You could reverse the itinerary and fly into and out of Launceston. For me, Hobart worked better for arrival and departure times, as well as cost.
Day 1 – Fly / Arrive in Hobart (Friday)
You could switch the day of the week you arrive however the itinerary is designed so that you’re in Hobart for Saturday to go to the Salamanca Markets (which are only on a Saturday)
Collect hire car from the airport after landing. This was the easiest hire car pickup. The counters are right there in the terminal, walk a couple hundred metres to where all the hire companies park the cars, get in and go – super easy.
Lunch in Hobart – I recommend trying a scallop pie from Banjo’s Bakery.
If the weather is good get yourself up to Mount Wellington after lunch. Make sure you rug up – it gets freezing cold up there (and snows as early as April)
There’s not much happening in Hobart itself if you’re chasing winter clothes there’s a few shops for that and otherwise the usual department stores e.g. Target that you can find everywhere else in Australia. If you’re into art you could do a trip to MONA.
Head up there at dusk to catch the sun set
Accommodation: Hobart (I stayed at the St Ives Apartments which were a short walk to the Salamanca Markets)
Day 2 – Hobart
Morning: if your hotel is not within walking distance of the CBD, park somewhere in the CBD that allows all day parking (unfortunately most of the CBD is paid or time restricted parking) and wander along the waterfront. See Constitution Dock (which is actually really small!) where the boats for the Sydney to Harbour yacht race arrive.
Then make your way to the Salamanca Markets (allow 2 hours to walk the stalls) – the markets were basically finished and all the baked goods gone by 2pm so I wouldn’t arrive any later than 12pm.
In the afternoon continue wandering around Battery Point which has plenty of historical buildings, or do some of the things I mentioned above if you arrived on a late flight. You might also like to take a walk in the botanical gardens (they’re really small and not that great but if you have the time may as well).
Accommodation: Hobart (I stayed at the St Ives Apartments which were a short walk to the Salamanca Markets)
Day 3 – Port Arthur
Stop in at Rosny Hill lookout (just past the Tasman Bridge – there’s lots of turnoffs onto and off that bridge so put the navigation on your phone!).
I originally wanted to do this lookout on the way however was going to Port Arthur on Easter Sunday where I thought it would be packed so ended up doing this on the last day. This was part of the view at dusk. There are also good views of the Tasman bridge in the other direction.
You could make Port Arthur a day trip from Hobart however it’s on the way to the other places on the itinerary so I recommend staying a night somewhere around Port Arthur.
You don’t need long at Port Arthur it’s a lot smaller than the tourist brochures make it seem. 3 hours tops.
Accommodation: Port Arthur (I stayed at Mason’s Cottages (Taranna about 15 minutes north of Port Arthur)
Day 4 – Freycinent National Park
This is where online preparation comes in handy – purchase your park pass before you get to Tasmania, pop it on the dashboard of your car and head straight to the parking lot for the Wineglass bay walk. You can skip the queues at the visitor information centre but if you need the loo there’s a toilet at the Visitor information centre you can stop at before doing the walk (you don’t need to pay to use it).
It’s about 40 minutes one way to Wineglass lookout. The blue water may be enticing but it’s cold!!
Then another 1.5 hours up and down (not including time spent at the beach). The sign says 1,000 steps. My parents interpreted that as 1,000 steps up and down. However when I read the sign I thought it meant 1,000 up and another 1,000 back up. But I figured it best not to say anything… well after much complaining from my parents and me counting 891 steps to come back up, either way there was more than 1,000 steps return trip.
Randomly got lucky and there was a wallaby on the beach that happily posed for a photo (didn’t actually get as close as the picture seems, just zoomed on my camera)
Despite itineraries I read online that recommended staying at Swansea this town… isn’t much of a town. You can drive through in a few minutes, the general store has basically nothing (not even many frozen meals if you were to do that for dinner). I recommend staying in Coles Bay. Be quick to book accommodation as the affordable ones sell out fast. I stayed in a beach house I found on bookig.com although it was AIR BNB style with a lock box and pin to access it.
Accommodation: Coles Bay (note, there is only 1 tiny general store in Coles Bay so try and buy groceries at Swansea on the way through or better yet at Sorrell on the way to Port Arthur. We used a cooler bag with esky bricks and each accommodation had a bar fridge.
Day 5 – Bay of Fires
The time of day and lighting makes a big difference in how the water and the rocks looks. This was mid to late afternoon in April. I think midday would’ve been the best photos there were too many shadows later in the day.
The directions to get to the red rocks were terrible online. I even emailed Tasmania National Parks and they were just like ‘follow the road’. Didn’t even answer my question R.E. parking. So you don’t have the same questions. Take Gardens Road and drive to the very end (it’s called The Garden’s on Google maps). There is a small parking area. There are various side roads that are sand for beach access. Some of them looked very bumpy and only good for four wheel drive.
The rocks at Bicheno Blowhole
Bay of Fires
Accommodation: St Helen’s. I stayed at the Queechy Motel which was good
Day 6 – Launceston via Ben Lamond
If you like crepes, make a detour to Mount Elephant Pancakes (the name is pancakes but they’re really crepes).
Then onto Ben Lamond. There are 2 ways to get there – the highway and the route Google Maps tells you is quicker… well I’m not so sure. It was a deserted unsealed road (Upper Esk / Burns Creek area) we were on for over an hour but really only saw one logging truck that entire time. After going all that way we ended up abandoning Jacob’s Ladder anyway.
Hairpin turns, risk of rockfall and thick fog… skip
In the afternoon head to Launceston with your first stop being Cataract Gorge (warning: paid parking only and minimum EFTPOS was $2 so keep some change on you).
After one of my favorite travel bloggers (Brooke from World of Wanderlust) announced they were opening up a dessert house in Launceston it became a must do… and while a bit pricey it didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of things on the menu that I would’ve gone back there twice if I’d had enough time!
Accommodation: Launceston (I stayed at the Best Western – note that parking is an additional $6 to what they advertise on Booking.com which is very misleading and implies that it’s included. However it is in a great central location)
Day 7 – Cradle Mountain
Depart Launceston around 8am so you’ll arrive at Cradle at around 10am. If you’ve already purchased your national park pass online you can skip the long queues to buy one and just show your pass when you ask for the shuttle bus tickets. Shuttle buses were running approx every 15 minutes and stop at various points. I chose the Dove Lake walk.
To be honest, I thought Cradle Mountain was overrated. Go to the Glacier lookout (just a big rock with a good view) and the boat shed and that’s about it. You can continue doing the loop around the entire lake which takes about 2.5 hours but it’s much the same. Basically the entire walk is low steps on timber boardwalk so if you look to see the view / lake you may trip.. so you end up looking at timber boardwalk for most of the walk.
The iconic Cradle Mountain photo spot at Dove Lake
I was going to go to the Unzoo (in Port Arthur area) but it was super expensive. So instead I went to Devils @ Cradle and am glad I did. Apart from walking trails around Cradle Mountain it’s really the only other thing to do in the area. Don’t miss the baby Tassie Devils near the exit – they’re much cuter (and easier to photograph) than the adult ones!
In addition to Tasmanian Devils they also had Quoll’s which were quite hyperactive and cute. It took about 50 photos before I got a decent one that wasn’t blurred!
Accommodation: Cradle Mountain. I stayed at the Cradle Mountain Lodge.
Tip: There are limited food places so during peak holiday season eat outside of normal times (we had dinner at 5pm) to avoid long queues
Day 8 – Stanley & North Coast
It was pissing rain so Stanley would’ve been pointless. We ended up skipping and doing a drive along the coast stopping at Burnie, Penguin (has a really good bakery!) and Deveonport. We then made our way to George Town (out of the way but mum really wanted to go to a craft shop there).
This was an early start and late finish day. It was probably a good thing the weather was terrible as I doubt we’d have been able to fit in Stanley plus sufficient time at all the other places.
View from the Upper Burnie Lookout
Penguin (not much of a town but does have a good bakery… and yes it does have a jumbo Penguin statue..
Mersey Bluff Lookout at Devonport – unfortunately my visit didn’t coincide with one of the Spirit of Tasmania boats coming in to dock
Accommodation: Burnie or Devonport. I have limited annual leave so this was the rush day to fit it all in. If I’d had longer I’d have stayed at Burnie or Devonport.
Day 9 – Launceston
On your way back into Launceston, stop at some of the food places in the Tamar Valley. I recommend the Ashgrove Cheese, Van Diemen’s ice creamery and House of Anvers Chocolate.
On your way back into Launceston be sure to stop at Brady’s Lookout for this view
Accommodation: Launceston. This time I opted for cheaper / farther out and stayed at the Elphin Motel. Spacious room (with separate bedrooms) and there was a Coles across the street
Day 10 – Launceston to Hobart via the Heritage Trail
You may choose to fly out of Launceston today or continue on. If you’re into old buildings, quaint little towns with tree lined streets and lots of sweet shops then you shouldn’t skip the heritage trail!
Some stops along the road that goes through the middle of the island ending back in Hobart:
- Campbell Town
- One of the old houses runs by the National Trust. I chose Clarendon House (grand old mansion)
If you have limited time I’d stop at only Ross and Richmond.
Love it’s tree lined driveway – sadly I was a bit late for the Autumn leaves (visited 3rd week of April)
Ross – my favorite of the towns
Day 11 – Fly out of Hobart
If the flight times didn’t work out the day before, depart this morning (airport is only 15 – 20 min from the CBD) or choose to extend your time in Hobart or explore the other side of Hobart such as the Huon Valley and Bruny Island.
What time of year to visit
- Autumn leaves – visit in April (makes a good use of Easter Public Holidays – this is when I visited). Note Tasmania looks like most of Australia – scrub. The autumn colors were only in the towns
- After Christmas to new year to time the Sydney to Hobart yacht race & Taste of Tasmania Festival plus the lavendar farms in bloom
- Unless you really like the cold, avoid Tasmania in winter – it gets cold. Cradle Mountain walks won’t be much fun in the snow plus you’ll need snow chains on your vehicle
- I travelled with both parents who alternated driving. If you’re travelling solo or only 1 driver you might want to go at a slower pace
- Make sure you check the weather forecast (especially for Cradle Mountain) and know how to use snow chains
- We bailed on the idea of Jacob’s Ladder road – the road just to get to Jacob’s Ladder was bad enough – it’s definitely not for the inexperienced. Driving everywhere else in Tasmania is easy – most is sealed highway
- Bring warm clothes – it was below 10 degrees in April in some parts of the state when I visited!
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