How to Plan Your Dream Vacation in Tasmania

Investing the time and energy to explore this distant, dreamlike destination is definitely worthwhile.

Dangling 150 miles off the southeastern edge of Australia, Tasmania is a destination that remains relatively unknown to most American travelers. However, the island is a hidden gem waiting to be explored, and the effort to acquaint oneself with its beauty is well worth it.

Tasmania boasts a varied and majestic terrain that ranges from mile-high basaltic crags to turquoise-tinged lagoons. The wildlife is similarly diverse, with wallabies and wombats mingling with penguins and possums. It’s difficult to find such a collection of unique animals in any other destination.

Despite its geographic remoteness, Tasmania doesn’t feel isolated at all. Known as “Tassie” to the locals, the island is teeming with a cultural zest that can be felt in the capital city of Hobart or the idyllic towns and fishing villages along its coastal edges. The locals’ admirable pride of place is the island’s most potent asset, and they’re eager to share it with visitors.

Every restaurant menu and cocktail list on the island highlights the world-class local products, including whiskey, cheese, beer, chocolate, and beef. It’s impressive to hear that even hotel mini-bars are hesitant to carry products from beyond the island’s shores. The celebration of what the island has to offer is done in an inclusive way that invites visitors to join in on the joy.

Overall, Tasmania is a destination that offers a unique and enriching experience for those looking to explore something off the beaten path. From the varied terrain and whimsical wildlife to the cultural zest and world-class local products, Tasmania has something to offer anyone who’s willing to make the journey.

In short, Tasmania is a paradise for producers, and they are enthusiastic about sharing their craft with visitors. All that’s needed is the willingness to travel to the island, and we can provide the necessary guidance to make it happen.

Getting Here

For almost a million Americans traveling to Australia yearly, the major entry points are typically Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. However, all of these destinations have several flights per day to Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. For example, there are currently 52 weekly flights from Sydney to Hobart, with round trip tickets costing as little as $120. In short, getting to Tasmania is incredibly easy.

The biggest challenge, of course, is the 14-hour trans-pacific journey. However, this is becoming more manageable as American airlines are offering more frequent routes at lower prices. United Airlines launched its initial direct service from San Francisco to Brisbane in October 2022, and booking far in advance can often yield a round-trip ticket for under $2,000.

Where to Stay

Despite being an island, Tasmania is actually quite large, covering 26,410 square miles, making it the 26th largest island on Earth, roughly the size of Sri Lanka. To explore it all thoroughly, several weeks would be needed. However, if you have limited vacation time, you can designate Hobart as your home base. As the largest city on the island, with a population of just over 200,000, Hobart offers plenty to see, do, and taste. Additionally, some of the island’s best accommodations can be found in Hobart, making it an ideal starting point for your Tasmanian adventure.

If you’re looking for a hotel that’s right in the heart of Hobart, consider The Tasman. Opened in December of 2021, this luxury hotel boasts 152 rooms spread across three separate buildings. The first was originally St. Mary’s Hospital, dating back to the mid-19th century. The second is an Art Deco building from the 1940s, while the third is a contemporary structure. Together, the three buildings form a U-shaped complex located just behind Parliament House.

Despite their differing architectural origins, all sections of the hotel provide fantastic views of the port, harbor, and cityscape. Additionally, guests have access to one of Hobart’s hottest new restaurants and speakeasies, located just off the downstairs lobby. Even better, the hotel is relatively affordable, with rooms typically starting at under $200 per night. So, whether you’re staying for one night or several, The Tasman offers a comfortable and unique experience.

If you’re seeking to venture further north during your Tasmanian travels, Launceston is well worth a stop. As the island’s second-largest city, it provides ample opportunities for exploration. Consider booking a room at Stillwater, located at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge, to serve as your base of operations. Originally constructed as a 19th-century flour mill, Stillwater underwent renovations in the early 2000s and is now one of the region’s top dining destinations.

Recently, the upstairs rooms at Stillwater were transformed into seven individual guest rooms with scenic views of the Tamar River. Each morning, freshly baked sourdough bread, jerky, gin, and jam produced within a 50-mile radius of the property is delivered to your door. Overnight rates at Stillwater start at $240, and the top-rated restaurant downstairs offers three-course tastings for only $60 per person.

What to Do

Given the vast and expansive landscape in Tasmania, renting a car is highly recommended to cover as much ground as possible. You can secure a rental car from Hobart Airport before your arrival, as the associated costs are minimal. For instance, a mid-size sedan can be rented for as little as $150 per week.

Once you have the car, head to Hobart and take a stroll through the harbor to Salamanca Market, a vibrant promenade flanked by Georgian sandstone buildings filled with shops, bars, and restaurants. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, make sure to check out the all-year-round farmers market with 300 stalls offering handmade items ranging from truffles, wool sweaters, local cheeses, wicker baskets, to shawarma. The backdrop of Mount Wellington, towering over 4,100 feet, adds a scenic touch to it all. If it’s a sunny day, drive up Pinnacle Road for about 30 minutes from town to the top and experience the breathtaking views of the surrounding topography.

If you’ve had enough exploration in Hobart, go on a road trip up the rugged eastern coast of Tasmania. Make a stop at Freycinet National Park to see the pristine Wineglass Bay. The bay is directly underneath granite peaks known as The Hazards, located on a narrow peninsula. The spectacular views along the way make this trip an unforgettable adventure.

If you’re looking for a destination that’s closer to Hobart but still remote and breathtaking, consider taking a trip down to Bruny Island. The ferry port is just a 35-minute drive away, and the round-trip crossing costs about $30. During the high season, make sure to book your spot ahead of time.

Once you’re on the island, head straight to the Bruny Island Cheese Company. Founded in 2003 by Nick Haddow, this artisanal operation played a significant role in bringing raw milk cheese back into popularity across Australia. Today, the cellar door offers half a dozen varieties of cheese that are made on-site and can be watched being made through a glass partition. They also offer several craft beers brewed on the premises. You simply can’t miss the melted cheese and prosciutto selection which is served sizzling hot and comes straight to your table.

Overall, Bruny Island provides a unique and memorable experience that’s both close to Hobart and yet still feels remote and picturesque.

What to Eat

One of the most exciting parts of visiting Tasmania is the plethora of dining options available. From casual street food to white tablecloth fine-dining, there’s something for everyone at any time of day.

Hobart is the center of it all, and Peppina, a modern Italian restaurant inside the Tasman Hotel, is currently one of the hottest tickets in town. The kitchen is run by Massimo Mele, one of the country’s top culinary talents. His menu features house-made pastas accompanied by savory, slow-cooked proteins. The Paccheri, a wagyu shin and pork belly ragu, is a standout dish that’s sure to delight your taste buds. Be sure to save room for dessert and head to Mary Mary, the adjoining speakeasy, for a creative selection of bespoke cocktails.

Overall, Tasmania is a food lover’s paradise with so many diverse options to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for Italian cuisine or something else entirely, you’re sure to find a meal that satisfies your taste buds.

If you’re looking for another great dining option in Hobart, check out Institut Polaire, located just across the street from The Tasman. This trendy and contemporary establishment was created by Louise Radman and her winemaker husband Nav Singh, initially as a gin brand. You can still enjoy their famous gin and tonic at the bar, but the restaurant also offers one of the best tasting menus in Tasmania, heavily featuring fresh seafood sourced from the Southern Ocean. The dishes pair perfectly with the natural wines from Domaine Simha, Singh’s cellar.

For a casual lunch option, head up Kelly’s Steps from Salamanca Place to the quaint Battery Point residential neighborhood and visit Jackman & McRoss. This cozy coffee shop serves some of the best savory pies in Tasmania. Grab a cup of their turmeric tea and enjoy a picnic at Arthur Circus Park nearby. If you’re in the mood for pub fare, Tom McHugo’s in the Central Business District is a great spot to grab a pint and a pastrami sandwich.

In Launceston, Grain of the Silos is the place to be. The menu highlights the indelible cattle curation of Tasmania with standout dishes such as pig cheek croquettes, lamb rump with chimichurri and yogurt, and of course, the obligatory Cape Grim Beef. Go ahead and indulge without any regrets.

Overall, Tasmania is a food lover’s paradise with a variety of dining options to indulge in, from high-end restaurants to casual coffee shops, and everything in between.

What to Drink

Tasmania boasts an impressive selection of bars, speakeasies, wineries, distilleries, and breweries. For beer and cider lovers, head up to the north coast and visit Seven Sheds Brewery, Spreyton Cider Company, and the Empress Craft Beer Bar. Check out Penguin Beer Company in the town of Penguin and enjoy a West Coast-style IPA with some fish tacos while taking in the beautiful views of the Bass Strait. Make sure to snap a photo with the town’s celebrity – a 15-foot-tall penguin statue that’s dressed up throughout the year to match seasonal occasions.

If you’re a wine enthusiast, you’re in for a treat in Tasmania. The temperate climate is perfect for producing pinot noirs, chardonnays, and rieslings. Tasmania is also known for its sparkling wine, and nearly a third of all production takes place in the Tamar Valley. Book a tour with Tamar Valley Wine Tours out of Launceston for a great cross-section of all the region has to offer. While exploring the vineyards, make sure to stop at Turner Stillhouse, where American expat Justin Turner is producing a botanically complex gin brand called Three Cuts and, soon, a whiskey in the style of American bourbon.

Overall, Tasmania’s bar scene is truly one of the greatest hits of the region, offering a unique and diverse selection of drinks and experiences to suit all tastes.

Tasmania is a whiskey-lover’s paradise, home to over 80 distilleries producing the brown spirit. Lark Distillery, a 30-year-old operation, is the granddaddy of them all. While the distillery recently moved its cellar door to Pontville, visitors can still sample some of the award-winning whiskies that helped propel the brand to cult-level status. Lark Distillery also made history in 2020 by becoming the first carbon-neutral distillery in all of Australia.

Another must-visit distillery is Killara, founded by Kristy Booth-Lark, the daughter of Lark’s family-founded brand. Killara Distillery has already won multiple awards at both national and international levels for their gins and whiskies, which are produced at their micro-still. The cellar door is situated on a farm and garden, responsible for growing some of the botanicals used inside their spirits.

Overall, Tasmania offers whiskey lovers a vast selection of distilleries to explore, from the legendary Lark Distillery to the inventive Killara Distillery. It’s a great destination for anyone looking to indulge in the joys of whiskey tasting.

Sullivan’s Cove is another major player in the whiskey scene in Tasmania. They operate an unassuming visitors center in a corporate park, not far from the Hobart Airport. Since winning “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” at the World Whiskies Awards in 2014, their limited release expressions have been a highly sought-after commodity. A stopover at the visitors center is one of the surest ways to score some of their precious juice.

The Salamanca Whisky Bar in the heart of Hobart is the best place to sample the goods from across the island in one place. The bar has a menu featuring hundreds of different expressions from various distilleries in Tasmania. Due to hefty excise taxes, distilled spirits in Tasmania can be quite pricey, often upwards of $25 per ounce pour. However, many of these unique and rare liquids cannot be found anywhere else on the planet, making it the perfect opportunity to indulge and live it up during your vacation.

Overall, Tasmania’s whiskey scene is a must-visit destination for whiskey lovers, with Sullivan’s Cove and Lark Distillery leading the way. Whether you’re tasting the whiskey straight from the source or sampling it at a local bar, Tasmania offers a unique and diverse selection of spirits that’s sure to satisfy even the most demanding palate.