A 10 day self-drive itinerary from Hobart to Launceston
In March of 2019 I spent 10 days road-tripping from Hobart to Launceston with my fiance and my parents. Sounds like a riot, right? It was actually the perfect family holiday! I can’t think of anywhere better to travel with parents. Tassie is easy to navigate, has a relaxed energy, is ruggedly beautiful, with great food and lots of history. The one challenge to visiting Tassie is planning the itinerary. Most visitors self-drive and need to make accommodation reservations in advance, which means pre-planning most of the trip. Here are some pointers on how to build the itinerary that suits you, plus some details on our travels.
A great resource is the Tasmania Tourism site that have a few suggested itineraries for self driving: www.discovertasmania.com.au
Hobart – Port Arthur – Freycinet – Binalong Bay – Launceston
Suggested add-ons if you have more time:
Cradle Mountain, Bicheno, Bruny Island, Huon Bush Retreats
Who would enjoy this itinerary:
- Nature lovers
- Food and wine lovers
- Active travelers: especially hikers and kayakers
- Those looking for some serenity, rest and relaxation
- Fans of art, history, and culture
Highlights of the trip
- Pristine white-sand beaches.
- Wildlife – we saw birds, kangaroos, wallabies, dolphins and penguins.
- Hobart – what a vibrant city!
- The food – especially seafood.
- The wine – there are many great wineries around Tassie.
- MONA – The Museum of Old & New in Hobart is remarkable.
Tips for building your perfect itinerary
- Figure out how long have, there’s no such thing as too much time in Tassie! Don’t rush it or book many 1 night stays.
- A 4WD is a bonus for reaching remote regions, there are many dirt roads.
- Figure out what’s most important to see on the trip and build from there (beaches, forests, hikes, historic sites, wineries?)
- Pick one region if you have 10 days or less (instead of trying to see the whole island).
- Try not to plan drives longer than 3-4 hours, for a relaxed pace.
- You do not need to do a round trip. To save time you can pick up and drop off the rental car in different cities.
Hobart – 3 nights
Hobart is an incredible city where I wish we had spent more time. I was shocked by how vibrant it was. Patrons were spilling out onto the streets from the many bars and restaurants, and there’s live music everywhere. There’s an outdoor market every Friday, which we stumbled upon and were impressed with the live band and delicious vendors. We stayed at the MAC Q01, the world’s first storytelling hotel. It’s on the pier with great views and unique design. It has more personality than most luxury hotels and it’s worth the splurge, especially for a harbour view. If you can’t stay at the MAC Q01 visit their cocktail lounge, Evolve Spirits, for a drink. It’s themed around a collection of fossils and includes a full cave bear skeleton.
A full day of any trip to Hobart will centre around a visit to MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. Whether you like museums or not, this cannot be missed. It’s one of the most unique galleries in the world, from the architecture to the ever changing art, the boat trip to get there and the excellent restaurants, brewery and winery on site.
Hobart is a food and wine destination and there are many great restaurants. A meal at Franklin was one of our highlights. Be sure to make a reservation to enjoy some natural wine and a medley of creative, small plates. For a more casual meal or drink, visit Preachers and have a seat on the patio, or inside the vintage school bus. You can easily make a day of visiting wineries, there are many quality options close to Hobart. Some of the best include Frogmore Creek, Duck Pond, Riversdale Estate, Pooley’s and Stefano Lubiano, who specialize in sparkling. Tasmania has become known as one of the best regions for sparkling wine, outside of Champagne.
As we only had 3 nights, we didn’t have time for a visit to Bruny Island, which I regret. If you have enough time, do a day trip or an overnight to Bruny. It has many cute eateries and even a winery but it’s most famous for its scenery and wildlife. Check out:
There are also a few beautiful Kayak tours for when the weather is cooperating.
Must see: MONA, MONA, MONA! Wineries, Bruny Island
Stay: Mac Q01 or Henry Jomes Art Hotel
Eat & Drink: Franklin for fine dining, Preachers for casual pub fare with a great patio.
Port Arthur – 1 night
Port Arthur is a UNESCO world heritage listed convict settlement and was also an infamous prison. Most visitors spend 1 to 2 days in Port Arthur to visit the site. It’s famed for the ghost tour and offers many creative activities, like the ‘Escape from Port Arthur’. The introductory guided tours are free, 40 minutes in length and essential to get a feeling for the history and significance of the buildings. We visited for one day, after which we enjoyed a nice dinner at the Port Arthur restaurant, 1830. After dinner, we did the ghost tour, which was very spooky with dramatic storytelling. Unfortunately, there were gale-force winds, so it was freezing walking outside in the dark. Unless you are a history buff, one day and night is likely enough time to explore the site and surrounds.
Must see: Port Arthur Historic Site (especially the ghost tour)
Stay: Stewarts Bay Lodge or Harper’s on the Beach
Eat & Drink: 1830 Restaurant & Bar at Port Arthur Historic Site
Freycinet – 2 nights
Wineglass Bay in Freycinet is one of the most iconic images of Tasmania. Freycinet is a tiny coastal town famous for its beaches, hikes and wild beauty. The Wineglass Bay/Hazard’s Beach loop is the most popular trail as it offers spectacular views. From the lookout, take the extra time to hike down to Hazards Beach, one of the most pristine beaches I have ever seen. Freycinet is pretty sleepy, so we enjoyed the panoramic views from our beach house most evenings. Freycinet Marine Farm is a great seafood market, where we bought local seafood to make dinner in the evenings. The Bay at Freycinet Lodge is also a beautiful spot for a drink or a meal.
If you are looking for something really special, book yourself into Saffire Freycinet. The resort is all-inclusive luxury and visitors have top quality food and alcohol included in their stay. Unfortunately, you cannot visit for a meal at their exceptional restaurant unless you’re a guest. We were lucky enough to have lunch there. It was beyond amazing, with excellent wine, local cheeses, and local seafood. I had Scarlett prawns, which are very rare and flavourful. Saffire has to be up there with the best hotels in the world, the views are breathtaking and there is even a Tasmanian devil sanctuary on the grounds.
Must see: Wineglass Bay/Hazards Beach Circuit (3-4 hours)
Stay: Saffire for all inclusive luxury. Otherwise, rent a beach house!
Eat & Drink: The Bay at Freycinet Lodge, Geographe for coffee & casual food. Freycinet Marine Farm for fresh seafood, eat in or takeaway.
Binalong Bay/Bay of Fires – 3 nights
We stopped for lunch at Bicheno on the way to Binalong Bay. Bicheno has a nice harbour and lots of cute shops and is quite lively compared to some of the other towns. It’s worth a visit if you have the time. We weren’t too impressed with St Helens, the biggest town near the Bay of Fires. We were very happy to be staying in the MUCH smaller area of Binalong Bay, which consists of one restaurant and cafe, owned by the people who rented us our beach house. Our home was gorgeous with panoramic ocean views, overlooking a long beach, which was great for long walks but a bit chilly for swimming. It’s very secluded here but we enjoyed a tasty pizza dinner with ocean views at Lichen one night and cooked at our beach house the other nights. There are some cool bars in St Helens, a 15-minute drive away. Binalong Bay is the closest area to the Bay of Fires, famous for lichen-covered rocks, crystal water, and white sand beaches. The highlight was watching dolphins, penguins, and pelicans playing at sunset. It’s so tranquil, you feel as though you have stumbled upon a lost paradise.
Must see: Bay of Fires
Stay: Rent a beach house!
Eat & Drink: Lichen Restaurant & Cafe
Launceston – 1 night
Launceston is a good starting or ending point for your self-drive journey around Tassie. It has an airport with direct flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and is a hub for car rental companies. It’s a cute city with a historic centre and waterfront walk, beyond that there really isn’t too much to do. Locals, don’t hate me, but it was my least favourite stop on the trip. It’s a convenient place to drop your rental car and get a flight home, but beyond that I wouldn’t recommend allocating much time here. We had a quick beer at the James Boags brewery, who do offer tours.
I didn’t give Launceston a fair go as we didn’t have much time there. Some of the highlights include making sparkling wine at Josef Chromy, hiking Cataract Gorge, or sampling the abundance of great restaurants around the small city. It has some world-class food and drink options!
To do: Walk Cataract Gorge, make your own sparkling at Josef Chromy
Stay: The Sebel or Peppers Seaport Hotel.
Eat & Drink: James Boags Brewery, Stillwater, Geronimo
Tasmania is an island of wine, farm to table cuisine, history, art, beaches, bush walks, vistas, boats, and friendly locals. What’s not to love?!