12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Tasmania
For those who haven't visited Australia's smallest state, Tasmania or "Tassie," seems shrouded in mystique. Perhaps it's the state's far-flung location some 300 km south of the Australian mainland across stormy Bass Strait. Maybe it's the vast expanses of windswept wilderness - almost half of Tasmania's land mass lies in national parks and World Heritage Areas with sparkling alpine lakes, wild rivers, and mist-cloaked peaks. Perhaps it's the bizarre wildlife - from real life Tasmanian devils to the extinct thylacine, the Tasmanian tiger. Or is it the haunting convict history and beautifully preserved heritage towns that seem frozen in time? Today, this mystique lures more and more travelers who are discovering the island's many jewels.
Shaped appropriately like a heart, Tasmania also delights visitors with its world-class dining. Gloriously creamy cheeses, crisp fruits, and succulent seafood are just some of the mouthwatering local treats on offer.
See also: Where to Stay in Tasmania
1 Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
In the north of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is the jewel in the crown of the state's many natural wonders. Glacier-carved crags, glittering lakes, beech forests, alpine heathland, and jagged dolerite peaks, including 1,616 m Mount Ossa (the highest point on the island) are some of its most breathtaking features. Hiking here is legendary. Favorite day walks include the Lake Dove Walk, with magnificent views of Cradle Mountain (1,545 m), and the Weindorfer Walk, a 6 km circuit through dense forests.
The northern part of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, is particularly beautiful. From the summit of Cradle Mountain here, visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the central highlands. The famous 80 km Overland Track runs south from Cradle Valley to stunning Lake St Clair, the deepest lake in Australia.
2 Port Arthur Historic Site
In spite of (or perhaps because of) its infamous past, the old convict settlement of Port Arthur, about an hour's drive south-east of Hobart, has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Australia. The ruins are part of the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. Here, in 1830, Governor Sir George Arthur established a brutal penal settlement where convicts were forced to hew coal in the mines and fell timber. In spite of a devastating fire in 1897, the remains of many buildings still stand, including the guard tower, church, model prison, and hospital. Visitors can also browse fascinating documents and relics of the penal settlement in the museum, visit the nearby Coal Mines Historic Site, or join an evening lantern-lit 'ghost tour' of the ruins. After touring Port Arthur, take a drive along the coast to explore the soaring sea cliffs and sheltered coves of the spectacular Tasman peninsula.
3 Freycinet National Park
World Heritage-listed Freycinet National Park, on Tasmania's relatively sunny east coast, is one of Australia's oldest nature reserves and one of its most beautiful. The star of this picturesque peninsula is the perfect curve of powder-white sand and azure sea at Wineglass Bay - one of the park's most photographed features. A lookout provides the best views. Take the 20-minute walk from the lookout to the southern end of Wineglass Bay to admire beautiful views of the Hazards, three striking pink granite crags rising out of the sea. The peaks are best photographed at sunrise and sunset when their color deepens in the golden light. Throughout the park, hiking trails wind through pristine bushland to secluded bays and lookouts, and birding is fantastic - black cockatoos, kookaburras, and sea birds are just some of the resident species. At the entrance to Freycinet National Park, the little beach resort of Coles Bay is a good base for walks and climbs in the surrounding hills. Sightseers can explore the entire region on the East Coast Escape scenic drive.
4 Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the spectacular Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park has become a symbol of one of Australia's most famous conservation victories. In the 1970s and 80s, this majestic mountain region of primeval rainforest, steep gorges, and wild rivers was the subject of bitter controversy over a proposal to dam the Franklin River. The opponents of the scheme, with their battle cry "No dams!" were victorious, and the wild beauty of the Franklin River and its surrounding wilderness remains. Today the national park is the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which also includes the rocky 1,443 m peak of Frenchman's Cap. Its aboriginal sites are evidence of a rich indigenous heritage stretching back more than 36,000 years. White-water rafting enthusiasts come here to tackle the tumultuous Franklin River, while hikers enjoy the short walks. A highlight is Donaghys Lookout Walk. Visitors can also explore the park by car on the Lyell Highway. Better still, hop aboard a river cruise from the west coast village of Strahan.
5 Tasman National Park
On the wind-lashed Tasman Peninsula, 56 km east of Hobart, Tasman National Park protects some of Australia's most spectacular coastal scenery. Towering dolerite cliffs plunge 300 m to the sea, islands shimmer just offshore, waterfalls tumble to the sea, and contorted rock formations bear witness to the relentless forces of wind and water. The Blowhole and Tasman Arch are two of the park's most famous features. Other top sites include Remarkable Cave, Waterfall Bay, and the Devil's Kitchen - a collapsed rock arch. Wildlife also scores top billing here. Apart from many species of rare birds, the area plays host to Australian fur seals, dolphins, whales, fairy penguins, and possums. Sightseers can explore some of the top attractions by car, hike along the cliff-top trails, or hop aboard a boat to glimpse the cliffs from sea level, or cast a line - fishing can be excellent here. In the southern end of the park, climbers scale the dolerite cliffs, while Pirate's Bay is popular with hang-gliders. Nearby lies the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur, one of Australia's most poignant historic sites.
6 kunanyi (Mount Wellington)
Undulating to the west of Hobart, the comforting presence of 1,270 m kunanyi (Mount Wellington) is a constant reminder of the unspoiled wilderness that lies on the doorstep of this waterfront capital. Sightseers can follow a winding 21 km mountain road to the Pinnacle, often sprinkled with snow, for breathtaking views over Hobart, the Derwent Valley, and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. At the summit, boardwalks lead to panoramic viewpoints, and a pavilion displays old photographs of Hobart and Mount Wellington. The mountain is a popular spot for biking and hiking through the temperate rainforests, while the distinctive Organ Pipes, a dolerite cliff, is renowned for its excellent rock climbing. Those traveling to the summit should dress warmly as the weather here is notoriously fickle.
Hours: Summit observation shelter - 8am-8pm (summer), 8am-4:30pm (winter)
7 Cataract Gorge
A mere 15-minute stroll along the river from Launceston's city center, the wild and romantic Cataract Gorge is a deep chasm carved over many centuries by the South Esk River. Precipitous walking paths, first built in the 1890s, cut into the cliff face on both sides of the gorge offering heart-stopping views of the river far below. The less adventurous can hop aboard the world's longest single-span chairlift, while the Kings Bridge and Gorge Restaurant also afford fine views. On the south side, visitors can relax at a café and paddle in the bush-fringed swimming pool. At Cliff Grounds on the northern side, lies a beautiful Victorian garden replete with ferns, strutting peacocks, and wallabies. River cruises offer another perspective of this popular attraction. http://www.launcestoncataractgorge.com.au/
8 Salamanca Place
Salamanca Place, with its lovingly restored sandstone buildings is a tourist hub in the heart of Hobart's historic waterfront. Built by convicts between 1835 and 1860, these beautiful Georgian buildings were once warehouses along the commercial center of old Hobart. Today, they house art galleries, cafés, restaurants, and shops. Sightseers can dine alfresco along this cobblestone strip; shop for antiques and souvenirs; or visit the galleries, performing arts venues, and ateliers of the Salamanca Arts Centre. Every Saturday, tourists and locals alike flock to the Salamanca Markets where more than 300 vendors sell everything from handcrafted jewelry and woodwork to fresh produce. Nearby Constitution Dock is a favorite spot to buy fresh seafood and the end point of the iconic Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. From Salamanca Place, sightseers can descend Kelly Steps to Battery Point, a picturesque seaside suburb with heritage houses. Adjacent to Salamanca Place, Parliament House is open to visitors when Parliament is in session.
9 Mount Field National Park
Mount Field is one of Australia's oldest national parks, with magnificent rainforests, tall swamp gums, alpine moorland, and stunning waterfalls. Beautiful walking trails wind through the park, which is often dusted with snow in the high moorlands until summer. The short Russell Falls Nature Walk to these triple-tiered cascades is suitable even for wheelchair-users. Sightseers can also hike around Lake Dobson, and experienced bushwalkers have a choice of more challenging routes. Mount Field National Park is also a popular cross-country skiing area in winter. In the fall, the park ignites with the yellow, orange, and red leafed trees. The last Tasmanian tiger was captured in this area in 1930.
10 Bruny Island
About 55 minutes from Hobart by car and ferry, Bruny Island is a popular day trip for foodies and nature buffs. The island lies across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel from the seaside town of Kettering. It's famous for its delectable gastronomic treats such as handmade chocolates, local berries, artisan cheeses, and succulent oysters, which visitors can sample on island tasting tours. South Bruny National Park, on the island's southern tip offers beautiful coastal scenery with soaring green sea cliffs, sheltered beaches, and challenging surf breaks. Visitors can explore the park on an eco-cruise or hike the many nature trails. Wildlife is abundant. Fur seals and fairy penguins swim offshore, while wombats, wallabies, and echidnas are some of the more charismatic land animals. Built by convicts between 1836 and 1838, Cape Bruny Lighthouse offers beautiful views of the surging Southern Ocean.
11 Mona Museum and Art Gallery
Cutting edge and controversial, the MONA (Museum of New Art) in Hobart has made a splash on the Aussie art scene since it opened in 2011. Its Tasmanian owner, David Walsh, described the thought-provoking collection of art and antiquities as a "subversive adult Disneyland". After entering the museum's foyer at ground level, art lovers descend a spiral staircase to a subterranean gallery where exhibits range from Sidney Nolan's Snake to an Egyptian sarcophagus and a machine that turns food into brown sludge. Portable touch screen devices provide commentary on the works. Also on site are entertainment venues, a trendy restaurant, library, cinema, and accommodation pavilions. The most popular way to travel to MONA is a 30-minute ferry ride along the Derwent River, which drops visitors off at the museum's steps.
Hours: Open Wed-Mon 10am-6pm, closed Tuesdays
Admission: Adults $20, concession $15, under 18s and Tasmanians free
Address: 655 Main Rd, Berriedale, Hobart
12 The Nut
On Tasmania's northwest coast, the Nut is a 143 m high volcanic plug that looms over the picturesque heritage town of Stanley. Matthew Flinders, who viewed it in 1798, thought it was reminiscent of a Christmas cake with its steep rounded sides and flat top. Sightseers can climb the steep path to the Pinnacle, which takes about 15 minutes, or hop aboard a chairlift for fantastic photo opportunities. At the top, trails of varying lengths lead visitors through fern-fringed forests and to scenic lookouts with 360-degree views of the curving coastline, the quaint hamlet of Stanley, and surrounding farmland. Look for pademelons and wallabies along the trails, and take a jacket as the top can be quite windy.
Where to Stay in Tasmania for Sightseeing
We recommend these wonderful hotels in Tasmania's top tourist spots:
- Saffire Freycinet: luxury eco-hotel, Freycinet Peninsula, spectacular views, floor-to-ceiling glass.
- Grand Chancellor Hotel Hobart: mid-range Hobart hotel, great location, harbor views, pillow menu, fantastic restaurant.
- Clarion Hotel City Park Grand: affordable Hobart hotel, heritage building, spacious rooms, fitness center.
- Batman Fawkner Inn: budget Launceston hotel, walk to Cataract Gorge, great value, shared and private rooms, communal kitchen and lounge area.