Tasmania Road Trip Planner: How To Plan A Trip To Tasmania

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Planning to travel Tasmania and looking for a complete guide with everything you need to know? You’re in the right place!

We’ve written this article to help your travel to Tasmania be as organised and enjoyable as possible. We love Tasmania and have both lived here and travelled the state extensively (I was born here). There are so many phenomenal things to see that a holiday Tasmania guide is essential to get the most out of visiting this stunning state.

Painted cliffs at Maria Island National Park
Painted cliffs at Maria Island National Park

Tasmania is an awesome destination and a road trip Tasmania is the best way to explore this state. This state has the advantage of being rather compact but with plenty of unique and interesting places to explore. A Tasmanian road trip can visit mountains, ancient rainforests, walking tracks and historical towns with their own story, and includes some of the best produce and wine the country offers.

As you can imagine, a guide is essential to see the highlights of Tasmania and get the most out of your trip. This is the only guide you need to plan your trip to Tasmania.

Let’s get started!

The Ultimate Holiday Tasmania Guide – How To Plan A Trip To Tasmania

There are a few things you will want to consider first before planning your road trip around Tasmania. This includes how much time you have available to explore the state, when you can go and also planning a trip to Tasmania during Covid.

Consider When You Want To Go

Boat Harbour beach
Boat Harbour beach

Depending on what you want to see, you should definitely consider the weather when planning your trip around Tasmania.

Tasmania has a temperate climate similar to Victoria but cooler with less extremely hot days. Summer days can be either sunny and pleasant or cold and windy.

The west coast differs from the east. On the west there is considerably higher rainfall than the east of the state. If you want to spend time outdoors exploring the national parks, spring and summer are your best bet.

Spring/summer lasts between September – March but the best road trip Tasmania times are usually towards the end of December through to the end of March. This is also the bulk tourist season and I recommend booking ahead for anything you want to do.

During winter it can be wet and very cold (the centre of the state is usually blanketed in snow) and the top of Mount Wellington snows which makes Hobart cold. Thankfully, most days are not too wet and you can usually get by with some warm clothes. Less tourists are also seen during these times.

Consider How Long You Want To Go

Table Cape Lookout
Table Cape Lookout

There are a variety of Tasmania trips you can do depending on your timeframe.

Tasmania is easy to explore and you can see a lot even in a short amount of time, but to get the most out of its variety of attractions I recommend over a week here. This will give you a good overview of the state. A one week road trip in Tasmania can be enough to explore Hobart and either the east or west of the state.

If you want to see both the east and the west then I recommend longer, like a 14 day trip in Tasmania. You can decide what you want to see in the itineraries which are listed further below.

Traveling During Covid

Covid has changed travel everywhere and Tasmania is no exception.

Tasmania has been fairly immune from the Covid pandemic and the biggest risk is probably the Tasmanian borders closing if your home state gets a case. Obviously, this is unpredictable but something to be aware of when you plan a trip to Tasmania. If you can, it’s best to only book things that are refundable.

There are also some restrictions in place like checking into restaurants as well as some caps on visitors at sites and events. We have also found that because of capacity limitations, restaurants in popular areas (like Salamanca in Hobart) are best booked ahead especially during weekends.

You also need an entry pass to enter the state. This is called a Tas e-Travel pass and you can get it before arriving or the airport upon arriving. This can be done here.

Map

Use the map below as your Tasmania road trip planner to get an idea of the state and the spread of attractions.

Tasmania Road Trip Map
Click the Map to open in Google Maps. You can then access directions to each of the locations discussed in this article.

How To Travel To Tasmania

Flying To Tasmania

Hobart airport
Hobart airport

Tasmania has airports in Hobart and Launceston (and small airports in Devonport and Burnie). Most people fly into Hobart Airport which is fairly well connected to the mainland (with direct flights to Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney Canberra and Perth) and flights to New Zealand.

Hiring a car at either Hobart or Launceston Airport is easy and there are plenty of car hire companies. This is the best option for a short break Tasmania, or a longer trip if you live far from Melbourne or don’t have your own car.

Getting The Boat (Spirit Of Tasmania)

If you want to take your own car to Tasmania you can do this on the Spirit of Tasmania (or “the boat” as it’s known in Tasmania). This is a drive-on-drive-off ferry that departs from Melbourne and arrives in Devonport in the north of the state.

The Spirit of Tasmania operates night sailings year round and day sailings during peak seasons. There are a few amenities on board like bars, a restaurant, shop and cinema and you can get a cabin or seat. On day sailings, you don’t need to book a cabin or seat.

This is a fun way to travel but be mindful you need to factor in another day for the sailing.

Spirit of Tasmania ship
Spirit Of Tasmania ship

As the ship also docks in Devonport (a bit over 3 hours from Hobart) you’ll also need to plan your trip from here.

It’s not super cheap to travel on the Spirit but for a longer trip it might be comparable to the cost of a hire car (with the convenience of having your own car).

I do recommend paying extra for a cabin. It’s far more comfortable, even for day sailings when the public areas can be quite crowded, and you get your own bathroom. At the time of publishing, it also has the advantage of not needing to wear a mask in your cabin whereas you do need to in all public areas of the ship.

Where To Go On Your Tasmania Road Trip

The Nut from near Highfield Historic Site
The Nut from near Highfield Historic Site in Stanley

Tasmania may be a small island but each part of the state really does offer visitors something different. There is a vast array of national parkland with some phenomenal natural wonders to witness as well as unique towns and a rich colonial and celebrated convict past.

Read up on the different areas below to plan a trip Tasmania that interests you.

  • Hobart – The state capital and a must see. Full of historic charm, museums, art galleries, bars and restaurants. It’s a good base to explore nearby sites like Richmond, MONA, wineries, Mt Wellington etc.
  • Huon & South – Easily accessible from Hobart. See the Huon Valley and towns along the coast. Visit Hasting Cave, Tahune Airwalk and Bruny Island – a large island off the east coast of Tasmania. This rugged island has stunning lookouts like the Neck Lookout, beaches, some excellent produce and a historic lighthouse.
  • West Coast – Connect with nature by visiting the west coast. This rugged area consists mostly of national park land with abandoned settlements, towns like Queenstown and  Strahan and the opportunity to see Tasmania’s rare cold temperate rainforest.
  • East Coast – Vastly different from the west, the east coast includes towns like stunning St Helens, Bicheno and Coles Bay (where you can sample excellent seafood). Hike to the stunning Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park. See amazing beaches and beautifully scenic coastline.
Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park
Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park
  • North West Coast – Visit Boat Harbour for the beach, Stanley for the Nut, see the tulips in Table Cape, visit the towns of Stanley, Burnie and more.
  • South East Coast – Explore Orford and take a ferry to Maria Island – an ex-penal settlement complete with historic buildings and natural trails. The island has no permanent inhabitants.
  • Launceston –  The second largest city in Tasmania with plenty of it’s own things to see and do.
  • Tamar Valley – One of our favourite spots in Tasmania. A beautifully scenic region with vineyards and wineries as well as plenty of things to do in towns like Beaconsfield, Low Head, Beauty Point etc.
  • Midlands –  The centre is perfect for fishing, camping and simply getting away. The centre (like Miena) are less frequently visited by tourists and covered in snow in the winter. Northern towns include Evandale and Longford and have some interesting UNESCO estates.

Itineraries For Your Road Trip To Tasmania

Scenic view of Hobart from Mount Wellington
Scenic view of Hobart from Mount Wellington

Once you’ve decided how long you’ve got for your road trip to Tasmania, it’s time to start planning your trip!

Tasmania offers a lot of variety and the east and west offer very different scenery so it’s good to get an idea of what you would like to see, especially if you have limited time.

Your itinerary will also depend on whether your trip starts from the north of the state (if you take your car on the Spirit of Tasmania which docks at Devonport, or if you fly into Launceston Airport) or the south (by flying into Hobart Airport).

We have Tasmania itineraries for anywhere between 3 to 21 days in the state. These itineraries are your personal road trip planner Tasmania.

The Neck, Bruny Island
The Neck, Bruny Island

A 14 day trip offers the best overview of the state although you can definitely spend longer. However, some people may not have this much time available.

A week is a good amount of time for a great taste of the state and will allow you explore either the west or east of the state.

If you only have time for a short trip to Tasmania, it’s good to consider whether you want to spend more time exploring the cities and towns or the national parks. A short trip from Devonport for example could include a stop in Launceston, a trip though the Tamar Valley, continue on to Cradle Mountain and then return to Devonport.

Read the itineraries linked to above from our road trip Tasmania blog to get an idea of what you would like to do.

Where To Stay In Tasmania

River Breeze Caravan And Cabin Park
River Breeze Caravan And Cabin Park, Smithton

Tasmania offers accommodation options for all travelers. Throughout the state are numerous caravan parks, hotels from budget to luxury and also plenty of camping grounds.

I always use Booking.com for my accommodation in Tasmania. Most accommodation options are available on here and cancellation is usually very clear and easy (particularly important during Covid).

For older caravan parks, you may need to book with the park directly.

You can find some free camping grounds around Tasmania, but for the best camping you’ll want to purchase a National Park Pass. This will give you access to camping grounds with facilities like BBQ’s, toilets, showers etc (although this varies at different camping grounds). You can find camping grounds and their facilities listed here.

Wings Wildlife Park camping grounds in Gunns Plains, North West, Tasmania
Wings Wildlife Park camping grounds in Gunns Plains, North West, Tasmania

All of my accommodation guides are listed below.

How To Get Around Tasmania

Tasmania has limited public transport and if you want to see a lot, the best way to get around Tasmania is to drive. However, you could travel by bus if you really don’t want to drive.

1. Drive Or Hire A Car

For the best road trip around Tasmania you really need your own car. This is the best way to see a lot in a short amount of time. Attractions are generally spread apart, but the relatively small size of the state means the distances aren’t huge.

Tasmania generally has good roads and driving around is very easy with plenty of parking available. Traffic isn’t a big problem even in Hobart (at least outside peak hour), especially compared to other capital cities in Australia.

Click here to read my full guide specifically about driving in Tasmania and how it differs to elsewhere.

East Coast road
East Coast road

As mentioned above, you can either take your own car over on the boat or hire a car from either Launceston or Hobart Airport. Major companies operate here like Budget, Avis, Europcar, Thrifty, Hertz etc. You can book ahead or hire one upon arriving at the airport. Note it can be expensive to hire a car especially during the peak season and they do book out so book as soon as you can.

Click here to see the best rental prices now.

Hiring a van or campervan is also a popular way to see the state. These come with different sleeper capacities (anywhere from 2 to 6), amenities like kitchens and sometimes bathrooms, TV’s and other conveniences. You will need somewhere to park it. Your options include a campground in one of the national parks or a caravan park.

2. Bus

If you can’t or don’t want to drive you could get around some of Tasmania by bus. This is the only real form of public transport in Tasmania. Note buses don’t run often between towns and this really isn’t an ideal way to visit the state.

Hobart Airport has a Skybus connecting Hobart with Hobart Airport (more details here).

Metro buses operate around Hobart, Launceston and Burnie and use a prepaid card called a GreenCard.

For longer distances and between towns, there are many different operators depending on where you are going.

Launceston Transit Centre
Launceston Transit Centre

TassieLink offers the most comprehensive services with routes from Hobart to the East Coast and Tasman Peninsula.

The Redline bus operates services between Hobart and Launceston.

TassieLink and the Mersey Link Bus Service operate services in the North West of the state.

Visiting specific attractions like Cradle Mountain and Port Arthur is best done as part of a tour (discussed below).

3. Taxi And Ride Sharing Apps

Taxis also operate throughout Tasmania as well as Uber and Ola in Hobart and Launceston. These are suitable for shorter trips like getting to and from the airport but as in other cities are much more expensive for longer distances (and sometimes difficult to organise). We only recommended using them for short distances or when another option is unavailable.

4. Tours

Rocky Cape
Rocky Cape

Another option for getting around Tasmania if you don’t want to drive is to travel as part of a tour group. There are Tasmania tours you can do which take you to the top attractions around the state.

You’ll have less flexibility to stop and see attractions outside the scheduled tour, but this may be more suitable for people who have a good idea of what they want to do. This is discussed more below.

Click here to check out Tasmanian day tours and attraction prices now.

Planning Tasmania Tours

Tours in Tasmania are a good option for visiting specific attractions if you don’t want to drive, or for your entire trip if you don’t want to plan a trip around Tasmania and instead would like it organised for you.

There are many tour groups operating in Tasmania and it really depends what you want to do, what your budget is and how long you have.

For tours around the state, Intrepid Travel (click here for more info) offers good tours to suit different budgets and interests, with tours of the east and west of the state.

Under Down Under also offers tours to attractions like Port Arthur and Mount Wellington, tours around the state of different durations both to the east and west and also a special central plateau tour.

Cradle Mountain and Lake Dove
Cradle Mountain and Lake Dove

Adventure Tours also offers tours around Tasmania for different budgets.

For specific attractions, there are companies like Experience Oz who operate a return shuttle bus to Port Arthur (click here). You can take the kunanyi Mt Wellington Explorer bus to the top of Mt Wellington. MONA offers shuttle bus or cruises from Hobart. You can visit Cradle Mountain from Launceston with this tour.

Experience Oz lists loads of day tours including attractions like Bruny Island as well as multi day tours around the state.

If you want to do something like the Overland Track (a walk through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park), you can do this as part of a tour with Tasmania Expeditions. This is a 6 day trek with meals and camping gear included.

What To Pack For Your Trip To Tasmania

If there’s one essential item for your trip to Tasmania, it’s a warm jacket or coat.

Although most parts of Tasmania aren’t freezing cold (even in winter), there can be temperature variations throughout the day. On hot summer days the weather might reach 25-30 degrees Celsius, but it may only stay there for an hour or two and dip quite a bit.

Even in summer you may find yourself wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of the day and needing to rug up towards the end of the day.

Tulip Fields At Table Cape
Tulip Fields At Table Cape

Sunscreen and a hat are recommended everywhere, especially if you plan to spend time outdoors exploring the national parks. You can get burnt in Tasmania even on cool days and the sun is noticeably harsher than in the rest of Australia.

In addition to the clothes you’ll need for your journey, you might want to consider bringing the following:

  • Sunscreen and hat
  • Umbrella, warm jacket and a raincoat (more essential if you’re visiting the west of the state)
  • Lots of layers – it can be boiling hot one moment in the sun then cold as a harsh wind comes in
  • Swim wear if you’re visiting during warmer months
  • Good walking shoes
  • A good camera for all the stunning sites

What To Book And When

Ready to start planning your trip? This is the exciting part!

As with anywhere prices vary in peak seasons, and the prices for accommodation and hire cars can rise considerably in Tasmania.

The best way to avoid crazy price hikes is to book your flights/accommodation as far in advance as possible. This is especially recommended during school holidays. For it’s small size, Tasmania receives a lot of visitors, and shortages make it even more essential to do this.

If this isn’t an option for you, just be aware you might need to pay a bit more and may not find accommodation with your preferred venue.

Vine rows in Devil's Corner winery Apslawn Tasmania
Vine rows in Devil’s Corner winery Apslawn Tasmania

3+ months in advance:

1 month in advance:

  • Book your attractions and day tours (click here)
  • Purchase a National Park Pass if you’ll be visiting national parks
  • Book airport transfers if needed (Hobart has a Skybus – book here)
  • Work out whether you need a Telstra sim card (discussed further below)

1-3 days in advance:

  • Pack for your trip!
  • Have all attractions/passes either printed or readily available on your phone
  • Get a Tas e-Travel Pass (can be done 3 days before travelling)
  • Consider booking restaurants (or you can do this as you go)

Budget

Bay of Fires Binalong Bay St Helens Tas
Bay of Fires, Binalong Bay, St Helens

Like all Australian cities, travelling in Tasmania is not cheap. The cost is comparable to other smaller cities, although accommodation can be very expensive during peak periods.

You will first need to factor in how you’ll get to Tasmania. It’s usually more expensive to travel on the Spirit of Tasmania than to fly, but this will save you the cost of hiring a car. The cost of hiring a car depends on demand. Sometimes this can be over $100 a day, sometimes a lot less.

You can often return it to different cities without extra charge – so pick up in Launceston and return to Hobart for example. Click here for car hire options and prices.

The biggest expense will be your accommodation but you can find options to suit all budgets, from hostels for backpackers, budget accommodation, midrange and luxury options.

You also need to factor in the cost of attractions and travel between destinations (petrol, taxis, bus fares, tour costs etc).

Wine tasting, Pipers Brook Vineyard, Tamar Valley
Wine tasting, Pipers Brook Vineyard, Tamar Valley

A sample budget might be:

Backpacker: $75+ per day

Budget Traveller: $150+ per day

Midrange Traveller: $250 – $350+

Luxury Traveller: $400+ per day

As with anywhere the budget will depend on what you want to do and how you want to travel (for example, whether you want to eat at restaurants every night or are satisfied with something more simple).

It will also depend on how many people are in your group. It will be more expensive for solo travellers since they can’t split the cost of car hire and accommodation.

Travelling Tasmania With Kids

There are a few places easier to visit with kids than Tasmania. The relaxed atmosphere makes a family trip to Tasmania perfect for the whole family, and the small size of the state means attractions are never too far apart. There’s also plenty of things to do in Tasmania with kids.

It really is the perfect place in Australia for a family road trip thanks to these shorter distances and plenty of variety.

Cataract Gorge Launceston
First Basin in Cataract Gorge with swimming pool, a chairlift and a footbridge.

Some of the places we’ve visited with kids are below.

You can also find many other options in our full list of things to do in Tasmania with kids here.

Other Things To Note

  • Because of Covid many venues require you to book ahead. Therefore it’s worth reading through our itineraries and having a good idea of what you want to do before you visit.
  • Internet and mobile reception are generally fine in larger cities but can be choppy in smaller towns and totally unavailable in the national parks. Telstra has the most coverage in the state and it might be worth getting a Telstra sim if you need mobile/data access at most times. I am with Vodafone and it’s very painful travelling around Tasmania with them if you like to have data access.

Final Words

Little Blue Lake
Little Blue Lake, North East, Tasmania

Tasmania is a fabulous place to visit and whatever you plan, I’m sure you’ll have a great time! Keep looking through Tasmania Explorer for guides for everything you need to know.

For more planning guides, click 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.