All-too-often missed off Australia itineraries, the country’s southernmost state and biggest island is not only easily accessible – ferries and planes run cheaply and regularly from nearby Melbourne – but has plenty to offer those who love the outdoors. Tasmania’s biggest selling points are its vast, uninhabited landscapes and untamed wilderness, and with hundreds of well-marked trails and dedicated camping facilities, it’s fast become a popular destination for hikers, cyclists and horse riders. So swap the tour buses and taxis for sailboats and saddles; here are 8 of the best ways to explore Tasmania.
1. Hiking the Overland Track
Hiking routes abound throughout Tasmania, but the most famous route is the iconic Overland Track, renowned as one of Australia’s greatest bushwalks. The week-long hike covers 65km from Ronny Creek at the foot of the famous Cable Mountain, runs through the scenic Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and ends at Australia’s deepest lake, Lake St Clair. Hikers can enjoy a backdrop of tumbling waterfalls, swooping glacial valleys and dense rainforests, before emerging onto the vast moors and heading for the lake. For an added challenge, tour Cradle Mountain and Tasmania’s highest peak – Mt Ossa at 1,627m.
2. Cycling the Tasmanian Trail
If you prefer to explore the countryside on two wheels, there are few more spectacular ways to cross Tasmania than taking on the famed Tasmanian Trail. Running an incredible 480km, the multi-purpose track starts out from Devonport on the north coast and runs the entire length of the island before ending in the Southern port town of Dover. Walking and horse riding are both popular ways to traverse the trail, but mountain biking is one of the best choices for a long distance stretch and there are plenty of small towns and villages to stop on route.
Much of the trail sticks to quiet roads and tracks, but there’s still plenty of rugged scenery to keep you feeling like you’re out in the wilderness, cycling through shadowy forests, historic farmlands and vast lakes. Shorter trips along a small section of the route are also popular – the central highlands region is particularly fetching, or a southern loop can be made from Hobart.
3. Ride the West Coast Wilderness Railway
For incredible views without the strenuous activities, another popular way to discover the Tasmanian landscape is to take the West Coast Wilderness Railway, the perfect choice for those wanting to uncover the some of the country’s unique history.
Built back in 1896, the railway was originally erected by the Mount Lyell Mining Company to serve the copper mines and its construction was a pioneering feat of engineering, winding along the King River gorge, through thick rainforest and hand-hewn rock tunnels, and over an impressive 42 bridges. A ride on the 1-hour heritage trail takes passengers on a journey through history as well as countryside, with guides describing the sights along the way. There’s even a lunch stop at the Dubbil Barril forest, so passengers can take a stroll through the rainforest or gawp at the Tasmanian Honey Company beehives cultivated in the forest.
4. Scuba Diving at the Bay of Fires
It’s not just the bushwalks and mountain views that set Tasmania above the rest; the island’s coastal regions harbor some impressive swimming and diving sites too. With its white beaches and glittering waters, the Bay of Fires on the northeastern coast is a prime diving spot with a number of sites going up to 30 meters deep and a large oceanic reef just 3km off shore.
The bay, named because of the Aboriginal fires that were burning along the shoreline when it was discovered, lies at the Southern end of the Mountain William National Park, and hosts a number of activities including swimming, surfing, fishing and bird watching. Scuba divers can enjoy navigating underground rock tunnels, gutters and caves, and swimming among sea dragons, tuna, marlin and colorful sponges. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales and mako sharks – all frequent the area.
5. Horse Riding in Cradle Country
Australia has a long history with the horse, and there are plenty of chances to explore the Tasmanian countryside from the saddle. Riding trails abound on the island but one of best areas to explore is Cradle County, a scenic area surrounding the iconic Cradle Mountain. Day rides and multi-day rides are available, with some routes taking in sections of the famous Tasmanian Trail or the Tom Quilty endurance riding course (the annual Australian Endurance championships). First time riders can meander through fields of wildflowers and stroll the banks of the Mersey and Dasher rivers, while experienced riders can traverse rocky creeks, clamber mountain passes, jump natural obstacles and even swim with their horses in the river.
6. Sailing the Bass Strait
With more boats per person than any other Australian state, taking to the seas is a right of passage for Tasmanians, so what better way to discover the island’s varied coastline than to join local sailors and tackle the high seas. The Bass Strait, on Tasmania’s north coast, is one of the most popular and challenging stretches to sail, where you can navigate beneath towering sea cliffs and challenge your sea legs with high winds and some of the most notoriously rough waters in the world. There are plenty of benefits to braving the ocean, including the chance to sail among pods of dolphins and schools of huge salmon and gummy sharks, but for the biggest pay-off, take a sailing tour to Flinders Island, just off the north east coast.
7. Rafting on the Franklin River
If sailing the high seas doesn’t get your blood pumping fast enough, one of the best spots for white water rafting is just 2 hours from Hobart. The Franklin River, running through the World Heritage Area of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, is renowned as one of the few truly wild rivers left in the world. While there are some gentle sections for beginners to cut their teeth on, there are also surging rapids and hair-raisingly fast twists and turns to challenge the most adventurous of rafters. The remote river is set to a backdrop of tranquil pools, steep gorges and sprawling rainforest, with sea eagles swooping over-head and riverside campsites dotted along the banks.
8. Hang Gliding over the Huon Valley
If you’re still looking for that view to beat all views, then the only thing that’s left is to take to the skies. The Southern forests you’ll visit during a tour of the Huon Valley are well equipped for a bird’s eye view, featuring a 597-meter long tree-top walkway and vertigo-inducing swing bridge. Best of all is the 400-meter long hand gliding cable, where you’ll be able to experience the thrill of hand-gliding while attached to a high-flying safety cable. Brave the flight alone or with a friend, soaring through the trees of the Tahune forest and across the Huon River.
Read more: Top Outdoor Activities in Tasmania
– Zoë Smith