Choosing Tasmania’s top attractions is like picking your favourite children.
Here are our current top 10 attractions, in no particular order.
Look up. In a world where more than 80% of people live with light pollution, the night skies in Tasmania are dark and dazzling. The further south you go, the closer you feel to the unpolluted night sky, sparkling with glittering constellations and the glorious spilt-milk mess of the Milky Way. Tasmania is also one of the few places in the world to see the elusive natural lightshow of Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights. Chances improve the further south you head.
It’s best to bring a sense of humour to Mona. Curiosity is useful, too. And a sense of wonder. The remarkable Museum of Old and New Art, carved into a headland at Berriedale, 13km north of Hobart’s CBD, has been called many things since its shock-and-awe opening in 2011. At heart, Mona is a world-renowned art collection that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a place to appreciate art, without the pretension. Come here to have fun, get tipsy, be shocked, be delighted, laugh, catch a gig, eat a burger, dine in style, think, dream.
The perfect curve of Wineglass Bay is a big, brilliant smile on the face of Tasmania. It takes a little effort to see this photogenic landmark, turning a trip to this famous beach into a pilgrimage of sorts. It’s the star of Freycinet National Park, which occupies most of Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast, and shares the limelight with the pink-granite Hazards range, a clutch of lovely white-sand beaches and abundant wildlife.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Encompassing Tasmania’s most famous natural landmark – Cradle Mountain – as well as Australia’s deepest lake and seven of the state’s 10 highest mountains, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is one of Australia’s greatest natural treasures. It’s a park filled with alpine treats, from abundant wildlife to glacial lakes, to slopes that blush yellow and red in autumn as the deciduous fagus turns in colour. Threading through it all is a web of walking tracks, including the celebrated Overland Track.
Port Arthur Historic Site
Tasmania’s most famous convict settlement combines an idyllic coastal setting with a brutal history. About 12,500 convicts served sentences at what is now the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site. More than 30 buildings and ruins dot the site on Turrakana / Tasman Peninsula, combining sombre prison scenes with the neat homes and gardens of soldiers and free settlers. Wander the grounds and join a tours to gain full appreciation of this pivotal destination in Australian history.
The list of treats along the Tasting Trail reads like a luxe, well-stocked minibar: truffles, gelati and hazelnuts; olives, wine and whisky; honey, oysters and craft beer; salmon, cider and berries; pickled onions, kimchi and chocolate. Stretching across northern Tasmania from Launceston to Smithton, the driving trail is dotted with almost 50 stops at artisanal producers. Bring it all together with a visit to the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market (aka Harvest to the locals), featuring the best of the region’s produce each Saturday in a city-centre car park.
Cataract Gorge is a true urban wilderness – a 5km stretch of thickly forested river reserve wrapped around a dramatic gorge, just a stroll from Launceston’s city centre. It’s been a place to reconnect, unwind and relax for generations, and it’s threaded by walking trails. The reserve features a public swimming pool in summer, a historic rotunda, a cafe and restaurant, and a delightfully slow retro ride from bank to bank on a 308m chairlift, the central span of which is the longest of its kind in the world.
kunanyi / Mount Wellington
Few cities can equal Hobart for the natural magnificence of its backdrop, with kunanyi / Mount Wellington towering 1271 metres above the city. For Hobartians, “the mountain” is part of daily life: a place to walk, ride mountain bikes, play in the winter snow, and feel the reviving touch of nature, just a half-hour drive from the city centre. Stand almost anywhere in Hobart and you’ll see its forested flanks and feel the call of its trails and views.
Cruise the Gordon river
Winding through World Heritage-listed wilderness on the west coast, a cruise on the Gordon River typically offers incredible reflections of the surrounding forest and Huon pines. Boat cruises from Strahan cross Macquarie Harbour, a body of water six times larger than Sydney Harbour, and cut through the inky waters of the river. Cruises include a tour of Sarah Island, an infamous penal colony built to house repeat-offending convicts, and edge through the narrow and notorious harbour entrance known to convicts as Hells Gates.
This is a special island-off-an-island experience. The largest in the Furneaux Group off Tasmania’s north-east tip, Flinders Island rises from Bass Strait in a spectacular line of beaches and mountains. Its rugged coast features white sandy beaches bordered by granite headlands, while in the south, the granite-plated Strzelecki Peaks, the island’s highest mountains, emerge direct from the sea. Settle into island time, find a beach to yourself, and let Flinders weave its natural magic.