I went to Tasmania on a weekend in June 2015 and loved it. I visited Hobart, Lake St Clair, Port Arthur and more....
Tasmania is a beautiful island so easily missed out while backpacking in Australia - but if you ignore it, you're missing a real treat.
Like anywhere when I'm travelling, I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I think you can cram in all the important things in three days if you're willing to forego any rest time (I'll sleep when I'm dead - my new travel motto).
So thought I'd write a step-by-step guide of how I conquered Tasmania in just three days. You can also check out the video highlights at the bottom of this page.
8.30am - Arrive in Hobart Airport, Tasmania. The flight is just under two hours from Sydney and Jetstar do some cheap details.
8.40am - If you only take carry-on luggage you'll be straight out the door and at the shuttle bus. Just $14 (if you have a YHA card - worth getting) will take you to your hotel/hostel front door. Bargain. Don't forget to admire the beautiful Tasman Bridge which you'll cross on your way in.
9.00am - Check-in at Tassie Backpackers on Liverpool Street, Hobart, (firstname.lastname@example.org) dumped my case in my room, quick re-fresh squirt of deodorant and I was back out the door to begin my adventure.
9.20am - The Tourist Information Centre is easy to find on the corner of Davey and Elizabeth Streets. The staff are really friendly and helpful and can tell you limited information about some of the stuff they don't even book. I booked a trip to Mount Wellington, or Kunanyi to give it its Aboriginal name, for 10.15am which cost $30.
9.30am - Half an hour to grab a sandwich and have a look round Hobart's beautiful waterfront before it was time to walk back up to the Tourist Information Centre to catch the mini-bus up to Mount Wellington.
10.15am - Off we go - I've been in Tasmania less than two hours and I'm already on my first adventure. The tour guides are fab and give so much information. If you're travelling solo, the seat next to the bus driver is usually left free. Sit here for the best views and to ask extra questions of your guide.
11.15am - It takes just under an hour to get to the top, allowing for stops to take beautiful pictures and viewpoints, like this photo (below) which was taken approximately half way up. We also saw St Raphael Church - the only building to survive the 1967 bush fire on the mountain. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture as we didn't stop, but the building is wooden and surrounded by trees - you do wonder how it survived.
At the top you can take in some amazing views of Hobart and the ocean, as well as scrambling up some rocks to get to the very peak of the mount for a picture. Warning - if you're travelling in winter like I did, it is incredibly cold and windy - our guide said the top of Mount Wellington is often ten degrees cooler than Hobart. I was wearing six layers, a scarf and hat and still felt the need for gloves and another layer. But it was in June. You'll see from the expression on my face, and the fact there was SNOW, that it was pretty damn cold.
12noon - On the way down your guide may have time to stop at a roadside waterfall. It has clean, fresh water running from it and I took the opportunity to fill up my water bottle. It tasted amazing - you'll never drink cleaner water! Yum! (Warning - you WILL get wet).
12.10pm - Back at the Tourist Information Centre, I headed up the hill to St David's Cathedral for a quick nose round. After the original wooden building blew down in a gale, the cathedral was built on the site where it is today (on the corner of Murray Street and Macquarie Street) in 1823. It was added to and made larger throughout the decades and is now an impressive cathedral full of special treasures. I took a few shots inside but only stayed for a short while as a small service was underway in the corner.
12.40pm - Down at Brooke Street Pier I bought my ticket and ferry crossing for the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) for $45 total. I decided to opt for the 1.30pm ferry so I could sneak to the pub for a cheeky wine first.
12.50pm - At the Telegraph Hotel on the corner of Brooke Street and Morrison Street I had The Drives chardonnay from Victoria. The pub served amazing lunches for between $5 and $10 - bargain if you're on a budget.
1.30pm - Ferry over to the MONA, enjoying a yummy omelette thingy on the way. The ferry is super posh with leather seats and artwork on the walls. If this was just the ferry, I couldn't wait to see the museum itself.
2pm- I arrived at the MONA and the view from the top of the stairs is just...WOW. These are just a few pictures from the exterior, as I'm not allowed to publish any from inside. (No, I don't know why there was a peacock in the queue to get in).
Needless to say, it was full of incredible and controversially in-you-face art. For example, a wall of white plaster-cast moulds of vaginas by Greg Taylor entitled "Cunts and other Conversations". This also prompted probably the weirdest text message I've ever sent in my life.....
5pm - After A long walk around some amazing exhibitions (seriously - promise me you'll go), I headed back on the last ferry to Brooke Street Pier. Here I am with my friend Gabby.
5.30pm - Crash in the hostel for a snooze and sushi. If you caught the same plane I did, you'll have been up since 4am so will be quite tired at this point. (On the way home, spotted an awesome spot to put my rental car tomorrow - think I can get it in that space?)
8pm - After food, a shower and rest, it was time to head back out. I met my friend Gabby at the Telegraph Hotel on the waterfront again for cocktails and live music. The locals were all so happy and friendly and everyone kept dragging us onto the dancefloor for a jig. It was the most fun I've had with a bunch of strangers in a long time. So many giggles.
11pm - We also checked out Grape Bar for a glass of vino. So many nice wines to choose from, you'll not know where to start!
Midnight - Crash on bed and fall asleep. Staying up 20 hours was awesome, but exhausting.
8am - I get up a bit early in order to enjoy the famous Salamanca Market, which is held every Saturday in and around Salamanca Place. You can buy anything you want here from toys to clothes, books, furniture, food from around the world, trinkets and souvenirs. If you can name it, you'll probably find it here.
9am - I picked up my rental car from Avis in Market Place (a short walk from my hostel).
10.45am - First stop of the day was the beautiful Russell Falls in Mount Field National Park (TAS 7140 on the satnav). The falls are just 25 minutes from the visitor centre, where you have to buy an eyewateringly-expensive car park pass. (Knowing the money was going on conservation and preservation made things slightly easier though.) Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls (which was about ten minutes of steep steps beyond Russell Falls) were both insanely beautiful. Picturesque in summer or winter. I took lots of photos.....
11.45am - I headed off to my second destination - Lake Gordon. A little off the beaten track, it was a place I'd wanted to visit ever since I spotted just how large and isolated it was on the map. I drove for about two hours to get there and didn't see a single car or house on my way. But when I got out of the car, the view was STUNNING.....
12.15pm - After gawping at the view and munching an apple, it was time to drive back towards civilisation again. My favourite fact about South West Tasmania is that between Mount Wellington and the SW Coast, there isn't a single inhabitant. You'll find hikers and the odd driver, like me, but no one lives there so the whole area is protected. It was pretty amazing to think that looking out over the lake, the next person in that direction could well have been in South America. Pretty awesome stuff.
2pm - I stopped to grab a bite to eat at a small village shop I found back near Russell Falls. I wish I'd bought sandwiches in Hobart as they only had crisps and a Mars Bar. Yum, but not healthy. I strongly advise you take something with you if you plan to do this trip.
3.30pm - I saw lots of stunning views on the drive between Gordon Lake and my next destination of Lake St Clair, like these for example....
4.30pm - Arrive at Lake St Clair. The drive over was reward in itself as I saw so much unspoiled countryside. But Lake St Clair is equally beautiful. It is captured within a national park made up of protected rainforests, alpine heathlands and untouched mountains. I could have sat on the ferry dock all day watching the world go by.....
4.45pm - But instead of catching frostbite on the water's edge, or joining the hikers for an eight-day trek to Cradle Mountain (nutters), I instead went to the nearby cafe for a hot chocolate.
5pm- The sun is beginning to set, so I decided to start my 2hr30min drive back to Hobart, on the way stopping to admire some more beautiful lakes and meadows. Seriously - could this island be any more beautiful?
8pm - The drive took longer than I thought, as I kept stopping to take more pictures. I park up the car and crash into bed for an early night.
8am- Another day of adventuring = another early start. A quick breakfast and then it was off in the car (I nicknamed her DeeDee) to Port Arthur.
9.15am - My first focal point of the day was driving over the Tasman Bridge for myself, as I'd ridden over it on the shuttle bus when I arrived. If you enjoy driving, Tasmania is ideal as there are so many picturesque places to see. But obviously, because I was driving, I don't have any photographs of it. Instead- here is a picture of the lookout at Dunalley Bay - you'll see a stop for photographs sign on the A9 about an hour into your drive to Port Arthur.
10.30am - After several stops for photographs, I arrived at Port Arthur. The historic site was so much more than just a prison - it has 30 buildings including a church, asylum, penitentiary, post office, magistrates' house and beautiful gardens and ruins. On arrival, you'll be given a ticket for a ferry ride around the complex.
My favourite part of the ferry ride was when the tour guide announced we were in the most southerly part of Australasia. So in other words, unless I ever ventured to Antarctica, I was at the most southerly I'll ever be.
Other highlights of the ferry ride were seeing the Isle of the Dead, where the prisoners and staff were buried. I didn't buy the ticket to go ashore, as my time was limited, but there is a separate tour of the island that you can do.
After the ferry, I made my way around the buildings, keeping an eye on the time so I could leave just after 1pm. First stop was the penitentiary - the largest and most impressive looking building in the entire complex. Cue lots of photos....
Here are some other pictures from the tour, including the asylum, the guard tower, the church and the gardens....
Lastly I went back to the visitor centre, to find my prisoner. On entry, everyone is given a playing card that is matched to a prisoner who really did spend time at Port Arthur.
My prisoner was 13-year-old Peter Brannon from London. He was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a handkerchief. He was sent to Port Arthur because no use could be found for him in Hobart. Imagine travelling to the other side of the world, torn away from the place and people you know, to serve a seven year sentence for stealing something so small.
While in Port Arthur, Peter was spotted "throwing a stone at an overseer". He was punished by being locked up in a small, dark room for a while week. He tried to cheer himself up by singing a song, but this was against orders. He was made to sit in the dark for two more days as a further punishment. Poor Peter. I did wonder what happened to him when he left Port Arthur. That's if he left, as many died from the poor living conditions and hard work before their sentence was finished.
1pm - Time to hit the road. I could definitely have stayed longer at Port Arthur, so if you have the time, plan a whole day there.
1.10pm - I stop at Eaglehawk Neck - a pinch in the land where you can see the sea either side of the road. This short detour was off the main road back to Hobart and included a Blowhole and Fossil Bay Lookout, both of which are included in the pictures (below) and the video at the bottom.
2pm - I stop for oysters and a last chardonnay at Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed. Which is almost directly opposite the Dunalley Bay lookout point I'd stopped at earlier. For $21 I had six dressed oysters and a glass of wine, taking in the most beautiful views over the countryside. I mentioned I was on a tight schedule as I had a plane to catch and they were very accommodating, despite being so full. The oysters were delicious and a treat you MUST indulge in before leaving Tasmania.
3pm- I arrive at the airport to drop my rental car back off and check-in for my 4.35pm flight back to Sydney.
Tasmania was such a beautiful place with amazing green countryside. I couldn't believe how open it was - you could drive for miles and miles without seeing a house or car or any sign of life.
Driving at night, I got to see plenty of wildlife too - Tasmanian Devils, wallabies, wombats - you name an Australian animal, it was probably there. They were all eating grass at the side of the road. However, if you do plan to drive at night be extremely careful . Darkness + windy roads + wildlife = a short stopping distance when an animal is crossing the road.
I strongly recommend everyone who visits Australia, especially if you're in Melbourne or Sydney, to take a short trip over to Tasmania. The flights are cheap and short and there is so much to see and do there.
If this blog hasn't already persuaded you, check out the video.....