Southern Tasmania is a place for all tastes and all seasons, a region of endless opportunity for the pursuit of pleasure, for adventure and for discovering Tasmania’s past.
This area offers scope from caving to mountain-climbing, ocean racing to winter snow skiing, temporary incarceration in former convict’s cells to accommodation in hotels of international standard and rides in every form from miniature steam trains to camels. Here one finds Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart. This delightfully historic city is nestled at the foot of Mt Wellington and is situated on the banks of a superb deep water harbour. Clean waterways provide endless recreational opportunities as well as supporting thriving aquaculture industries.
There is an abundance of Georgian and Victorian buildings. Convict ruins stand as silent sentinels amidst serenely beautiful landscapes. On the east coast are magnificent beaches and spectacular coastlines. To the west and south lie rugged mountains and untamed wilderness regions. The diversity in such a small area is staggering and it will provide the visitor with exciting opportunities of discovery at every turn.
On a clear day from the pinnacle of Mt Wellington, the sweeping views cover large areas of the State. To reach the summit (only 20 km from the city), take Davey Street through Hobart, then continue on Huon Road (B64) to the turn-off on Pillinger Drive just before Fern Tree. There’s a network of walking tracks in Wellington Park, and the Organ Pipes are a popular rockclimbing location. Weather conditions can change fast – be prepared for mountain weather at any time of year.
Hobart’s other mountain is Mt Nelson, 12 km from the city on the Southern Outlet (follow Davey Street from the city). The Signal Station offers views over the city and estuary, and is adjacent to the tracks and bushland of the Truganini Reserve.
Hobart’s Botanical Gardens on the Queens Domain are a peaceful haven of green lawns and long-established European trees – red and golden leaves make an autumn visit a delight. (Catch a river ferry, take the Roundtowner bus from the city or walk along the intercity cycleway from the Cenotaph, a short walk from the docks.)
In the southern suburb of Taroona (follow Sandy Bay Road for 11 km from the city) is the historic Shot Tower, Australia’s oldest – climb the steps to the platform from which molten lead was dropped through a screen to form lead shot.
Cross the Tasman Bridge to Hobart’s Eastern Shore, and visit the Kangaroo Bluff Historic Site in the riverside suburb of Bellerive. From here, guns were trained across the river to defend Hobart from a feared invasion from the sea in the 18th century. Returning to the A3, travel east towards Hobart Airport, and turn off to Cambridge and follow the B31 to the historic town of Richmond – browse in the galleries, sip a coffee, admire the Georgian architecture and visit the Richmond Gaol, where a guided tour will present powerful images of the harshness of the convict era.
From the A3 near Cambridge, turn off at the overpass to the Seven Mile Beach Protected Area. Long stretches of sand, horse riding through the pines, picnics, walking and swimming are all popular here.
Tasmania is the last bastion of several mammals which were once widespread on the Australian mainland. These include all of the world’s remaining large predatory marsupials. Nowhere else is it possible to see together the Tasmanian devil, eastern quoll, spotted-tailed quoll and, perhaps, the largest of them all, the Tasmanian Tiger.
Two-thirds of Tasmania’s 33 mammal species are found in the World Heritage Area. Wallabies, possums and pademelons are commonly seen around the campgrounds, but other fascinating, though less well-known animals inhabit the region.
One such creature, Tasmania’s freshwater shrimp, has been described as a living fossil. Found only in alpine tarns and streams, this species has remained virtually unchanged for over 200 million years! The orange-bellied parrot is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered birds. It breeds in the south-west of the World Heritage Area during the summer months and migrates to the mainland for the winter. Only about 200 individuals still exist.
The red-headed velvet worm, a species of peripatus, is only known to occur in one location – an area in the heart of the Southwest National Park. Living in rotting logs, the peripatus captures its prey by pinning it down with a fine stream of sticky glue which it fires from projections on either side of its head.
The Pedra Branca skink, isolated since the last Ice Age, occurs only on a tiny rock island off the south coast of Tasmania. It survives solely on fish scraps dropped by nesting seabirds. Closely related endemic alpine skinks inhabit rugged peaks in the Word Heritage Area.
At Sorell (26 km from Hobart) turn right on the Arthur Highway and follow the A9 south to the Tasman Peninsula. A blend of spectacular landscapes and poignant history, this area deserves more than a brief day visit – there’s plenty to see and do, from brick and stone ruins of the convict era, to the crags, forests, beaches and bays of the Tasman National Park.
At Eaglehawk Neck, see the remarkable Tessellated Pavement wave platform. After crossing the narrow isthmus (once the site of a line of chained dogs, which alerted guards to escaping convicts) turn left off the A9 to the C338 to reach the magnificent coastal formations of Tasman Arch and the Devils Kitchen, and the start of a half-day return walk to Waterfall Bay.
Port Arthur is the focus for most visitors to the Tasman Peninsula. Site of Australia’s longest-established penal colony, the dramatic buildings, stark and beautiful, encircle the waters of a sheltered bay. Whether you discover Port Arthur on a guided tour, cruise across the bay to the Isle of the Dead, or simply wander on the lawns among old English trees, this powerful place will leave a lasting impression.
Beyond the Port Arthur Historic Site, there are other explorations to make. Close by is the beach at Safety Cove and the wave-cut Remarkable Cave. Take the B37 via Nubeena and Premaydena to the Coal Mines Historic Site, with more convict ruins, and beyond to the Lime Bay Nature Reserve. On the eastern side of the peninsula, Fortescue Bay is the starting point for an excellent day walk to Cape Hauy, the Lanterns and the Candlestick; and a shorter walk to Bivouac Bay. Good camping is available at the Fortescue Bay campsite.
A 15-minute car ferry trip from Kettering (35 km south of Hobart on the B68 from Kingston) is Bruny Island, an island of variety and interest, with sheltered cruising waters, surf beaches open to the Southern Ocean, wildlife, birdlife, tall forests and fine walks.
Twenty km south of the ferry terminal is the Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve, where boardwalks take you through penguin and shearwater rookeries. At the end of the Neck, a long, narrow isthmus joining North and South Bruny, turn left to Adventure Bay, landing site for early explorers including Cook and Bligh, who planted Tasmania’s first apple tree here. From the camp-ground beyond the holiday shacks, short return walking tracks lead into the South Bruny National Park to Penguin Island and to Fluted Cape.
From Adventure Bay, the Coolangatta Road (C629) runs through state forest to Lunawanna. Stop at the two lookout points for dramatic views over North and South Bruny. Highlights of the view south are Cloudy Bay, Cape Bruny Lighthouse and the Labillardiere Peninsula. From Lunawanna, take the short drive to Cloudy Bay with its beach walking and surfing breaks; and to the Cape Bruny Lighthouse, with magnificent views to the sea and the Southern Ranges. The Labillardiere Peninsula loop track makes an excellent day walk, and there are good picnic and camping facilities at Jetty Beach, where the track begins.
South of Hobart
Forty minutes south of Hobart on the A6 is the town of Huonville, once again the hub of Tasmania’s apple-growing district. You can explore the Huon River by jet boat or paddle boat, then follow its quiet reaches 22 km further south to Geeveston, home of the Forest & Heritage Centre, with its interpretation displays on the history and heritage of the region. The Centre is the starting point of the Arve Forest Drive, an exploration into the working eucalypt forests, where the tallest flowering plants on earth grow. Don’t miss the short walks with interpretation to Keoghs Creek streamside reserve, the Big Tree and the Huon Pine Walk in the Tahune Forest Reserve beside the Huon River. Rafting trips on the Picton River are available, 10 km beyond Tahune.
Along the Arve Road you’ll come to the turn-off to the Hartz Mountains National Park in the World Heritage Area. The park offers walks to glacial lakes and mountain peaks which in summer blossom with alpine flora and on a clear day views east to Bruny Island and west across the World Heritage Area. As always when in alpine areas in Tasmania be prepared for sudden weather changes.
Thirty km south from Geeveston on the A6 is the Hastings Caves State Reserve, site of dolomite caves with underground guided tours. Nearby is an all-year 28OC swimming pool fed by thermal springs, and good short walks, including the Duckhole Lake track. If you’re returning to Dover, a good way to explore the area is by following the self-guided two-hour Hastings Forest Tour – the tour cassette is available from the Forest & Heritage Centre Geeveston and Hastings Caves.
You’ve come this far – continue south on the nation’s most southerly road to reach Cockle Creek, end (or start) of the multi-day Great Bushwalk on the South Coast Track.
You can walk the first part by taking the track (41Ú2 hrs return) from Cockle Creek to South Cape Bay, and gaze out to the empty expanse of the Southern Ocean.
Take the A1 20 km north of Hobart to Granton and turn left to New Norfolk, 17 km further on. Jet boating trips on the river begin here. From New Norfolk, the road to Mt Field National Park follows the left-hand bank of the Derwent River, past the Salmon Ponds, where the first trout were hatched, and through the hopfields of Bushy Park to the small settlement of National Park.
There are excellent camping and picnic facilities, a kiosk and park centre staffed by rangers. Take the easy 20-minutes return walk to the picturesque Russell Falls. More short walks leave the Lake Dobson Road, including Lady Barron Falls and the interpreted Tall Trees Walk. Roadside interpretation explains the changing flora as the road climbs.
From Lake Dobson, 14 km from National Park, take the one-hour Pandani Grove circuit around the lake, or climb higher on the Urquhart Track to the Mawson Plateau ski fields, and the superb day walk to the Tarn Shelf, a series of ice-carved lakes surrounded by alpine vegetation. In these high areas, carry wet weather gear, even on fine days.
If you’re continuing west, ask at National Park for the cassette ‘A Special Place’ – it’s an excellent guide to the history and natural heritage of the country between Maydena and Strathgordon. Near Tyenna, a few kilometres from National Park, is the rough track to Marriotts Falls and the Junee Caves Reserve, location of deep limestone caverns.
From Maydena the Gordon Road heads west for 60 km, passing through the Gordon Forests to Strathgordon, and the Hydro’s Gordon Power Scheme.
The Lake Gordon lookout tells the story of the timber salvage project as the lake waters rose.
At Strathgordon, call in to the Hydro’s Visitor Information Centre or try your luck at trout fishing.