Many visitors find similarities with the South Island of New Zealand: the Bass Strait has isolated it from the mainland for thousands of years and led to some unique flora and fauna with some it only becoming extinct in the last century and much sadly threatened. You'll find the inhabitants notably more polite, friendly and more helpful than in big cities such as Sydney.
Tasmania is the smallest of Australia's six states, with an area of 68,401km² (26,410 square miles). It is comparable in size to Ireland or the US state of West Virginia. Tasmania is separated from mainland Australia by the Bass Strait, from New Zealand by the Tasman Sea and otherwise surrounded by the Southern Ocean. It's within the range of the notorious "Roaring Forties" winds that encircle the globe.
Most of Tasmania's population is concentrated around the south east and north coasts. The effect of how Tasmanians understand their island is predicated by the population being mostly in the urbanised south east and central north areas. In history, many understandings of the rest of the island has been determined by people in Hobart and Launceston, due to the demographic bias.
The Midlands (the area between Hobart and Launceston) is primarily used for agriculture. The Huon Valley and the area between Launceston and Burnie is used for both agriculture and horticulture. The Central Highlands, the West Coast and the South West are all mountainous forested areas, a majority of which are protected inside national parks.
Tasmania is the most mountainous state of Australia, its tallest mountain is Mount Ossa at 1,617m (5,305 ft). Much of Tasmania is still densely forested, with the South-West and neighbouring areas holding some of the last temperate rain forests in the Southern Hemisphere.
Tasmania has a cool temperate climate with four distinct seasons.
- Summer December - February. Average maximum temperature is 21°C, average low 12°C.
- Autumn March - May. Very changeable weather.
- Winter June - August. Average maximum temperature is 12°C, average low 5°C. Most high lying areas receiving considerable snowfall.
- Spring September - November. Snowfall is common through to October.
The West Coast and the South West receive a significantly higher amount of rainfall than anywhere else in the state. The number of rainy days per year in Tasmania is much greater than anywhere else in Australia. The saying "four seasons in a day" is very true here.
- Summer: approximately 15 hours of daylight. (05:30-20:50)
- Winter: approximately 9 hours of daylight. (07:40-16:40)
The first reported sighting of Tasmania by a European was on 24 November 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. Captain James Cook landed at Adventure Bay in 1777. Matthew Flinders and George Bass first proved Tasmania to be an island in 1798–99.
The first European settling of Tasmania was by the British at Risdon Cove on the eastern bank of the Derwent estuary in 1804. Penal settlements were established at Sullivans Cove (Hobart), Maria Island, Sarah Island, and Port Arthur. The colony changed its name from "Van Diemen's Land" to "Tasmania" in 1856. The Colony of Tasmania existed from 1856 until 1901, when it federated together with the five other Australian colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia.
Tasmania's main industries are mining (including copper, zinc, tin, and iron), forestry, agriculture, fresh produce (fruit, vegetables, dairy, seafood, beer and wine), and tourism. The economy is affected by the Bass Strait, and how the freight and transport issues of goods into and out of the island are costed and subsidised, at times there are more Tasmanian born people in Melbourne, than there are in Tasmania, due to the nature of the job market in Tasmania.
National Public Holidays
- 1 January: New Year's Day
- 26 January: Australia Day, marking the anniversary of the First Fleet's landing in Sydney Cove in 1788.
- Easter weekend ("Good Friday", "Easter Saturday", "Easter Sunday" and "Easter Monday"): a four day long weekend in March or April set according to the Western Christian dates.
- 25 April: ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), honouring military veterans
- Second Monday in June: Queen's birthday holiday.
- 25 December: Christmas Day
- 26 December: Boxing Day
Regional Public Holidays
- Wednesday not earlier than fifth and not later than eleventh day of January: Devonport Cup
- Last Wednesday of February: Launceston Cup
- Second Monday of February: Royal Regatta Day (Southern Tasmania only)
- First Tuesday of March: King Island Show
- Second Monday of March: 8 Hour Day (Labour Day elsewhere in Australia)
- The Friday nearest the last day of November: AGFEST (Circular Head only)
- The Friday before the first Saturday of October: Burnie Show
- Thursday before the second Saturday of October: Royal Launceston Show
- The Friday before the third Saturday of October: Flinders Island Show
- The Friday before the third Saturday of October: Royal Hobart Show
- First Monday of November: Recreation Day (Northern Tasmania only)
- The Friday nearest the last day of November: Devonport Show
When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday (and Tuesday if necessary) are usually declared holidays in lieu, although both the celebrations and the retail closures will occur on the day itself. Most tourist attractions are closed Christmas Day and Good Friday. Supermarkets and other stores may open for limited hours on some public holidays and on holidays in lieu, but are almost always closed on Christmas Day (25 Dec), Good Friday, Easter Sunday and ANZAC Day morning.
Tasmania is 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 18 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Daylight Saving is observed from the first Sunday of October to the first Sunday of April the following year.
AEST - Australian Eastern Standard Time UTC+10
AEDT - Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time UTC+11
The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial found only in Tasmania. The size of a small dog, it is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world. It is characterised by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, extremely loud and disturbing screech, and ferocity when feeding. Despite its appearance, the devil is capable of surprising speed and endurance, and can climb trees and swim across rivers.
Since 1996 devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) has drastically reduced the devil population and now threatens the survival of the species, which in 2008 was declared to be endangered. The disease is a transmissible cancer, which means that it is contagious and passed from one animal to another. Individual devils die within months of infection. Programs are currently being undertaken by the Tasmanian Government to reduce the impact of the disease, including an initiative to build up a colonies of healthy devils in captivity, isolated from the disease. As of 2008 there were an estimated 10,000–15,000 remaining in the wild, but the decline is so rapid that they are predicted to become extinct before the year 2035. There are people that wish to take a more genetically resistant strain from the North West of Tasmania and introduce them to areas of mainland Australia where there are no dingoes in order to reduce feral cats and foxes and allow a better chance of survival for Australian native animals.
| Southeast Tasmania (Hobart, Bruny Island, Cygnet, Huonville, Port Arthur, Richmond) |
The most populous region of Tasmania. Hobart is Tasmania's capital and largest city. Hobart is also the second oldest city in Australia.
| Northeast Tasmania (Launceston, Ben Lomond, Bridport, Campbell Town, George Town) |
This area encompasses the city of Launceston and the Tamar Valley, the mountainous region of Ben Lomond, the Midlands, and the North East.
| North West Coast (Stanley, Wynyard, Somerset, Burnie, Devonport, Cradle Mountain, Latrobe) |
Small coastal townships and cities following the coast. And some very scenic inland areas.
| East Coast (St Helens, Bicheno, Scamander, Swansea, Freycinet Peninsula, Maria Island) |
Stunning beaches including the Bay Of Fires and Wine Glass Bay, voted some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
| West Coast (Queenstown, Strahan) |
The West Coast has long been the centre of mining in Tasmania. This region has the smallest population of any region in Tasmania.
| South West |
This whole region is protected inside the Southwest National Park.
| Bass Strait Islands (King Island, Flinders Island) |
The two secluded but very scenic islands in the Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia.
Cities and townships
- Bicheno - beach town on the east coast
- Burnie - the fourth largest city in Tasmania
- Devonport - home to the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, third largest city
- Hobart - the state capital
- Launceston - the second largest city
- Queenstown - historic mining town on the west coast
- Richmond - home to many old buildings dating back to the 19th century as well as the oldest bridge in use in Australia
- Ross - another of Tasmania's historic towns with many of the oldest buildings in Tasmania as well as one of the oldest bridges.
- St Helens
Tasmania has some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery not just in Australia but also the world. Over 45 percent of Tasmania is protected in national parks so you can't make a visit here without checking at least a couple of national parks out. The UNESCO World Heritage site Tasmanian Wilderness covers almost 20% of Tasmania. There's a park for every season and for every person. Discover spectacular landscapes from highlands carved by glaciers, to quiet solitary beaches, from cool and silent rainforests, to colourful alpine wilderness wild flowers. Tasmania's 19 national parks encompass a diversity of unspoiled habitats and ecosystems which offer refuge to unique, and often ancient, plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth.
- Ben Lomond National Park
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
- Douglas-Apsley National Park
- Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
- Freycinet National Park
- Hartz Mountains National Park
- Kent Group National Park
- Maria Island National Park
- Mole Creek Karst National Park
- Mt Field National Park
- Mt William National Park
- Narawntapu National Park
- Rocky Cape National Park
- Savage River National Park
- South Bruny National Park
- South West National Park
- Strzelecki National Park
- Tasman National Park
- Walls of Jerusalem National Park
There are no international scheduled flights to Tasmania, all flights must come through mainland cities. (Hobart International Airport has not had a regularly scheduled international passenger service since 1998, when services to Christchurch in New Zealand) ceased, although the airport still maintains customs and immigration facilities for aircraft entering Australia.)
- Flights to Launceston from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
- Flights to King Island and Flinders Island from Melbourne.
Greenbus has up to date information on transport options from both Hobart and Launceston airports to their city centres.
There is no ferry service between New Zealand and Tasmania. The only ferry to service Tasmania is from Melbourne.
Tasmania is served by two Spirit of Tasmania Ferries from mainland Australia. They depart daily from Station Pier in Port Melbourne (a bayside suburb of Melbourne) and arrive at Devonport taking the full night (or the full day during peak summer periods) for the crossing.
The crossing can be a little choppy at times, but provides beautiful views. It costs around $200 each way. You have the option of booking one of a range of a cabins or a reclining chair for the journey. The large ferries take vehicles, bikes, foot passengers and pets.
See the Devonport article for the details of the ferry.
Crossings can also be part of cruise ship itineraries.
Rental car companies usually have restrictions on taking vehicles into or out of Tasmania on the ferry. If you have hired a car on the mainland and need a car to hire in Tasmania, it's best to drop the car off in Melbourne CBD (there is no hire car dropoff at Station Pier), then take the 109 tram out to Station Pier (the terminus is across the road from the ferry terminal); car hire is available at the Devonport terminal.
Getting around Tasmania by car is the most convenient way to see what the state has to offer. Cars can be brought into Tasmania from the mainland on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry (see above), or hired upon arrival by the major operators such as Redspot Sixt, Hertz and Avis.
The state limit is 110 km/h, though achieving that speed on some of the coastal or inland highways is not often possible, and the speed limit of some of those roads may only be up to 90 km/h anyway. Many major roads wind their way through mountain passes and along coastlines, with few overtaking lanes, and some major sections of more remote road may be in need of minor repair. Seek local advice if timing is critical, or just allow more time. What appears the most direct road can add hours to your journey time. Again, seek local advice on the quickest route if timing is critical. Also be aware that on some of the winding roads, or on B roads, some locals (who are used to driving those roads) may try to overtake on inappropriate stretches of road or start to tailgate you if you aren't travelling at the speed limit. If you are concerned or feel uncomfortable, it is usually best to pull over where safe and allow them to pass.
Tasmania uses an alphanumeric system for road references, and all roads are generally well marked with references and destinations. Attractions are generally well signposted from the nearest main road. As a result, it is quite possible to navigate most of Tasmania using only a rudimentary map. Exploring the forests can often lead to a maze of forest roads. A GPS can come in handy for finding your way out, but beware GPS maps are not always up to date and following them blindly can add unnecessary time to travel.
Some indicative travel times, not including any rest periods:
- Hobart to Launceston: 2h20m (199 km)
- Hobart to Devonport: 3h30m (279 km)
- Hobart to Cockle Creek: 2h10m (117 km)
- Hobart to Stanley: 4h30m (402 km)
- Hobart to Queenstown: 3h40m (259 km)
If you have plenty of time in Tasmania, buses can be an option, but you would be advised to study timetables carefully and to do an extra bit of planning, as services can be infrequent.
Two major companies which provide services around the state are:
The main population centres are serviced by local bus networks provided by:
- Metro Tasmania provides intra-city bus services for Burnie, Hobart and Launceston.
- Merseylink provides services to Devonport and Latrobe.
There are no public passenger trains in Tasmania, the rail network is solely for freight and industry.
The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a tourist train which runs between Strahan and Queenstown on the West Coast. The trip takes about 3 hours with lunch included.
- Par Avion offer scenic flights across the state and services into Melaleuca in the Southwest National Park.
- Sharp Airlines offer flights to Flinders Island from Launceston and flights to King Island from Launceston and Burnie.
Bicycle touring is a popular way to see Tasmania.
If you spend any time in the bush you are very likely to see:
- Kangaroos, wallabies, and pademelons are everywhere throughout Tasmania.
- Wombats can be found in many national parks. Be quiet while walking to increase your chances.
- Ringtail and Brushtail Possums only come out at night. If you stay the night in a national park you will be sure to encounter one.
Less common wildlife include:
- Echidnas are rarely seen in the bush. They're more easily spotted when crossing roads.
- Bandicoots and Potoroos are at the small end of the jumping marsupial scale.
- Platypus are very elusive. If you are persistent and very quiet and still you may find one rummaging at the bottom of a creek.
- Eastern and Spotted-tail Quolls very rarely seen.
- Tasmanian Devils are rarely seen in the wild. They can sometimes be spotted along roadsides eating roadkill at night.
- Bay of Fires is one of Tasmania's most popular tourist destinations, located between Eddystone Point and Binalong Bay. Bay of Fires has beautiful blue water, red rocks, and sandy blinding white beaches. The entrance is through the Binalong Bay, which is only 10 minutes from St Helens. This area offers a wide range of activities including camping, boating, bird watching, fishing, swimming, surfing, and walking along the coastline. Still an overlooked wonder of the world.
- Cataract Gorge is a unique, natural formation within a two-minute drive from central Launceston known to locals as The Gorge. After walking 15 minutes from central Launceston along Tamar River into Gorge, you then follow the pathway along the cliff face looking down onto South Esk River. On the southern side, called the First Basin, there is a cafe, swimming pool, and Launceston's beach. The northern side, known as the Cliff Grounds, there is a kiosk, restaurants, swimming pool, and a chairlift across the river. The Cataract Gorge Reserve is one of Australia's most fascinating urban parks.
- Cradle Mountain
- Freycinet Peninsula and Wineglass Bay
- Gordon River
- Hastings Caves include Newdegate Cave, the largest tourism cave in Australia. Tour magical chambers of flowstones and shawls, then relax in a thermal pool. Formations in the cave are spectacular and include flowstone, stalactites, columns, shawls, straws, stalagmites and the unusual helictites - tendrils of calcite that grow in all directions in tiny filaments.
- Mole Creek Karst Australia's only national park featuring caves. Among many features are the King Solomon and Marakoopa Caves, both of which can be viewed with Tasmania Park Service guides leading you. Both caves are distinctly different and a separate entry ticket is required for each. Tour times are staggered throughout the day.
- Port Arthur is the best preserved convict site in Australia. Many years ago, this site was a key role in the colonial system of convict discipline. During your experience, you will have the chance to take guided tours of the Commandant's House, Parsonage, Trentham Cottage, Junior Medical Officer's quarters, historic buildings and ruins of the Penitentiary, Barracks, Guard Tower and military precinct, Hospital, Paupers' Depot and Asylum. Port Arthur is surrounded by beautiful bushland and trails available to explore the land around you.
- Salamanca Place in Sullivans Cove, is Hobart's favourite hang out. Salamanca is lined with a long row of sandstone buildings built in the 1830s. You can wander under the heavy stone arches to find craft and design shops, jewellers, coffee shops, restaurants, bookshops, fashion boutiques, and the Salamanca Arts Centre and artists’ galleries. Every Saturday there’s the Salamanca Market, where you can buy anything from a handmade wooden toy or a hand-spun, hand-knitted sweater to fresh fruit and vegetables or a 50-year-old china plate.
- The Nut is located at the historic village of Stanley, in far north-west Tasmania. The Nut, a sheer-sided bluff is all that remains of an ancient volcanic plug. A walking track climbs to the summit of The Nut, or you can take the chairlift, with spectacular views across Bass Strait beaches and over the town. There is accommodation and an excellent campground in Stanley, and the town is a good base for exploring the forests and coastlines further west.
- Tahune Forest Airwalk
- Mt Wellington
- Trout Fishing. Trout Guides and Lodges Tasmania Incorporated (TGALT) is the industry body, that was voluntarily formed in 1981, initially called the, Tasmanian Professional Trout Fishing Guides Association. Its primary purpose was to provide anglers with a source of guides that they could be assured, would provide a safe, appropriate and professional service. During 1995 the Association was expanded to specifically include trout fishing lodges as full members.
- The Overland Track. The iconic bushwalk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair - bookings essential during the main walking season (November to April).
- The South Coast Track. The bushwalk along the south coast of Tasmania, from Melaleuca, to Cockle Creek - fly in by aircraft and take a 6-day walk back home
- The Great Tasmanian Bike Ride - held in early February.
- Bicycle Touring and Mountain Biking, There are some Great places to ride your bicycle in Tasmania. Australia By Bike offer fully supported tours of Tasmania include all accommodation and meals throughout the year.
- Scuba Diving Tasmania is home to some of the best temperate diving in the world. Along with its giant kelp forests and numerous shipwrecks, the waters reefs also offer an array of unique marine plants and animals. There are many dive sites situated along the coast, the most popular sites are at Bicheno, Bay of Fires, Flinders Island, Fortescue Bay, Tasman Peninsula and Maria Island.
- Off Road Touring. Because Tasmania is a very rugged and heavily forested region, tourists happen to miss out on some incredible places if they do not have a vehicle with four-wheel-drive. Visitors can explore these trails with an experienced operator or either form or tag along with a group. Before exploring, make sure you have a current map of the area. In 2003, Tasmania changed the co-ordinate system used for all maps from AGD 66 to GDA 94. Also, ask the local land manager for the latest information on the condition of the area you plan to use and permits.
- Wild Life Watching. Because of its separation from mainland Australia, Tasmania is home to many of the animals or plants that are rare or even extinct in other areas around the world. If visitors are watchful, they are very likely to witness these species on trails or near streams. Tourists can also be accompanied by a tour guide to point out these animals so you won't miss them! Some of these rare mammals include the Tasmanian Devil, Platypus, Echidna, Sugar Glider, Eastern Quoll, and Forester Kangaroo.
- Hang Gliding and the Flying Fox. Hollybank Treetops Adventure takes visitors across treetops and gives them the experience of seeing Tasmania's forests in a whole new way - bird's-eye view! These canopy tours last for 3 hours and are led by highly trained professionals. Not only do guests take part in this unique adventure by soaring across about a kilometer of cable but they also learn about the forests below them.
- Kayaking. After landing in Hobart's Airport, you are a mere 20 minute drive away from beginning your kayaking experience. Visitors can explore Tasmania's beautiful coastlines and search out secret coves by kayaking. There are professional kayak guides based in Hobart, Kettering, Port Arthur, Coles Bay, Lanceston, and Strahan. Kayak travel through Tasmania's beautiful landscape offers relaxation and exhilaration that tourists will not want to miss out on.
- All-terrain vehicles
- Bicycle touring
- Caves and caving
- Jet boats
- Mountain biking
- Rock climbing
- Sky diving
- Whitewater rafting
- Coastal and River Cruising
- Horse Riding
- Scenic Flights
- Sailing and Yachting
- Wildlife Watching
There are a wide variety of culinary offerings in Tasmania, from the best chips and gravy at the local milk bar, to world renowned chefs in amazing upper class restaurants.
Be sure to try some of Tasmania's world class food.
- Seafood: salmon, abalone, scallops, oysters, mussels and crayfish.
- Meats: beef, venison, quail and wallaby.
- Dairy: cheeses, milk and yogurt.
- Fruit and Vegetables
- Leatherwood Honey
- Chocolate and Fudge
Tasmania has many exceptional world class beers, whiskies & wines.
There are two major breweries in Tasmania; Cascade Brewery in Hobart and J. Boag & Sons Brewery in Launceston, which each offer tours. A number of boutique beer makers and distillers are spread around the state.
You can tour the Tasmanian Wine Routes easily by car or on guided tours. The island's Wine Routes include the Tamar Valley, north of Launceston along both sides of the Tamar River and east to Pipers River; the Derwent, Coal River and Huon Valleys (together comprising the Southern Wine Route), an easy drive from Hobart; and the growing wine regions of the North West and the East Coast.
There is a variety of accommodation options available across the state, from camping through to 5-star luxury. Tasmania is particularly renowned for its hosted bed and breakfast accommodation where you can experience a different way of life in a whole range of different properties, including heritage listed and more modern properties in stunning locations.
Tasmanians are generally more laid-back and friendly than their mainland counterparts. They are usually very willing to help you out or give advice when asked.
When driving observe the speed limits. The rules are simple. 50km/h on all Tasmanian streets, and 100km/h on highways and country roads unless otherwise signposted. Many of Tasmania's country roads are narrow and windy, use common sense and drive to the conditions - not the speed limit.
Always slow down at school zones and crossings when in operation or you may be surprised by a waiting police car and receive a fine.
Be especially careful driving between dusk and dawn as this is when the wildlife is most active. Be prepared to see a lot of roadkill. Wallabies and wombats can make a mess of your vehicle if hit. Drivers swerving to avoid wildlife have caused many accidents.
In the bush
Bushwalking can be a truly breathtaking experience in Tasmania, but be sure to obtain the right gear, local advice and maps. Always sign the logbook at the beginning and end of each walk. Be aware that mobile coverage is limited in wilderness areas. The main dangers of bushwalking are getting lost and/or suffering from hypothermia. Tasmania's weather is notoriously changeable. Be sure to take a good raincoat and warm clothes with you even on a sunny day because an hour or two later it could be pouring with rain. If undertaking more serious bushwalking a map and compass is a must, as is a good sleeping bag and tent for multi-day walks.
There are three species of snake in Tasmania: copperhead, white-lipped, and tiger. The tiger snake is one of the most venomous snakes in the world, but don't let that deter you. No one has died in Tasmania by snake bite since 1977, almost 40 years ago! All three use the same anti-venom so identification of the snake if bitten is not important. Most snakes will slither away as soon as they hear you coming.
While in wilderness areas the water may be good to drink, but it is still highly recommended that you boil before consumption. If in touristy areas, such as The Overland Track, always boil your water.
Mosquitoes are present all year round. There are no mosquito-born viruses. A good repellent is advisable if going into the bush.
- Flights from Launceston to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The Spirit Of Tasmania ferry service between Devonport and Melbourne departs 1-2 times a day. Night sailings depart 6PM and arrive 6AM.