This is an island where even a wrong turn can lead you in the right direction. Tasmania's compact size, diverse wilderness landscapes and network of roads create superb self-drive touring.
The island has five drive journeys, each with a distinctive character and plenty of flexibility so you can plan an itinerary to suit your interests. Add to that a score of well-defined driving trails deep into island life, exploring convict and industrial history, cool-climate wine regions, northwest produce and the worlds of cider and whisky.
Whether you're looking for a weekend of winery visits or a fortnight of outdoor adventures, it's time to hit the road and start exploring.
Stretching 175 km along Tasmania's east coast and into the hinterland, the Great Eastern Drive spans white sand beaches, bustling fishing ports and sleepy surf towns. Almost a dozen cellar doors offer award-winning cool-climate wines and, for the designated driver, there are fresh berries, an abundance of local seafood and great produce along the way.
Many travellers to the east coast head straight to Freycinet National Park for its superb walks and the world-famous curl of Wineglass Bay. It's not the only national park on the east coast, though. Maria Island National Park is a haven for native wildlife – wombats, wallabies, Tasmanian devils and more – plus fascinating geological and human history. The gorges and waterholes of Douglas-Apsley National Park near Bicheno make it an ideal spot for hiking and swimming.
Head south from Hobart on the Southern Edge drive journey and find a water world of channels, rivers and coastline in easy reach. A drive through the orchards of the Huon Valley reveals why Tasmania is still known as the Apple Isle; this picturesque valley is dotted with friendly country towns, cideries and farm-gate stalls. Continue south to Cockle Creek, the southernmost point you can drive in Australia.
Tasmania's west coast has long been a favourite with locals, who know there are layers of history, unique landscapes and boutique producers to be found along the winding roads. The Western Wilds drive journey reveals some of those hidden treasures to a wider audience.
Travelling west from Hobart, the meandering river bends and rolling farmland of the Derwent Valley give way to the cool-temperate rainforests and glacial peaks of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, before reaching the stark mining landscape of Queenstown. Hear stories of miners and piners at the heritage towns of Zeehan and Strahan, a lively harbourfront town on the edge of wilderness. This is a road trip where the journey is as rewarding as the destination; take your time and enjoy the drive.
Meanwhile, in the island's northwest, you'll be breathing the cleanest air in the world on the Northern Forage drive journey – the remarkable air quality here has been monitored for more than 40 years by scientists at Cape Grim.
That clean air and water, along with plenty of fertile pasture, make this region a food lover's delight; there's nothing better than sampling fresh produce – dairy, honey, berries, beef, seafood, gin and more – in the company of the people who make it.
Central Tasmania is too often experienced as a blur on the highway between Hobart and Launceston. But the Heartlands drive journey is rich in history, and it encourages drivers to slow down to appreciate the beauty and heritage of a region dotted with remarkable country towns and stories.
The path winds through lands traditionally owned by Tasmanian Aboriginal nations, and studded with significant convict-era bridges and farming estates. Add century-old hydro-electric turbines, Australia's first golf course, swashbuckling pioneering tales and good old-fashioned country hospitality.
For more on Tasmania, see discovertasmania.com.au/what-to-do/road-trips
Cradle to coast – a culinary journey
Tasmania's north-west food bowl serves a F&B tour of generous proportions
Follow the bees from leatherwood forests to hives. Take a tour of a hazelnut orchard. Pick your own berries. Hop into a hops garden. Whatever your appetite, choose a theme and plot a course among more than 30 producers on the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail across Tasmania's fertile northwest region.
At 41° South Tasmania, west of Deloraine, take a selfguided tour of a unique man-made wetland supporting a salmon and ginseng farm. Feast on ocean trout and salmon at Petuna Seafoods in Devonport. Continue the seafood frenzy in the fishing village of Stanley, where Hursey Seafoods serves crayfish (and more) just steps from the boats.
The Truffledore at Lower Barrington is billed as "truffle heaven", while those with a sweet tooth might plan a trip to Van Diemens Land Creamery at Elizabeth Town for artisanal ice-cream and gelato. House of Anvers at Latrobe has Belgian-style chocolate, and Blue Hills Honey near the takayna/Tarkine wilderness, is renowned for its forest honey.
Those interested in wine and spirits can stop at cellar doors at Ghost Rock Wines (Northdown), La Villa Wines (Spreyton) and 3 Willows Vineyard (Red Hills). Try cider squeezed from top apples and pears at Spreyton Cider Co, craft beers at Seven Sheds boutique brewery in Railton or reach for the top shelf with fine single malts at Burnie's Hellyers Road Distillery and gin infused with local ingredients such as lavender, wakame and native pepperberry at Southern Wild Distillery in Devonport.
READY to time-travel
Journey a couple of hours – or thousands of years – on an island with fascinating layers of history, writes Alice Hansen.
Time passes differently in Tasmania. Mighty Huon pines can live for 3000 years in Tasmanian forests. Street corners in small towns are places where people still have time to stop and chat. Intact streetscapes in towns across the island are timelines of architectural history, and indigenous middens at larapuna/Bay of Fires are the remains of fireside feasts thousands of years ago.
On an island where the past is ever-present, we've handpicked some special moments in time-travel.
Port Arthur Historic Site
Tasmania's heritage is well preserved in open-air museums, chief among them Port Arthur Historic Site, one of five Tasmanian properties among 11 Australian convict sites with UNESCO World Heritage listing. A scenic 90-minute drive south-east of Hobart on the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur was the site of a 19th century British penal settlement that housed thousands of convicts, regarded as the most hardened in the colony, between 1830-1877. Step into solitarycell ruins, cruise to the Isle of the Dead and stand in a roofless church built by inmates, among 30 harbourfront buildings and ruins. The Tasman Peninsula is a region to be explored slowly, including turning off to the lesser-known Coal Mines Historic Site where "worst class" repeat offenders were sent.
The town of Oatlands in central Tasmania has the largest collection of sandstone buildings of any Australian town – more than 150 intact Georgian beauties – so it's no surprise this intact streetscape has been used as a film set. A recent revival has breathed new life into the town, about an hour's drive north of Hobart. The Kentish Hotel, circa 1832, has been thoughtfully refurbished, and The Imbibers wine bar, in an atmospheric old dispensary, serves wine, spirits and tasting platters sourced within 60km of town. A new distillery beside the landmark 1837 Callington Mill, a Georgian-era windmill once used to grind flour and produce illegal whisky, is due to open in March.
Other well-preserved historic towns along the Heritage Highway between Hobart and Launceston include Evandale, Ross, Campbell Town and Kempton.
There's plenty of time-travel on offer without even leaving Tasmania's capital, dotted with handsome Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Founded in 1804 as a British penal colony, Hobart is Australia's second oldest capital after Sydney. Explore the bustling waterfront precinct of Sullivans Cove, the colony's first settlement site. When strolling the popular Salamanca Market (Saturdays 8.30am-3pm), keep in mind the area was once a camping site for the Mouheneer band of Tasmanian Aboriginal people.
By the mid-19th century, Hobart was an internationally significant whaling port. The 1830s sandstone warehouses that line Salamanca Place once stored whale oil, as well as wool and grain, and are now home to galleries, restaurants, bars and artist studios. Hop on a horse-drawn history tour and head to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery to delve deeper.
Far from Queenstown, New Zealand, is a westcoast Tasmanian town of the same name. Once the world's richest mining town, Queenstown is flanked by moonscape mountains, though these scars from its mining past are gradually being reclaimed by nature. A great way to arrive in town is under steam via the West Coast Wilderness Railway that runs between Queenstown and Strahan, while listening to stories of the early piners and miners. Or wind your way down what the locals refer to as Gormy Hill on the 99 Bends. Settle in for a classic flick at the art deco Paragon Theatre, circa 1933. Back in the town's heyday, capacity crowds of 1150 were the norm.
Places to stay in Tasmania for the full history experience.
A pretty harbour town on the west coast with a fascinating convict and pioneer past. Nearby is Sarah Island, a penal settlement established in 1821 in windswept Macquarie Harbour.
A great base to explore the Tasman Peninsula and the well-preserved convict-era buildings of World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site.
Home to the National Penny Farthing Championships, this northern town is a National Trust-classified Georgian village, with scores of restored heritage buildings.
A highlight of this romantic fishing village in the northwest is the evocative Highfield Historic Site, the 1830s seat of the Van Diemen's Land Company, with spectacular views across Bass Strait. Stanley is built around the base of The Nut – a monolithic volcanic plug dominating the skyline – and the childhood home of Australia's only Tasmanian Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons.
Featuring early 19th century wooden buildings and charming cottage gardens, this town in the Huon Valley is home to the Wooden Boat Centre Tasmania, which keeps the traditions of handcrafted boat building alive.