To the south of mainland Australia lies the island state of Tasmania, fittingly called the “Island of Inspiration.” Home to a vast, rugged wilderness, nearly half of the state is World Heritage Area, marine and forest reserves, or national parks, making it an outdoor lover’s paradise. With nearly 3,000 acres of coastline border, “Tassie” is home to an estimated 500,000 residents: 320,000 who live in the capital city Hobart, another 80,000 in Launceston, and 100,000 who are spread throughout the remainder of the island.
A rich history, thriving outdoor and culinary scenes, and a relaxed, countryside vibe make Tasmania well-suited for relaxed holiday-seekers and hardcore adventurists alike. Most incoming flights route through large mainland Australian cities and are short (under two hours) and fly into either Hobart or Launceston. As with most things Tasmanian, both airports offer a relaxed, casual vibe that’s the perfect entrée into the island’s pace of life.
Much of the Tasmanian countryside is rural, which means transportation is worth considering before you land. Travelers planning to leave their city of arrival should look into renting a car (bear in mind Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road). If you choose to do so, be sure you hold an international driver’s license.
It’s also possible to hire a car service. Corporate Cars Tasmania offers quality vehicles and friendly drivers who are eager to share facts about the surrounding countryside. A good option for those looking to transfer from Hobart to Launceston or back again, this can be an expensive—yet relaxing and informative—way to travel. There are also a number of public bus services connecting the two cities, including Tassielink and Redline.
For those planning to spend time exploring Hobart, Launceston, or Burnie, the Metro Bus Service makes urban trips easy. Think about purchasing a “green card” that you can load with credit for easy bus-hopping. Taxis are also available in the larger urban centers, but don’t count on them in the countryside.
Best Times to Visit
Tasmania’s high central plateau typically remains cooler than lower elevations and can warrant warm layers even on the nicest summer evenings. The number of closely-grouped microclimates on the island state mean that even during the warm summer months, it’s worthwhile to pack along layers. Travelers will find Tasmania’s cities and towns charming any time of year, but for the best outdoor activities, consider visiting during December and February. It’s the peak of tourist season, but even when the crowds are at their thickest it’s easy to escape the pack, and the comfortable temperatures mean outdoor activities are at their finest. Enjoy summertime food festivals, cultural activities, and the year’s best hiking conditions (plus it’s a nice time of year to escape the Northern Hemisphere)!
The shoulder seasons (October through November and March through April) are also good choices for aspiring bush walkers, and offer cheaper lodging and airfare rates. Just be sure to pack the snow boots and down jackets—even the shoulder seasons can produce snow and cold, windy weather.
Where to Eat
Tasmania is known for its fresh, vibrant cuisine and most visitors will find experiencing the local fare is well worth the flight. Stop by a local food stand or farmer’s market to sample fresh veggies and fruit, then explore the island’s many dairies in order to pick up some of the high-quality cheese produced on small-scale family farms. As on the Australian mainland, Tasmanian coffee culture is strong, and there is no shortage of flat whites to keep active travelers caffeinated.
In the university town of Launceston, the Black Cow Bistro is a cozy steakhouse suitable for special occasions and is situated downtown near the shopping and a walking district. Nearby Stillwater looks out over the water, offering local, fresh, and creative dishes with a view of bobbing fishing boats. Try the toasted granola with fresh berries and vanilla yogurt.
The capital city of Hobart more than holds its own on the food scene. The Old Wharf Restaurant tells the story of industry in Tasmania with fine details placed throughout the waterfront restaurant and features upscale, local options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (The Stanley octopus is worth a try!)
Tucked into a cozy waterfront warehouse, Peacock & Jones features an open kitchen where diners can watch their food being prepared. For those seeking a bit of adventure with their meal, The Agrarian Kitchen is both a cooking school and an eatery, and is built on the foundations of the city’s old mental asylum. Come for the seasonal produce and cooking lessons, stay for the history and lively conversation.
Lodging to Remember
There’s nothing like tucking into a cozy room at the end of a long, adventuresome day, and Tasmania approaches lodging just like it does everything else: with quality, personality, and a certain hard-to-name “homey” aspect. Many hotels and lodges feel almost European in their comforts, but with a distinctively Australian flair.
Stillwater Seven in Launceston (conveniently in the same building as the Stillwater restaurant noted above) opened just six months ago. Seven luxury rooms housed in an 1830s flour mill offer a uniquely Tasmanian experience: each room features its own locally-made luxury pantry and bar, stocked with Tasmanian delicacies and drinks. Welcome features include seasoned popcorn, warm house-made sourdough bread with local butter, homemade cookies, and a arrival drink served by the delightfully attentive staff. A quick wander downstairs leads to the Stillwater restaurant, walking trails along the waterfront, or shopping and dining options downtown. (And, no single-use plastic to be found!)
Those seeking a slice of Tasmanian life coupled with a unique outdoor adventure can stay at Driftwater, a stunningly-renovated homestead run by husband and wife Peter and Karen Brooks. It’s rare to walk into a place halfway around the world and have it feel remarkably like home, but Karen and Peter’s comfortable lodging feels like a homestay. It’s also the perfect base for a day of fly fishing with the couple, both of whom are fly-fishing guides on local rivers and lakes. Ideal for those who want a uniquely Tasmanian experience in the countryside, Driftwater will quickly become a home away from home.
Hobart boasts a variety of hotels, hostels, and lodges, but perhaps few as creative as Marylands Lodge, an urban luxury lodge set in one of the capital city’s neighborhoods. Hyper-seasonal, homegrown, and house-made ingredients are at the heart of the property’s cuisine, and the gorgeously appointed rooms include thoughtful touches such as heated bathroom floors, fireplaces, and oh-so-deep tubs.
For the truly adventurous at heart, Thousand Lakes Lodge, located in the World Heritage Area at the heart of the island’s central highlands, is the perfect base for adventure. Tucked into the remote, barren, and unique highland scenery, Thousand Lakes once served as a training facility for Antarctic-bound personnel. The utilitarian yet comfortable lodge is 90 minutes from Launceston and two hours from Hobart, tucked in a truly wild part of the state. Thanks to that remoteness, the lodge serves as a superb base for bush walking, animal watching (wallabies like to eat the grass around the lodge and can even be enjoyed from a cozy place by the fire), fly fishing, and mountain biking.
What to Do
Tasmania is a land of action. In a place this wild and independent, it’s a necessity for life. For visitors, it’s easy to settle into a natural routine: rise with the sun, seek adventure all day, then tuck into a fine meal and cozy bed in the evening. It’s embolic of the Tasmanian lifestyle: work hard, play hard, sleep hard.
One of the most popular activities in Tasmania is bush walking. Other parts of the world call it “hiking” or “trekking,” but somehow “bush walking” seems to capture the Australian side of things: just going for a walk in the bush, seeing what happens. The state is home to nearly 1,300 miles of walking tracks and 18 national parks. From pastoral fields to the harshness of the central highlands, there are walking options for all ages and fitness levels. Serious walkers can even tackle the Overland Track through the center of the island or the famed Three Capes Track along the rugged eastern coastline.
Have you ever been to Tassie? Share your recommendations in the comments!
Header photo by Sylvia Yang.