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Tasmania

Photo by HK Colin

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Tasmania destinations

Around Tasmania

Launceston

Tasmania

Separated from the rest of Australia by the waters of Bass Strait, this island state is a place of wild beauty, great walks, stunning seascapes, and a tragic past.

Isolation has preserved much of its wilderness and its history, and has also ensured an independence of spirit that has seen some of Australia’s greatest conservation battles over the damming of its rivers and the logging of its ancient forests. More than 20 per cent of the island has World Heritage listing, around 30 per cent of it is protected within 14 national parks.

Port Arthur, one of Australia’s oldest and most brutal penal colonies, is today Tasmania’s most visited attraction. It is an easy day trip from the capital, Hobart, on the southern coast of the island. Don’t miss it.

Everywhere you go, you will find landscapes that speak to the history and evolution of Tasmania. The pristine Franklin and Gordon rivers tumble through World Heritage areas once battlefields for loggers, politicians, and environmentalists,  and the eerily beautiful “moonscape” around Queenstown are the legacy of mining and other industrial activity. Tasmania’s west coast is wild and mountainous, with a scattering of mining and logging towns and plenty of wilderness.

Tasmania is tranquil and largely unspoiled. It has a reputation for producing some of Australia’s best food. The locals you meet will be friendly and hospitable.

Launceston -Tasmania’s second-largest city is Australia’s third oldest, after Sydney and Hobart. Situated at the head of the Tamar River, 50km (31 miles) inland from the state’s north coast, and surrounded by delightful undulating farmland

The national park and World Heritage area that encompasses both Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair is one of the most spectacular regions in Australia and, after Hobart and Port Arthur, the most visited place in Tasmania. The 1,545m (5,068-ft.) mountain dominates the north part of the island, and the long, deep lake is to its south. Between them lie steep slopes, button grass plains, majestic alpine forests, dozens of lakes filled with trout, and several rivers. Mount Ossa, in the center of the park, is Tasmania’s highest point at 1,617m (5,304 ft.). T links Cradle Mountain with Lake St. Clair and is the best known of Australia’s walking trails. Another option in the area is a visit to the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, a high alpine area with spectacular granite walls, small lakes, and old-growth forest.


Where To Go

Around Tasmania

Hobart

Launceston

Port Arthur

West Coast

When To Go

The best time to visit Tasmania is between October and April, when the weather is at its best. By May, nights are getting cold, days are getting shorter, and the deciduous trees are starting to turn golden. Winters (June–August), especially in the high country, can be quite harsh—though that’s the best time to curl up in front of a blazing fire. The east coast is generally milder than the west coast, which is buffeted by the “Roaring 40s”—the winds that blow across the ocean and the 40-degree meridian from as far away as Argentina.

How Much Time To Spend

For such a small island, Tasmania has a lot to offer and it would be easy to spend two weeks here and not see it all.  Add extra time if you plan to do any of the multi-day walks such as the Cradle Mountain or Maria Island walks. And I really recommend that you do. Getting into the great outdoors is part of the Tasmania experience, exposing you to the wilderness for which it is famous.

Make sure that when you are planning your trip you factor in the sometimes winding roads that will slow your progress.  It’s a great idea to use a distance calculator which will give you a better idea of the time you’ll need to get between your destinations.

But for those who just want a taste of what Tasmania has to offer, three or four days in Hobart and then a side trip to do one of the great walks would still give you a very good incentive to come back and do the rest!

Events and Holidays

Local Events & Holidays include:

MOFO arts festival, Hobart (mid-January)
Australian Wooden Boat Festival, Hobart (early February in odd-numbered years)
DARK MOFO, Hobart (June)
Royal Hobart Show (late October)
Sydney–Hobart yacht race (December 28-30)
The Taste of Tasmania, Hobart (December)

National Holidays include:

January 1: New Year’s Day
January 26:  Australia Day
March/April: Good Friday and Easter Monday
April 25: Anzac Day
December 25:  Christmas Day
December 26: Boxing Day

On national public holidays, banks, post offices and liquor outlets may be closed or open for limited hours. There are also additional holidays in each state or territory.

Time Zone

To check the local time in Tasmania, click here.

Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) covers Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, and Victoria. Central Standard Time (CST) is used in the Northern Territory and South Australia, and Western Standard Time (WST) is the standard in Western Australia. When it’s noon in Tasmania, New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, and Queensland, it’s 11:30am in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and 10am in Western Australia.

All states except Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) during spring and summer. At 2AM on the first Sunday in October clocks are advanced one hour. On the first Sunday in April at 2AM, clocks shift back one hour to standard time. However, not all states switch over to daylight saving on the same day or in the same week, so it pays to check if you are travelling at these times.

What it Costs

Tasmanian prices are generally similar to those in other parts of Australia. Petrol prices may be slightly higher.

In major centres, like Hobart and Launceston, retail hours are usually 9am to 5.30pm on weekdays and 9am to 5pm on Saturday. Sunday trading is usually 10am to 4pm.  Businesses in smaller towns and country areas may not always be open at weekends.

Peak season in Tasmania runs from October to early April, and prices are likely to be higher during that time. During winter (June to August) you can often get great deals on accommodation and there is always plenty to do.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $AU.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $20-70 per person
$$$ => Tickets $70 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms less than $200 for a double
$$ => Rooms $205-300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

Eat
$ => $1-$35 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $35-$80 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $80 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $20-$50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $50 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

 Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping, and the major companies like Hertz, Budget, Avis and Europcar all operate around Australia, alongside smaller local companies that are worth investigating.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Ride-sharing company Uber is relatively new to Australia and is currently under scrutiny by state governments where it operates.  It currently operates in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula and Geelong in Victoria, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Rides are ordered through a smart phone app, it’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to Australia goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical —Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Standard medical and travel insurance is advisable for travel to Australia. Divers including the Great Barrier Reef or other Australian diving destinations should also ensure they have the appropriate insurance.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

If you have pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

Exchange Rates and Currency

Currency

Australian dollars come in $1 and $ coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.  Each is a different colour, so they are easy to tell apart. Other coins are 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents. The $1 and $2 coins are gold, all the others are silver.

Prices sometimes end in a variant of 1 or 2 cents (for example, 52 cents or $1.78), a relic from the days before 1-cent and 2-cent pieces were phased out.  In these cases, prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents, so 52 cents rounds down to 50 cents, and 78 cents rounds up to 80 cents.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs

If you get money from an ATM, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, Australian banks will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of “cash out” when paying for your goods — this is an easy way to get cash while on the go.

Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Australia.  Visa and MasterCard are universally accepted in Australia; American Express and Diners Club are less commonly accepted, so it pays to check first. Always carry some cash, because some traders won’t take cards for purchases under $10 or $15.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Tipping is always appreciated, but is not widely practiced or expected in Australia. It is usual to tip around 10% to 15% or round up to the nearest A$10 for a substantial meal in a restaurant, but certainly not mandatory. Some taxi passengers round up to the nearest round figure in a cab, but it’s okay to insist on every bit of change back. Tipping hotel porters and housemaids is sometimes done, but no one tips bar staff, barbers, massage therapists and spa employees or hairdressers.

Other costs:

Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and chemist shops (pharmacies/drugstores) will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

Distances in Tasmania are very manageable compared to the rest of Australia, but you may still be surprised at how diverse the island is. Dense rainforests, mountain peaks, alpine meadows, great lakes, eucalyptus stands, and fertile farmland are all easily accessible, but you should still be prepared for several hours of concentrated driving between the main attractions.

My best tip is to consult a distance calculator (or a map) that gives you driving times, rather than just distances. Roads can be narrow, winding, unpaved – or all three.  Travel may be slower than you expect.

Tasmania also has a very high rate of roadkill, so be especially careful on the roads at around dusk and dawn, when kangaroos and wallabies are very active and at night when there is also a risk of hitting Tasmanian Devils.

Getting There

By plane
The quickest way to get to Tasmania is by air. Qantas flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart and Launceston. Virgin Blue from Melbourne to Hobart and Launceston, with connections from other capitals. Jetstar flies to Hobart from Brisbane and to Launceston from Brisbane and Sydney. Tiger Airways flies to Launceston and Hobart from Melbourne. Regional Express flies from Melbourne to Burnie in the state’s north.

By ferry
Two high-speed ferry services connect Melbourne and Tasmania. The Spirit of Tasmania I and II can each carry 1400 passengers as well as cars. They make the crossing from Melbourne’s Station Pier to Tasmania’s Devonport (on the north coast) in around 10 hours. The ferries leave both Melbourne and Devonport at 8pm and arrive at around 7am. From roughly December 20 to April 27, there’s also day service on weekends, leaving both ports at 9am and arriving at 6pm.

Tasmanian Redline Coaches connect with each ferry and transfer passengers to Launceston and Hobart.

Getting Around

By car

This is absolutely the best way of getting around Tasmania and seeing everything it has to offer – but driving in Tasmania can be dangerous; there are more accidents involving tourists on Tasmania’s roads than anywhere else in Australia. Many roads are narrow, and bends can be tight, especially in the mountainous inland regions. In winter, black ice may cover the roads. Another serious hazard is wildlife and there’s a lot of roadkill on the Tasmanian roads. Try not to drive at dawn or dusk.

But that said, it’s a wonderful way to see everything and distances are not great between each place. From Hobart in the south to Launceston in the north only takes about two hours. Driving from Devonport on the north coast (where the ferry comes in ) to Hobart on the south coast takes less than four hours. From Hobart to Strahan on the west coast also takes around four hours. Destination Tasmania has a handy drive-times calculator that you should make use of.

By bus

Tasmanian Redline Coaches and Tassielink operate coach services statewide and offer a series of coach tours to major places of interest. Hobart Coaches runs regional bus services out of Hobart.

Transportation Hubs

Devonport, on the north coast of Tasmania, is the main arrival and departure point for those who bring their cars across Bass Strait from Melbourne.

Flights to Tasmania from Australia’s main centres usually arrive in Hobart or Launceston. There are also airports at Burnie/Wynyard and Devonport.

Discounts and Passes

Visitors to Tasmania’s national parks need a pass, available from all major park entrances and Tasmanian visitor centres. Occasional users can buy a 24-hour pass for a car, while hikers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and coach passengers pay per day that they will be in the park.

If you are planning to be in Tasmania for a while, the Tassie Holiday Pass allows entry to all or any of Tasmania’s national parks for eight weeks. For more information, contact the Parks and Wildlife Service.

Background

Europeans arrived in Van Diemen’s Land, as it was once known, in 1642, when the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman set anchor off its southwest coast, but it was not until 1798 that it was identified as an island.

Tasmania made its mark as a dumping ground for British convicts, who were often transported for petty crimes such as stealing. The brutal system of control, still evident in the ruins at Port Arthur and elsewhere, spilled over into persecution of the indigenous population. The last full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigine – a woman knowns as Truginini – died in 1876, 15 years after the last convict transportation. Most had already died of disease and maltreatment at the hands of settlers. But reminders of the Aboriginal people who lived here for thousands of years are evident in rock paintings, engravings, stories, and the aura of spirituality that still holds in places that modern civilization has not yet reached.

Europeans settled in Hobart in 1804, a year after Tasmania’s first colony was set up at Risdon (10km up the Derwent River), making it Australia’s second oldest city after Sydney.

Some of the environmental issues Tasmanians (and the rest of Australia) are grappling with right now include the possible extinction of Tasmanian devils due to a spreading facial-tumor disease, reports of introduced foxes, and a proposed pulp mill that will pump vast quantities of effluent into Bass Strait. You will also not, despite local legend, run into any Tasmanian tigers here.

Recommended Reading

One of the best places to pick up some reading about this fascinating part of Australia is The Hobart Bookshop, which you will find tucked behind Salamanca Place in Hobart. It specialises in books of all kinds about Tasmania – but you’ll also find all the latest releases there too!

Meanwhile, here are a few suggestions of books that are either about Tasmania and its history, or set in Tasmania – all of them by local authors.

Non-fiction:
Closing Hell’s Gates by Hamish Maxwell-Stuart
In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare
A Bone of Fact by David Walsh (creator of MONA)

Fiction:
Out of Ireland by Christopher Koch
For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke
The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan
Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan