Lately I have come across many friends who are taking holidays in Tasmania. They always ask me to recommend interesting places to visit, and for tips that only Tasmanians would know. Here are the places I would include if I was doing a driving tour of the island. Don’t expect to sit in the car for long periods of time – there is lots to see along the way! I’ll start with Launceston and head clockwise. Also you should visit a great website www.think-tasmania.com
Launceston: A beautiful old-fashioned town where two rivers meet, full of Victorian and Georgian architecture. Visit the Cataract Gorge Cliff Grounds, where you can walk along a narrow winding walkway that takes you high above the river and through the Victorian pleasure gardens where peacocks roam freely, and down into the manicured lawns surrounding the swimming pools. There is a 1970s chairlift that is the second longest single span chair lift in the world, which you can ride from one side of the gorge to the other. There is a restaurant and a cafe in the grounds. Wander around the Old Launceston Seaport, visiting Ritchie’s Mill and the Penny Royal. For fine dining, make a reservation at Stillwater, located on the water. In town, for a cafe meal, try Fresh on Charles St. Visit Fullers Bookstore on St John St, where my novel Bay of Fires was launched! Go to the City Park and see the monkey’s and the ducks.
Hadspen: Stay a night at the Red Feather Inn. You won’t regret visiting this historic and beautiful old inn.
Mole Creek Caves: See these. Also visit the Mole Creek Wildlife Park to see a devil.
Evandale: A lovely little town – and nearby is Clarendon Homestead, a National Trust property that will appeal to all ages. It’s a beautiful old stately home that you can wander through.
Low Head: To get to Low Head, drive north-east from Launceston for 45 minutes. Stop in George Town, at Belle’s Tea Room, for a quaint Devonshire Tea overlooking the bay. Low Head is a an pilot station, built to guide ships through the treacherous Tamar River entry. It has a lighthouse and picturesque white-washed cottages with red roofs. Park your car and walk around some of the pretty little beaches – it won’t take long!
Bridport: Stop for lunch or great coffee at Jasper Cafe. There is also a famous golf course in Bridport.
Derby: A tin mining town, where tiny homes cling to the steep bank of the river.
Gould’s Country: If you have time, explore this ghost town. I haven’t been there for a long time – so let me know what it is like.
Columbus Falls: Located in the Pyengana Dairy Country area, this is a great little bush walk for lazy people, or for people with kids. It doesn’t take long. There is the famous Pub in the Paddock for post-bushwalk meals, and I recommend stopping at the Pyengana Cheese Factory for a coffee, lunch or to buy some of their great cheeses, or a tasteful souvenir such as a Tasmanian wood cheese board.
St Helens: Have a counter meal at the Bayview Inn. This pub has not changed since I was a kid. It’s retro and cool. Great steak. Or buy some fish and chips down at the wharf and watch the cray boats coming in with their catch.
Binalong Bay: Best beaches in the world. A little coffee shop which I always visit, overlooking the ocean. Sometimes the returning Sydney-to-Hobart yachts stop here for a rest on their way home. There is accommodation here too – and it is the closest entry point to the stunning Bay of Fires Conservation Area.
Elephant Pass Pancake Parlour: Risk carsickness and drive up this narrow, winding road to devour pancakes.
Bicheno: Be blown away by the blow hole.
Spiky Bridge: Located near Swansea, between Buckland and Bicheno, this 1843 bridge was built by convicts. Long, spiky stones were inserted into the stone rails of the bridge so the convicts could not sit down when they were supposed to be working, according to local lore.
Freycinet: For a more challenging bushwalk, walk into Wineglass Bay. Queen Elizabeth II moored her boat here for a luncheon on the Royal Yacht Brittania when she visited Tasmania in the 1990s. Pack your lunch and plenty of water.
Hobart: The state’s capital – stay for a few days. Visit controversial art gallery Mona and the Cascades Female Factory where the female convicts worked, drive out to Port Arthur, spend a morning wandering around Battery Point, and drive out to explore the Tessellated Pavement on the Tasman Peninsula – take a picnic and let the kids explore the rockpools.
Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs: We used to go here when we were kids. Pack your bathers! The caves are spectacular too.
Maria Island: This island houses the Darlington Probation Station, a relic of the convict era. It also has lovely walks.
Ross: One of the finest colonial towns in Tasmania.
Strahan: A perfect little town. It’s a beautiful drive from Hobart through the Wild Rivers National Park to get to Strahan. Once you arrive, take a cruise on Macquarie Harbour and see the stunning Gates of Hell, the last thing convicts saw before they were incarcerated for the term of their imprisonment. This former convict settlement has a dark history of murder, brutality and cannibalism. A Gordon River cruise is a must. Explore the wilderness areas of the west coast from Strahan.
Cradle Mountain: There is a range of accommodation up here, and hikes for all abilities. Walk around the lake, hire a canoe, hike, sit beside a fire and sip wine while you admire the most stunning wilderness you’ll ever see.
Northern towns: I haven’t been to the north-west for a long time. Stanley Nut is an icon, Marrawah is remote and has awesome surf, and there are plenty of lovely beaches.