City to Surf - the Ultimate Tasmania East Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Go East! Good food and stunning scenery converge on Tasmania’s east coast
Pristine beaches, beautiful bays, geological wonders, and mouth-watering meals - a Tassie east coast road trip offers up a real visual (and edible) feast
Once seen as mainland Australia’s embarrassing little sibling, this former under-the-radar state is rapidly on its way to becoming the country’s new capital of cool. Endowed with a swag of natural ‘pinch-yourself-they’re-so-pretty’ attractions, and a food and wine scene that could easily rival any of the world’s culinary capitals, Tasmania is the True Blue travel destination that needs to be seen to be believed. Handily, given its size, it also happens to be the perfect road trip destination, and with 3 days to play with, you can see plenty.
Hobart to Swansea - travel time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Museum of Old and New Art - aka MONA - is Australia’s largest privately owned gallery
After checking into Hobart’s newest hip hotel, the MACq 01 the night before, you can stumble out of bed and enjoy killer harbour views from your window (provided you’ve booked a harbour-facing room, that is).
Sitting on the historic wharf - its shape mimicking the former shipping shed that used to stand on the site - each room in the 5-star property is named after a character from Hobart’s history. But that’s not the only nod to its past. Billing itself as the “world's first storytelling hotel” a walking tour of Hobart comes with each stay. And it’s an absolute must-do.
“In Tasmania, the veil between past and present is woven from the words of stories, passed on from generation to generation,” says MACq 01’s master storyteller, Justin Johnstone. “Our tour using retro viewfinders, allowing our guests to stand in the past with their feet in the present.”
Expect great harbour views from a suite in Hobart’s newest hip hotel, MACq 01
After wrapping the morning storytelling tour, it’s time to continue your cultural immersion. For any Tassie first-timer, it’d be a crime to not visit the cultural institution that’s widely credited for spearheading the transformation of not just Hobart, but the entire state, into an international tourist destination.
Museum of Old and New Art - aka MONA - is Australia’s largest privately owned gallery and museum. From ancient Egyptian mummies, to modernist masterpieces; you can easily spend an entire day here. Back in the city, jump in the car and put the pedal to the metal and join the Tasman Highway. After only a few minutes, you’ll leave Hobart’s urban sprawl towards your next destination 46-kilometres away.
The breathtaking, UNESCO-listed, Maria Island, Tasmania, is a must-visit
UNESCO-listed historic ruins, sweeping bays, and dramatic cliffs; though less than an hour and 15-minutes drive from Hobart, Maria Island is a world away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Accessible by 30-minute-long ferry, you’ll need to park up in Triabunna near the terminal, and step aboard to get to experience this slice of Tassie perfection. Once on the island, there’s ample wildlife viewing potential (seals, dolphins, kangaroos, eagles and more), world famous geological landscapes, a wealth of walks to choose from, and the eerie ruins of a convict ghost town.
Georgia Currant guides multi-day walking tours for Maria Island Walk and has been visiting the island since she was a child. “It’s such a small landmass, but it has seen every layer of history that mainland Tassie has,” she says. “Indigenous, whalers, convicts, farmers - it’s a microcosm of Tasmania. Added to that it that it’s so pristine and unspoiled. There’s an abundance of wildlife - you’re guaranteed to see at least a couple of dozen wombats - plus great bushwalking and amazing views. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
Lakeside lunch and wine tasting at Milton Vineyard is a perfect Tassie road trip pitstop
Back on the mainland, hop back in your car and begin the 50-minute drive to your late-lunch spot, Milton Vineyard. Top tip: If you’re up for a midway dip on the drive, make sure to have your swimmers handy and pull over at Little Swanport’s hidden treasure that is Boltons Beach.
A good drop of cool climate wine isn’t the only thing that’s awaiting you at Milton, here you can get a taste of France, thanks to Bordeaux trained chef, Sophie Bermudes, who serves up local produce prepared with a French twist. Designated drivers can shop at the cellar door for later, while passengers can pair their meal with one of Milton’s finest vintages.
Tasmania's Piermont Retreat cottages overlook the beautiful Great Oyster Bay
Following the road’s gentle curves of east coast wine country transforming into farmland and the open coast, you can relax and take it slow, given that the last portion of your drive today is a mere 15 minutes in total.
Just past Swansea, right on the waterfront, and you’ll find your final stop for the day - Piermont Retreat. Here, framed by wild forest, the 180-year-old Homestead and 15 charm-infused cottages overlook the magical Great Oyster Bay. Slick accommodation aside, there’s two private beaches, an outdoor saltwater pool, plus kayaks and mountain bikes if you’re feeling energetic. And for dinner, you won’t need to go far. The on-site Homestead Restaurant is one of the area’s gourmet hotspots. With the sea stretching beyond its windows, diners can feast on both the view and a menu of award-winning dishes crafted from fresh local ingredients, washed down with a selection of expertly paired Tassie drops, naturally.
Swansea to Freycinet - travel time: 50 minutes
The Australian state’s most famous beach, Wineglass Bay, on Tasmania's east coast
Wake up with a brisk morning swim - after all with two private beaches steps away, why not? - followed by a slap-up brekky, to galvanise yourself for a day of sightseeing within Freycinet National Park. If you’re looking to be left awestruck by nature, then this is the place.
Continuing east for 30-minutes and you’ll encounter the dramatic pink granite peaks and secluded bays of this bucolic beauty. Its stretch of coastline is also home to the state’s most famous beach, Wineglass Bay.
To see this perfect curve of white sand and clear blue ocean at its best, hop onboard one of Wineglass Bay Cruises luxury catamarans for a four-hour excursion. Operating daily, in addition to the epic scenery, you’ll also spot seals, whales and friendly pods of resident dolphins. Alternatively, if you want to go DIY, you can walk the steep 3-kilometre Wineglass Bay Lookout route (roughly 1.5 hours to complete), which rewards climbers with panoramic views over Wineglass Bay that are guaranteed to induce Instagram envy.
Maldives or Tasmania? The clear, sapphire hued water in Tasmania's idyllic Honeymoon Bay
Another unmissable highlight - and also within easy walking distance - is Honeymoon Bay. Aptly named, this gem of a beach is fringed with eucalyptus forest, offers jaw-dropping views of the nearby Hazards mountains, and its sapphire-hued water just begs you to take the plunge.
While you can sightsee for days here, after such an active morning your tummy will likely be grumbling. Tear yourself away from nature’s bounty and drive 40-minutes to one of the best wineries on the east coast, Springvale Winery. Located at Cranbrook, the fifth generation winery has become known for its prize-winning Pinot Noir and white varietals.
“We’re in one of the only true cool climates in Australia,” says Springvale Winery managing director, Tim Lyne. “As a result, Tassie produces wines of amazing elegance, structure and fruit intensity - there’s a good reason why every winemaker wants a vineyard here!”
Vino aside, a pop-up vineyard restaurant and cellar door eatery offer more-ish meals matched with wine, should you be imbibing.
Luxury Lodges of Australia member, Saffire Freycinet is the most luxurious Tassie hotel
Positioned on the Freycinet Peninsula overlooking Great Oyster Bay and surrounded by native coastal bushland, Saffire Freycinet is the mother of all luxury Tassie check-ins. A member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia - and with accolades such as ‘world’s best boutique hotel and ‘world’s best luxury hotel’ under its belt - if you’re looking to splurge on the suite life during your trip, this is the place to do it.
For active types, built-in experiences include kayaking and fishing, while those with a penchant for indulgence will relish the in-house spa and the inclusive food and wines. Yes, you read right, inclusive! A gourmand’s dream, Saffire’s multi-course breakfasts, lunches, afternoon teas, pre-dinner canapes and complimentary minibars feating local wines, spirits, chocolate truffles and other treats, are reason enough to stay here alone. The nightly tasting menus (matched with wine) will have you rolling back to your plush suite feeling stuffed, but very, very happy.
Freycinet to Launceston - travel time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Saffire’s signature ‘white tablecloth’ oyster tasting at Freycinet Marine Farm
For breathtaking views, you don’t even have leave your accommodation. At the touch of a button will open blinds revealing a million dollar view that’ll have you lingering in bed. Talk about morning glory!
When you finally do get dressed, go easy on the a la carte breakfast, and leave room for one of Saffire’s signature experiences: the Freycinet Marine Farm. Going right to the source of Tassie’s famed seafood production - via the nearby working oyster farm - only guests of Saffire will be able to partake of the unique ‘white tablecloth’ oyster tasting. Equipped with waterproof waders, guests will wade out to a makeshift dining table in the middle of the water, and then a guide will pluck prized Pacific oysters directly out of the surrounding water, before shucking them and presenting them on a plate, alongside a flute of Tassie sparkling. “The idea of wanting people to be able to feel like they’re part of the process of farming oysters themselves is where it all began,” says Freycinet Marine Farm owner, Julia Fisher. “It’s such an incredible, unique sea-to-saucer experience. There’s no interference between harvesting and consumption, which means they’re at their absolute finest.”
Having eaten your fill of oysters, get back in the driving seat and hit Coles Bay Road, which is one of the most scenic stretches of tarmac you’ll encounter - every turn unveils a new view to take your breath away. 35 minutes later you’ll arrive in the seaside holiday town of Bicheno. Blessed with stunning stretches of sand, the town is beach bum heaven. It also has a wealth of animal attractions, such as East Coast Natureworld, where you can get up close with some of Tasmania's native species, including a population of rescued Tasmanian Devils.
Towering White Knights - the tallest white gums on earth - at Evercreech Forest Reserve
Just over an hour’s drive further inland from the coast, and you’ll hit Fingal Valley. The town has cute historical buildings, but the star attraction here that makes the area stop-worthy is Evercreech Forest Reserve where towering White Knights - aka the tallest white gums on earth - soar towards the sky.
Drive an hour inland along the Esk and Midland Highways, and you’ll reach Evandale. If cute, postcard-perfect historic towns float your boat, then you can’t go past this picturesque landmark, which is hailed as one of the best preserved historic towns in Australia. Stretch your legs and explore before sampling some of the baked delights in local foodie institution, the Ingleside bakery (4 Russell Street, Evandale). Grab a seat outside in the pretty Tuscan-style courtyard and indulge in all manner of sweet treats.
The final leg of your Tassie road trip adventure takes you to the city of Launceston. A quick 20 minute drive and you’ll arrive at your accommodation for this evening, Stillwater Seven. Situated in the historic Ritchie’s Mill, it’s the perfect base for visiting the town’s most famous attention, the Cataract Gorge Reserve. A unique natural formation, walking and hiking trails have been created around the unique natural formation making for a great pre-dinner appetite-inducing workout.
Speaking of, while a check in here is great, Stillwater’s chief claim to fame is its Stillwater River Cafe, Restaurant and Wine Bar. Named ‘restaurant of the year’ one yeas after opening in 2000, the hatted eatery showcases the best of Tasmanian food, and the people who make it. “With growers at our doorstep we have access to the freshest and best food,” says Stillwater executive chef and co-owner, Craig Will. “Our menus morph and change with the seasons to take adventure of produce in its prime.”
An indulgent evening meal here is a suitable full stop to the last three days. It’s also a great place to pause and reflect - glass of local Pinot Noir in hand, naturally - that while three-days in Tassie is great, a full week would be even better.
For more information and tools to turn your Tassie travel dreams into a reality, make sure to take advantage of Tourism Tasmania's array of great resources HERE.