It’s a bit of a toss-up as to what’s the biggest attraction on the Apple Isle’s spectacular east coast, between the natural beauty of its beaches and forests, the rich history of its past or its abundant fresh produce. Why not have all three on a leisurely three-day drive from Hobart to Launceston?
Day 1: Hobart to Port Arthur
1hr 31mins | 101km
There’s a lot going on in Australia’s southernmost capital. Top of your hit list should be what is possibly the nation’s most eccentric art gallery, the Museum of Old and New Art or MONA. It’s only 11km out of town, but it’s a much more pleasant way to ride on MONA’s camouflaged (don’t ask) ferry up the Derwent River.
Image source: Museum of Old and New Art Facebook
The Salamanca Market is also worth a look if you’re in the area. It’s on every Saturday (8.30am-3pm) on the historic waterfront with all the usual suspects – art, craft, food, fresh local produce, music. Also check out the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens – Australia’s second-oldest – to learn all about the hardy Huon pine, unique to Tasmania.
There’s no shortage of good spots to eat on the waterfront including The Drunken Admiral and the Lower Deck at Mures for seafood and Ball & Chain Grill for a quality local steak. Cafes are everywhere including Pilgrim Coffee and Honey Badger Dessert Cafe.
Image source: The Drunken Admiral Facebook
Follow the Tasman Highway out of Hobart and across the Tasman Bridge to Sorell, known for its delicious fruit. After grabbing some fruit at Sorell Fruit Farm, turn onto the Arthur Highway headed for Port Arthur. Stretch your legs at Eaglehawk Neck and if you’re up to venturing further into the Tasman National Park, an hour’s hike or a short drive will get you to the spectacular Tasman Arch, Blowhole and Devils Kitchen. Nature doesn’t get much more ruggedly imposing than this.
The World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site is a sprawling penal settlement dating back to 1833 (the prison was built in 1853). Australia’s most intact convict site, many of the buildings are in good repair and tours (starting at 9am daily) give visitors a feel for how harsh and brutal life here was for those early convicts. Make sure to take a short boat ride to the penal cemetery on the Isle of the Dead. Site entry tickets cover two consecutive days, so you can stay locally at the NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park and absorb the area at your leisure.
The NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park at Stewarts Bay State reserve was awarded the Gold Medal in the 2017 Tasmanian Tourism Awards and was a finalist in the 2018 Australian Tourism Awards. Surrounded by lush forests and unique Australian wildlife, you can relax in your own tent or one of the incredible waterview cabins.
Day 2: Port Arthur to Freycinet
3hr | 206km
Drive back up the peninsula to Copping where you can turn right onto Kellevie Road, which takes you through the forest and the hamlet of Nugent to join the Tasman Highway at Buckland. Stay on the highway through Orford to the port of Triabunna.
Driving along the coast with vistas over Great Oyster Bay towards Freycinet Peninsula and the Hazards, the next stop is Swansea, one of Tasmania’s oldest towns. The Bark Mill Tavern, Bakery and Museum is a good one-stop shop for food for thought and lunch/afternoon tea, while Kate’s Just Desserts offers coffee, delicious scones with jams made from her Berry Farm produce plus handmade chocolates.
Image source: Kates Berry Farm
Follow Coles Bay Road along the shores of the Moulting Lagoon Game Reserve past Freycinet Marine Farm, which harvests Pacific oysters, blue mussels, abalone and scallops daily. Eat some there or take your “catch” away.
Slightly down the road is the entrance to Freycinet National Park. The granite peaks of the Hazards provide a dramatic backdrop to bluer-than-blue bays. Stroll on the postcard-perfect white sands of Wineglass Bay or go for a hike. There are wallabies everywhere and you might be lucky enough to sight a white-bellied sea eagle – or a southern right or humpback whale.
Day 3: Freycinet to Launceston
2hr 9min | 167km
Rejoin the Tasman Highway north of Apslawn and head for the coast to the fishing and holiday town of Bicheno. Bicheno has a blowhole and great diving offshore in the Governor Island Marine Reserve if your heart desires a scenic detour.
60km north to Chain of Lagoons is where you turn inland onto the A4 to climb over Elephant Pass. Reward yourself with a pile of Mount Elephant Pancakes – “the best in Australia” – at the top of the pass. From the old coalmining town of St Marys, follow the A4 through the bucolic farmland of the Fingal Valley beside the South Esk River to hit the Midland Highway just south of Cleveland.
Image source: Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery Facebook
From here, it’s onto Launceston. Depending on your cultural needs, check out the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery or the James Boag Brewery – which offers tours, tastings, and lunch. Have a relaxed stroll around Cataract Gorge just 15 minutes from town or keep driving north for a few minutes to get intimately acquainted with the wine, cheese, fruit, salmon, truffles, olives – offerings of the Tamar Valley, which stretches 50km from Launceston to the coast.
NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park
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