An expert guide to Tasmania

Tasmania is Australia’s best-kept secret, packed with a tapestry on untreaded landscapes, unique wildlife and an unsung food scene that rivals anything else found across the country…

Strewn across the Bass Strait, Tasmania sits happily separate from the mainland. It’s often overlooked by people taking a trip Down Under, but those in the know are quite happy about that.

The easy-going island state is easy to get to and explore with plenty of remote and wild corners to escape into. From vast tangles of temperate rainforest and dramatic seascapes to its distinct flora and fauna and flourishing food scene, Audley has the inside track on this bountiful isle and how best to uncover its secrets. 

Explore the capital

Sat on the shores of the Derwent Estuary by the foothills of Mount Wellington/kunanyi, Hobart is slight but big on sights. As the second oldest Australian city, it’s also rich in history. Traditional land of the mouheneenner people, its European roots began in 1804. Stories of its colourful convict and whaling days rattle around its cobbled streets and wharves. Once notoriously rough-and-ready, its waterfront is now a hub of hip hotels, boutiques and places to eat (something Hobart excels in). Tasmania’s capital has a thriving arts scene too with Mona at its epicentre. Add to that its proximity to wild coasts and native forests and it’s an all-round southern charmer.

Savour its food scene

Seafood, cheeses, orchard fruits and vines that produce world-class cool-climate wines, Tasmania has some incredible produce. See its bounty of seasonal, organic goodies at Hobart’s Farm Gate market. Held every Sunday, it’s the largest farmers’ market in the state. Creative chefs make good use of the local larder in an abundance of cool cafés, historic pubs and fine dining restaurants. Sip sparkling wine from the Derwent with freshly shucked oysters from Barilla Bay in waterfront restaurants and marvel at modern Tasmanian cuisine in North Hobart, home to some of the hottest dining venues. But whatever you eat, don’t miss a scallop pie. This quintessential Tassie treat dates back to its earliest days of European settlement.

Soak up harbourfront heritage

The best place to get a feel for the capital’s heritage and character is around its waterfront, where its story began. Sullivan’s Cove is the heart of historic Hobart, with its old sandstone warehouses and jetties now filled with places to eat, shop, stay and ogle art. Cobbled Salamanca Place, lined with gorgeous Georgian architecture, is a scenic place for a saunter – don’t miss Saturday’s excellent markets. From here, old Kelly’s Steps lead up to Battery Point, the oldest part of town, so-called for the gun batteries that once protected the port. Today it charms with its colourful weatherboard workers’ cottages, grand merchant houses (some now museums charting early colonial life) and historic parks.

Go wild in Mount Wellington/kunanyi

Rearing up behind the city, the brooding form of Mount Wellington/kunanyi beckons for leg-stretching walks and soul-stirring views over Hobart. You can see across the D’Entrecasteux Channel to Bruny Island on clear days. Just 20 minutes’ drive from the CBD, its quiet trails lead through mossy fern gullies, temperate rainforest and dry eucalypt woodland. Head up high on foot or by car to the open viewing platform and covered observation shelter at the summit, which is often snow-capped. The peak, which rises to 1,270m and has distinctive dolerite columns, is part of the Wellington Range. It holds far-reaching cultural significance to the palawa people of lutruwita, the traditional owners.

Away from the city

From fishing and sailing to pleasure boating, Hobart is a hive of maritime activity. Paddle out by kayak from Constitution Dock to Battery Point to see the skyline from the water. The Huon River is fantastic for kayaking too, from the bucolic scenery of the Huon Valley to calm Recherche Bay. Wilderness cruises circumnavigate Bruny Island (all soaring cliffs, deep caves and sea stacks), home to fur seals and seabirds. In Wellington Park, the Organ Pipes Circuit Track takes walkers beneath the peak’s soaring dolerite columns. Mountain biking is big here too. Or you can amble among ancient ferns and giant swamp gums en route to waterfalls in Mount Field National Park.

See the island’s heritage

Separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait, Tasmania is distinct from the rest of Australia in many ways, from its temperate climate and landscapes to its food and curious wildlife. As one of the earliest colonial settlements, the island brims with heritage sites from melancholy convict ruins and Aboriginal cultural sites to old mining towns and cities full of historic architecture. Tasmania, where the worst offenders were transported, has five of the 11 convict sites in Australia with UNESCO World Heritage status. Its many museums and heritage sites tell of the island’s settlement history and don’t shy away from the horrors inflicted on the palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginals).


Tassie’s second biggest city, Launceston lies in the north on the banks of the Tamar River. Well preserved colonial-era architecture and manicured parks make it a charming city to explore on foot. You’re never far from pristine bushland. An easy walk from the centre, Cataract’s Gorge is a deep chasm carved by the Esk River. Trails lead around it and gum forests, home to pademelons and possums. Don’t miss a ride on its historic chairlift. Edging the fertile Tamar Valley, Launceston is also an epicurean’s delight with a celebrated dining scene and the excellent Harvest Market.

Key experience: Wine tour of the Tamar Valley

Join a private tour to the island’s oldest wine growing region to swirl and sip your way through a series of spectacular cool-climate wines at cellar doors, matched with platters of local produce. It’s not only the region’s pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling that sing, the scenery is simply gorgeous.

Port Arthur

Set on a rugged part of the Tasman Peninsula, just an hour’s drive from Hobart, the lonely ruins of Port Arthur by the water’s edge are a melancholy sight. Dating back to the 1830s, it’s the island’s largest and best preserved penal site. Join a tour to hear the tragic stories of those interred here and walk in their footsteps around the cells, refectory and chapel. Just across the water lies the burial island where many poor souls were buried.

Key experience: Devils, History and Hiking day tour

Immerse yourself in the desolate beauty of this part of southeast Tasmania and stories of its brutal past on the Devils, History and Hiking tour. As well as taking a tour of the haunting heritage site, you’ll stop off to revel in edge-of-the-world seascapes and hike to spot native wildlife.

Strahan and Gordon River

Head to the wild west coast and Strahan, a characterful old timber town set on Macquarie Harbour. Take the Strahan Historic Foreshore Walk to get your bearings on the town and the history of the convicts and hardy early settlers that forged an existence here. Its sweeping sand-dune backed beaches are ideal for solitary strolls and sunset watching. While cruises will take you upriver into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to walk among the ancient rainforest and spot waterfalls.

Key experience: Gordon River Cruise

You can’t visit Strahan without taking a Gordon River Cruise – leaving from the town’s wharf, you’ll pass through the notorious Hells Gates into the harbour before winding along the Gordon River. You’ll venture by foot into temperate rainforests before stopping off to see the spooky ruins of Sarah Island, a remote islet steeped in stories of the area’s convict past.

Explore its wild corners

Nature rules in this island state, with over a third protected by national parks and reserves. It’s easy to step off the beaten track here with landscapes that range from alpine moors, snow-capped mountains and unfathomably old forests to wild rivers and highland lakes. Then there are its long sweeping (and very often deserted) beaches, off-lying isles and jagged geological formations. Within these enchanting landscapes live an array of creatures from wallabies and wombats to web-footed platypus and whales. You’re never far from untouched wilderness on this extraordinary isle and Audley tailors itineraries to immerse you in it.

Maria Island National Park

Former penal colony turned wildlife sanctuary; Maria Island National Park sits just off the southeast coast. There’s plenty of native wildlife to enjoy here with chunky wombats one of many endearing creatures that inhabit the mountainous isle. Along with forester kangaroos and bennett’s wallabies, it also has a colony of Tasmanian Devils. As you explore the car-free island’s coastline, keep watch for fairy penguins that return to their burrows as night falls and dolphins, seals and whales that are regular visitors.

Key experience: Guided wildlife walk

A three-night guided walk is the ultimate way to explore Maria Island’s white sand beaches, fossil-pocked cliffs, dolerite outcrop and inland forests. Sleeping in exclusive beachfront camps and a heritage-listed house and enjoying delicious candlelit dinners, you’ll encounter endless wildlife on the trek and visit its eerie penitentiary station too.

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Dominated by the jagged form of Cradle Mountain, this national park in the northwest is an essential stop on every itinerary. The reflection of Cradle Mountain in Dove Lake is one of the most photographed sights in Tasmania. Well-marked trails lead through the park’s tall forests, alpine moors and around its glassy glacier-carved lakes, including the country’s deepest: Lake St Clair. Unsurprisingly this swathe of wilderness is teeming with wildlife – pademelons, echidnas, quolls, platypus and wombats all roam freely here.

Key experiences: Summit walk to Cradle Mountain peak and After Dark Feeding Tour

Start at Dove Lake and follow the eight-hour summit walk to Cradle Mountain’s craggy crown to soak up the drama of this park. After the walk, you can witness the state’s most iconic (and endangered) creature, the Tasmanian Devil being fed at the excellent nearby wildlife sanctuary Devils @ Cradle’s After Dark Feeding Tour.

Freycinet National Park

Clambering across the Freycinet peninsula, this east coast wilderness is where you’ll find the impossibly pretty Wineglass Bay. Its deep blue waters and white crescent of sand accentuated by the pink granite peaks of the Hazards. Along with hikes along deserted beaches and through coastal forest, the park’s sheltered clear-water coves are a haven for snorkelling, kayaking and diving. You’ll also find the full cast of Tassie marsupials here and an astonishing array of bird species – white-bellied sea-eagles are one of the most spectacular sightings.

Key experience: Climb up to Wineglass Bay

If you want to see why this sand isthmus is so celebrated, take the steep but scenic two-hour return walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. It’s the best way to drink in the perfect arc of the bay and the dazzling beauty of the Freycinet Peninsula. You may well spy a passing whale on the horizon as you catch your breath.

Tasmania stays

Freycinet Lodge

Dotted around native woodlands between Richardson’s Beach and Honeymoon Bay, this bush-surrounded escape cocoons guests in nature. Raw materials, timber and design-led features create a luxurious yet laid-back lodge, which offers a choice of accommodation. There are coastal pavilions (with spacious decks and outdoor bathtubs), cabins and mountain terrace kings. Unwind in the convivial Hazards Bar & Lounge, after days spent exploring the ravishing national park, before dining in one of its two restaurants.

MACq 01 Hotel

A perfect base for walking to Hobart’s attractions, this modern hotel by Macquarie Wharf, the city’s oldest waterfront district, is a destination in itself. A self-described “storytelling hotel”, five distinct designs play out in its rooms and suites, paying homage to five Tasmania’s character traits. Art and historic artefacts keep the narrative going in its public space. Share your own stories around the central fire in the striking lounge, sip small-batch local spirits at Evolve Spirits Bar and enjoy a pure Tasmanian feast at Old Wharf Restaurant.

Henry Jones Art Hotel

Also centrally located on the Hunter Street precinct, Henry Jones Art Hotel is an absolute gem with a hip but relaxed vibe. It is the sister hotel to MACq 01 and offers boutique bedrooms, suites and studios with plenty of individual character. Along with original heritage features, its impressive collection of contemporary Tasmanian art sets the hotel apart – the former 19th century jam factory has hundreds of artworks. Join a free tour with the Art Curator, glass of sparkling Tassie wine in hand.

Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge

Set by a lake within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, this cosy alpine lodge is an inviting retreat after outdoor adventures. Some of its soothing suites and timber cabins have spa baths and fireplaces. You can soothe weary limbs in the calming spa or settle in by the main lodge’s log fires before tucking into dishes peppered with Tasmanian produce in its welcoming restaurants. Enjoy your own private wildlife show every evening, spotting possums and wallabies in the grounds.

Saffire Freycinet

Combine immersion in nature with first-rate hospitality at this striking east coast retreat, overlooking Great Oyster Bay and the Hazards. These dreamy views are framed in the floor-to-ceiling windows of the suites, which are full of light and contemporary in design. The food and drink are of the finest order with local produce (think oysters and mussels plucked fresh from the bay and grass-fed beef and lamb from nearby farms) and island-made wines the star of the show in Palate’s daily changing menu.  

Feeling inspired?

Looking for a one-of-a-kind Australian adventure? Let Audley’s Tasmania specialists introduce you to the many wonders of this all-too-often overlooked state. They’ll craft individual itineraries designed to suit your interests and tastes. From wildlife encounters in the pristine wilderness and active adventures on the craggy coast to uncovering stories of the past in historic sites and luxuriating in exceptional hotels, you’ll be spellbound by this wild and wonderful isle.