Road Trip – Tasmania: Background Info + Planning Our Visit

Road Trip - Tasmania: Background Info + Planning Our Visit -- Em Dashed

Tasmania is Australia’s smallest and only island state. It’s named for the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman — a guy who managed to get like 47 world features named after him despite hightailing it outta New Zealand as soon as the Maori showed their faces. (Fun fact: according to Wikipedia, the spot on NZ’s South Island now called “Golden Bay” was initially deemed “Murderer’s Bay” by Tasman. Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word.)

Anyway, after spending six months working in Melbourne, Tasmania was the natural next stop on our Australia adventure. We spent most of our time there on a road trip around the island, topped off by a couple of days in the state’s capital, Hobart.

Kangaroo feeding at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in Tasmania

This post is kind of a monster, so I’m splitting it into two parts. Part one will focus on the background info (the how, when, and why), while part two will cover our actual itinerary. If you just want to know where we went, you can skip the first and head straight to the second.

Quick Facts

• Time spent in Tasmania: 10 nights
• Transport used: Rented campervan
• Kilometers covered: 1,085
• Accommodation used: Mostly camping, with a few nights in a hostel in Hobart
• Places Visited: Tasman National Park; Port Arthur; Freycinet National Park; Bay of Fires; Liffey Falls; Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park; Hobart.

Getting to Tasmania

We flew from Melbourne to Hobart, which takes around 75 minutes. You can also fly into Launceston, Tasmania’s second-largest city, though there are slightly fewer flights per day than there are to Hobart.

Another option is the ferry, which departs from Melbourne and arrives in the northern town of Devonport. That takes much longer (around nine hours) but is necessary if you want to bring your own vehicle from the mainland to Tassie. For more info, see the Spirit of Tasmania’s website here.

Barefoot on the rocks at Bay of Fires, east coast of Tasmania

How Long to Visit

One of the most useless questions re: travel recommendations is, “How much time will I need?”

Well, let’s see. How much time do you have? How much time do you take? What phase is the moon in? How do you drink your coffee? Do you see where I’m going with this?

That all being said, there is one time-related travel tip I consider useful: take how many days you want, and add two. The day you get there doesn’t count, nor does the day you leave. Just throw them out the window right now (and thank me later).

We actually spent 11 days in Tasmania; but using my “system,” that boils down to nine full “real days,” or a little over a week. This worked out well for us, though there are a couple of thing worth noting.

One: this was late April in the coldest part of the country. In summer weather, it might be worth sticking around a bit longer.

Two: Tasmania is really all about the great outdoors, and I’m not exactly a Girl Scout. (I actually was in Girl Scouts back in the day, but the closest we got to practicing “survival skills” was running out of Thin Mints at the cookie sale.) Nine days was plenty for me; you wilderness-type folk might prefer more.

TL;DR: I’d suggest at least a week.

Liffey Falls in Tasmania, Australia

Renting a Campervan + Driving in Tasmania

We rented from Tassie Motor Shacks, and had a great experience with them overall: friendly service, everything in proper working order, and no issues to speak of. They also provided transport from our accommodation to the rental office, and back again after we returned the rental (always a nice touch).

We chose a campervan because it was too cold to be tent camping, for us and most people who aren’t Arctic champions. As it was, we just about froze our buns off overnight. The rental fees and fuel costs are higher than renting a car, of course; still, between national parks and free camping, I think we shaved a few bucks off our total cost. Camping in the national parks is far cheaper than in holiday/caravan parks, especially if you plan on visiting those anyway and purchase a pass. (See note on National Parks below.) There are also several places around Tassie to do free camping, so bring or buy a shovel* if you want to take advantage of this. (Our rental company thoughtfully provided one for us.)

Driving after dark is highly discouraged throughout Australia. If you’re traveling in the summer, that probably won’t hinder you too much (light lasts till 10pm in December); but during our trip, that meant we had until about 4pm to reach our destination before sunset. If you plan on covering a lot of ground in a short time, you’ll want to get an early start and plan accordingly.

In general, I would recommend planning short distances per day, to give yourself time for any unexpected delays and, of course, plenty of spontaneous stops or detours.

* Yes, that’s to dig a hole for your poo. Make sure you know how to properly dispose of your waste if you plan on camping in areas without toilets!

Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park in Tasmania

Tasmania’s National Park Pass

Tasmania is home to 19 National Parks, covering around 45% of its land area. If you plan on visiting a few — whether to hike, camp, or for any other reason — it might be worth purchasing a National Park Pass. As an example, the “Holiday Pass” gives you unlimited entry to all of the parks for 8 weeks at a cost of $30 per person or $60 per vehicle — actually a bargain when you consider the per-person day entry fee is $12.

You can learn more about the different passes available and how to purchase them here.

Sunrise at Bay of Fires, Tasmania

Now that we’ve got that outta the way: let’s hit the road already! I’ll see you in part two.

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