Vivid blue skies, wild natural beauty and enviable folklore; despite its modest size, Tasmania has much to boast about. With its farming and seafaring heritage, this small island has retained a sense of peace and beauty its mainland neighbour can only covet from across the Bass Strait — making it the perfect destination for an immersive touring break.
Unlike mainland Australia, which would take a lifetime to explore, the compact size of Tasmania means you can discover most of the island’s highlights in a single trip — albeit, a busy one. From beauty spots like Cradle Mountain, Wineglass Bay and Bay of Fires, to the cultural melting pots of Hobart and Launceston; Tasmania is full of surprises and adventures waiting to be discovered.
For those seeking an intimate and culture-laden getaway amid enriching surroundings, Tasmania delivers on all fronts. If you’re considering a luxury escorted tour on this treasured Australian isle, check out our destination guide for Tasmania below.
Like its larger neighbour, Tasmania’s origins trail far into the pages of antiquity, with evidence suggesting the presence of Aborigines over 40,000 years ago. Perhaps more interestingly, the island was adjoined to mainland Australia up until around 10,000BC, before rising sea levels cut it off from the continent by a 150-mile strip now known as the Bass Strait.
Tasmania’s Aboriginal people developed nine major nations, or ethnic tribes, across the island, each with their own distinct traditions and culture. These natives engaged in fire-stick farming, hunted game like wallabies and kangaroo, and caught seals, shellfish and other marine life — introducing traditions and customs which still exist proudly on the island to this day.
European settlers began arriving in Tasmania in the 17th century, after Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, first discovered the island in 1642. It wasn’t until a century later, however, that European settlers finally identified Tasmania as an island, after George Bass, Matthew Flinders and Captain James Cook sailed the Bass Strait for the first time.
Given its position, Tasmania became the first region of Australia to be used to house convicts, and several prisons were built across the island — some of which remain standing to this day. In total, the British government transported around 80,000 convicts to Tasmania in the 18th and 19th centuries, dwarfing the indigenous population and leading to the development of many of the island’s modern settlements.
Unlike the neighbouring Australian mainland, Tasmania remains relatively under-populated, and features vast swathes of uninterrupted wilderness and several large nature reserves. The island’s main urban areas include Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Strahan, which are also home to Tasmania’s main cultural attractions, including Princess Theatre, Cascade Brewery and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).
With its blend of wild country and eclectic towns and cities, Tasmania offers a diverse tapestry of must-see beauty spots and cultural excursions. Here are just a few of the highlights you can look forward to during a tour of Tasmania.
Delve into Tasmania’s convict heritage with a trip to the World Heritage-listed town of Port Arthur. One of Australia’s most significant heritage centres, this vast, open-air museum forms part of the country’s Convict Sites series, a list of historic penal sites established by the British in the 18th and 19th centuries. The site is located in a dramatic coastal setting just 60 miles from Hobart, and features remnants of several former prisons and outbuildings. One of the most evocative sections of Port Arthur is the Isle of the Dead, a small, offshore islet once used as a mass grave for those who died inside the prison camp.
Mount Field National Park
While Tasmania is home to numerous national parks and nature reserves, few can match the beauty of the Mount Field National Park. Comprising alpine moorland, temperate rainforest and eucalyptus-scattered scrubland, this vast national park is one of the most unique and diverse beauty spots in the world — not to mention one of the oldest. One of the most popular highlights of the park is Russell Falls, a spectacular three-tiered waterfall in the endlessly beautiful Central Highlands region of the reserve. A visit to the park also gives you the opportunity to spot rare native wildlife, including wombats, platypuses, bandicoots and the elusive Tasmanian devil.
Tasmania’s charming capital, Hobart, is experiencing something of a cultural and culinary renaissance, with new galleries, exhibition spaces, restaurants and bars opening with increasing regularity across the city. From the fashionable sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place to the narrow lanes and colonial-era cottages of Battery Point; this vibrant metropolis has shrugged aside its convict past and embraced the contemporary. Must-visit sites in the city include Theatre Royal, Australia’s oldest concert venue and playhouse, as well as the controversial MONA gallery and the historic Cascade Brewery.
Splashed across thousands of Australian postcards, the vista of Cradle Mountain is one of Tasmania’s most esteemed landmarks, and an absolute must-see during a visit to the island. Rising over 1,500 metres, this distinct peak is Tasmania’s tallest mountain, and takes its name from the crib-shaped dip at its summit. The mountain is enveloped in the Lake St Clair National park, which is in itself extraordinarily beautiful, with a wild panorama of plunging rivers and rich moorland. Indeed, the entire Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair reserve is so stunning, it was designated World Heritage status — protecting the landscape for future generations to enjoy.
Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre
The town of Beaconsfield on Tasmania’s beautiful north-east coast was earmarked as a gold mining hotspot after the rushes of the 19th century had brought great wealth to the neighbouring state of New South Wales on the Australian continent. Gold was first discovered in the town in 1847, and led to the construction of one of Australia’s largest mines, the Beaconsfield Mine. During the Tasmanian gold rush, 700 men were employed at Beaconsfield and over 26 tonnes of gold was discovered, making it one of the most lucrative gold mines on the planet. Today, the mineshaft and its adjoining outbuildings have been transformed into a fascinating heritage centre, detailing the history of the gold rush and the stories of the men who lost their lives in pursuit of the precious metal.
Tasmanian Travel Tips
If you’re planning on visiting Tasmania during a luxury escorted tour with Scenic, here are a few helpful tips to ensure a wonderful getaway on this majestic island.
- While Tasmania is an Australian state, its people are fiercely proud of their history and consider themselves separate from their continental neighbours. The atmosphere on the island is more relaxed than the mainland so don’t expect too much formality.
- Tipping isn’t necessary in Tasmania, so don’t feel guilty for not leaving one. Often, Tasmanian locals will round up the bill in recognition of good service, rather than leaving a percentage.
- Although Tasmania is a year-round destination, the island can get very cold during the autumn and winter months, so make sure to pack warm clothing if you’re travelling at this time of year.
If you’ve been searching for a destination that offers both beautiful scenery and fascinating cultural encounters, look no further than Tasmania. To browse a complete range of luxury escorted tours in Tasmania, click here to visit our dedicated touring page, or call 0808 256 1329 for more information.