Tasman Peninsula Road Trip – Seeing the best of Tassie

If you’re planning a Hobart to Tasman Peninsula Road Trip you’re probably already looking forward to visiting Port Arthur.  But there are many more great things to do on the Tasman Peninsula.  We recently spent several days exploring the peninsula and in this post we’ll let you know the best things to see, and help you plan your own Tasman Peninsula itinerary.

Turrakana / Tasman Peninsula is a peninsula in south-east Tasmania, around 75km from Hobart.  The Peninsula is home to stunning natural beauty, with pristine beaches, towering sea-cliffs, forests and wildlife.  You will also find some of Tasmania’s best historic sites on the Tasman Peninsula, specifically the Port Arthur convict settlement.

Like hiking? You will find some of Tasmania’s best hikes on the Tasman Peninsula from several excellent short hikes and the renowned 4-day Three Capes Track.

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Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasman Peninsula

How to get to the Tasman Peninsula

The Tasman Peninsula is a just over an hour’s drive from Hobart.  Head east towards Dunalley and then south towards Eaglehawk Neck.  Once you cross this narrow isthmus you’re on the peninsula.

You’ll need a car to get the most out of visiting the Tasman Peninsula and we recommend Car Rentals to find the best prices across a range of hirers.  If you want to travel like us with a campervan, check out StarRV.

If you’d rather not drive you can take a day trip from Hobart, or even a shuttle bus to Port Arthur! While you can se the highlights on a Tasmna Peninsula day trip, we do recommend spending a couple of days here to really make the most of this area.

Hobart to Tasman Peninsula Road Trip Map
Click on this Tasman Peninsula Road Trip Map to open in Google Maps

Best time for a Tasman Peninsula Road Trip

Summer time is the best time to visit the Tasman Peninsula as it can get very cold during winter.  However, the area can be very crowded in January, and you might struggle with accommodation, particularly if you’re planning on camping.  We found that the main campsite at Fortescue Bay had been booked out far in advance.  

What to pack for a Tasman Peninsula Road Trip

The main thing to pack is a good pair of walking shoes!  Even if you’re not planning on doing any of the excellent Tasman Peninsula hikes, you will still do a lot of walking visiting the Port Arthur Historic Site. 

The weather in Tasmania can be very changeable and unpredictable, even in summer.  We always carried a warm layer and had our rain jackets close at hand too.

There’s not a lot of places to get food so we recommend packing your own snacks too.

Nigel and Sue at the Tasman Peninsula Sea Cliffs

Best things to do on the Tasman Peninsula

Eaglehawk Neck

Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow (only 30m wide) isthmus of land with some interesting geological features.  There is also some interesting history here, as this was the final line of containment for escaping convicts from nearby Port Arthur.  

The Dog Line

Following a series of convict escape attempts in the 1930s, sentries were placed along the Eaglehawk Neck Isthmus.  The authorities placed a line of savage dogs and lamp-posts at intervals along the isthmus to alert the sentries to escaping convicts.  You can see a statue replica of one of these dogs on the left as you cross the Isthmus.

statue of a guard dog on the Dog Line, Eaglehawk Neck

Pirates Bay

This beautiful beach stretches along the western side of Eaglehawk Neck, from the Tessalated Pavement, all the way around to Doo-town.  It’s a beautiful beach to walk along and a popular spot for whale watching in the winter months.

Tessellated Pavement

The Tessellated Pavement is a section of rocky coastline where the forces of nature have created almost perfectly square blocks. The best time to see the Tessalated Pavement is at low tide.  You can walk along the beach and across the pavement but try to stick to the dry rocks as they can be slippery when wet.

There is a platform above the pavement to look down.  You can park at the Lufra Hotel, which is also a nice spot to enjoy a drink or meal overlooking the ocean.

Walking along the tessalated pavement

Doo Town

Once you cross over Eaglehawk Neck turn left to drive through Doo Town.  This tiny village has taken the name of their town very seriously (and humorously) and the residents have funny signs on their homes, playing on the word Do (Doo).  Drive slowly for a giggle.

Blowhole

Drive down to the Jetty to see the Blowhole.  We found this rock formation quite underwhelming but that’s probably because we visited on a relatively calm day.

Doo-Lishus Food Truck

While you’re down in Doo-town, don’t miss the fish and chips at the Doo-lishus (get it?) Food Truck.  A single serving was plenty for the two of us for lunch.  They also serve scallop pies which are famous in Tasmania, and ice-cream which looks delicious.

Nigel ordering fish and chips at the Doo-Lishus Food Truck

Tasman Arch

You can see this incredible rock formation from a small carpark just outside of Doo Town.  Tasman Arch is a cave that’s roof collapsed, leaving the arch.  From the viewing platform you can see through the arch to the sea.  There is a short walking trail you can do around the arch, meaning you walk across the top of it.

Devil’s Kitchen

You can take a short walk from the Tasman Arch down to the Devil’s Kitchen lookout.  I’m not sure why it’s called Devil’s Kitchen!  This is a narrow inlet and although you can’t see straight down to the water, you can hear it thundering below.  Looking down into Devil’s Kitchen you get an idea what the Tasman Arch will look like when it’s roof collapses.

From the Devil’s Kitchen lookout you can see right across to Cape Hauy – which is pretty cool if you’ve already done that hike.  Look very closely and you can see the Totem Pole.

Looking down into Devil's Kitchen

Port Arthur Historic Site

The Port Arthur Historic Site is the main tourist drawcard on the Tasman Peninsula.  Along with Wineglass Bay and Cradle Mountain it is one of the most popular sites on anyone’s Tasmania Road Trip. The Port Arthur Historic Site is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Australian Convict Sites.

The Port Arthur Penal Colony earned a reputation as one of the harshest prisons in the world.  Convicts were imprisned at Port Arthur from 1833 to 1877.  The most hardened and rebellious convicts and secondary offenders were sent here.  

Today, the historic site is preserved as an open-air museum. Visitors can learn about the methods used to punish and attempts to rehabilitate the convicts.  Whilst early methods included floggings and forcing convicts to wear leg irons, later the “Separate Prison” was built.

View of Port Arthur Historic Site from Scorpion Rock Lookout

Separate Prison

Convicts housed in the Separate Prison were kept in silence, being locked in their cells 23 hours a day.  They were given work to do, like boot making for example, and could go to chapel once a week.  Even the chapel had little stalls that they would be locked in.  The stalls were built so that all the convicts could see was the priest at his pulpit.

We found the Separate Prison the most interesting part of the Port Arthur Historic Site to visit.  We could see into the cells and get more of an idea of what the convicts life was like.  The methods used at the Separate Prison were based on psychological punishment, following the ideas of Jeremy Bentham.

A look inside one of the cells in the Separate Prison at Port Arthur

We went into the punishment cells, which are behind 4 doors.  Convicts were kept in complete darkness and silence for days, even weeks at a time.  We agreed that we would rather be flogged than kept in there for a week!

Entry to Port Arthur Historic Site

Entry to the Port Arthur Historic Site is $47 for adults.  Your ticket is valid for 2 days.  We found it convenient to be able to come out to the van for coffee and lunch, rather than eating in the café onsite. You can line up or book your ticket online.

Your entry ticket also covers the 20 minute harbour cruise, which sails past the Isle of the Dead. 1100 souls are buried here. You’ll also see the ruins of the Point Puer childrens prison.  Boys as young as 9 years old were imprisoned here.  

Port Arthur Isle of the Dead, from the Harbour Cruise

As you wander around the site, you’ll find guides offering scheduled talks at several of the sites.  We really enjoyed the guide at the Convict Church, he was a real character.

Port Arthur Massacre Memorial

While you are in the Port Arthur Historic Site, take some time to wander through the Port Arthur Massacre Memorial.  In 1996 a gunman killed 35 people in the former café here (and in the local area).  The café ruins have been kept as a memorial to those who lost their lives here.  

This was Australia’s worst mass shooting, and was what prompted the Government to pass the strict gun laws we have in our country now.

Tasman National Park

The Tasman National Park is on the east side of the peninsula.  This national park is known for having the tallest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere, stretching from Cape Hauy to Cape Pillar.  A valid Parks Pass is required for entry into the Tasman National Park.

You can walk along these sea cliffs on the 4-day Three Capes Trail. If you’d prefer to just do a day hike there are several in the area that allow you to get right up close to these cliffs. The Cape Hauy walk was one of our favourite in all of Tasmania.

Cape Hauy Hike

The Cape Hauy (pronounced Hoy) Hike leaves from the carpark at Fortescue Bay.  This is another one of Tasmania’s 60 Best Short Walks.  This is a moderately challenging hike with over 4,000 steps up and down.  The views, however, more than make up for the steps.

What we did love about this hike is that it’s not straight up on the way there (like Bluff Knoll for example) and down on the way back.  Rather, the Cape Hauy Walk sees you going up, then down, then up, then down several times on the way out, and again on the way back.  Of course, we did find this a bit frustrating, as just when you think you’re at the top, nope!  We have to go down and back up again.

The trail starts with a walk along the coast and through the bush, before arriving at a junction with the Three Capes Trail.

Sue on the Cape Hauy Hike trail

After the trail junction the trail follows the cliff edges all the way out to the tip of Cape Hauy.  At times we were able to get dangerously close to the edge – I wouldn’t want to be there on a really windy day!  The views along this section are absolutely breath-taking.

When you arrive at the end of the trail, there is a little lookout with a railing.  If you look down from here you may see seals on the rocks below.  You can also see the “Totem Pole”, a solitary pillar of rock, reaching up 65 metres from the sea below.  The Totem Pole is a favourite amongst rock-climbers, and we were lucky to see someone attempting the ascent when we were there.

The trail returns to Fortescue Bay the same way but there are still some incredible views that you probably missed on the way out.

looking down on the Totem Pole, Tasman Peninsula

Fortescue Bay

The beach at Fortescue Bay is beautiful and popular.  This is a great place for a swim after you’ve completed the Cape Hauy Walk.  There is a National Park campground here along with toilets, showers ($2 coin) and picnic tables and BBQs.

Tasman Island Cruises

One of the best ways to see the incredible scenery of the Tasman National Park is from the water.  Take a 3 hour cruise below the highest sea-cliffs in the southern hemisphere, see hidden caves and waterfalls.  Spot wildlife like seals, dolphins, albatross and even whales (in season).  

The cruise leaves from the Tasman Island Cruises office just before the Port Arthur Historic Site.  Cruises cost $155 for adults.  The vessel is roofed but open sided, so make sure you dress warmly.  Wind and waterproof jackets are provided.  Cruises depart at 10am daily with afternoon cruises available in the summer.  You should definitely book in advance for this popular activity!

Lime Bay

If you’re looking for a quieter beach (and campsite) make sure you head out to Lime Bay.  We spent a night out here and loved the peaceful campsite, and the beach is really picturesque with views out across the bay to Dunalley.  

Lime Bay Campsite, Tasman Peninsula

Coal Mines Historic Site

On the way to Lime Bay you will pass the Coal Mine Ruins.  The Coal Mine was an outstation of the Port Arthur Penal Settlement.  Convicts were sent here to work in the mines between 1833 and 1848.  Today you can walk among the ruins.  Entry is free.

The Coal Mines Historic Site is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Australian Convict Sites.

Tasmanian Devil Unzoo

The Tasmanian Devil “Unzoo” is the world’s first unzoo – an animal reserve where there are no boundary fences, so animals are free to come and go as they please.  The Hamilton family have been operating a wildlife reserve on their property for over 40 years now.   They have been active in conservation efforts with the Tasmanian Devils, especially since the discovery of the devastating Facial Tumour Disease that affects so many Tasmanian Devils.

In addition to regular visits to the Unzoo, you can take a Tasmanian Devil Tracking tour. 

We didn’t visit the Unzoo, as at that stage of our Tasmanian trip we were still holding out hope to see a devil in the wild.

Where to stay on the Tasman Peninsula

If you’re spending a couple of days on your Tasman Peninsula Road Trip, you’ll need to find accommodation.  You’ll find plenty of BnB and cottage-style accommodation between Eaglehawk Neck and Port Arthur.  

3 Capes Cottage

We enjoyed a night off “van-life” and stayed at the 3 Capes Cottage, which is perfectly located on the beach at Eaglehawk Neck and only 16km from Port Arthur. This beautifully renovated cottage is the perfect place to base yourself to explore the Tasman Peninsula, Eaglehawk Neck and Port Arthur.

Enjoying dinner at the 3 Capes Cottage, Eaglehawk Neck
Morning Coffee overlooking the ocean, 3 capes cottage

Camping on the Tasman Peninsula

We found free camping on the Tasman Peninsula at the “Dirty Billabong” Campsite in the state forest.  It’s a lot nicer than it sounds!  We didn’t actually see a dirty billabong, but there is a nice creek there. 

You can camp in the Tasman National Park at Fortescue Bay.  There are two campsites here, one for tents and one for campervans.  The campsites are located right on the beach at Fortescue Bay, perfect for hiking the Cape Hauy trail.  

You need to drive 11km down an unsealed road to reach Fortescue Bay and the campgrounds but the road is well maintained.  Camping is $13 for two people at Fortescue Bay, and you can book online.

We also camped at the Lime Bay campsite.  This is a much more relaxed and less crowded campsite.  There are no numbered sites, so just pull up where it suits you.  This campsite is also $13 per night.

Tasman Peninsula Road Trip Travel Film

We hope you enjoy our Tasman Peninsula Road Trip film, where we visit Port Arthur, and hike the 4,000 steps up and down on the Cape Huay Hike. We also show you some of the best places for camping on the Tasman Peninsula.

Essential Information for your Tasman Peninsula Road Trip

Permits and Passes

A valid Tasmania Parks Pass is required for entry into the Tasman National Park.  You can buy a day pass for $44.75 per vehicle (and up to 8 occupants).  We found the most economical was to buy the “Holiday Pass” which is valid for 2 months.  This pass costs $89.50. Annual passes are also available.  You can purchase your pass at any of the National Park visitor centres or online at the Parks Tas website.

Fuel

Fuel is available at several places on the Tasman Peninsula, at Port Arthur, Murdunna and Nubeena.  We filled up at Dunalley before heading onto the peninsula as it was quite a bit cheaper there.  We use the Petrol Spy app to find the cheapest fuel.

Food & Water

There are small grocery stores on the Tasman Peninsula, but we weren’t able to find water.  We filled up just before leaving Hobart.  There is a rain water tank in the National Park campsites, but this water should be boiled before use.

The only dump point on the Tasman Peninsula is at Nubeena.

Phone & Internet

As with most of Tasmania, phone and internet reception is patchy.  We didn’t have reception at the Dirty Billabong free camp.  The reception at Lime Bay was surprisingly good, we figured it was coming over from the mainland.

Convict church ruins at Port Arthur

Where to next?

Continue your Tasmania Road Trip by heading up the east coast to Freycinet National Park and the Bay of Fires, or, continue south past Hobart to Bruny Island.

Need help planning your Tasman Peninsula Road Trip Itinerary?

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