Great day for a drive
Whether you're based in Hobart, Launceston or the north-west, your car is your key to some wonderful day-long adventures.
In the north west
DAY 1 Devonport to Cradle Valley, 100km. Welcome to Tasmania! As you drive off the ferry in Devonport, there’s a bit to see along the way to Cradle Valley, in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area. First, head for Latrobe, a town famous for two things: its string of antique shops and the platypus, which you just might spot on the Platypus Trail along the Mersey River.
Next is Sheffield, where murals decorate many buildings – stretch your legs and find the mural of Gustav Weindorfer in his Cradle Valley home, Waldheim. You’ll be there yourself soon.
Driving deeper into the wild country, you’ll climb and descend into the steep valleys of the Mersey and Forth Rivers, before turning off to Cradle Mountain.
After dinner, some wildlife spotting would be fun; your accommodation should be able to book a tour.
DAY 2 Stanley, 175km.
It’s a comfortable afternoon drive to Stanley, so you have time for a morning walk. The easy track around Dove Lake is one of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks – allow about 90 minutes for the circuit. A longer and steeper option is the climb to Marions Lookout, for some sensational views of the glaciated landscape.
On the way back from Dove Lake, turn left towards Waldheim (it’s a faithful reconstruction of Weindorfer’s original home) and hear some of the stories of his lonely life here.
Stanley is a historic little fishing port nestled beneath The Nut, a plug of lava from an ancient volcano. There’s a track and chairlift to the summit. There should be time to wander the narrow streets and admire the quaint cottages, one of which was the birthplace of Joe Lyons, our only Tasmanian-born Prime Minister.
DAY 3 Devonport via Cape Grim, 240km.
Today you’ll drive to the far north-western tip of the island. The air at Cape Grim has been measured as the cleanest on Earth. To breathe it on-site, book a Woolnorth tour from Smithton. You’ll explore the Woolnorth grazing property, still owned under an 1825 Royal Charter by the Van Diemen's Land Company. You’ll also visit the windfarms near Cape Grim and see a distant view of the air monitoring station where the record-breaking measurement was made. (Humans can’t get close to the spot, in case we contaminate that wonderful air!)
Then take a leisurely drive back along the North West Coast, detouring to the lovely beach at Boat Harbour – or if you are there in October tulip season, stop at Wynyard to see the rich red fields of Table Cape striped in coloured blooms. The tulip farmers export these bulbs to Holland.
Eat & stay: Cradle Mountain Hotel gives auto club members, including RACV, 10% off accommodation. The buffet in Quoll’s Restaurant is very hearty. In Stanley, try the Old Cable Station B&B – dine in-house or sample fresh local fish at Hursey Seafoods, near the town wharf.
DAY 1 Mt Field, 150km return.
You’ll be surprised how quickly you can drive to some of the best forests on Earth. An hour into the Derwent Valley, Mt Field National Park is a spectacular landscape left behind by successive Ice Ages, where you wander beneath the planet’s tallest flowering plant, the mighty swamp gum.
Short walks near the park centre include to Russell Falls and the Tall Trees walk. Then follow the unsealed Lake Dobson Rd to the start of a splendid half-day walk to the beautiful Tarn Shelf, with its string of ice-carved lakes and alpine vegetation.
On the drive back to Hobart, browse New Norfolk’s antique shops and heritage architecture, and perhaps taste the wines at Stefano Lubiana’s cellar door.
DAY 2 Tasman Peninsula, 220km return.
Follow the Convict Trail along the Tasman Peninsula and a tragic World Heritage site. Pause at Eaglehawk Neck, where a chained line of savage dogs deterred escapees from Port Arthur, turn left to take the short clifftop walk to Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen. Exploring the Port Arthur Historic Site needs at least two hours; longer is better.
A spectacular add-on is the eco-cruise from Port Arthur, which takes you close to Tasman Island and beneath the tallest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere. You’ll see seals, dolphins and perhaps migrating whales.
If you’re in the mood for food, the fish and chips near the Dunalley Bridge are up there with the best.
DAY 3 Cockle Creek, 301km round-trip.
During today’s touring you’ll be using a particularly distinctive road. Head south to Franklin, with its Wooden Boat Centre.
Past Dover and Southport, you have a choice between the richly- decorated dolomite caverns at Hastings Caves or the forest canopy at the Tahune Airwalk.
After Lune River, a gravel road runs south to Cockle Creek, the southern-most spot reachable by road in Australia. On your return drive, turn right after the Huonville Bridge and take the scenic drive via Cygnet and the D’Entrecasteaux coast. You’re on part of the Southern Wine Route, so look for the signs to Elsewhere, Panorama, Hartzview, and Heron’s Rise vineyards – and try the sheep milk cheese at Grandvewe.
Eat & stay: Enjoy the mid-city location of the RACV/RACT Hobart Apartment Hotel (RACV members save 25% on accommodation). If it’s Tassie seafood you’re after, try Smolt in Salamanca Square for superb salmon.
DAY 1 Mole Creek, 175km return.
The Bass Hwy west of Launceston is now separated from the old highway, which leaves a string of lovely villages along the stretch to Deloraine to their own devices. So it’s a lovely uncluttered drive through the likes of Hadspen – check out the magnificent gardens at Entally House (c. 1819) – Carrick (with lots of stone cottages and a fabulous vine-covered mill) and Westbury, home to the grand Fitzpatrick’s Inn and even grander St Andrew’s Church.
After a reviving coffee at the Deloraine Deli, take the B12 through Chudleigh, with its wonderful honey shop, and Mole Creek. You’re headed for Mole Creek Caves, which has two sites: the compact King Solomons Cave or the more elaborate Marakoopa Cave.
Back in Mole Creek, the pub is a museum to the Tasmanian devil and its lamented loss to Australia’s unique fauna. It also does an impressive lunchtime burger.
An energetic detour on the way back to Launceston is to the Alum Cliffs, just west of Deloraine. The 40-minute return walk is worth it for the view of the vast, deep gorge.
DAY 2 The Tamar, 165km round-trip.
This drive goes up the west side of the Tamar, across the Batman Bridge and then explores the east side.
The first stop should be 15 minutes from Launceston, at Tamar Island. This fabulous wetland is best viewed at low tide to appreciate all the channels and rivulets that make up this network of low islands. It’s also a bird paradise.
At Brady’s Lookout, just north of Legana, you have a high and mighty view of the river, as well as vineyards that abound in this part of the valley. We tried Moores Hill and loved the wine as well as the 10% discount for RACV members – racv.visitvineyards.com/save explains the program.
The 2006 gold mine collapse and rescue thrust Beaconsfield into international focus. The hands-on Mine and Heritage Centre tells that story as well as the area’s long association with gold.
It wouldn’t be Tasmania without apples, and there are roadside stalls all over this region. You can’t beat $4 for 2kg of the most scrumptious apples.
You’re now ready to cross the Tamar via the Batman Bridge and head for the lighthouse at Low Head, on the very windy promontory where the river meets Bass Strait. How local volunteers restored the old fog horn that once operated here is quite a story, and fog or no fog, they sound it noon on Sundays. (At other times scan the QR code on the brochure to hear it on your phone.)
Curried scallop pies are so Tasmanian, and the ones at Low Head Pilot Station Museum cafe are magnificent, along with the best fries ever.
Back through George Town, do take the turn-off to the lookout on Mt George – you get a brilliant view of the river.
There are plenty more wineries on this side of the river – Delamere’s specialty is sparkling wine.
DAY 3 Southern loop, 105km round trip.
The village of Evandale 20km south of Launceston is in love with pennyfarthing bicycles and hosts the national championships every February.
The Pennyfarthing Emporium (1843) has original counters and shelves, full of old tins such as Arnotts and Weetbix, and it sells old-fashioned sweets, e.g. Musk Sticks and Choo Choo Bars.
You’re sure to find something extraordinary to eat or buy at the Sunday market. And when you see signs to the Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company, you'd be advised to follow them.
About 10km south is Clarendon, a rather impressive Georgian house and grounds built in 1836.
Then take a loop through Symmons Plains, Cressy and Longford before stopping in Perth. The Tabernacle in Clarence St is an octagonal building with a metal dome, built in 1889 and so quite a modern thing in a town where the pubs date from the 1830s.
Eat & stay: TwoFourTwo is a beautiful array of apartments close to the centre of town. If not self-catering, the menu and wine list at Mud Bar make it the north’s best restaurant. And Saint John Craft Beer is heaven for hops lovers.
Story by Chris Viney (Hobart), Jeremy Bourke (Launceston) and Holly Sortino (North-West). Jeremy Bourke visited with the assistance of Tourism Tasmania. For more, go to www.discovertasmania.com.au.
SAVE with RACV
RACV members save 10% on passenger fares all year round when booking with RACV. Call 13 13 29, visit any RACV shop or go to racv.com.au/travel.
Members get 25% off accommodation at the RACV/RACT Hobart Apartment Hotel – call (03) 6270 8600 or book at racv.com.au/resorts. Members save 10% on accommodation at RACT properties at Cradle Valley, Freycinet and Strahan. Go to www.ract.com.au.