Driving in Tasmania: Tips, Laws, Itineraries And More

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With wonderful attractions spread all over the state, Tasmania is a fabulous place to explore by car. Not only is driving in Tasmania the best way to explore the state, but it’s also easy – roads are good and drivers are generally attentive and courteous of others. However Tasmania has its own laws and a unique driving culture, and there are some things to consider before getting behind the wheel.

I was born and raised in Tasmania and got my license there before moving to Melbourne. After living in Melbourne for 20 years and then moving back, it was easy to see the differences between driving here and there. My initial frustrations eventually lead to appreciation for the relaxed atmosphere, but there were still things to get my head around. This guide will be helpful for anyone who needs advice on driving holidays around Tasmania.

driving Tasmania winter

Below, you will find our full guide to driving in Tasmania from important road rules to our best tips for driving in Tasmania from experience – you won’t find these in any guide book. Plus, we share driving distances Tasmania has as well as approximate travel times to help you plan, and our best itineraries whether you are coming to Tasmania for a long weekend or much longer.

We also have special tips for driving in Hobart, information about car hire and what to do if you have an international license. Basically, everything you need to know so your Tasmania self drive tours are a success!

Tasmania Road Rules To Remember

The rules for driving in Tasmania align with the rules for driving elsewhere in Australia. In case you need a refresher or come from another country, here are the basics you should remember:

  • As with all Australian states and territories, Tasmanians drive on the left.
  • You must have your drivers license with you while driving.
  • Both drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts at all times.
  • Mobile phones can not be used at any time (unless connected to Bluetooth/handsfree).
  • The default speed limit in the city is 50km/h unless a sign shows otherwise.
  • Helmets are mandatory for motorcycle/bicycle riders.
  • 100km/h is the maximum speed limit unless a sign shows otherwise (some highways are 110km/h).
  • It is always recommended to be vigilant and drive to the conditions. This is especially important in Tasmania with many narrow, steep roads.

Beach Driving Tasmania

If you want to get off road and on the beach there are some fabulous places for beach driving tours Tasmania with sand dunes and long stretches of sand. Ocean Beach, Arthur River and Bruny Island all come to mind. As with any beach drive, you’ll need an appropriate 4WD vehicle.

There are some areas where you will need a permit and others where you can simply follow off road tracks. Tracks range from easy to difficult. You can read more about driving off road in Tasmania here.

Car bogged in sand at peron dunes
Make sure you know what you are doing before driving on beaches – I found this car temporarily abandoned while the owner went for help last time I visited Peron Dunes near St Helens

Driving In Tasmania Tips

General Condition Of Roads

In general, the condition of the roads in Tasmania are good, and if you’re heading between major towns/cities and attractions, you should have few problems.

Tasmania is quite a mountainous state, however, and as such roads can have sharp bends, be quite narrow and winding, and you’ll find yourself shifting from the brake to the accelerator frequently. It’s not always possible (or adviseable) to stick to the maximum speed limit, and this can make it longer to reach places than you think it might.

There are also quite a lot of unsealed roads around. The condition of most of these are quite good but many can be particularly difficult to drive on after a heavy downfall of rain. Some of these in rough weather are more suitable to 4WD vehicles. Also note that many hire cars don’t allow you to drive on unsealed roads. For this reason, it’s always worth planning your route beforehand.

Luckily, most of the main attractions are accessible via sealed roads, it’s just worth being aware that certain attractions are not.

Be Weary Of Google Maps

Be weary not to follow Google Maps blindly in Tasmania. I recommend taking a closer look at the route before proceeding. In general, Google Maps works well but this is not always the case, even in Hobart.

Google Maps has taken me on some shockingly bad, unsealed roads which may have been more direct to the destination but were not in good condition to drive, especially in a 2WD vehicle.

One time it even directed me to a one lane road with traffic in both direction made of rocks!

Even if the route appears to be more direct, just stick to the main roads, no matter what it tells you 🙂

driving routes Tasmania with a coastal road

Parking

It’s usually very easy to find parking in Tasmania, whether on the street or in a carpark. There can be a fee to park in the centre of the main cities but this is fairly small compared to big cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

On the streets of Hobart you’ll find the same ‘new’ parking meters all around which accept coins and payment by credit/debit card. I have seen tourists struggle to use these machines and I also struggled when I first used them.

An easier option is to pay for parking using the EasyPark app. This is available for both Apple and Android users and allows you to pay for parking from your phone instead of using the street meter. This app is used all over the state so it’s very handy to have installed.

The infamous Jacob's Ladder road at Ben Lomond
The infamous Jacob’s Ladder road at Ben Lomond. A super challenging drive

Driving In Tasmania In Winter

As the southern most state of Australia, Tasmania gets cold in winter. Naturally, this changes the conditions of the road and how you should drive. Think icy roads, thick fog and snow.

The weather on the eastern side of the state isn’t too extreme. Hobart can be foggy and the surrounding roads icy. Places like Mt Wellington have limited road access and you may not make it up to the summit. However, keep in mind Mt Wellington can close due to bad weather even in summer.

When it comes to the centre and west of the state, weather is a different story. Snow generally blankets the centre and heavy rain and thick fog are common.

If you’re planning to drive on the A5 through the centre past Miena and the Great Lake, be warned. The scenery in winter can be absolutely stunning, but it does lead to a challenging drive.

Only when we started driving through did we see a sign that recommended all vehicles had snow chains! The area was absolutely covered in snow and although much of it had been cleared from the road, other parts were quite scary to drive through.

You will want to choose your routes carefully and be prepared for the weather.

Factor In Extra Time To Take In The Views

Iron Blow Lookout queenstown
Iron Blow Lookout by the road into Queenstown

Many roads in Tasmania have fabulous views and there are often places you can stop so you can take them in. Make sure you do this! Tasmania is stunning so don’t get so caught up in driving you miss the views.

It is usually easy to find a place to stop and take a break, especially at lookout points. This is particularly important during family driving holidays Tasmania where frequently breaks are needed. You can often find facilities with toilets and picnic chairs too.

How Much Time To Factor In

Most people advise driving no more than 300km in a day, keeping in mind that 150km takes about 2 hours (without a break). Taking regular breaks will not only make the drive more enjoyable but it will make the journey just as important as the destination (which is definitely achievable in stunning Tasmania).

I would aim for a break of 15-30 minutes every hour and factor this in when planning driving times.

Tips For Driving In Hobart

Driving in Hobart is different to driving in the rest of the state, and my biggest tip is to just relax and enjoy it.

When I moved back to Hobart, I thought I would find driving here ultra easy after 20 years of dealing with inner city Melbourne traffic but I was very wrong. I actually found it more challenging than Melbourne as although I lost the traffic, I gained narrow, steep streets, frustrating one way streets with no right hand turns allowed and had to learn to relax in my driving or turn the drivers around me mad.

Some of the narrow streets on steep hills can be much harder than you might think especially if you come from a city like Melbourne with wide, flat streets. It took a bit of getting used to.

The city centre is renouned for it’s one way streets and this is where an app like Google Maps will help to navigate you through without wasting too much time. The no right hand turns can be more annoying and are an issue all around the inner city areas. It can mean getting between two points can be a much longer drive than you anticipate.

Driving over the Bowen Bridge in Hobart
Driving over the Tasman Bridge in Hobart – on a windy day you can feel like your car is going to blow off!

While I found drivers can be a bit crazy on rural roads, in Hobart, drivers are generally very relaxed. They don’t drive into an intersection as quickly as possible when a light turns green – they may even take seemingly forever to start driving at all.

If you are driving on narrow streets which are two way, even if it’s possible for cars to pass each other, other drivers may expect you to wait until they drive past before you drive in the opposite direction. We lived in Battery Point and basically every road was like this. We would get people worked up if we drove along any street while other drivers were driving towards us.

Cars often go slower than the speed limit, even when it’s safe to do it.

We had to learn to relax!

Historic houses along Hampden Road at Battery Point
Battery Point – don’t you dare drive past a moving vehicle 😀

Initially my Melbourne brain rebelled (I need to get somewhere, people!), but over time I grew to love how relaxed it was and especially that drivers wave to each other often. If you wait for anyone at all or they wait for you, give a wave. If anyone lets you cross into a lane, wave. Really anything at all, wave. I love this part, and it is something I remember missing when I first moved to Melbourne.

Parking is generally easy to get unless you are in the city centre at peak times, like in the lead up to Christmas. Although going in first thing in the morning helped at any time of the year for parking.

The city has some great multi-level car parks and I recommend heading to them if you need to park in the CBD. The best part is the first hour is free! The main two that are useful are on Argyle Street between Collins Street and Liverpool Street and on Victoria Street just off Harrington Street.

If you are staying around Salamanca, do not park on Salamanca Place on a Friday night. The market starts early and your car will be towed.

hobart tasmania
Hobart

Traffic And Peak Hour

You could be forgiven for thinking traffic isn’t really an issue in a small city like Hobart, and most of the time, this is true.

But during peak hour it’s a totally different story. Depending on where you’re coming from traffic in the centre can be just as hectic as any big city. There are only a few major access points to the centre and seemingly everyone pours into these at once.

The Southern Outlet and Tasman Highway are particularly notorious for heavy traffic during peak hour. One accident, break down or scheduled road works can create serious delays.

If you’re travelling anywhere, avoid peak hour if possible or factor in additional time. The good thing is that peak hour is generally short and runs Monday to Friday, from 8am to 9am in the morning to 5pm to 6pm in the evening (although I find it can start as early as 4pm, especially on Fridays).

Driving Distances And Driving Times Tasmania

Below are the driving distances in Tasmania between main points of interest as well as approximate driving times in Tasmania.

From Hobart

ToTimeDistance (km)
Launceston2 hours and 25 minutes203km
Devonport3 hours and 15 minutes281km
Stanley4 hours and 45 minutes403km
Cradle Mountain4 hours and 25 minutes318km
Strahan4 hours and 20 minutes301km
St Helens3 hours and 10 minutes253km
Coles Bay2 hours and 35 minutes194km
Port Arthur1 hour and 25 minutes95km
Kettering30 minutes32km

From Launceston

ToTimeDistance (km)
Hobart2 hours and 25 minutes202km
Devonport1 hour and 15 minutes102km
Stanley2 hours and 40 minutes224km
Cradle Mountain2 hours and 20 minutes138km
Strahan3 hours and 30 minutes270km
St Helens2 hours and 5 minutes165km
Coles Bay2 hours and 5 minutes175km
Port Arthur3 hours and 5 minutes253km
Kettering2 hours and 50 minutes232km

From Devonport

ToTimeDistance (km)
Hobart3 hours and 20 minutes281km
Launceston1 hour and 15 minutes90km
Stanley1 hour and 35 minutes126km
Cradle Mountain2 hours and 10 minutes107km
Strahan2 hours and 50 minutes224km
St Helens3 hours and 5 minutes245km
Coles Bay3 hours and 5 minutes255km
Port Arthur4 hours and 5 minutes333km
Kettering3 hours and 50 minutes313km
Tasmania road, The Nut And A Penguin Road Sign At Stanley
Driving in Stanley

Hiring A Car To Self Drive Tasmania

An essential part of driving around Tasmania is having a car to drive! If you’re not taking your own car on the Spirit of Tasmania, there are many hire car companies that operate in Tasmania from both Hobart and Launceston Airport and other towns.

The main players like Hertz, Budget, Avis, Europcar and more all operate in Tasmania and hire cars can be booked for in advance or hired once you arrive at the airport. Note that covid has pushed up hire car prices and resulted in a shortage, especially during peak season (December to Easter). If you’re planning to hire a car, I recommend you book one in advance as early as you.

Click here to see the latest car hire prices.

Van hire is another popular choice for visitors wanting to make the most of their time outdoors. Capacites range from 2 to 6 and you can get good campervans with a kitchen, TV and sometimes even a toilet and bathroom. You will still need somewhere to stop at night and there are many camping grounds in national parks and caravan parks around the state.

Driving Holiday Tasmania Itineraries

While this article is specifically about driving around Tasmania with lots of tips to help you, we do have many itineraries for driving holidays in Tasmania to help you plan your trip.

Click on any of the following articles for exact itineraries for your adventure.

Perfect Tasmania Itinerary For 5 Days or 4 Days In Tasmania

Perfect Tasmania Itinerary For 5 Days or 4 Days In Tasmania

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The Perfect Tasmania Driving Holiday: Tasmania Itinerary 7 days

The Perfect Tasmania Driving Holiday: Tasmania Itinerary 7 days

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Self Drive Tasmania: The Perfect Tasmania Itinerary 10 days

Self Drive Tasmania: The Perfect Tasmania Itinerary 10 days

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Ultimate Tasmanian Road Trip: 14 Day Tasmania Itinerary

Ultimate Tasmanian Road Trip: 14 Day Tasmania Itinerary

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Driving Licenses

If you are planning on driving in Tasmania with a foreign licence you need to be aware what the rules are on this.

Tasmania allows overseas license holders to drive on their overseas license so long as it is current (and not suspended or cancelled), suitable for the vehicle and so long as you are a visitor or a temporary visa holder. If your license is not in English you will need to carry a translation of it.

If you are a permanent visa holder and it’s been over 6 months since your visa was issued, you can not drive in Tasmania and will need a Tasmanian or interstate license.

More information about getting a license in Tasmania can be found here.

East Coast road
East Coast road – many stunning beaches when driving here

Final Words

While I do want to be transparent and real about driving in Tasmania, I don’t want to understate this point – have fun! It’s a stunning state to explore and if you can keep these tips in the back of your mind, your visit will be all the more smooth and enjoyable.

We hope you found this guide to planning a driving holiday in Tasmania useful. Find all our itinerary guides above or click here for our detailed guide to planning a trip to Tasmania. You can also find everything else to help you plan a trip to Tasmania here.

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon grew up in Tasmania, moved away and then came back with her family twenty years later. She loves re-discovering her home state and sharing it with you here.