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Things to Do in Tasmania

Good food, great wine, and more than three million acres of UNESCO World Heritage–listed wilderness beckon travelers to Tasmania, a place that was once considered a form of punishment to visit. While Port Arthur’s 19th-century penitentiary ruins evoke an eerie sense of Tasmania’s convict past, those who visit the island today have a great amount of freedom, especially when it comes to planning an itinerary—or choosing from numerous tours that expertly explore the Island of Inspiration. Want to experience the island’s natural beauty? Hike up or bike down Mount Wellington, the landmark of capital Hobart; cruise past ancient rain forests on the Gordon River from Strahan; or day trip to Freycinet Peninsula National Park, home to Wineglass Bay’s white-sand beaches and pristine waters. If you’re feeling cultural, head to the Hobart waterfront for a taste of its up-and-coming culinary and craft-beer scenes; visit the Salamanca Place weekend market; spy cute colonial buildings along Battery Point; or admire Aboriginal artwork at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. No matter your home base, opportunities for day tours abound: Bushwalk through the unspoiled wilderness of Cradle Mountain from Launceston or Devonport; head offshore to wild Bruny Island from Hobart for surf, sun, and the chance to spot wallabies, penguins, and migrating whales; or head to the Tasman Peninsula to witness the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo’s namesake critters, kangaroos, and native birds.
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Freycinet National Park
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One of Tasmania’s most popular coastal holiday spots, Freycinet National Park is backed by the pink-tinged granite outcrops known as the Hazards.

Low-lying coastal heathland frames views of blue sea and sand throughout the park, with the Hazards looming large in the distance. Bushwalkers head here to follow coastal trails along the peninsula’s secluded coves, and the park is a popular holiday camping spot for families.

The park’s white-sand beaches are beautiful but top marks always go to perfectly formed Wineglass Bay, which often appears in travel top 10s as one of the world’s most gorgeous beaches. It really does have a circular wineglass shape, fringed by white sand and untouched bushland.

Birdwatchers come to Freycinet to spot seabirds, and you might see cockatoos, wattlebirds and wallabies on the two-hour return walk to the lofty lookout over Wineglass Bay. It’s an often steep incline with steps, or you can follow the wheelchair-friendly boardwalk at Cape Tourville for less-exhausting but still stunning views of the bay.

Boating and fishing are other popular activities, along with rock climbing, sea-kayaking, swimming at the Friendly Beaches and snorkeling at Sleepy Bay and Honeymoon Bay.

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Tamar Valley
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The Tamar Valley is right on Launceston’s doorstep, stretching north to the sea at George Town. It’s a lush, fertile area of orchards, pasture, B&Bs and, importantly, vineyards.

If you’re driving or taking a tour from Launceston, follow the Tamar Valley Wine Route winding through the valley to visit notable wineries like Pipers Brook, Clover Hill, Delamere, Bass and Ninth Island. The area is particularly renowned for its Pinot Noir wines.

The route heads north from Launceston, running along the western side of the valley through Exeter, Rosevears and Beaconsfield. The valley is crossed by the strikingly cable-trussed Batman Bridge at Deviot, then runs north to George Town on the valley’s eastern bank. Returning to Launceston, the route loops south through Lilydale and Rocherlea.

Wines to sample along the route include Riesling, Chardonnay and, most notably, Pinot Noir. Cellar door restaurants are another highlight, and you’ll also pass the Tamar Island Wetlands, mining history at Beaconsfield, and the Georgian-era sailing port of George Town.

Other towns to visit include riverside Rosevears, Beauty Point, where you’ll find Seahorse World, and Low Head with its maritime history museum and pilot station, lighthouse and penguin tours near George Town.

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Devils at Cradle Wildlife Park
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Devils @ Cradle is a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of Tasmanian devils (though they also have a large number of quolls and other local creatures). See Tasmanian devils up close and personal, and learn about these mysterious marsupials and the current threats to their survival with ranger-led talks and tours.

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Cradle Mountain
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With its jagged dolerite peaks standing watch over a trio of glacial lakes, Cradle Mountain is the grand centerpiece of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Tasmania Wilderness, the natural landmark also marks the north end of the famous Overland Track.

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Bruny Island
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Less than an hour from the Tasmanian capital and yet a world away from the busy streets of Hobart, Bruny Island draws a steady stream of weekenders from the mainland. The two islands, joined by a long narrow isthmus, are a wildlife haven of jagged cliffs and golden beaches swirling with seabirds. Both are dotted with sleepy villages and tranquil guesthouses, and main activities are hiking, fishing, and slurping fresh-from-the-ocean oysters.

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Cataract Gorge Reserve
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The magnificent Cataract Gorge, a river gorge on the South Esk River right at the edge of Launceston, offers a wealth of outdoor recreation that feels a world away from the city. The reserve is home to the First Basin outdoor swimming pool, the world’s longest single-span chairlift, and a Victorian-era landscaped garden.

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Port Arthur
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A moving reminder of Australia’s harrowing history, the former convict settlement of Port Arthur was a key part of often brutal convict discipline within the colonial system. Today, the Port Arthur historic site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Tasmania’s most visited tourist attraction, with museums and memorials devoted to telling the area’s history.

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Mt. Wellington (Kunanyi)
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Standing sentinel over Hobart, Mt. Wellington is also known as Kunanyi or simply “the Mountain.” The 4,170-foot (1,271-meter) peak offers unbeatable views over the Tasmanian capital, and the surrounding parklands serve as a popular recreational ground for city dwellers.

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Sarah Island
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Modern Australia was famously founded by boatloads of British convicts, and Sarah Island off of western Tasmania was once reserved for the worst offenders. Isolated, wet and completely surrounded by the tempestuous Southern Ocean, not only is it Australia’s oldest penal colony, but the remote outpost was such a fearsome place to be sent that the mouth of the harbor leading out toward the island was simply known as “Hell’s Gate.” The penal colony was short-lived, however, only lasting from 1822 to 1833. During that time, convicts were enlisted for the backbreaking work of felling the surrounding pine trees, and there was a brief time when Sarah Island was the largest ship-building site in Australia.

Conditions on the island were horrendously bad, and prisoners were said to have favored execution over continued life here. Many tried to escape, and though most failed and met a miserable fate, a famous few were able to flee and live a life on the run. Today, all that remains of the penal colony are the ruins of the former quarters, and touring the island is one of the most popular activities for visitors staying in Strahan. Hear stories of scurvy, torture and the misery of solitary confinement, while also gaining insight into the formative years of the pioneering settlers of Tasmania. Oftentimes a visit to Sarah Island is combined with a Gordon River cruise, which provides a scenic and stark contrast of comforts compared to the historic island.

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Cascade Brewery
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With a legacy dating back to 1824, Cascade Brewery is Australia’s oldest continually operating brewery, founded by English settler Peter Degraves. The historic brewery, set in Hobart at the foot of Mount Wellington, welcomes guests to its brewhouse and restaurant, and offers tours and tastings.

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More Things to Do in Tasmania

Gordon River

Gordon River

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The Gordon River is as beautifully remote as one could hope a river would be. Beginning in the highlands of the central plateau that dominates inland Tasmania, the riverbank is devoid of any residents along its 117-mile path. Instead, the entire length of this tea-colored river is part of the Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness Area, a forested expanse of raw wilderness found on the western side of the island. Many of the trees set along this riverbank are nearly 2,000 years old, and as if the beauty couldn’t get any more stunning, the rolling profile of the surrounding hills is often reflected in the river waters.

When visiting Strahan on Tasmania’s west coast, one of the most popular activities is to spend a day on a Gordon River cruise. Plying the waters of the lower reaches of the river, it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like in the early 1800s, when the nearby prison at Sarah Island housed some of Australia’s most fearsome convicts. Today, however, the Gordon River is as placid and peaceful as the leaves that drift on its waters, and it’s a natural resource that fortifies the beauty of the western Tasmanian coastline.

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Cape Bruny Lighthouse

Cape Bruny Lighthouse

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Situated on Bruny Island in Tasmania, the Cape Bruny Lighthouse is the second-oldest lighthouse tower in the country, having been first lit in 1838. The structure was commissioned by Governor George Arthur following a series of mishaps and shipwrecks just off Bruny Island and took two years to build by convict labor.

Technological advances in the 1980s and 1990s led to the lighthouse being lit for the last time on Aug. 6, 1996, when it was replaced by a solar-powered light nearby. In December 2000, the lighthouse was declared part of the South Bruny National Park.

Visitors should be prepared for rough roads and a steep walk to reach the lighthouse, although you’ll be well rewarded on arrival; with some fantastic views out to sea, migrating humpback and southern right whales have been spotted from this vantage point.

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Richmond Village

Richmond Village

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Less than 30 minutes from Hobart, amid the lush vineyards of the Coal River Valley, historic Richmond village is among the most picturesque in Tasmania. Lined with elegant Georgian buildings and presided over by the much-photographed Richmond Bridge, it’s also an important piece of Tasmania’s colonial heritage.

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Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair

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Reaching depths of nearly 700 feet, not only is Lake St. Clair the deepest lake in Australia, it may very well be the most beautiful. Set at an elevation of 2,400 feet, this cobalt lake and its forest-lined shores make up the aquatic pearl of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. The distant peak of Mt Olympus towers above the shoreline as visitors dip their toes in the cool waters,. Though not as tall as the park’s Mt Ossa (which, at 5,400 feet, is the tallest mountain in Tasmania), the jagged spire of Mt Olympus manages to dominate the lakeshore’s skyline.

Besides the lake, the entire area is famous for housing some of the best hikes on the island. The six-day Overland Trail has its southern terminus here at Lake St. Clair, and hikers who have just completed the 40-mile trail are often found on the ferry that crosses from Narcissus Bay to Cynthia Bay. Travelers just visiting for the day can spend an hour walking the lakeshore trails or tackle a six-hour backcountry journey into the surrounding Tasmanian wilderness. Since track conditions change frequently, the first stop should always be at the informative Lake St. Clair Visitor Center, where not only will you get information on current trail conditions and closures, but also find exhibits on early settlers and original Aboriginal inhabitants. At the end of your hike, fire up the BBQ at the Cynthia Bay campground, wash your feet in the refreshing waters and watch as the fading afternoon sun drapes Mt Olympus in shadows.

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Hobart Sandy Bay

Hobart Sandy Bay

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Hobart's Sandy Bay is a quiet coastal community just past the central business district where sailing, the arts, and serene sea views unite. Hire a yacht and cruise along the coast, where rugged cliffs meet peaceful neighborhoods, or spend an afternoon relaxing on the spotless beaches and wandering the pristine boardwalk. Unique shops selling one-of-a-kind items and a number of local restaurants line the streets of Sandy Bay. After a day outdoors visitors can spend an evening gambling at the Wrest Point Casino, the first in Tanzania.

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The Nut

The Nut

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Towering above the town of Stanley on Tasmania’s northern coast, “The Nut” is a coastal, tabletop hill that rises steeply up from the shore of Stanley’s golden sands. Since much of the land around Stanley is flat, the 500 ft. “Nut” offers visitors a view of the northern Tasmanian coast, where it’s sometimes possible to see wild penguins as they roll and splash in the surf. Keep an eye out for scurrying rabbits and curious Australian padmelons, as you make the steep, 30-minute climb up the 1.8 mile trail. For hikers with any mobility issues, a chairlift operates throughout the day that makes it easy to summit The Nut and experience the view from the top. You’ll find multiple lookouts facing each direction, whether staring north across an ocean that’s flecked with whitecaps and waves, or gazing down on Stanley township where clapboard homes and carless streets give the feel of a coastal fishing village where time slinks slowly on by.

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South Bruny National Park

South Bruny National Park

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South Bruny National Park is a perfect place to escape the hustle of Hobart and experience the true beauty of Tasmania countryside. This scenic getaway on the southern tip of Bruny Island offers visitors the best of both land and sea—from coastal cliffs to secluded beaches. It’s ideal for a quick day trip or an overnight camping excursion.

Visitors can spend the morning collecting shells along the beach’s shore or taking a leisurely dip in one of the park’s sheltered swim areas (a local favorite is near Jetty Beach). Experienced surfers love the serious waves that break at Cloudy Bay, where rustic campsites are almost always available for a small fee.

Birders and botanists will love exploring the lush rainforest just beyond the sand, where dozens of plants and bird species indigenous to Tanzania thrive. Curious sorts can explore the remains of an old whaling station at Grass Point or wander to Cape Bruny Lighthouse, the second oldest of its kind in the country.

Day-trippers and less experienced hikers can wander along shorter trails, like the memorable trek to Grass Point or Fluted Cape. More challenging routes, like the Labillardiere Peninsula Circuit or East Cloudy Head trail are best left to fit visitors planning to spend at least a night.

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Hobart Salamanca Market

Hobart Salamanca Market

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What was once a rundown warehouse and storage unit on the waterfront of Hobart has since become one of the most-visited destinations in the city. More than 600,000 people visit Salamanca Market for its fresh fruit, organic produce, and handmade craft stalls each year. Its trendy bars, quiet cafes and inventive restaurants attract food-lovers from around the area, making it a uniquely Tanzania experience. Salamanca’s popularity has caused it to grow rapidly from 12 vendors in 1972 to more than 300 in 2010. As a result, there’s something for everyone at this once-a-week market that brings the best of Hobart together.

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Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

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Some of Australia’s most beloved animals—including kangaroos, koalas, and Tasmanian devils—call the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary home. As one of Tasmania’s most important sanctuaries, Bonorong’s aim is to rescue, rehabilitate, and preserve some of the island’s rarest and most endangered creatures.

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Cascades Female Factory Historic Site

Cascades Female Factory Historic Site

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This all-female prison is one of 11 places that make up the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. Between 1788 and 1853 approximately 25,000 women—and even some of their children—were held in one of Cascade’s five structures. High rates of illness and infant mortality, as well as grim conditions led to tragic ends for many of the inmates who were forced to sew and mend to repay their debts to society.

Three of the five original buildings are open to the public, so visitors can see the heavy stone walls and thick metal bars that held so many women captive. The Matron’s Quarters in Yard 4 provides travelers with details about the lives of civilians who were charged with punishing and reforming Cascade’s wayward women. This female factory is a fascinating introduction to Tasmania’s role in convict transportation for Great Brittan.

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Hobart Convict Penitentiary

Hobart Convict Penitentiary

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The Penitentiary Chapel, nicknamed "The Trench", designated for male convicts in Hobart Town was a less than holy place. With poor ventilation, 36 solitary confinement rooms and separate punishment chambers hidden beneath the chapel floor, it was truly a spot for torture and despair. The dark cells, referred to as “dust holes” were deemed inhumane and closed in 1849, but visitors can still catch a glimpse of the horrid conditions on a Hobart Convict Penitentiary tour, where guides remind guests about the terrible sounds that could be heard coming from convicts chained beneath the floors.

The Hobart Convict Penitentiary grounds include a prison yard, barracks, punishment chambers and an execution yard, as well as the chapel, which was partially transformed into courtrooms in 1859. Visitors who opt for the ghost tour can wander the tunnels and gallows by lamplight while hearing stories of the more than 30 individuals who were executed here.

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Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

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The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens opened in 1818 and its impressive collection of indigenous plants, trees and unique Asian-inspired gardens span some 35 acres of scenic countryside. Perhaps the garden’s most unusual exhibit is the Subantarctic Plant House, which displays plants from the remote Macquarie Island. In addition to environmental conditions that mimic the wild, audio from the island—like sounds of Elephant seals and penguins—is also piped throughout the space, giving visitors a full sensory experience.

After wandering the grounds, relaxing by the lily pond or exploring the French Memorial Garden and Fountain, stop by the Royal Tasmanian’s restaurant, which sources produce from its very own vegetable garden for a truly Tasmanian farm-to-table experience.

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Russell Falls

Russell Falls

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Visitors to Russell Falls face a difficult question concerning the surrounding beauty: Is it the lush environment and deep green foliage that give this area its splendor, or is it the three-tiered waterfall that powerfully plummets its way through the verdant forest? Either way, Russell Falls is often considered to be the most popular waterfall in Tasmania, and the short, paved walkway that leads to it makes for an easy and accessible hike.

The falls are located in Mount Field National Park, where large tree ferns and forests of swamp gum create an exotic, faraway feel. The park also teems with wildlife, and lucky travelers with a keen eye might spot a platypus, echidna or possum. Ten minutes further up a steep trail, another waterfall, Horseshoe Falls, provides a second option for photographing water spilling down through the forest. Visitors who want to work up a sweat can extend their visit and tackle the

Tall Trees Circuit, a 30-minute trail through towering swamp gums, the tallest flowering trees on Earth.

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Battery Point

Battery Point

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This quiet suburb just south of Hobart was established in 1818, and while extravagant houses and luxury homes now dot the landscape of this prestigious town, a walk through its shaded streets offers visitors a look at how Tasmanians used to live.

The old warehouses of Salamanca Place are still visible from atop Kelly’s Steps, a series of hand-carved stairs built in the 1800s. Travelers can explore Battery Point’s colonial past at the Narryna Heritage Museum, then trek to the town’s highest point at St. George’s Anglican Church, built in 1936.

No trip to Battery Point is complete without a visit to Arthur Circus—one of the nation’s first official subdivisions. Today, visitors can wander around the original cottages, which are now some of the most expensive and sought-after homes in the area.

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