How to Plan the Ultimate Getaway to Tasmania

Acquainting yourself with this far-flung fantasyland is well worth the effort.

The city of Hobart and Mount Wellington seen from Constitution Dock, Hobart.
Constitution Dock, Hobart in Tasmania. LightRocket via Getty Images

Dangling some 150 miles off the southeastern edge of Australia, Tasmania exists as an enigma to most American travelers. It might be challenging for most to even identify the island on a map, but acquainting yourself with this far-flung fantasyland is well worth the effort. The terrain is varied and majestic, ranging from mile-high basaltic crags to turquoise-tinged lagoons. The wildlife is similarly whimsical—where else will you see wallabies and wombats mingling with penguins and possums?

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Though geography might suggest you’re at the end of the earth, you won’t feel at all isolated here. “Tassie” is teeming with a cultural zest—from the capital city of Hobart to the idyllic towns and fishing villages along its coastal edges. This is a symptom of the island’s most potent asset: an admirable pride of place. Locals celebrate what they have, but never in an exclusionary way— they want to bring you in on the joy. Whether it be whiskey, cheese, beer, chocolate or beef; it’s all world-class and it’s all highlighted on every restaurant menu, and in every cocktail list. Even hotel mini-bars are reluctant to carry products from beyond the island’s shores.

Simply put, Tasmania is a producer’s paradise—and they’re eager to share what they’ve crafted. All that’s required of you is the effort of willing your way here. We’ve got the guidance you need to make it happen.

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Hobart waterfront in tasmania
The Hobart waterfront. Tasmanian Tourism/Sean Fennessy

Getting Here

Of the nearly one million Americans traveling to Australia annually, virtually all of them arrive through one of the country’s three biggest cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Each one of those major destinations offers multiple flights per day to Hobart. From Sydney, for example, there are currently 52 flights per week to the Tasmanian capital, and these flights can be as little as $120 for a round trip ticket. In other words, it’s super easy.

The largest hurdle, of course, is braving the approximately 14-hour long haul trip across the Pacific. But even that journey is becoming more manageable now that American carriers are providing more frequent routes, for less. United Airlines just launched the first direct service from San Francisco to Brisbane in October of 2022, and you can often find that flight for under $2,000 when you book far enough in advance.

Where to Stay

Tasmania is no tiny place. At 26,410 square miles, it’s actually the 26th biggest island on earth—roughly the size of Sri Lanka. All this is to say, if you’re planning to see all of it, you’ll need a few weeks. If that’s more vacation time than you have squirreled away, consider designating Hobart as your home base. It’s far and away the biggest city on the island, with a population just over 200,000, so there’s plenty to see, do and taste. Plus, some of the island’s best accommodations can be found here.

hotel room in tasmania with modern bed
The Tasman. The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel - Heritage Studio Suite

For a hotel right in the heart of town, check into The Tasman. Opened in December 2021, the 152-room luxury hotel is actually three properties in one. The first building was originally constructed as St. Mary’s Hospital in the mid-19th century. The second one is an Art Deco edifice from the 1940s, and the third is a contemporary structure, combining the cluster into a U-shaped complex directly behind the Parliament House. Each section pays tribute to its respective architectural origins, so you can stay here on three separate occasions, and enjoy a vastly different experience each time.

One common thread running throughout, though, is that you’re likely to receive a peerless view of the port, harbor and surrounding cityscape from the comfort of your well-appointed room. You’ll also get access to one of Hobart’s hottest new restaurants and speakeasies just off the downstairs lobby (more on that later). Best of all, the property is quite reasonably priced, with rooms typically starting at under $200 per night.

Cataract Gorge in Launceston.
Cataract Gorge. Brad Japhe

If you’re looking to head further north during your Tasmanian adventures, Launceston, the island’s second biggest city, is another worthwhile stopover. From here, reserve the Stillwater as your jump off spot. Originally built as a 19th century flour mill at the mouth of the Cataract Gorge, it was refashioned in the early aughts to hold one of the region’s premiere dining destinations. Most recently, the upstairs quarters have been converted into seven separate guest rooms overlooking the Tamar River. Each morning, freshly baked sourdough bread and butter arrives at your door; other in-room amenities include jerky, gin and jam, all produced within 50 miles of the property. Overnight rates start at $240, and three course tastings at the top-rated restaurant downstairs are only $60 per head.

view of hobart from Mt wellington
Hobart from Mount Wellington. Brad Japhe

What to Do

Like we said, there’s an abundance to see here, spread out over an expansive landscape. so It’s helpful to secure a rental car from Hobart Airport prior to arrival, as it’s the best way to cover ground, and the associated costs are minimal—it’s possible to rent a mid-size sedan for as little as $150 per week.

Once you’ve got keys in hand, head to Hobart, get situated and walk through the harbor to Salamanca Market. This vibrant promenade is bounded by Georgian sandstone warehouses, holding shops, bars and restaurants. If you’re here on a Saturday, you’ll be able to stroll through one of the best farmers markets in all of Australia. Running all year round, from 8:30 am to 3 pm, it features 300 stalls offering all manner of handmade goods. Truffles, wool sweaters, local cheeses, wicker baskets, shawarma—it’s all right here, backdropped by Mount Wellington, soaring some 4,100 feet towards the sky. If it’s a sunny day, you can drive up Pinnacle Road to its summit, for an unrivaled sense of the surrounding topography. The journey takes about 30 minutes from town to the top.

After you’ve spent several days exploring Hobart, consider a road trip up Tassie’s rugged eastern coast. Head towards Freycinet National Park and you’ll spy unobstructed views of pristine Wineglass Bay, directly underneath The Hazards, a series of granite peaks jutting up from a narrow peninsula.

selection of cheeses
Bruny Island Cheese Company. Brad Japhe

If you’re looking for something that’s a little closer to Hobart, but equally as remote and awe-inspiring, head down to Bruny Island. It’s a 35 minute drive to a ferry port, and the crossing costs about $30 roundtrip. During high season, you’ll want to reserve your spot ahead of time. Once on the island, your first stop should definitely be the Bruny Island Cheese Company. Founded back in 2003 by Nick Haddow, this artisanal operation helped re-popularize raw milk cheese across Australia. Today the cellar door here offers half a dozen varieties—which you can watch getting made behind a glass partition—and several craft beers, also brewed on-site. Don’t skip out on the melted cheese and prosciutto selection; it comes to the table in a sizzling hot skillet.

food on a table
The Tasman. Dearna Bond

What to Eat

Speaking of tasty treats…as you might have surmised by now, Tassie affords an embarrassment of riches at mealtime. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re hungry for casual street food and pub grub or white tablecloth fine-dining; it’s all around you at any time of day.

Hobart is the main hub, of course, and right now one of the hottest tickets in town is Peppina, a modern Italian eatery inside the Tasman Hotel. Holding down the kitchen here is Massimo Mele, one of the country’s top culinary talents. His menu highlights house-cooked pastas under savory, slow-cooked proteins. The Paccheri is a prime example; this is a wagyu shin, pork belly ragu that nourishes the soul with each bite. Save room for digestif at Mary Mary, the new speakeasy next door, for an inventive array of bespoke specialties.

fish tacos and beer on a ledge overlooking water
Penguin Brewing. Brad Japhe

Just across the street from The Tasman is another can’t-miss option: Institut Polaire. The hip and contemporary concept is the brainchild of Louise Radman and her winemaker husband Nav Singh; Polaire actually started off as a gin brand and, yes, you’ll score Hobart’s best gin and tonic at the bar as a result. The eatery that evolved here, however, also serves up one of the best tasting menus in Tassie. It leans heavily on fresh seafood sourced from the Southern Ocean, and all of it pairs sensibly against the natural wines from Singh’s cellar, Domaine Simha.

If you’re looking for something during lunch hours, head up Kelly’s Steps from Salamanca Place and into the quaint residential neighborhood of Battery Point. That’s where you’ll find Jackman & McRoss, a cozy coffee shop baking some of the best savory pies you’ll ever taste. Take it to go with a cup of their turmeric tea and set up an afternoon picnic in neighboring Arthur Circus Park. Pub lovers can head to Tom McHugo’s in the central business district for a pint and a pastrami sandwich.

Up in Launceston, Grain of the Silos is all the rage. The menu highlights the island’s indelible cattle curation, with dishes like pig cheek croquettes, lamb rump under chimichurri and yogurt and the obligatory Cape Grim Beef. Have it all with no regrets.

estate in tasmania surrounded by rolling greenery
Josef Chromy Tasmania. Tasmania Tourism Adrian Cook

What to Drink

We’re just going to say it: Tasmania has so many fantastic bars, speakeasies, wineries, distilleries and breweries that it is undoubtedly the whisky-making capital of the Southern Hemisphere. To be frank, Tassie’s bar scene could be an entire story in itself, but we’re going to whittle it down and give you the greatest hits.

penguin statue in tasmania
The town of Penguin. Brad Japhe

For beer and cider, head up to the north coast and make stops at Seven Sheds Brewery, Spreyton Cider Company and the Empress Craft Beer Bar. End up at Penguin Beer Company, to enjoy a West Coast-style IPA with some fish tacos in the eponymous town, peering out over the Bass Strait. Don’t forget to pose for a worthwhile selfie-op next to the local celebrity: A 15-foot-tall penguin statue that’s dressed up throughout the year to match the seasonal occasions.

Wine-lovers have so much to savor in this part of the world. Tassie boasts a temperate climate best suited to wondrous pinot noirs, chardonnays and rieslings. The island also claims ownership of an enviable sparkling wine scene, and nearly a third of all that production takes place in the Tamar Valley. Book an outing with Tamar Valley Wine Tours out of Launceston, and you’ll get to enjoy a great cross section of it all. While you’re perusing those vineyards, be sure to stop at Turner Stillhouse, where American expat Justin Turner is bottling a botanically complex gin brand called Three Cuts,and will soon release a whiskey in the style of American bourbon.

bar in tasmania at whiskey distillery
Lark Distillery. Tourism Tasmania/Nick Osborne

Oh, did somebody say whiskey? Of course they did, because this island is home to over 80 distilleries bottling the brown spirit. The grandaddy of them all is Lark, a 30-year-old operation which now manages its cellar door out of Pontville. The producer recently became the first carbon-neutral distillery in all of Australia, and if you visit the tasting room (which is open daily from 11 am to 5 pm), you’ll get to sample some of the goods that helped propel the operation to cult-level status.

In 2020, the daughter of that family-founded brand splintered off to start Killara Distillery. Kristy Booth-Lark has already won multiple awards, both nationally and internationally for the gins and whiskies rolling off the micro-still at this startup. The cellar door sits on a farm and garden responsible for some of the botanicals used inside.

Sullivans Cove French Oak award winning whisky is seen in the Sullivan's Cove Craft Whisky Distillery
Sullivan’s Cove. Getty Images

Outside of Lark, the second biggest player in the game is Sullivan’s Cove, which operates an unassuming visitors center in a corporate park, not far from Hobart Airport. Ever since winning “world’s best single malt whisky” at the World Whiskies Awards back in 2014, its limited release expressions have been increasingly scant. A stopover here is one of the surest ways to score some of the precious juice.

But the best way to sample all the goods in one place is surely at Salamanca Whisky Bar, in the heart of Hobart. The menu here holds hundreds of different expressions from across the island. Be forewarned that on account of hefty excise taxes, distilled spirits in this part of the world can get quite pricey—often times upwards of $25 per ounce pour. You’re on vacation, though, and many of these liquids can’t be found anywhere else on earth—it’s the best time to live it up.

How to Plan the Ultimate Getaway to Tasmania