Tasmania Self Drive Planning Guide

 

Why do travellers from around the world flock to Tasmania for a driving holiday?They say small is beautiful - and in Tasmania’s case, it’s 100% true. What’s more, this compact island state has more going for it than its good looks. Friendly locals, drop-dead-gorgeous beaches, quirky native wildlife, gourmet produce, heritage architecture and a fascinating history - all in one small package. 


 

Tasmania Southern Lights

Driving between destinations doesn’t take long and it’s never dull. There’s an abundance of scenic lookouts, pretty vineyards, roadside fruit stalls and wildlife sanctuaries to break up your journey. Here’s our guide to planning your perfect Tasmanian road trip, complete with itinerary suggestions to get you started.


 

How To Plan Your Tasmania Self Drive Holiday

Putting together a Tasmanian self-drive holiday is straightforward when you know how. 

All you need to do is ask yourself a few easy questions, and use the answers to design your dream trip.

  • What would I love to see and do in Tasmania?
  • When is the best time for me to visit Tasmania?
  • How long should I spend in Tasmania?
  • How will I get to Tasmania?
  • How do I want to get around Tasmania?

Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers yet! This article will take you through them step by step:

Step 1: How to choose your must-see Tasmanian destinations and bucket-list activities

Step 2: How to work out the right travel time for your budget, weather, and any events you want to see.

Step 3:  Deciding how long to stay in Tasmania, and how to spend your available time.

Step 4: How to get to Tasmania, and choosing the best arrival city for your vacation.

Step 5: Choosing your vehicle: Car, coach, campervan or motorbike? 

When you have completed all these steps, designing your itinerary is so much easier. 

For extra inspiration we’ll direct you to some of our favourite sample Tasmania itineraries along the way. Ready to get started?
 

Step 1: Pick Your Must-See Destinations

When you imagine your dream Tasmanian holiday, what do you see? 

Are you strolling through Hobart, browsing the quirky Salamanca Market stalls and indulging in some waterfront fine dining?Are you wandering through the ferny Tarkine rainforest, springy moss beneath your feet, with only birdsong for company? Perhaps you are picnicking on the white sands of Wineglass Bay with wallabies bounding past you on the beach?

If you’re not yet sure what you want to include in your itinerary, here are five Tasmanian must-sees to get you started:

Cradle Mountain National Park

Cradle Mountain National Park is an area of iconic alpine wilderness, abundant native wildlife, and a huge variety of walking trails. You'll love exploring this peaceful haven.

Cradle Mountain

Museum of Old and New Art (Hobart)

No ordinary museum, MONA's incredible main building has been cut deep into the cliffs. Even if museums aren't your thing, MONA is unmissable: it even has its own vineyards and brewery!!

Mona Museum Hobart

Bruny Island

With jaw-dropping cliff-top views, scenic beach walks and gourmet produce everywhere you turn, it’s impossible not to like this gorgeous little island. An awesome day trip from Hobart.

Gordon River

The West Coast’s remote Gordon River is home to the ruins of the dreaded Sarah Island Penal Colony. Cruise through the notorious Hell's Gate to Heritage Landing, where you can wander through the magnificent temperate rainforest on elevated boardwalks.

Bay of Fires

The striking orange boulders covering the shores give the Bay of Fires its name. The colour comes from orange lichen covering the huge granite rocks - the effect is spectacular against the backdrop of the turquoise sea. 

 

Get inspired with our Tasmania Travel Blog

If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas for your Tasmania holiday, the First Light Tasmania Travel Blog should be your first port of call.

From Hobart’s best whiskey distilleries to Tasmania’s best hikes, we’ll introduce you to the most exciting destinations, local secrets and bucket-list adventure picks.

Now that you have a good idea of what you want to do and see in Tasmania, let’s figure out when is the best time for you to do it:
 

Step 2: Decide When To Visit Tasmania

When is the ideal time to visit Tasmania? 

Summer (December to February) is the season for you if you are seeking warm sunshine and fabulous outdoor festivals.

Spring (March to May) and Fall (September to November) are ideal for hiking and exploring the great outdoors, since it’s still sunny with slightly cooler temperatures. Airfares and accommodation will be cheaper than summer too. 
If snow-capped mountains are more your thing, Winter (June to August) is a quiet and uncrowded time to visit, and it’s usually the cheapest time to come.

Kayaking Freycinet

Everybody’s different, so the best time for you to visit Tasmania might depend on:

  • When you can get leave from work (or school for the kids)
  • Seasonal natural wonders like the Southern Lights
  • Events and festivals you want to see, like the Dark Mofo midwinter festival or the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
  • The best weather for Tasmania’s multi-day hikes like the legendary Overland Track

Find out more about seasons in Tasmania

Our comprehensive guide to Tasmania’s seasons covers the highlights of each season and the best places to visit during the year. 

The good news is, Tasmania is stunning all year round. So the very best time to travel is the time that suits your needs, your budget and your personal preferences.
 

Southern Lights

Step 3: Decide How Long To Spend In Tasmania

Not sure how long you’ll need for your Tassie road trip? Struggling to figure out how much you can fit into a 1-week stay? Don’t worry: we’ve got you covered.

To visit all of Tasmania’s main sights, we recommend visiting for around 6 to 10 days depending on how fast-paced or slow-paced you would like your vacation to be. 

If you have time to allow 2-3 nights in Hobart, you won’t regret it as there is so much to see and do.

Our Tasmania Itinerary Library is filled to the brim with trips we’ve designed for thousands of happy travellers over the years. But here are some of our favourite examples of what you could see and do depending on how long you have available:

A long weekend in Tasmania

Spend 3 nights in Hobart and you have ample time to stroll around the famous Salamanca Market, marvel at MONA (the weird and wonderful Museum of Old and New Art), catch a ferry to gorgeous Bruny Island and potter around Port Arthur. You could even squeeze in a day trip to Wineglass Bay!
For a more peaceful 3-night minibreak, you could fly into Launceston and drive to Cradle Mountain for scenery that’s second to none. Or discover the Tamar Valley Wine Routes picturesque wineries, bountiful orchards and riverside views.

1 week in Tasmania

What could you do with a 1-week self-drive vacation in Tasmania? As much or as little as you like! 

1 week is ample time for a relaxed-pace road trip focusing on either the East or West Coast… or you could do a loop around the island if you’re happy to spend a little more time driving. 

How about a leisurely 7-day road trip from Launceston to Hobart via picturesque Cradle Mountain and the beautiful Bay of Fires? An intrepid sailing and hiking adventure way along the beautiful East Coast? Or a five-star journey to the prettiest mountains and most pristine beaches, with boutique luxury lodgings throughout?
You can find all of the above in our guide to the best ways to see Tasmania in a week.

Tasmania sailing adventure Wineglass Bay

10 Days in Tasmania

If you have 2 weeks of vacation time available, a 10 day self drive itinerary will slot nicely into your timeframe. 

10 days is ample time to explore both the East and West Coasts with a circular itinerary, plus a couple of days to relax and explore Launceston or Hobart at the beginning or end of your journey. 

Check out our top suggestions for the best 10 day Tasmania self-drive itineraries.

2 weeks (or more) in Tasmania

With 14 days of travel time or more at your disposal, you can really get off the beaten track. 

Remote destinations like the ancient Tarkine Rainforest are even more bewitching when you can stay for a night or two rather than rushing to get back to your city hotel. 

Tasmania’s smaller islands – including Maria Island, King Island and Flinders Island – are unique, wildlife-filled destinations often missed by visitors with less time to spare. 

Our 15 Day Premier Tasmania Self Drive Itinerary is a great place to get some itinerary ideas for your dream trip.

Now that you have an idea of when you want to travel and how long you want to spend in Tasmania, you can start to look at flights - congratulations, your trip is taking shape! So how are you going to reach your holiday destination? Here are your options:
 

Step 4: Decide How to get to Tasmania

How do I get to Tasmania?

Unless you live in New Zealand, you need to travel to a mainland Australian city before you can fly or sail directly to Tasmania. 

Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane are the most convenient options. Flights operate several times per day from these cities and they offer a choice of Tassie arrival destinations. 

As a bonus, they are all fascinating cities in their own right - why not stop over for a night or two and explore? 

Smithton Coastline

Travelling to Tasmania by plane

Tasmania’s main airports are Hobart International Airport and Launceston Airport - the vast majority of travellers arrive at one of these two gateway cities.

Hobart is Tasmania’s state capital, located in Tasmania’s southeast. You can fly to Hobart International Airport directly from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland (New Zealand).

Launceston is the second-biggest city in Tasmania, located in the northwest. You can fly to Launceston Airport directly from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
 

Travelling to Tasmania by Ferry

If you are travelling to Tasmania from Melbourne, you can take the Spirit of Tasmania car ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, a small city which is also in Tasmania’s northwest. The crossing takes a full day or a full night, and it’s ideal if you want to bring your own vehicle.

Where to arrive in Tasmania: Launceston vs Hobart

Launceston is the most convenient airport for Tasmania’s iconic Cradle Mountain National Park. (Devonport is also convenient if you are sailing from Melbourne). Hobart is more convenient for visiting the historic Port Arthur prison site and the foodie haven of Bruny Island.

Which airport should you choose if you want to visit the East Coast? You can take your pick. Many of Tasmania’s most scenic destinations, such as Wineglass Bay and the Bay of Fires, are a couple of hours’ drive from Launceston and Hobart. So it doesn’t make much difference in terms of travel time.

Having figured out where you are going to arrive and begin your holiday, you’re going to need some transport. This is what we’ll look at next.

 

Launceston

Step 5: Decide How To Get Around Tasmania

The best way to see Tasmania by far is to hit the road. You’ll cross epic rivers and vast grasslands, towering forests and craggy mountain ranges: nearly every drive is a new adventure surrounded by out-of-this-world scenery.

Since Tasmania is so compact, there are few domestic flights and no passenger trains. So cars, motorbikes, motorhomes and coaches are the most common ways to travel.

So which mode of transport would suit you best?
 

Tasmania by car

Whether you hire a vehicle or bring your own on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, car trips around Tasmania allow you the freedom to choose where you want to go and where you want to stop. There’s space for plenty of luggage too.

Tasmania by motorbike

With low traffic, well-maintained roads and a climate that doesn’t have extreme heat or cold, Tasmania is the perfect motorcycle touring destination (just make sure you have protection from the rain!). You can hire a motorbike in Devonport, Launceston and Hobart or bring your own.

Tasmania by campervan

Forget endless hotel bookings and inconvenient check-in and check-out times: take your accommodation with you instead! You’ll find campervan parks close to all the main must-see destinations, so when you wake up each morning you are already right at the heart of things.

Tasmania by coach

Relax, ditch the car and let a professional take charge of the driving. Coach tours of Tasmania come in every flavour and variety: escorted bus tours, coach tours for seniors, luxury small group tours, backpacker buses… There's an option for everyone.

Mix it up: combine self-drive and coach touring

What if you don’t want to drive every day, but you don’t fancy a 2-week coach holiday either? Day tours could be just what you’re looking for.

Many of Tasmania’s main attractions are just a couple of hours’ drive from Launceston or Hobart. You will find tour companies offering day trips to top Tasmanian destinations such as Cradle Mountain National Park, Wineglass Bay, Bruny Island, and Port Arthur. You could even stay in Hobart for a week and take day trips to all of these locations - you would only need to unpack once during your stay!
 

Designing Your Tasmania Itinerary

You’ve written your Tasmania bucket list, decided when you want to visit and how long for, and you’ve figured out how you’re getting to Tasmania and how you’re getting around. 

Armed with all this information, you’re ready to craft your itinerary! 

Point To Point Itineraries and Circuit Itineraries

The 2 most popular ways to drive around Tasmania are:

  • Point to point itineraries (Start in Hobart and finish in Launceston, or vice versa)
  • Circuit itineraries. (A loop around Tasmania, starting and finishing in the same city)

Point to point itineraries, like our 8 day Taste of Tasmania self drive itinerary, are ideal if you are visiting Tasmania for 8 days or less and you want to see as much as possible.

Circuit itineraries are ideal if you have at least 8 days available for your vacation. And don’t worry about missing out on visiting locations that are in the middle of the island - since Tasmania is so compact, the middle of the island is never too far away.

Check out our 10 day Wonders of Tasmania self drive adventure, a circuit itinerary which takes you clockwise around Tasmania, starting and ending in Hobart.

Pacing Yourself

The trickiest part of itinerary-building is estimating what you can fit into each day, and taking into account how long it will take to drive to your destination. 

Think about it: You can drive from Hobart to Launceston in a day via Freycinet National Park and the Bay of Fires, but do you want to visit Freycinet with no time to set foot on the sands of Wineglass Bay? Would you enjoy a 3-hour hike on Cradle Mountain after a 5-hour drive from Hobart? 

There’s no right answer - some travellers prefer a relaxed, slow-paced vacation while others prefer to fill every available moment with new sights and experiences. 

Use a driving distance calculator to work out how much travel time you will need each day - and don’t forget to add extra time for scenic stops!


 

Deciding Where To Stay in Tasmania

You’ll find welcoming and comfortable accommodation at every budget level including historic bed-and-breakfasts, convenient serviced apartments, down-to-earth farmstays, cosy cabins and friendly hostels for hikers.

Here are our recommendations for the best places to stay in Tasmania and the best Tasmanian honeymoon accommodation.

Glamping Bay of Fires

Itinerary Examples for Every Vacation Style

Feel free to use our Tasmania Itinerary Library as your guide. It’s filled with dozens of examples of point-to-point itineraries and circuit itineraries to get you started.

Each itinerary has been created by our Travel Specialists, and you will find both relaxed-pace itinerary examples and more energetic ones. Check out the driving times each day and the number of attractions to decide if they work for you.
 

The Easiest Way To Plan Your Tasmania Road Trip

We hope you have enjoyed our Tasmania Self Drive Planning Guide and that you will find it useful for creating your trip!

If the idea of researching, designing and booking every aspect of your vacation is sapping your holiday spirit, don’t fret: we can save you time and cut out the stress by doing it for you.

Take one of our existing Tasmania Self Drive itineraries as a starting point, or let us custom-build a personalised itinerary for you, tailored to your exact specifications. Our Travel Specialists will design your itinerary, handle your vehicle hire and bookings, and give you 24/7 support while you are on the road in Tasmania.

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Maz
By
Marianne Davies
: 18 Aug 2021 (Last updated: 19 Aug 2021)

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