The Sydney Hobart supermaxi yachts bring a global wave of excitement to Tasmania around New Year, but there’s plenty more exhilaration to come in 2024.
Here are some uniquely Tasmanian places to explore and things to do, across all seasons.
Soak. Splash. Surf.
The days are warm and long, and festival season is here. Immerse yourself in art and culture at Mona Foma (north and south) and revel in après-yachting euphoria; or grab a kayak, a paddleboard or just an inflatable donut. Tasmania is surrounded by the sea: the beaches, rivers, rockpools and waterholes are your playground.
Brie. Beer. Bouillabaisse.
Whether its fresh crays, oysters or a pub parmi, Tasmania’s chefs wear their food creds as a badge of honour. Say hello to some of Australia’s best beers, cheeses and more cellar doors than you can shake a hiking pole at. Head to Festivale, Launceston’s annual gastronomic (and musical) mecca, while Tasmania’s Taste of Summer has foodies packing the waterfront every December.
Rails. Rivers. Ruins.
The ‘Apple Isle’ nickname is probably here to stay…but you’ll find gritty industrial history here too, and natural and convict heritage like nowhere else on Earth. Hit the remote west coast for high convict drama at Sarah Island; cruise up the Gordon River into the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area; or check on proceedings at restored Waddamana, Tasmania’s first hydro-electric power station.
Bush. Bikes. Birdies.
The hiking trails that were busy in summer start to quieten, and the views are just as spectacular. Camp at Maria Island National Park and explore Darlington, a World Heritage-listed convict site; freewheel down some of the world’s fiercest black runs at Blue Derby; and did someone just say “Instagrammable golf courses”? See you on King Island.
Food. Fiestas. Fitness.
Missed the food festivals back in the summer? The harvest is in, and your palate is still spoilt for choice. Book tickets for the east coast’s immersive ECHO Festival (East Coast Harvest Odyssey); or Southern Open Vineyards across the Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley, Huon Valley and D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Burn off any surplus calories on the kunanyi Mountain Run, a half-marathon ascent with views to ease the pain.
Trees. Trails. Truffles.
Summer’s lavender may have been and gone, but autumn’s colours are equally brilliant. Head to the high country where Tasmania’s only deciduous tree, the fagus (aka Nothofagus gunnii, deciduous beech or tanglefoot), sets entire hillsides ablaze as its leaves turn gold. Talking of gold, autumn is apple harvest in the Huon Valley, and as the days shorten towards winter, truffle season is upon us…
Forests. Frosts. Firesides.
Winter is when you can have Tasmania pretty much all to yourself. Let forest trails lead you to stands of 100m-tall mountain ash, and gnarled Huon pines almost as old as time. And whether you’re cold-plunging into a lake, braving the beach or chucking a snowball on Cradle Mountain, you can warm up afterwards with a local whisky by a blazing fire.
Dinner. Drams. Dancing.
Tasmania doesn’t shut-up-shop for the winter, it comes alive. It’s the Off Season down south. Fill up at Dark Mofo’s Winter Feast in Hobart; sip the water of life at Tasmanian Whisky Week, and get your foodie going at the Tassie Scallop Fiesta in Bridport. Feed body and mind at the Beaker Street Festival, dance and howl at the moon while ‘Big Willie’ burns at Willie Smith’s Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival, or just pull up a pub stool by an open fire and sip a hot cider.
Walks. Wilderness. Water.
Deep-dive into Tasmania’s convict backstory with a walk up the Hobart Rivulet to the poignant Cascades Female Factory; or visit Port Arthur Historic Site in all its stark, spooky glory. In Launceston, cross spectacular Cataract Gorge and walk back in time to 19th-century Duck Reach Power Station. Embrace the chill on a brisk ocean dip, comb remote beaches, or toboggan down snow-capped Ben Lomond. Winter is wild, wet and wonder-filled.
Overland. Oceans. Orcas.
As the summer crowds have yet to land, you’ll still have most of the bushwalking trails to yourself. Tackle the long-haul Overland Track, or wander a couple of hours along the South Coast Track to view South Cape Bay, where the Southern Ocean surges in. Head to Wynyard in the far north west for tulips in bloom, or Cape Tourville within Freycinet National Park: spring marks the start of whale-watching season, and there’s nowhere better to spy one.
Voyages. Vistas. Vanlife.
Tasmania is where your wiggly-road driving skills come into their own. The island boasts five epic drive journeys: Southern Edge, Northern Forage, Heartlands, Western Wilds and Great Eastern Drive. Pick up a map, follow the signs and see what comes your way. Sick of motels? Why not stay somewhere uniquely Tasmanian – like a 19th-century barracks? Or a pumphouse on a lake? Maybe an art-deco bank?
Rainbows. Rhubarb. Riesling.
Spring produces the food that Tasmania is famous for. Bag some top-notch fruit and veg before it leaves the island, or hook yourself a trout in a mountain river or a highland lake – it’s fly fishing season. Meanwhile up north, get your fix of music, art, performance and creativity at the Junction Arts Festival and Tasmanian Craft Fair. Oh, and did we mention Great Eastern Wine Week? Let the fruity pinot and crisp riesling flow.
Frequently asked questions
When does the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race finish?
After exiting Sydney Harbour on 26 December, the Sydney Hobart fleet sails across tumultuous Bass Strait, then skirts Tasmania's east coast before entering Storm Bay and sprinting up the River Derwent into Hobart. Depending on weather conditions, competitors can finish between 27 December and 31 December…and occasionally into January.
What happens at the Sydney Hobart finish line?
Regardless of whether or not every boat arrives in time for the New Year's Eve fireworks, all sailors are greeted by Tasmania’s Taste of Summer, an effervescent waterfront food festival that sprawls into the New Year. Yachties sure know how to party… Visitors can also enjoy the waterfront Hobart Race Village throughout the Sydney to Hobart: live music, kids’ activities, Q&A sessions and top food and drink.
What's the best season in Tasmania?
Summer is party time in Hobart and Launceston, with long evenings, warm days and some brilliant art, music and food-and-drink festivals. In autumn, the harvest is in, and Tasmania is at its most atmospheric. Winter is the Off Season: unhinged, hedonistic and fabulously indulgent. Spring arrives and the cycle of life begins again: tulips bloom, the days lengthen and summer is calling.