Australia’s island state provides a totally different experience from the mainland. Forget any notions of arid outback – Tasmania is a land of rugged mountains, rolling green hills and raging rivers.
Tasmania is one of the world’s most picturesque islands. About 20% of Tasmania has been designated World Heritage area and another 10% is national park or reserve.
There’s more to Tasmania than the great outdoors, the island state has a fascinating convict past and it was one of the first areas in Australia to be settled by Europeans. Although small, the main cities have a more established feel than elsewhere in Australia. The former penal colony at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula is the state’s most popular tourist attraction and perhaps your best opportunity to gain an understanding of what life was like during the convict days.
Coming & going
Most travellers visit Tasmania via Melbourne, which is the departure point for most flights and ferries.
Flying is generally the quickest and cheapest option, but you can take the ferry if you want to take a car over and avoid car rental.
Although there are some flights from other places like Sydney and Brisbane, the majority of flights to Tasmania depart from Melbourne Airport.
Jetstar fly from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to both Launceston and Hobart; Qantas fly from Melbourne to Devonport, Launceston and Hobart and from Sydney to Hobart; Rex fly from Melbourne to Burnie; Tigerair fly from Melbourne to Hobart and Virgin Australia fly from Melbourne and Sydney to Launceston and from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Hobart.
Many travellers book one-way tickets and fly into one city and out from another.
The Spirit of Tasmania sails between Melbourne and Devonport. It departs Melbourne and Devonport most nights and there are also day sailings during peak periods. Fares are $96–161 one-way per person, higher fares apply for cabin accommodation.
You can take a car or campervan across for $83, higher prices apply if your car is wider than two metres.
It is a good idea to book well ahead as ferries can fill up fast, particularly during long weekends and school holidays.
Tasmania is cut-off from mainland Australia, meaning that transport networks have developed separately to the rest of the country. For instance, apart from tourist railways, there are no regular passenger train services and Greyhound do not operate in Tasmania.
Many travellers choose to rent a car to explore Tassie and this gives you the most freedom, but there is a bus network that offers some good value travel passes.
Bus & coach
Tassielink and Redline are Tasmania’s two main coach operators with scheduled services to most major destinations within the state. This can be a good option for solo travellers who may not be able to justify the cost of car rental.
Both companies meet the Devonport ferry and run services linking Hobart and Launceston. Tassielink has the more extensive route network and is the best option for exploring Tasmania, although Redline has better services to towns on Tasmania’s northern coast.
There are several companies that operate tours aimed at the backpacker market. You may want to consider these if you want to see a lot and your time is limited although they don’t have the flexibility that comes with independent travel. The following companies offer tours of Tasmania:
Adventure Tours operate several excellent tours. Day tours cost $110–135, three-day tours cost $420–475 and the longer six and seven-day tours cost $795–895.
Tours Tasmania, formerly known as Bottom Bits Bus, run day tours from Hobart to Freycinet National Park and the Tasman Peninsula and from Launceston to Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Park; these day tours cost $110–130 ($100–120 HI/YHA, ISIC, VIP).
Under Down Under
Under Down Under Tours operate a good selection of tours that range from one to seven days.
Car rental is by far the most popular transport option in Tasmania. It’s the most flexible way to get around as you’re not tied to bus routes or timetables and it is relatively affordable, particularly if the cost is split among several travellers.
Tasmania’s wilderness is one of its main attractions with thousands of travellers visiting its national parks each year. Entry fees for Tasmanian national parks are $22 per day for a car and up to eight passengers or $12–16.50 per person travelling by bike or public transport.
Most travellers find the Holiday Pass much better value – this allows you to visit national parks throughout the state for up to two months. The Holiday Pass costs $60 for a car and up to eight passengers or $30 per person travelling by bike or public transport.
National Park Passes can be bought at park entry booths, tourist information centres and national park visitor centres.