workshop or at the Burnie Regional Museum.
- Federation Walk is a self-guided walk that starts and ends at the Crest, near the Burnie Regional Museum. Back in 1871, tin was found at Waratah, quickly making it the richest tin mine in the world at that time. With the minerals travelling by rail to Burnie Port, before being shipped to the smelters, the industry created a boom time in Burnie. The locals prospered and it gave them the drive to build Burnie’s fine Federation architecture from 1890-c.1915.
There are two walks, one depicting domestic architecture and the other depicting city architecture. In total, you should find eleven Tasmanian Heritage listed buildings depicting the architecture of the Federation period.
- Also focusing on the past, Burnie’s Art Deco walking trail showcases the city’s 1930’s architecture. Again self-guided, the trail concentrates on buildings that blossomed in the city’s period of art deco style.
Largely influenced by the boom of industry from both the Australian Pulp and Paper Mill and the Tasmania Hydro Electric Commission, there are a number of significant art deco buildings and beautiful private houses to view.
Enjoy these two self-guided tours and tap into old Burnie families, the history of Burnie and appreciate all that is unique about the city.
Burnie Park is a pretty park right by the main A2 highway, just west of the city centre. It’s perfect for letting off some steam after the drive here.
It’s home to huge lawns, shady walkways and countless picnic spots along with BBQs. There’s a duck pond and a great children’s playground. You can also take a short walk to Oldaker Falls.
Upper Burnie Lookout
The Upper Burnie Lookout should be the first place you head in Burnie – because it will give you great views over much of the city.
Located a quick (and steep) drive up from the A2 highway, you’ll love the views over the coastline from this lookout. It’s also a great spot to have a picnic while taking it all in.
Only 30 minutes drive from Burnie, the magnificent plateau that is Table Cape can quite easily fill up most of a day trip.
One of nature’s most remarkable wonders, Table Cape sits at 180 metres above sea level, dominating the Wynyard coastline. A volcanic plug (created when magma hardens within a vent on an active volcano), Table Cape is said to be approximately 12 million years old!
Thanks to the fertile volcanic soil, the plateaux is filled with acres of patchwork fields that explode with colour each Spring. Heavily cultivated, the area is famous for its annual flowering of tulips – easily on par with those found in Holland. There’s an accompanying tulip festival, live music, take-home bulbs, small art gallery, cream teas, and lots more to discover at the Table Cape Tulip Farm.
Two roads lead up to the Cape, one from Wynyard town centre via Table Cape Road and the other from Bass Highway, between Boat Harbour and Wynyard. Whichever route you take, you’ll soon find yourself driving through fields full of flowers or grazing farm animals.
Epic views – of the fields and the stunning ocean – vie for your attention. Take time out to appreciate these at the Table Cape Picnic area, and then walk 15 minutes along the coastal path to Table Cape Lighthouse.
Not particularly massive, it’s a beautiful lighthouse that has a history spanning back to the late 19th-century. Sitting on a sheer cliff edge, it’s not hard to imagine ships being guided through storms. Take a walk up the spiral staircase to reach the viewing deck for awesome 360-degree panoramic vistas.
Ocean views, pretty farmlands, nature-filled short walks… Table Cape is quintessentially Tassie!
Careful as Boat Harbour will steal your heart! A sprawling quiet bay sheltered by protective cliffs and rocky headlands, with fertile farmlands tumbling down almost to the shore, plus the clearest blue waters you can hope for… It’s not hard to see why Boat Harbour was voted one of Australia’s Top 10 Beaches!
Everyone is here for the beach. Family-friendly calm waves reach the shore that’s pockmarked with rock pools that can keep children busy for hours. Pacific gulls play on the sea breeze, and there’s a good chance of spotting dolphins or seals at the bay entrance.
There’s a feeling of solitude at Boat Harbour, though there’s plenty of people enjoying themselves… At the beach, surfing or body surfing, and children enjoying the playground built right on the sand. Locals are friendly, out on the decking of their wooden beach houses, walking their dogs, or chatting over a cold beer or glass of wine at the only beachside restaurant, the Boat Harbour Surf Lifesaving Clubhouse.
And for the young-at-heart, here you’ll find delicious chocolate cake with berry coulis, Valhalla raspberry swirl ice-cream, or stay for dinner and dine on locally caught fish and chips. This is Tassie beach community at its best!
Only fifteen minutes drive from Burnie, you’ll find a pristine beach, fine food, history, and wonderful walks… No wonder Australians love Boat Harbour!
Burnie Tasmania Attractions Map
Top Burnie Accommodation
When it comes to where to stay in Burnie, there is a good range of choices.
Below, I’ve listed a few different places to consider including a budget, mid-range and the best option.
BEST – Ikon Hotel Review
The stand out luxury option for Burnie, the Ikon Hotel is a heritage-listed circa. 1915 redbrick building that offers fabulous city-centre accommodation. Combining history and sophisticated decor, this trendy hotel is our top pick for your stay in Burnie.
Sleek and clean, the 12 guest rooms are spacious, fairly recently renovated, and come in unique shapes and sizes such as studios, deluxe and suites, many with ocean views. And, if you’re staying longer or are travelling with a larger group, check out their Suite with Kitchenette which comes with a double shower.
General room facilities include television LCD/plasma screen, whirlpool bathtub, heating and you can select non-smoking rooms. All bookings come with a continental breakfast and there’s a great – non-affiliated – restaurant under the hotel that’s ideal for dinner. There’s free WiFi in all rooms and public areas, a guest car park, a family room for children to relax in, and a paid laundry service.
12 kilometres from the airport, this 4-star hotel is just a stroll from the seafront and guests can easily enjoy seasonal viewings of the Little Penguins and it’s walking distance to the Burnie Regional Museum.
Perhaps the only downside is that there’s no elevator, but the stairs are nicely carpeted to make it easier on the legs, and there is no air-con but fans are offered (which is generally plenty in Burnie).
MID-RANGE – Beach Hotel Review
Featuring rooms with terraces facing the sea, the colourful blue-wave-painted Beach Hotel in Burnie has accommodation to fit every budget and group size. Standard, twin, superior, deluxe and family, mostly all come with flat-screen TV and cable-channels, tea/coffee facilities and private bathroom with toiletries and hairdryer.
Located at the Waterfront Precinct, the Beach Hotel is extremely popular for couples with its fun sports bar that features live sporting events, and an onsite bistro restaurant. Open 7 days a week, the restaurant caters for lunch and dinner with booths or tables overlooking the Bass Strait.
The hotel also provides free parking on site, darts, billiards, free WiFi in all areas, family room, non-smoking rooms and room service. And if that’s not enough, there’s daily housekeeping and a chargeable laundry service.
Close to shops and restaurants, this is a lovely location for those looking for a coastal stay. Yet the hotel is less than half a kilometre from the city centre and only 12 minutes from the airport.
Looking for great budget accommodation in Burnie… don’t look any further! With sprawling views of Bass Strait and Cooee Beach, the Burnie Ocean View Motel has lots of great features making it an ideal stay for families or couples.
Just a short 10-minute drive from the local airport, the Motel and Caravan Park offers travellers a mixture of accommodation. Stay in the motel, a stand-alone cabin, or bring your own RV or tent to the caravan park area. All budgets and group sizes can find something to suit here!
- The Motel has units with a full kitchen, and rooms with king, queen or bunk beds. You’ll sleep well in all choices as they come with air-conditioning and a television, DVD player, leather furniture and a lounge area. There’s free WiFi across all 27 rooms, coffee makers, showers and ironing boards.
- Stand-alone Cabins have double and bunk beds, a small kitchenette with all you need to cook from home: hotplates, oven, fridge and microwave. There’s a dining area and television.
- For Campers, there’s an assortment of options.
- caravans on site which you can rent, coming with a full kitchen: cook top, fridge, microwave, heater and television.
- powered sites if you’re bringing your own RV.
- space for tents or there’s a communal Backpacker Bunkhouse, with use of the camp kitchen and shower facilities.
All linens are included for Motel and Cabin bookings, and can be rented for other bookings. Breakfast is available, plus there’s a BBQ and charming picnic area. There are chargeable laundry facilities and free self-parking.
Plus for extra fun, there’s an indoor pool, direct access to the beach, a computer station and more!
A wonderful spot, close to many nature-themed activities including the Little Penguins on Cooee Beach. A 10-minute drive from the airport, this coastal park is roughly 3 kilometres to the Burnie Waterfront Boardwalk and the Makers Workshop and is an ideal base location for half-day and full day trips to some of Tassie’s best wilderness regions.
How To Get To Burnie, Tasmania
Burnie is a major city (albeit a small one) on the north west coast of Tasmania about 35 minutes drive from Devonport. It’s located at the end of the main 1 highway which starts at Hobart and goes to Launceston and Devonport.
It’s easy to reach Burnie by car from basically everywhere and that’s how I recommend you reach this city.
There’s also buses but their routes and times are limited. You can also fly to Burnie from Melbourne.
Flights To Burnie Tasmania From Melbourne
There are generally daily flights from Melbourne to Burnie Airport on Rex. Note that the frequency of these can be impacted by the pandemic. It’s a quick and easy flight.
Burnie Airport is located in nearby Wynyard about 20 minutes drive from central Burnie.
Hobart To Burnie
The easiest way to get from Burnie to Hobart or vice versa is via your own car. The journey takes about 3.75 hours, is about 325 kilometres and is along the main 1 highway. You won’t get lost.
To take public transport requires changing buses in Launceston and Devonport. Buses don’t run regularly and I don’t recommend taking this option.
Burnie to Devonport
Burnie and Devonport are a quick and easy 46 kilometres and 35 minutes apart on the Bass Highway. I recommend taking your own car, but it is possible to take a bus between the two. These take about an hour and run approximately hourly.
Burnie to Launceston
Launceston and Burnie are about 147 kilometres and 1.75 hours apart by car which is how I recommend you travel between these places.
It’s also possible to take public transport but you’ll need to change buses in Devonport. This is likely to be time consuming.
Burnie With Kids
Burnie is an easy place to visit with kids. The Burnie tourist attractions mostly work very well with kids who are sure to enjoy watching penguins in the wild, playing at Burnie Park and splashing around at Boat Harbour Beach.
Our kids (aged between 4 and 10 last time we visited), had a great time here. My nieces and nephews spent a good part of their childhood here and still talk wistfully of the beaches in this area.
Burnie is a great place to visit when you are travelling around Tasmania especially if you want to stay somewhere central to the many north west attractions. There’s some great attractions within Burnie and you are short drive from many in the surrounds.