From hiking in Cradle Mountain to wildlife spotting in Freycinet National Park, this self drive Tasmania itinerary highlights the best places to visit in Tasmania and where to stay. It includes helpful driving distances to help plan an easy trip around Tasmania.
A Tasmanian road trip should rank highly on the bucket list of anyone planning a visit to Australia because Tasmania is one of the most beautiful places you could wish to visit.
Tasmania is filled with fantastic scenery, great outdoor activities, wildlife and culture, and after spending six weeks in the land down under, I can honestly say that the eight days I spent driving around Tasmania were my favourite.
Exploring the great outdoors is my passion, and although Tasmania is an island, it still has a diverse range of landscapes perfect for discovering on a road trip, including mountain escapes, coastal towns and city settlements, which is why I loved it so much.
Australia’s largest island state feels untouched by the outside world, which is difficult to imagine until you have visited it yourself, so follow my Tasmania road trip itinerary for one of the world’s best road trips.
Useful Information About Tasmania
Travel to Tasmania
Tasmania is an island off Australia’s mainland and, as such, can only be reached by water or air.
The Spirit of Tasmania Ferry from Melbourne to Devonport is an easy choice if you want to travel through the night.
We booked onto the overnight ferry to sleep during the nine-hour crossing and wake up refreshed in Tasmania.
This didn’t quite pan out as expected due to sailing in stormy waters, so we were pretty tired when we disembarked.
If your sea legs aren’t entirely up to a sometimes rough crossing, then flying into Tasmania from one of the mainland’s regional airports will be your best bet.
The two main airports in Tasmania are in the island’s capital, Hobart and Launceston.
Flight times from Melbourne are a little over one hour. From Sydney, flights will take two hours.
For your Tasmania road trip, you can rent a vehicle in Devonport, Hobart, or Launceston.
Driving around Tasmania
Driving is on the left-hand side, so if you come from the UK, it will be the same as driving back home.
Tasmania is excellent to explore on a road trip. The roads are well-maintained, signposts are good, and the scenery is out of this world!
Wildlife in Tasmania is abundant, so you must be vigilant when driving around Tasmania to be alert to the potential of animals on the roads. At dawn and dusk, the wildlife is particularly lively.
Sadly, a lot of roadkill is scattered on the roadside verges, so be prepared. It was not something I expected to see, and I found it upsetting.
Accommodation in Tasmania
There are plenty of great places to stay in Tasmania, ranging from cabins, apartments, BandBs, and luxury hotels, so there is something to suit all budgets.
It is worth booking your stay in Tasmania in advance as it is a popular visitor destination, especially in the peak season, and lodgings can get booked quickly.
Cradle Mountain accommodation, in particular, is always in demand and can often be booked out completely.
Weather in Tasmania
Tasmania is an outdoor playground that can be visited at any time of the year.
Over the winter months, expect snowfall and low temperatures, especially in the mountains. If you enjoy skiing, snow sports, winter scenes and log cabins, this is the time to visit.
If you prefer moderate temperatures and don’t mind some rainfall, then spring or autumn will suit you perfectly.
I visited Tasmania at the end of February, just as summer turned to autumn, and I had a few days of rain but mostly sunshine. It was perfect weather to enjoy hiking in the wilderness.
Tasmania travel in summer will see temperatures increase, so factor that into any plans you have for long hikes and mountain climbs.
Best places to visit on an 8-day road trip around Tasmania
- Sheffield – the unique town of murals
- Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake – the heart of Tasmania’s wilderness
- Strahan – the gateway to Gordon River cruises
- Coles Bay – home to Freycinet National Park
- Port Arthur – historic penal settlement and open-air museum
- Hobart – the capital of Tasmania
Self Drive Tasmania Road Trip Map
Tasmania Travel Itinerary
Day One and Two – Sheffield and Cradle Mountain
Our 8-day Tasmania self drive itinerary started on a crisp summer morning in February as we arrived in Devonport on the overnight ferry from Melbourne.
We quickly picked up the Kia rental car we had pre-booked for our road trip and were ready to head to our first stop in Tasmania, the mural town of Sheffield, which was on the route to Cradle Mountain.
The driving time from Devonport to Sheffield is 25 minutes
As a lover of street art, I couldn’t wait to see the charming Tasmanian town of Sheffield.
It is famous for its murals covering just about every shop front and building in town and its annual Muralfest event, which attracts hundreds of creatives competing to leave their mark on this normally sleepy town.
If you arrive on an early morning ferry like us, you will find that the town doesn’t get going until around 8.30 am, which gives you time to take some fabulous photographs of the murals with no one around.
When the town starts to stir, head to one of the cafes for breakfast before continuing your drive to Cradle Mountain.
Learn about Sheffield in my blog post, the Mural Town of Sheffield.
Leaving Sheffield, the view of Mount Roland is incredible as it rises in the distance.
The drive to Cradle Mountain is straightforward; the driving directions are below:
Stay on the C136 after leaving Sheffield and turn onto the C132 at Moina.
Continue on this road until you come to Cradle Mountain Road, which will take you to the town centre, where you will find most of the Cradle Mountain accommodation and the Cradle Mountain Information Centre.
The driving time from Sheffield to Cradle Mountain is 60 minutes
Cradle Mountain must be on your itinerary if you love being outdoors and connecting with nature.
It feels untouched by technology and outside influences and has strict policy codes about the number of visitors allowed into the national park daily.
For that reason, you have to buy a pass to gain access. This can be picked up from the Cradle Mountain visitor centre, and funds go toward the upkeep of Tasmania’s national parks and reserves.
When you visit Cradle Mountain National Wilderness Park, you will discover waterfalls, valleys, mountain hikes, lake walks and wildlife.
We did several walks, including the incredible Dove Lake Walk and loved every moment.
One evening we visited the Tasmanian Devils’ sanctuary, one of the fun things to do in Tasmania. We watched them feed and learned more about Australia’s iconic creature.
Read more about how we spent two nights in Cradle Mountain and why it became our favourite place in Tasmania.
Where to stay in Cradle Mountain
One thing to remember is that Cradle Mountain is undoubtedly the most popular place to visit in Tasmania, so accommodation in Cradle Mountain is always in demand.
If you plan on staying at Peppers Cradle Mountain Resort, the Cradle Mountain Hotel or Cradle Mountain Lodge, you must book far in advance.
We stayed at the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village, which I had booked six months before my trip.
Day Three and Day Four – Strahan
The driving time from Cradle Mountain to Strahan is two hours.
Once we had left Cradle Mountain, we headed for our next stop in Strahan on Tasmania’s west coast.
Driving Directions from Cradle Mountain to Strahan
To reach Strahan, drive along the C132 from Cradle Mountain and eventually join the A10 Murchinson Highway.
While you are driving along the highway, you will pass Lake Rosebury. It is worth stopping here to take photographs and enjoy the scenery. The reflections of the trees in the water are mesmerising.
Continue along the A10 and join the B28, which takes you passed Lake Plimsoll, a trout fishery.
We continued our drive on the A10 until we reached the B24, which took us into Strahan.
I included two nights in Strahan on my road trip itinerary as the historic village intrigued me.
It is the remotest village on Tasmania’s west coast and was once a bustling port during Tasmania’s mining mecca of the 1800s.
It is now home to Gordon River Cruises, famous throughout Australia for taking visitors through the magnificent heritage wilderness of Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
We had intended to join one of the cruises, but sadly, lousy weather stopped that, so we left without experiencing it ourselves.
We got one good day in Strahan, so we popped down to the town, familiarised ourselves with some craft shops, walked around the water’s edge, and discovered what a “Bottle-O” was.
For my non-Australian readers, it is a dedicated off-licence as alcohol is not sold in supermarkets; a strange experience for me coming from the UK as a bottle of wine is often featured on my supermarket shopping list next to my fruit and veg!
We stayed in a lovely Airbnb property (no longer listed), where we caught up on our washing. That’s one of the chores you still must do on a long trip. There’s no getting away from needing clean clothes!
Learn about Strahan in my blog post: Eight great things to Do in Strahan, for an idea of the activities on offer during your stay.
Where to Stay in Strahan
Strahan has varied accommodations, from apartments to camping grounds. I have listed several places that will suit all budgets and lifestyles.
Aloft Boutique Apartments – these contemporary, self-contained apartments are less than a 5-minute drive from Ocean Beach. They have private patios, free wifi, and on-site parking.
Check availability and pricing for Aloft Boutique Apartments
Salt Box Hideaway – this one-bedroom apartment offers mountain and sea views and free wifi. It is a cosy retreat after a day of exploring the hidden gems in Strahan.
Check availability and pricing for Salt Box Hideaway
Strahan Village – a favourite holiday accommodation for visitors to the Tassie town of Strahan, offers several dining options. Fantastic views of Macquarie Bay from most of the rooms.
Check availability and pricing for Strahan Village
Strahan Backpackers – features quirky, budget accommodation, a shared lounge, a garden, barbecue facilities and a terrace.
Check availability and pricing for Strahan Backpackers
Macquarie Head Campsite – situated at the entrance to the harbour, this campsite might have one of the best views in Strahan!
Check availability and pricing for Macquarie Head campsite
Day Five – On the Road: Strahan to Coles Bay
The driving time from Strahan to Coles Bay is 5 hours and 30 minutes
Driving Directions from Strahan to Coles Bay
Leaving Strahan, we took the B24 Lyell Highway for our long drive to Coles Bay and the incredible Freycinet National Park. Only two roads take you in and out of Strahan, so you can’t get lost.
When you eventually come to a fork in the road, after around an hour, you must turn right onto the A10.
Once on this road, there are several tourist spots to see if you have time, including Iron Blow Lookout and Nelson Falls.
I didn’t stop at either of these, so I can’t give an opinion on whether they are worth seeing, but they feature in many Tasmania travel books.
Lake St Clair National Park
After two hours of driving, we turned off at Derwent Bridge to see Lake St Clair, part of the Cradle Mountain National Park.
Over six days, a well-trodden and challenging 65km hike called the Overland Track can be done from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. It is a popular trail among hikers, so bookings must be made well in advance.
When we arrived in the Lake St Clair car park, we met a couple that had completed their hike along the Overland Track; they said it was hard but worth it for the scenery. I would love to do it someday if I ever return to Tasmania.
Once out of the car, we grabbed lunch from the onsite cafe and set off to stretch our legs and explore the lake.
The rain that had been with us since leaving Strahan had finally stopped, and an ethereal mist had descended over Lake St Clair, making it look somewhat eerie but magical.
It is probably prettier in the sunshine with a backdrop of blue skies, but we weren’t bothered. Being alone at the lake, apart from one lone wallaby, was perfect for us.
Driving Directions from Lake St Clair to Coles Bay
Back in the car, we continued along the A10 Lyell Highway until we reached the B11 turning (on the left-hand side) near Bronte Park.
From here, we continued for another three hours until we reached Apslawn, where we got out to stretch our legs.
The place we found to stop was at the Devil’s Corner Cellar Door, where I planned to pick up a bottle of local wine to enjoy that evening.
Sadly, it was closed as we had arrived too late (I have a habit of lingering in places a bit too long, i.e. Lake St Clair!), so all we could do was enjoy the beautiful view of Coles Bay and the butterflies.
Finally, at the end of day five, we arrived at Edge of the Bay Resort in the Coles Bay Conservation Area to spend two nights.
The accommodation blew me away, and after a sunset mooch around the resort, we settled down for the night, ready for a full day in Freycinet National Park in the morning.
Where to Stay in Coles Bay
Eagles Peak Freycinet is a choice of luxury one and two-bedroom cabins set by the beach with garden and sea views.
Freycinet Lodge has a waterfront location and offers secluded cabins in a coastal bush setting, two restaurants and a bar.
Hazards Hideaway – An entire one-bedroom holiday house with one bathroom, a dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, and a patio with sensational views.
Freycinet Resort – Freycinet Resort offers luxurious accommodations with 360-degree views of The Hazards, Friendly Beaches, Great Oyster Bay and the Tasman Sea.
Big 4 Freycinet – This self-catering accommodation is just a minute’s walk from the white sand beaches of Coles Bay.
Saffire Freycinet – For complete luxury but with a hefty price tag, Saffire is the most premium accommodation in Freycinet National Park.
Is there any Freycinet camping allowed in the national park?
Yes. Richardsons Beach Campground is adjacent to the visitor centre within the park.
Day Six – Exploring Freycinet National Park
Freycinet – hiking, beaches and breathtaking scenery
After exploring the west coast and the central wilderness of Tasmania, it was time to hit up the east coast at Freycinet National Park.
It is undoubtedly one of the must-see places in Tasmania, and some unmissable sights in Freycinet National Park include Wineglass Bay, Cape Tourville Lighthouse, and Honeymoon Bay. These spectacular Tasmanian landmarks are a “must-see” on lists of Australia’s best places to visit.
There are plenty of hiking trails in Freycinet National Park for all abilities, from gentle circular routes to the more ambitious 3.6km Mount Amos hike. We enjoyed the 3km Wineglass Lookout walk, unsurprisingly all uphill. Even though we ended up pretty hot at the top, the views from the lookout point made up for it.
Beaches feature heavily in the Freycinet landscape, with several close to the main Freycinet visitor’s area.
Learn more about Freycinet in my blog post on 11 sensational things to do in Freycinet National Park.
Day Seven – On the Road: Coles Bay to Hobart
The driving time from Coles Bay to Hobart is 2 hours 30 minutes with no stops (or a lot longer if you divert to see unscheduled attractions as we did!)
I was sad to leave Coles Bay and the incredible Freycinet National Park, but it was time to hit the road again and head to our final stop in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital.
Of course, I didn’t simply want to drive from A to B; I had already researched several places along the East Coast I wanted to see, meaning I had to divert from my route to Hobart and side-track to the Tasman peninsula.
Driving Directions from Coles Bay to Port Arthur
We headed out of Coles Bay on the C302 and joined the A3 Tasman Highway after driving for 25 minutes.
We continued for 90 minutes to the town of Orford, where I turned off the Tasman Highway and onto the right-hand fork of the C320 Welangta Road. You can also drive the coastal C320; it will just take longer.
Then take the C336 Bream Creek Road, which quickly joins the C335 Kellevie Road until you reach the forked turning of A9 Arthur Highway. Turn left.
Continue along the A9, and it will take you to Port Arthur via two other places worth a stop. One is Eaglehawk Neck, The Blow Hole, and a weirdly sounded tourist attraction, the Tessellated Pavement.
A stop to see the Blow Hole at Eaglehawk Neck
Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow strip of land with water on both sides, and the blowhole is on it.
Stand and watch the ocean push through the ‘hole in the rock’ and blow its water high into the air. Stand close enough to the railings, and you are in for a soaking.
A stop to see the Tessellated Pavement
The Tessellated Pavement, formed of rock about 300 million years ago, proved hard to find.
When we did, I wasn’t that impressed, regardless of it supposedly being one of Tasmania’s best-kept secrets.
Unless you are really curious to see it, I would give it a miss.
After leaving the Tessellated Pavement, hop back on the A9 to Port Arthur. It is a 30-minute drive.
If you have time to spare, you might also want to stop at Port Arthur Lavender and Tasmanian Devil Unzoo.
We left these two Port Arthur landmarks out of our itinerary because we had to get to Hobart, and I didn’t want to drive in the dark.
Port Arthur historic penal settlement
One place you must visit in Tasmania is the Port Arthur historic site. This historic penal settlement is one of 11 places comprising the UNESCO Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.
Wander around this massive 19th-century prison site and learn about the hardened criminals who lived alongside children who had committed minor crimes like stealing apples.
Many inmates, even children, had been shipped to Port Arthur from the United Kingdom when Australia was the place to send convicts!
Information boards scattered around the site give you insight into what life was like at Port Arthur.
Don’t miss the shows with character actors portraying daily life for inmates, guards and the warden. The shows are excellent, and I would recommend watching one of them.
Make sure to take the leisurely boat ride in Carnarvon Bay. It sails around the Isle of the Dead, the convict’s burial site.
The scenery around Port Arthur is spectacular, so it’s easy to forget this was once one of Australia’s most significant penal settlements.
While at Port Arthur, don’t miss visiting the ruins of the Convict Church, built by inmates – also the solitary confinement cells in the Separate Prison.
If you are brave enough, step inside the windowless cell, shut the door and see how long you can last. It’s not for the faint-hearted!
Driving Directions from Port Arthur to Hobart
After visiting Port Arthur, leave the site and drive back the way you came on the A9.
After driving for around 2 hours, you will come to the town of Sorell and the end of the Arthur Highway (A9). From Sorell, jump onto the Tasman Highway (A3 into Hobart).
You will cross by pretty bays and travel across large stretches of water with dramatic views as you get nearer to Hobart. We enjoyed seeing the changing colours at dusk as the sun began to set.
Day Eight – Exploring Hobart
Hobart, the capital of Tasmania
Waking in Hobart only reminded me that we were coming towards the end of our time in Tasmania, which was a really sad feeling.
We had loved everything about Tasmania and would have stayed for a lot longer if we had known how beautiful and welcoming it would be. Nevertheless, we still had one full day left to explore Hobart, and we would make the most of it.
Being the capital of Tasmania means there are plenty of things to see in Hobart, and the waterfront is the best place to start.
You will find Constitution Dock and Franklin Wharf here, where you can wander around, see moored boats, and visit cafes and restaurants.
You can also visit Australia’s second oldest museum, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG).
Close by is Salamanca Place, home to the famous Saturday market in Hobart.
We missed the market as we arrived mid-week; however, Salamanca Place is full of lovely eateries, galleries and artisan shops.
Take the Kelly Steps from Salamanca Place to Battery Point to see the heritage houses in Arthur Circus, Hobart’s most affluent suburb.
And lastly, one place you must visit in Hobart is the botanical gardens; the grounds are beautiful and if, like me, you love visiting botanic gardens around the world, this is one Hobart attraction you need to see.
You can find out more about Hobart in my blog post Best things to do in Hobart in two days
Where to stay in Hobart
If you are looking for a place to stay in Hobart, there are many heritage hotels, chain hotels and private rentals.
I have detailed one from each price range and also linked to the Booking.com website, which will show a variety of pricing and availability for Hobart properties.
Luxury – MACq 01 Hotel – Each room is linked to real Tasmanian characters ranging from heroes, explorers and inventors, making it a fun place to stay in luxurious surroundings by the waterfront.
Comfort – Hadley’s Orient Hotel – Built in 1834 and heritage-listed, this is Tasmania’s oldest continuously operating boutique hotel. It is located in the Central Business District, close to all the main tourist sites.
Budget – Shipwrights Arms – A heritage pub with rooms built in the mid-19th century and close to Battery Point. The rooms are clean, basic and comfortable and receive a good guest rating.
Booking.com list lots of accommodation in Hobart to suit all budgets. Reservations can be cancelled within 24 hours of arrival, allowing flexibility in your schedule.
My final thoughts on Tasmania
After an amazing 8 day road trip around Tasmania, it was time to fly to Sydney.
We were to continue our 6-week Australian trip along the East Coast, but if the truth be told, we didn’t really want to leave.
While spending over a week road-tripping in Tasmania had been a fantastic experience for us both, we still felt we had only rubbed the surface of this fantastic island.
For this reason, I have vowed to return one day for an extended trip to Tasmania.
I will revisit places like Cradle Mountain and Hobart but also explore new places like Bridgestone Lavender, Billabong Bay, Mount Field National Park, Bruny Island and Maria Island, to name a few.
Until then, I have lovely memories of the sensational places in Tasmania I was lucky to see with my son and how one of the most unspoilt and beautiful places in the world has captured my heart forever!
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