COAST TO COAST ROAD TRIP
Set the cruise control then set off on a scenic road trip from coast to coast.
Skip breakfast, for good reason, and head straight to the city for a Gourmania Food Tour. This four-hour walking taste-test will guide you through the best locally made cheeses, cool-climate wines, seafood, charcuterie and ice-cream – as well as Hobart’s architectural and historical hot-spots.
If there’s room for lunch get something light and spicy at the Chulo café. ‘Chulo’ is Mexican slang for ‘cute’ and this little eatery is the permanent residence of Hobart’s first food truck, TacoTaco. Grab a house-made bagel, or the pulled pork huevos rancheros for a more substantial bite.
Switch gears in the afternoon and wander the incredible collections at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Between them, the gallery and its herbarium reveal the state's geological history, the mysterious story of the Tasmanian tiger and more than 140,800 flowering plants.
Check into your Hobart accommodation for the next two nights.
Extend the day’s foodie theme into dinner at the Roaring Grill in North Hobart. Feast on Wagyu beef from Robbins Island or oysters from Bruny Island, and cap things off with a local beer, wine or cider.
Hobart and surrounds
You've had a taste-test, now head behind the scenes and meet some of the farmers, growers, viticulturists and distillers who make up Hobart's food community. A day trip with Herbaceous Tours will introduce you to the people behind the city's best ice-cream, whisky, abalone, olive oil and cheese.
Hopefully you didn't over-indulge at breakfast because the city-based itinerary includes Valhalla Ice-Cream, the dockside base of Mures Fishing and a tasting at Lark Distillery – plus visits to Boks Bacon and Tas Live Abalone. Further afield you’ll head to Ashley McCoy’s Wicked Cheese Co in the village of Richmond, Stefano Lubiano Wines vineyard on the Derwent River and the 600-tree Renaissance Olives farm on the alluvial flats north of Hobart.
Lunch is, of course, included.
At dusk, make your way to the historic Sullivans Cove for a dinner of sustainably caught seafood at Mures Upper Deck. If you didn't indulge earlier, you might want to finish the day with locally distilled single malt.
Hobart to Port Arthur
Drive down to the southern tip of Norfolk Bay (takes about an hour) to meet the state's most famous marsupials at Taranna’s Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park. Join the kangaroo and quoll feeding tour, then order some human fuel (coffee) in the café that overlooks the Pinot Noir vineyard.
Now switch the radar from devils to spirits. Ghost sightings have been a regular occurrence at the Port Arthur Historic Site since the 1870s. They mainly appear during the lantern-lit night time tours though, so you’re assured a spectre-free morning exploring the heritage-listed buildings and ruins – or cruising to the Isle of the Dead and its early settler cemetery.
Break for lunch at the Port Café, then set out for William McHenry and Sons – Australia's southern-most boutique whisky distillery. The area's moist, chilly climate and the spring water that flows off Mount Arthur provide ideal conditions for making (not to mention tasting) award-winning single malts.
Check into your Port Arthur accommodation.
Locally sourced oysters, quail and rabbit feature on the seasonal menus at Felons Restaurant – a convenient dinner spot for anyone heading back to the Port Arthur Historic Site for a ghost tour.
Port Arthur to Coles Bay
After a two and a half hour drive to Swansea, stop at Kate’s Berry Farm for a sweet treat. This 10 acre property overlooking Great Oyster Bay is carpeted with cool-climate-loving fruits. Eat them fresh at the café with waffles and then take some away as jam.
For lunch, walk down to the Swansea shore and order some seafood chowder at Saltshaker Restaurant, right on the waterfront.
In the afternoon you'll be heading for the hills – specifically Freycinet Vineyard, to sample one of Australia's best-loved Pinot Noirs. Freycinet was among the first commercial wineries to take up a property on Tasmania's east coast, and they've got a prime valley view to prove it.
Check into your Coles Bay accommodation for the next two nights.
Late afternoon is perfect for a rambling road trip through Freycinet National Park and a stroll along the white-sand beaches. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, eat an al fresco dinner of wood-fired pizza and seafood at Tombolo Freycinet. Nature enthusiast’s note: you’ll have a sweeping view of the Hazards. Coffee enthusiasts note: they serve Tasmanian-roasted Villino beans.
Freycinet and surrounds
The Freycinet Morning Paddle from Freycinet Adventures is as refreshing as it sounds – a leisurely kayak tour of Coles Bay. That’s roughly two hours of kayaking with a one-hour well-deserved refreshment break on Muir’s Beach. Then bundle into a 4WD for a camera-friendly trip to South Friendly Beach, where an expanse of white sand meets orange-lichen covered rocks against the red granite backdrop of the headlands.
Turn up for a shucked lunch at the Freycinet Marine Farm (bordered by the Pelican Bay bird sanctuary), and choose from Pacific oysters, native oysters and Tasmanian Blue Mussels grown in both estuary and marine environments.
Then stretch out your kayak muscles in the afternoon on the Cape Tourville walk – a 20-minute, one-kilometre loop around one of Tasmania’s first lighthouses. From the boardwalk you can survey the perfect curve of Wineglass Bay and The Nuggets (also known as giant granite rocks in the ocean).
Dinner can be had at Edge of the Bay, another waterfront restaurant with views of Oyster Bay, Coles Bay and the striking Hazards peaks. Make a mental note to return one day to spot wildlife across the property’s 27 wooded acres.
Freycinet to Bicheno
Grab a coffee then hit the coast to Bicheno. Stop at the Gulch (on the waterfront opposite Govenor Island) and book a marine-life spotting trip in Bicheno's Glass Bottom Boat. Or walk a little way south to The Blowhole. You can’t miss it – with the right ocean swell, the water shoots 20 metres into the air.
Continuing the morning’s liquid theme, there are gorges and waterfalls to be explored in the nearby Douglas-Aspey National Park. Or crane your neck in front of the world's tallest white gums (up to 91 metres) at nearby Evercreech Forest Reserve.
Heading back towards Bicheno, it’s hard to miss East Coast Nature World – a 150-acre stretch of parklands and lagoons packed with Tasmanian wildlife. Eat your lunch in the company of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo or two at the Wildspot Café.
Check into your Bicheno accommodation.
But don’t be late for the Bicheno Penguin Tour. The little guys turn up promptly at dusk, waddling across to their seaside rookery. Check the daily timetable for estimated tuxedo arrival.
For dinner in Bicheno, Pasinis Café is a lively Italian café, deli and wine bar. For those not watching the penguins, happy hour happens from 4pm until 6pm.
Bicheno to St Helens
This morning brings a palate cleanser, south of the village of Scamander at Eureka Fruit Farm. Depending on the season, the tastable crop from their 3,000-tree orchard can include apples, pears, apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, grapefruit, nuts and olives.
Next: a road trip north to the farming region of Pyengana, where the Healey family has been operating the Pyengana Dairy Company for four generations. In the world of cheese, the Healey’s are celebrities – especially for their cloth-bound cheddar, a best-seller since the early 1900s.
If you have any room left, order a country lunch at the Pub in the Paddock. As well as being the permanent home of a beer-loving pig called Pinky, it's one of the state's oldest taverns – licensed since 1880!
Drive coastward and check into your St Helens accommodation.
Spend the afternoon exploring the bay before ambling over to the Blue Shed restaurant. It's the only place on the east coast licensed to collect scale fish, southern rock lobster and oysters from local fishermen and retail to the public – so ordering these is almost compulsory.
St Helens to Launceston
Wake up bright and early for a drive to Launceston. After that you can let Pepperbush Adventures make all of your decisions. Your hosts are seventh-generation Tasmanians, so inside tips are guaranteed.
Okay there's actually one more decision to make – which tour? Choose from a cool-climate winery jaunt through the Tamar Valley; an alpine walk among the dolerite columns at Ben Lomond National Park; a relaxing day of trout fishing in the north-east; or a visit to the spectacular Meander Valley – home to Tassie devils and Marakoopa caves. This last tour includes an afternoon spent on ‘Quoll patrol’ – spotting the little marsupial in its natural habitat. In all cases, an appropriate bush tucker-style lunch is provided.
Check into your Launceston accommodation for the next two nights.
Shift gears for dinner at Me Wah Restaurant – multiple winner of Tasmania's Best Asian Restaurant since 1999. Make room for the standout handmade egg noodles with shiitake and abalone braising juices.
Launceston and surrounds
Pull yourself out of bed and start the day with a walk around Cataract Gorge. Just a 15 minute stroll from the city centre, this dramatic river is wild in parts – and you enter via a cliff-face pathway. Save some time to explore the reserve, which includes a café and swimming pool on the river’s southern bank and an exotic fern garden to the north.
Next up and just a 15 minute drive from Launceston, give your legs a rest and zip line through the treetops on a tour of old- and new-growth forest canopies at Hollybank Treetops Adventure. For those who prefer ground-level exploration, there's also a Segway tour of the forest tracks.
After a short drive coastward, lunch can be eaten amid 265 acres of flowers at the Bridestowe Lavender Estate in Nabowla. Then take yourself on a tour of the farm to discover how they harvest so many blooms, not to mention distil them into oils.
Return to the Cataract Gorge for dinner at The Gorge restaurant, on the Esk River's northern bank. There's a log fire in winter, al fresco outdoor dining in summer and a much-loved chocolate ripple vacherin on the dessert menu.
Launceston to Cradle Mountain
Inland, on the slopes of the Great Western Tiers, Liffey Falls is a must-see landmark in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Fringed by rainforests of myrtle, sassafrass and leatherwood, they also smell fantastic. An aromatic start to the day.
Weave your way through the farmlands of the upper Mersey Valley, then adjust your eyes for some glow-worm spotting in Mole Creek's limestone underworld. Tours are available at Marakoopa and King Solomons – two of the largest in the network of 300 caves and sinkholes that make up Mole Creek Karst National Park. Back above ground, grab a hearty homemade lunch at the Mole Creek Hotel.
Drive on to Cradle Mountain and check into your accommodation.
Keep your eye on the clock so you make it to the Tasmanian devil sanctuary, Devils@Cradle, for the 5.30pm feed. These unique marsupials are at their liveliest in the evening, and the feeding tour is a rare chance to observe a group of them in action.
Dinner is at the Grey Gum Restaurant, a serene alpine a la carte destination inside Cradle Mountain Chateau, part of the amazing Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail
Cradle Mountain to Strahan
Named after the last Aztec emperor of Mexico (and also an early Tasmanian mining company), Montezuma Falls near gold-mining town of Rosebery is one of the highest waterfalls in the state. The birdlife is rich in these parts, and best spotted on the rainforest walk beside the historic North East Dundas Tramway.
For lunch drop into any of the local bakeries you’ll find on the way to Queenstown – once the world’s richest mining town. When you arrive make your way to the Queenstown station where you can hop aboard the steam train at the Westcoast Wilderness Railway. This spectacular journey will take you deep into the heritage of the wild West Coast where you’ll be amazed at the tales of deception, swindling and resilience that occurred to the locals living and working in the region.
After your railway journey, head to Strahan.
When you reach Strahan you might be tempted by a long walk along Tasmania’s longest uninterrupted stretch of coastline. A 30-kilometre expanse of sand bordering the Great Southern Ocean from Trial Harbour to Hell’s Gates, Ocean Beach is also a playground for local seals and sea lions.
Check into your Strahan accommodation for the next two nights.
Back by the sea, dine at Risby Cove on the marina at Strahan. Bordered by rainforest, the restaurant also seems to catch the most beautiful sunsets – but don't let this distract you from the main event: delicious Tasmanian produce and local wines.
Strahan and surrounds
Be up early to join World Heritage Cruises on their 35-metre catamaran, The Eagle. You'll depart Strahan Wharf at 9am and cruise Macquarie Harbour, past Hells Gates and the notorious convict prison at Sarah Island. The Eagle is an eco-friendly (not to mention relaxing) way to explore the Gordon River, bordered on each bank by the cold-climate rainforests of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area.
After a buffet lunch on board, you'll disembark mid-afternoon with a probable urge to stretch your sea legs. Strike out on one of Tasmania's 'Great Short Walks', from Strahan's Peoples Park to Hogarth Falls. It's an easy three kilometre route, shaded by some incredible towering gums.
At dusk you'll be back on the water again for The Bonet Island Experience – a twilight cruise to a remote habitat mainly populated by Little Penguins.
Back in town, Hamers Hotel has been busy serving pub dinners since 1936 – and tonight will be no different. These days they put a modern, local cuisine spin on the classic bistro menu, so expect delicacies such as wallaby strip loin and pepperberry relish.
Strahan to Hobart
Drive an hour or so east to Derwent Bridge and its enormous landmark, The Wall in the Wilderness. This is ‘Tassie’s Sistine Chapel’ – the history of Tasmania’s highlands as carved by local sculptor Greg Duncan. Best of all it’s a work-in progress so you'll probably witness the artist in action.
Right now you're a bit under halfway back to Hobart, so it's a good time to fill up on some hearty local fare at the Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel. This might even be an appropriate occasion to attempt their 'King Billy' porterhouse.
Further towards Hobart, take a driving break and do the Russell Falls trek in Mount Field National Park. Okay, 'trek' might be overstating it, but this 20-minute stroll will lead you past stunning Swamp Gums (the tallest flowering plant on Earth) to a waterfall that's described as the most photographed in Tasmania.
Check into your Hobart accommodation.
For dinner, stay close to the city at Ristorante Da Angelo in Battery Point, where you will be served authentic southern Italian fare and offered some Grappa as a traditional digestivo.
Jump out of bed and join one – or both – of the tours on offer at the Cascade Brewery. The 90-minute Brewery Tour will appeal to anyone who’s ever wondered what happens before their favourite brew hits the bottle. The Heritage Tour is a historic overview of the Cascade site and the Woodstock Gardens. Both tours include tastings fresh from the taps.
Now recap your holiday by flying over it again in a Tasmanian Air Adventures seaplane. You can choose from a variety of tours (from 30 minutes to three hours), covering Port Arthur's wild capes, Wineglass Bay and even Cradle Mountain. The shorter Hobart City Scenic tour takes in the Tasman Bridge, the Botanical Gardens, Kingston Beach and Blackmans Bay.
Land on the Derwent River, coast into the marina and walk to lunch at the Cargo Bar Pizza Lounge in Salamanca Place. These pizza specialists have set up their wood-fire oven in a 19th century sandstone building, and they’ll happily serve you a baby abalone or octopus salsa pizza – plus a good local red and some gelati to cap off your holiday.