Tasmania packs a lot into an island that’s only about the size of West Virginia: dreamy white sand beaches, hidden waterfalls, dense rainforests, rare wildlife, remnants of convict history, and one of the world’s most distinctive art museums. Intrigued? Start planning your trip with this list of the best things to do in Tasmania.
Most visitors to Tasmania will start in Hobart, its attractive capital city. Get an overview of the island’s history, culture, and wildlife at the free Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which displays everything from local Tasmanian art to an exhibit on the now-extinct thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger. For more avant-garde offerings, venture by car or ferry out to the one-of-a-kind Museum of Old and New Art, where the displays are designed to provoke—in more ways than one. If you’re in town on a Saturday, don’t miss the colorful stalls of Salamanca Market, brimming with local foods and gifts.
Other things to do in Hobart include Australia’s oldest operating brewery, a former factory for female convicts, and Mawson’s Hut Replica Museum, where you can see what it’s like to live in an early-20th-century hut in Antarctica. And don’t miss the incredible views over the city from the peak of kunanyi/Mount Wellington.
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Mt. Field National Park
Tasmania’s first national park is also one of its easiest to reach, located only about an hour’s drive from Hobart. Start your visit with the short, wheelchair-accessible trail to Russell Falls, which cascades down three tiers through a lush temperate rainforest. From there you can return by the same path or continue on to the Tall Trees path to peer up at massive swamp gum trees that have been growing for centuries.
Continue deeper into the park along the road to Lake Dobson, where you can pursue a number of other walking trails of various lengths. One highlight for fitter hikers is the Tarn Shelf trail, which passes several scenic mountain lakes and is particularly beautiful in the autumn.
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The little town of Stanley is located on a remote peninsula in the far northwest of Tasmania—but it’s well worth the drive. Its main landmark is The Nut, a hulking rock formation that was once an active volcano (but is now safely extinct). To enjoy coastal views from the top, you can make the short but steep climb to the summit or hop aboard a chairlift.
The town is also home to a number of historic buildings, including Highfield Historic Site (an early-19th-century farm built with convict labor) and Joe Lyons Cottage, the house where Tasmania’s only prime minister was born. See more on the self-guided Stanley Heritage Walk.
You’ll find a couple of the best things to do in Tasmania for animal lovers right here in Stanley. Take a 75-minute voyage with Stanley Seal Cruises to see Australian fur seals, or head at dusk to the viewing platform at Godfrey’s Beach to see little penguins come ashore.
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Maria Island National Park
One of the most fun things to do in Tasmania is to visit this unique island sanctuary off the east coast, accessible only by ferry. As you hike the trails and beaches, keep an eye out for wildlife such as wombats, kangaroos, echidnas, and Tasmanian devils, many of whom have been brought to this island to protect them from danger elsewhere in Tasmania.
One popular hiking trail leads across grasslands and along beaches to the colorful limestone formations known as the Painted Cliffs; another leads to dramatic views from the Bishop and Clerk Peaks. You can also go snorkeling in the Maria Island Marine Reserve or walk through the remains of Darlington Township, a former convict station.
Most visitors come to Maria Island for the day, but if you want a deeper look, join the Maria Island Walk for four days of relaxed hiking and wildlife watching.
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Bay of Fires
This conservation area on Tasmania’s east coast protects one of the island’s most stunning stretches of white sand beach. The area runs from Eddystone Point to Binalong Bay and was named after the Aboriginal fires spotted on shore by an English navigator as he explored the coast in 1773. The beaches here are best known for the large granite boulders carpeted with a fiery red-orange layer of lichen.
In addition to swimming, sunbathing, and strolling along the beach, you can also explore the area by boat with Bay of Fires Eco Tours.
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Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
This popular national park is home to Tasmania’s most iconic landmark: Cradle Mountain, which looms over the serene waters of Dove Lake below. Hiking options in the park range from easy to epic. Less taxing options include the two-hour Dove Lake Circuit and a boardwalk stroll along Ronny Creek to see wombats, while more serious hikers can tackle the full-day climb to the top of Cradle Mountain or the six-day, 40-mile Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair.
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Port Arthur Historic Site
Australia’s best-preserved convict settlement, Port Arthur is one of the top Tasmania attractions for visitors interested in colonial history. The staff help bring the site’s stories and historic figures to life through a variety of tours and experiences, including a ghost tour, a harbor cruise, and a walk through the cemetery where more than 1,000 convicts and others were buried. The site covers 100 acres and dozens of houses, buildings, and gardens; a shuttle is available for those with mobility issues.
Love animals? Consider a side trip to the nearby Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, where you can see kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, bandicoots, and—of course—Tasmanian devils in a setting that’s less restrictive to the animals than a traditional zoo.
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Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
There are several ways to access this wet, wild, western Tasmania national park, known for its dense rainforest and rugged mountain peaks. In Strahan, you can hop aboard a World Heritage Cruises boat for a scenic ride along the Gordon River, with stops to visit convict sites and walk through part of the national park. For a longer, more adrenaline-fueled boat ride, consider an eight- to 10-day whitewater adventure through the national park with Franklin River Rafting.
Those looking to hike in the park have plenty of options, including several short walks off the Lyell Highway, which crosses through the park from east to west. The walk to Nelson Falls takes just 20 minutes round-trip and leads to a stunning waterfall hidden away in the rainforest. For a great view, take the trail to Donaghys Lookout and cast your eyes over Frenchmans Cap and the Franklin River Valley.
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Bruny Island is a popular day trip from Hobart for travelers seeking a mix of beautiful natural landscapes and great local food. Eat and drink your way down the island at spots like Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Company, Bruny Island Honey, Bruny Island Premium Wines, Get Shucked Oyster, and Bruny Island Chocolate Company.
In between food stops, take in the views from the Neck lookout, the rocky cliffs of the Fluted Cape Trail, and the Cape Bruny Lighthouse at the southwestern tip of the island. Keep an eye out for endemic wildlife such as penguins, seals, swift parrots, and rare white wallabies.
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Freycinet National Park
There’s a reason that Freycinet is one of Tasmania’s most popular national parks, and it’s not just its proximity to Hobart (about a two-hour drive). The centerpiece of the park is Wineglass Bay, a pristine crescent of coarse white sand accessible via a hiking trail with more than 1,000 steps. (Those who aren’t up for the hike can enjoy bay and beach views with Wineglass Bay Cruises.)
Elsewhere in Freycinet, you can take a walk along the Friendly Beaches, go sea kayaking in Coles Bay, or take the wheelchair-accessible path to Cape Tourville Lighthouse for sweeping views along the Freycinet Peninsula’s rocky coast.
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More from SmarterTravel:
- Getting Back to Nature in Tasmania, Australia
- Tasmania Passport Requirements: Do I Need a Passport?
- Top 25 Ways to Save on Australia Travel
Sarah Schlichter was hosted by Intrepid Travel on her trip to Tasmania. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.
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