The best things to do in Tasmania

From the food scene to the wilderness, with art and heritage, there are so many incredible places to visit in Tasmania!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and loves exploring different parts of Australia.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today and has been a journalist for 20 years.

What to do in Tasmania

Use this table of contents to jump down, or keep reading to see my suggestions for the best places to visit in Tasmania.

The Apple Isle is Australia’s greenest state, so it’s no surprise that many of the best things to do in Tasmania involve nature. From dramatic coastlines to hikes in ancient wilderness, it’s a natural wonderland.

But there are also plenty of places to visit in Tasmania that showcase the heritage of the state – including the Indigenous culture and the penal history. It was, after all, one of the most horrific convict prisons in the country.

Over recent years, Tasmania has also emerged as a centre for art – and artisans. There are world class galleries, and painters who work out of sheds in the countryside. There are farmers who dedicate their lives to just one product, and shops that serve the freshest food and drink for its region.

Walking through the rainforest at Cradle Mountain
Walking through the rainforest at Cradle Mountain (Tourism Tasmania/Andrew McIntosh)

There’s no shortage of attractions in Tasmania and what makes the state such a wonderful place to visit is that so much of it is unique to the island. Tassie really does set itself apart from the rest of the country with so many distinctive things to do.

If you’re planning a trip and wondering what to do in Tasmania, I’ve got some suggestions of the best places to visit. There are cities, small towns, and spectacularly remote landscapes.

Although much of the pleasure of visiting the state comes in the small interactions you’ll have along the way, you won’t go wrong using these suggestions of things to do in Tasmania to plan your itinerary.

Hobart

Tasmania’s capital, Hobart, is more than just the state’s biggest city. It’s also home to some of the island’s most interesting heritage, as well as being a hub for modern creative arts.

When it comes to colonial history, you’ll still find its legacy around Salamanca Place, where sailors and whalers would hang out after their long voyages on the high seas. Now it’s full of art galleries, boutique stores, and trendy bars – perhaps an apt symbol of what’s happened to Hobart generally.

Aerial view of Hobart
An aerial view of Hobart (Stu Gibson)

One of the main attractions here these days in MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, which is an immersive experience taking you through more than just a gallery of artworks. It also has restaurants and accommodation that make it a destination in itself.

And although Hobart may feel small, there’s lots to discover when you wander its streets, from local markets, to cosy pubs, and quaint historic neighbourhoods.

The imposing Mount Wellington looms over the city and you can head to the top for epic views. But it’s just one of the natural wonders around Hobart. The city makes for a good base to explore the scenery in the region – and you always know you can come back to your charming boutique hotel!

Bruny Island

As one of the most popular places to visit in Tasmania, Many people treat Bruny Island as a day trip – and it certainly is a great one! But this little gem offers much more for visitors who are prepared to give it some extra time.

About two hours’ drive from Hobart and accessible only by ferry, Bruny Island has some breathtaking landscapes. In the north, light bushland meets the coast, while the southern part of the island has lush rainforest and is protected as a national park.

Neck Beach, Bruny Island
Neck Beach on Bruny Island (Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett)

Bruny Island has also developed a reputation as a foodie paradise and it’s easy to see why. With fertile farmland, you’ll find honey, wine, fruit, cheese and much more here. Visit local producers for tastings or eat and drink a selection at one of the island’s restaurants.

Penguins and wallabies are just some of the animals that can be spotted here, and wildlife tours will take you off-road to some excellent vantage spots. There are quite a few tour operators on Bruny Island, offering cruises along the stunning shoreline, food tastings, and even scenic flights.

If you choose to stay on Bruny Island, there’s an excellent selection of accommodation including historic cottages, eco camping, luxury retreats, or farmhouses.

Huon Valley

It’s the Huon River that defines the geography of the Huon Valley, a wide and elegant waterway that’s made the region popular for agriculture for decades. And, as a visitor, all this farming means lots of fantastic food.

Particularly famous for its apples (and cider), the Huon Valley also produces excellent wine, cheese, and other fruits. Pop into orchards and roadside stores to taste it for yourself, or settle in for a long lunch at a rustic restaurant.

The start of the Huon Valley is just 30 minutes’ drive from Hobart so it’s easy to pop down for a meal, but if you stay overnight and go further into the region, you can explore small towns like Geeveston and Cygnet, which have become bohemian communities full of artists with open studios.

Ian Clare Pottery, Cygnet, Tasmania
Ian Clare at his pottery studio in Cygnet

The famous Tahune Airwalk takes you up into the canopy of the forest with stunning views across the river and over to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site.

For hikers, there are great walks in the Hartz Mountain National Park – or head down to the coastal walk at South Cape Bay, stopping for some fresh seafood at Dover on the way.

Port Arthur

Of all the historic sights in the state, Port Arthur is probably the most important, and visiting it is one of the most popular things to do in Tasmania.

Port Arthur offers a fascinating insight into Britain’s convict policies of the 19th century. From 1833, Port Arthur was a prison site for the worst of the worst convicts sent to Australia. And, if someone misbehaved in one of the other penal colonies, like Sydney, they were often also sent here as punishment.

Port Arthur, Tasmania
Some of the historic buildings at the Port Arthur World Heritage Site (Tourism Tasmania)

But the colony was also industrious, with the convicts set to work extracting timber, building ships, and making bricks. Many of the 30 buildings across the expansive heritage site are related to the work done here, as well as the elements of the free community that formed around the prison itself.

One of the strange contradictory features of Port Arthur is that, although it’s constructed with stories of horror, it has a beautifully serene natural landscape, with rolling green hills and a sparkling waterfront. It makes a visit to Port Arthur even more enjoyable.

Freycinet National Park

Heading up the east coast, about 2.5 hours’ drive from Hobart, you’ll reach Freycinet National Park, one of the most popular places to visit in Tasmania.

This exquisite coastline of bays with white sand and glittering blue water is surrounded by green peaks that don’t just create a textured landscape – they make for excellent photo spots!

The national park is home to lots of native species, including quolls, wallabies, and wombats. You’re likely to spot lots of wildlife regardless of how you visit, but hikers will be particularly rewarded in quieter areas.

The Hazards, Freycinet National Park
The Hazards at Freycinet National Park(Tourism Tasmania/Dan Fellow)

A highlight of Freycinet National Park is Wineglass Bay, considered one of the best beaches in Tasmania, with pink granite peaks over the clear water – colours that are so vibrant at sunrise!

On the edge of the national park is the small town of Coles Bay which has nice accommodation options and is also a good base for some of the other activities in the region, like kayaking, sailing, and fishing.

Bay of Fires

Even further up the island’s east coast is the Bay of Fires, another stretch of coastline that looks quite different but is just as dramatic.

The granite boulders covered in orange lichen give the Bay of Fires its distinctive look (and name), especially combined with the powder-white sand and turquoise waters. The beaches here are great for swimming (if you can handle the cold water) as well as other activities on the water.

Binalong Bay
Binalong Bay in the Bay of Fires (Pete Harmsen)

As always, when you’re planning what to do in Tasmania, you can’t forget the wilderness, and there are some decent walks accessible from the bay’s main townships. Birdwatchers will be especially pleased with the wildlife here.

Although there’s a nearby winery and other local producers, it’s the serene beaches, quirky rock formations, and constantly changing colours that make this such a special place.

Launceston

Tasmania’s second largest city, Launceston, is a true treasure, where you’ll have the benefits of a major urban centre, but with the calm atmosphere of a small coastal town.

There are quite a few things to do in Launceston, including the excellent Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (established in 1891) and a busy weekly farmers market. There are excellent restaurants and plenty of charming streets to explore on a leisurely stroll.

Launceston Seaport
The Launceston Seaport, with cafes and bars (Tourism Tasmania/Kathryn Leahy)

But Launceston is also a good base to explore the Tamar Valley, which is famous for its wines. The small wineries are very accessible and have a family feel to them – which makes tasting the sparkling whites (because they’re the best) even more fun.

Cataract Gorge, just on the edge of Launceston, has sweeping views from the top, but it’s just one of the natural wonders that are easy to reach from the city. A trip to the nearby World Heritage Site of Brickendon Estate or the slightly kitsch Grindelwald Swiss Village are also quite interesting.

Most first-time visitors to the state will base themselves in Hobart, but Launceston offers many of the same type of Tasmanian attractions, but with an even more relaxed setting.

Devonport

With a population of only 30,000 people, Devonport is as small as it feels – yet many tourists will visit the city because it’s the arrival port for the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Victoria.

If you stay awhile, rather than just driving straight to other places in Tasmania, you’ll find quite a few nice things to do in town, including a maritime museum, art gallery, and Aboriginal culture centre.

Providore Place Sunday Market
Providore Place Sunday Market in Devonport (S. Group)

Because of the ferry, there’s a lot of choice for accommodation, and some great restaurants (particularly in the cosy pubs). Like other parts of Tasmania, lots of the food is grown locally.

And Devonport is also a convenient base to explore the natural highlights of northern Tasmania – in particular, Cradle Mountain.

Cradle Mountain

In the heart of the central highlands, Cradle Mountain is an icon of Tasmania. It’s not the state’s tallest mountain (it’s number six), but it’s got the most distinctive shape, with jagged rocks pointing upwards and the ‘Little Horn’ to one side.

For hikers, heading to the top of Cradle Mountain is one of the best things to do in Tasmania – but the 8-hour return walk/climb is definitely challenging. There are easier ways to access the landscapes here, though.

The mountain itself is just one feature within the large Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, where you’ll find ancient rainforests covered in moss, deep river gorges, and glacial lakes. If you really want a walk, the 6-day Overland Track is one of the most famous hikes in Tasmania.

Cradle Mountain
Looking out across the landscape towards Cradle Mountain (Cultivate Productions)

There are so many other activities that make the most of this natural playground – horse riding, canoeing, fly fishing, and mountain biking, for example. And whatever you’re doing, you may come across a platypus, an echidna, or (the ultimate) a Tasmanian devil!

Strahan

If you thought Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park was rugged, then you’re going to find the southwest of the state even more impressive. It’s here you’ll find the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, an imposing landscape of mountain peaks with water cascading over rocks and down to mighty tannin-filled rivers.

Nelson Falls, Tasmania
Nelson Falls deep in the national park (Tourism Australia/Graham Freeman)

The best base for the national park is in Strahan, a small village on the coast that has plenty to offer itself. It was an important part of Tasmania’s convict history but these days has more of a boutique feel with artisan shops.

From Strahan, you can reach long stretches of wild ocean beach, as well as massive sand dunes – plus the mighty forests, of course. There are 19 national parks and reserves around the village, and it’s the perfect launching pad for adventure.

The Tarkine

The northwest of the state offers one of the most remote places to visit in Tasmania, the Tarkine – an incredible wilderness of rainforest, sand dunes, mountain ranges, and caves.

Although it’s not all technically a national park, the Tarkine feels like one, with very little human development in a land that feels as though nature has taken over. As well as walking trails for hikers, there are waterways for kayaks and riverboat cruises. There’s also a high concentration of important Aboriginal heritage sites.

Arthur River
View of the Arthur River from Sumac Lookout (Pierre Destribats)

The tiny coastal township of Arthur River is where you’ll find the aptly name viewpoint ‘The Edge of the World’. Arthur River is also a good base to explore the Tarkine region, with access to the forest and the beach.

For the adventurous, there are a few touring routes that lead into different parts of the Tarkine and to some of the remote settlements, each with their own unique stories.

Flinders Island

And finally to Flinders Island, one of the least known attractions in Tasmania. About 60 kilometres long, the island sits in Bass Strait, to the northeast of the main part of Tasmania.

It’s the ultimate escape – a remote and quiet island where the relics of shipwrecks hint at adventure. But the pristine coastline is something to treasure these days, with beautiful beaches and opportunities for fishing.

Flinders Island coastline
The coastline of Flinders Island (Tourism Australia/Graham Freeman)

Although visiting Flinders Island is partly about disconnecting from the world, there are still enough facilities and settlements here that you won’t feel stranded. From camping to luxury resorts, there’s a range of accommodation, plus some excellent food and drink offerings.

Flinders Island can be reached by plane from Launceston or Essendon in Victoria. There are also ferries from Bridport or from Victoria’s Port Welshpool.