I’ve already touched upon the fastest, most efficient way to get between Tasmania’s two major cities. But when it comes to driving between Launceston and Hobart, you are spoilt for choice with so much to discover along the way.
The Tasman Highway is definitely the most scenic option for driving between Launceston and Hobart. With iconic natural wonders like the Bay of Fires and Wineglass Bay, the scenery is a massive contrast to the history along the Midland Highway route.
Skirting along the east coast of Tasmania, the Tasman Highway (the A3 route) is 410km (although with my suggestions, it’s more along the lines of 500km) and will take you a full day at least to complete the trip if you would like to see some of the sights along the way.
This is definitely not the route to take if you are in a hurry, but with Tasmania being such a popular tourist destination, it would be a shame to fly into one of the cities and not see the rest of what this state has to offer.
Along the Tasman Highway route, it’s 410km which is the much more scenic option. The more direct Midland Highway is just a touch over 200 kilometres.
You could do it in as little as 5 hours, but one of the key reasons to drive the Tasman Highway is all the stops along the way. So, at the very least, you should give yourself a full day to complete the trip. To really make the most of it, I’d recommend giving yourself a couple of days.
The drive along the Tasman Highway is pretty straightforward. The closer you get to Hobart, the easier it gets before ultimately turning into a multilane freeway in the outskirts of the city. Just keep in mind there are often roadworks on at least some section of the trip as they continue to upgrade the road. It’s also worth noting that this route is popular with caravans and campervans which can slow things down in sections where overtaking is somewhat limited.
Each of the townships along the way usually have so sort of services, so they are pretty regular. Unlike the Midland Highway, where the towns have been largely bypassed, the Tasman Highway still passes through many towns, particularly along the coastal section of the route.
Absolutely. I’ve done it a couple of times. That said, if you have the time, there is plenty to see along the way, so it would be worthwhile giving yourself a couple of days to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Let’s get into my tips and advice for the best places to stop along the Tasman Highway between Launceston and Hobart.
I will say that services at this end of the trip can be quite sparse, so make sure you fuel up and stock up on breakfast/snacks before leaving the city, depending on how you like to road trip.
Also, make sure you download offline maps if you are navigating with Google Maps or another service on your phone. Phone reception is a little spotty along the way, particularly the first part of the trip. It’ll just make your life a bit easier.
Little Blue Lake
Little Blue Lake just to the south of Mount Cameron is a bit of a detour. But then again this is the scenic route after all.
About a two-hour drive outside of Launceston and a short excursion off the Tasman Highway (A3) along Gladstone Road (B82), you will find the stunningly vibrant Little Blue Lake.
Not to be confused with the nearby Blue Lake (which is bigger), the Little Blue Lake is located right next to the main road and is an astonishing blue/aqua shade that needs to be witnessed firsthand.
The colour comes from the minerals in the sediment in and around the lake, leftover from the area’s pioneer mining days. So while the lake makes for some stunning photos, I would suggest that you plan to spend your time walking around exploring the remnants of its mining history instead of swimming in it.
Pro Tip: The GPS might offer you a few different ways to link back up with the Tasman Highway, but your best option is to return the way you came. The C routes aren’t really conducive for caravans and campervans, so they can slow your progress significantly along these alternate routes if unlucky enough to stumble upon one following the GPS directions.
Bay of Fires
The Bay of Fires is one of the iconic photo spots along the east coast of Tasmania.
Famous for its striking orange lichen-cloaked granite boulders and white sand beaches, The Bay of Fires Conservation Area stretches for more than 50 kilometres from Binalong Bay in the south to Eddystone Point in the north.
The Bay of Fires is certainly a destination in its own right, and you could easily spend a few days here. But for the sake of this particular guide, I’m going to recommend the short (10 minutes each way) detour off the Tasman Highway from St Helens up to Binalong Bay (along Binalong Bay Road (C850)).
Binalong Bay, and in particular Skelton Bay and Lone Tree, are the best way to get a sample of The Bay of Fires as part of this road trip. Do make sure you give yourself a little time to wander around and explore. The crystal clear blue water is properly inviting in the summer, while the unique landscape is stunning to witness.
That said, if you are planning on doing the Tasman Highway route over a few days. Also, make sure you head up to The Gardens and Eddystone Point Lighthouse.
It’s a couple of big stints of driving (at least in Tasmanian terms) to get to this point, so no matter how long you plan to spend in the Bay of Fires, St Helens is the best place to either refresh, stock up on supplies or base yourself. The conservation area is popular with campers, but check out Bayside Hotel or Panorama St Helens Nature Resort if that is not your style.
Sure there are a couple of small towns along this section of the Tasman Highway that you could stop into, especially for a quick coffee stop or lunch, depending on how you are travelling. Bicheno stands out with its blowhole.
About an hour down the highway from St Helen’s this little fishing town is popular with tourists for the Bicheno Blowhole, especially on days when the sea is rough.
If you haven’t had much of a chance to see the local wildlife while you’ve been in Tasmania to this point, then you could also stop in to visit the East Coast Natureworld.
Unlike some of the wildlife parks that I’ve recommended to see the Tasmanian Devil in person in my other posts, this there is no major effort to go out of your way to see this one. It’s also home to a diverse collection of other Australian animals, making it worthwhile stopping in for a couple of hours, but only if you are making this trip over a few days.
If you are planning on hiking and staying in the Freycinet National Park (the next stop of this list), Bicheno also makes a good place to stock up on supplies as well.
Freycinet National Park – Wineglass Bay/Coles Bay
Much like the Bay of Fires, the Freycinet National Park, especially Wineglass Bay, is another absolutely iconic part of Tasmania.
This is a fairly significant detour (30 minutes each way plus time spent in the park), but I can’t imagine why you would consider skipping it if you are taking the scenic Tasman Highway route, even if you are planning to complete the trip in a single day.
At the very least, I would strongly recommend driving into the park to see the red and pink granite peaks known as the Hazards, as well as taking a walk up to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. It’ll take you roughly an hour, but the views out over the bay are absolutely stunning.
That said, the Freycinet National Park has a lot more to offer. Other popular hikes in the park include Mount Amos’ summit and the trip down to Wineglass Bay’s beach. Both would require spending the better part of a day in the park.
If exploring the park further appeals to you, this makes an ideal overnight stop as roughly the midway point on the road trip between Launceston and Hobart.
Camping within the park is well catered for, but should you be after something a little more comfortable, either Freycinet Lodge or Freycinet Resort are great places to relax after a big day of travel and hiking.
It’s also worth noting you will need a National Park’s pass in the Freycinet National Park, but you can buy them easily when you enter the park either at the parks office or online. The Wineglass Bay Lookout car park also has a machine that you can easily purchase one as well.
Pro Tip: Weather conditions can and often do change quickly in Tasmania. If you plan to take any of the hikes in the Freycinet National Park (other than the Wineglass Bay Lookout walk), make sure you are properly prepared with enough water, proper footwear, and a warm weatherproof jacket etc. so as not to be caught out.
The seaside village of Swansea is another great place to stop and refresh along the Tasman Highway.
If you are making this road trip in a single day, it makes for a great late lunch stop if you chose not to stop in Bicheno. Alternatively, if you stay in the Freycinet National Park overnight (or even a couple of days), it’s a great place for either breakfast or lunch looking out towards the Hazards on the other side of the bay.
One of Tasmania’s oldest towns, Swansea, also has some great colonial architecture and a Heritage Museum. If you aren’t planning on doing the Midland Highway route while you are in Tasmania, its a great way to discover a lot more about the history of the regional towns that popped up around the island during this early convict time.
This next section of the Tasman Highway is particularly scenic and a lot of fun to drive, so I would recommend stocking up on any road trip essentials in Swansea before leaving.
There are several small towns and lookouts along this hour and a half section of driving down the Tasman Highway, and if you have the time, you can stop at them all.
That said, the next major town I would suggest that you stop in is Sorell. On the outskirts of greater Hobart, this town is the traditional gateway to Port Arthur (known these days for its heritage convict sites) and the junction point off the Tasman Highway for the Arthur Highway.
Sorell has its own mix of heritage buildings as well as modern facilities and well set up for the regular flow of tourists heading to and from Port Arthur. Making it an ideal stop for whatever you need, or simply just to break up the driving after a big day on the road.
Pro Tip: If your plans involve heading straight to Hobart’s airport for any reason, Sorell is actually the closest town to it, just a couple of minutes drive away.
This one is another detour, but with good reason. Did you know that Tasmania has Australia’s oldest bridge still currently use?
It does, and that bridge is located in the heritage town of Richmond, a short (20-30 minute) detour off the Tasman Highway on this final leg heading to Hobart.
This awe-inspiring feat of architecture was built using convict labour back in 1825 and is still one of the towns major thoroughfares. Whether you simply drive over it or stop and appreciate the history of the bridge’s construction, if you have the time, it is well worth the detour.
While you are in Richmond, make sure you visit the town proper and explore some of the old colonial buildings that have since been repurposed into shops and cafes in what is now a bustling tourist town due to its history and proximity to Hobart.
Richmond is also home to the oldest intact gaol in Australia, Richmond Goal, if you want to explore more of Tasmania’s convict history.
Crossing over the famous Tasman Bridge, you’ll finally arrive in the capital of Tasmania, Hobart.
Making the return trip back to Launceston? Might I also suggest this convict route option along through the centre of Tasmania.
If you’d like to get more information to help plan your trip to and around Australia… Check out the rest of my blog posts.