Start your island adventure escape right. The thrill of white water rafting the River Derwent is a fitting way to know you’ve arrived in Tassie. Splashes of water, helmet firm, rapids flowing. King River Rafting has everything at the ready for watery fun.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Ettie’s, housed in one of Hobart’s oldest buildings. Settle in for an old-world wine and peruse a menu that champions Tassie’s best local produce. Afterwards, find yourself a chair draped in a lush polar rug at Institut Polaire for a night cap. It’s only a short stroll along the waterfront to MACq01 Hotel, where dark and mysterious stories are shared. Choose a room with a stone bath at Australia’s first storytelling hotel.
Rise early and head up the east coast to Maria Island. It’s adventure paradise – the island is flanked by pristine beaches, there are mist-covered peaks to climb and historic tales of Tassie’s convict past to unravel. Take the ferry across from Triabunna with your own bike or hire one there. If a wombat is the first to greet you, don’t drop your camera in haste. There’s plenty of them and come dusk, grab your torch – Tassie devils, little pademelons, Forester kangaroos and common wombats come out to play. Stay in Darlington. Drift off to sleep in a former penitentiary where convicts once curled up in cells. It’s rustic bunkhouse-style accommodation. Are there ghosts? We’ll leave that for you to discover.
Head up to Coles Bay and get a paddle in your hand – it’s kayaking time. They’ll give you toasty fleeces and spray jackets. Once you’re in your life jacket and attractive skirt, you’ll feel snug. The guys launch you straight off the beach into the beauty that is exploring Freycinet National Park by kayak.
On the three-hour morning tour (10am departure), glide beneath the pink granite Hazards mountain range and hear little-known tales of early French explorers. Winter brings more playful seals into the mix, often hanging out around the Honeymoon Bay rocks. Pull up on a beach and hold that hot Milo with both hands. Doesn’t matter if you haven’t had a Milo for years, this one will warm you from the inside out.
Follow the paddle with a Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach loop circuit. It’s a 4-5 hour, 11 km walk featuring that glorious wineglass. Take a winter dip if you dare! If worn out from your paddle, ask the kayak guides about their new Aqua Taxi offering. Take a cheeky ride to Hazards Beach by boat and the walk will be easy as pie.
Derby for three nights
It’s time to leave the coast and head north to Derby. Got your bike? If not, they’ll swiftly arrange one for you. Next, choose your trail adventure. Axehead perhaps? 23 Stitches? That sounds painful. Return to Sender? Big Chook? The names of the tracks at Derby are as curious as the thrilling bends. In winter, the cool rush of the north-east rainforest air adds to the excitement.
Unlike its name, Axehead is one of the tamer options. Tall tree ferns and dense forest are a feature. It’s mainly uphill but passes Tasty Trout Falls (great to stop and catch your breath over a picnic) and views out across the Cascade River. Keep an eye out for stone walls built back in the day by tin miners.
Join fellow riders tonight for a meal in the dimly-lit Weldborough Pub. In here the conversation is abuzz with tall riding tales, the heat is high and the steaks come large.
Next day, visit the Derby Schoolhouse Museum. This quaint little museum even comes complete with tiny desks. Then it’s off to the Little Rivers Brewing Company for beer tasting. Of course, one must try the Dam Busters Ale. It packs a punch, like the Derby trail it’s named after. Finish the day with a wander to Ralphs Falls. It’s one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks.
Local tip: Join the brave and skinny dip at Mathinna Falls. Once you’ve dipped in there you’ll want to join the nude solstice swim at Dark Mofo in Hobart.
Derby to Lilydale
Your third day in the region involves a trip to Bridport for a Tassie bush adventure with Kookaburra Ridge Quad Bike Tours. They go out whether it’s hailing or raining sideways so winter is no worries. No experience is needed and after a quick safety induction it’s ‘start your engines’. Tonight, sink into the outdoor tub back at The Trig accommodation, Mount Arthur.
Launceston for two nights
Ever taken a picnic in winter? Now’s the time to do it. The treetops will protect you from a sprinkle of rain and Lilydale Larder has your al fresco supplies sorted. Adventure buffs will love Hollybank Treetops Adventure, – it’s not just about sitting on a blanket with crusty bread, Tassie smoked salmon and local fare. You’ll also fly through the trees (squealing allowed), between one solid trunk to the next at heights up to 30m. They’re known as cloud stations. These perches let you regain your breath and get ready for the next zip line, some more than 400m long.
If you’re not into soaring through the wilderness like a forty spotted pardalote, take a Segway option on the forest floor. This is like exploring the forest without having to take a step.
Next day, wrap yourself in Merino and head to Launceston to explore Cataract Gorge. This urban playground is home to the world’s longest single-span chairlift. Back in 1972 when the first feet dangled high over the gorge, this 457m ride was a hit. Today, it quaintly remains so. Do the Jewel of Launceston walking tour. It’s a new one-hour wander by Walk Cataract Gorge. This way you don’t have to find the best bits yourself.
If you’re up for a particularly eerie evening, join the Launceston City Ghost Tour and head down alleyways most haven’t ventured. The city is Australia’s second oldest and has some tales to tell.
Launceston to Stanley
Head to the coast and start the day with a wintery walk along West Beach in Burnie. This beach, only a block from the city, has a long and proud Surf Life Saving Club story. Grab a takeaway coffee and head along the boardwalk to the Makers’ Workshop. As the name describes, it’s full of makers and is an opportunity to see them working away at their craft.
Next, drop into Hellyers Road Distillery for a tour of the working floor. Pour and wax-seal your own bottle of whisky and tuck it under your wing. From whisky to walking, drive to Rocky Cape National Park. A seaside ramble to North Cave and the Rocky Cape Lighthouse is a treat.
Come night time, head to Highfield House in Stanley for a ghost tour. Is this 1830s built property haunted? Visit the barn and decide. Stay at VDL@Stanley for waterside accommodation with an elegant style and a great dose of history.
Wake up in Stanley feeling relaxed. Collect your hamper supplies from Providore 24 and don’t be surprised if you pick up a scarf or winter woolly along with your French stick. Oh, and they do have pinot.
Take your goodies and hike up The Nut. Enjoy a picnic at the top and ride back down on the chairlift. Another option is to explore the Tarkine on foot, just nearby.
The Edge of the World tour company is worth keeping in mind. Their West Coast Explorer is a four-day adventure where they’ll “access the inaccessible” and delve deep into the wilds. The company also offers tailored, shorter options.
If you like your dinner with low food miles, head for Stanley Hotel Bistro. The seafood comes straight from the Stanley fishermen and the beef graze on the nearby salty paddocks of Cape Grim. But before you settle in for dinner, head to The Angels Share in Church Street for a Cradle Mountain whisky. They close at 7 pm so get in early. Don’t be surprised if you leave with luxurious possum gloves to stave off the winter chills.
Stanley to Cradle Mountain
Today, take a drive from Stanley to Cradle Mountain. Once at Cradle, pull on your warmest jacket for a walk around Dove Lake. This glacial lake circuit hugs the water’s edge, with Cradle Mountain ever-present. A world of moss awaits in the Ballroom Forest. Other shorter walks include the Enchanted Nature walk, and the Pencil Pine – Knyvet Falls walk, a brisk 20 minute return.
Explore even further you adventurous one! Does the summit of Cradle Mountain call? This is only for experienced walkers, particularly in snow and wintry conditions. When you reach the peak you’ll understand why Gustav Weindorfer, a botanist and the pioneer of Cradle Mountain National Park, proclaimed “this must be a national park for the people for all time.” He’s the reason you can wander here. That’s pretty special.
Alternately, visit Waldheim Chalet where there’s stacks of history within the walls of a chalet built around 1912 through to the 1920s. It tells the story of Gustav and there’s shorter walks nearby.
Tonight, the promise of cheese and wine tasting comes at 4pm. Head to Cradle Mountain Hotel for a journey through six handcrafted wines, paired with three local cheeses. The night is young and there’s devils that need feeding. Join Devils@Cradle for an after dark feeding tour at 5.30pm. These little carnivores put on quite the show when it’s time for group feasting.
Pull up beside a log fire for a hearty dinner. There’ll be no feeding frenzy over your slow-cooked lamb shoulder – it’s all yours. Pick a pinot from the earlier tasting before retreating to your highland cabin.
Heading south from Cradle
Your next stop is ideal for winter. It’s deep underground and the temperature remains the same from balmy summer to the depths of winter. Well, it’s not swimsuit temperature, sitting at 9 degrees Celsius. At Mole Creek or Marakoopa Caves, glow worms light up deep caverns and your sound track is the trickle of underground streams. Choose from three tours, each around 45 minutes.
After caving, drop into Trowunna Wildlife Park. The privately owned park has the world’s largest heritage population of Tasmanian devils. It teems with other native birds, marsupials and reptiles. Take a tour or wander the park at your leisure.
From here, continue back to old Hobart Town via the Heritage Highway. You might even have time for a short side trip to Shene Estate at Pontville to sample their whisky and gin. It’s a magical spot.
Still up for a thrill?
It’s your last day of adventure. If you’re feeling revved up, head up to Mt Wellington with your bike and take the tracks back down. Finish the ride at Cascade Brewery – you’ve earned that beer. Or you may prefer a leisurely stroll on one of the many walks on the mountain. Most have breathtaking views over Hobart and beyond. And you can still stop in at Cascade Brewery afterwards for that beer before heading to the airport. It’s the perfect place to end your jam-packed adventure holiday.