Backpacking | Why you should go on a Tasmanian road trip | Australia
Perhaps it’s the wild, rugged landscapes that are incomparable to anywhere else in the world, the fact that so few backpackers actually make it down from the mainland or just that so much of the island still feels undiscovered. But there is something about Tasmania that really captures the imagination and memories of the breathtaking scenery will often stay with travellers long after their trip has finished. After spending nearly a month down there exploring and road tripping the heart-shaped island, filling my lungs with the cleanest, crispest, freshest air, and eating the finest locally produced foods. I can safely say it is one of my absolute favourite places in Australia and the trip was everything I needed to fall in love with the country all over again. Read all about my experiences in Hobart here – including my guide for where to stay and what to do. My favourite part of the trip was the 10 days I spent in the complete wilderness of Tasmania, I was completely offline, surrounded by great people and back to basics. It was bliss and an experience I wish every backpacker could have so they could experience a real taste of Australia instead of just the mass-produced party of the East Coast. For any backpackers reading this – there is so much more to Australia than party hostels and goon – step outside of the box and chase experiences like this that are once in a lifetime.
Planning your trip
Finding your road trip gang
Travelling solo and don’t know a soul in Tasmania? Neither did I, but that didn’t stop me having the trip of a lifetime! Everyone who arrives in Hobart is looking to road trip so you’ll never be short of people to travel with. Your best shout is staying in a major hostel like The Pickled Frog which is full of travellers who are planning big two week and short weekend trips you could tag along with. I actually used the backpacker Facebook groups for finding my road trip gang – I just put a message up on both of the Tasmania backpacker pages I found explaining my plan to travel for around two weeks, to hire a car and try to do a full circle of the island. Within less than 24 hours I had a group of four people, including one guy who decided to fly over from Melbourne overnight to start the trip with us. That’s what I love about backpackers – they just say yes and grab the opportunity with both hands!
Hiring a car
We hired a car from Budget – after researching and visiting every car company in Hobart we found they were the cheapest both online and in person. We hired a big SUV because we were planning to take a lot of camping gear and to have two people sleeping in the car and two in a tent each night. It worked out at roughly $450 for 11 days between four of us, the pick-up was just round the corner from the hostel and the company were really helpful. The car was fantastic – brand new and easy to drive, we had four wheel drive but didn’t need it even when we went very rural and travelled through the national parks. When it came to insurance, we didn’t take the Budget insurance to lower our excess, instead we used a separate online company which cost us just $60-80 overall instead of an extra $30 a day. It may all sound complicated to anyone not used to hiring a car but this all took us less than a day – it was worth doing the research to get the cheapest and best deal for us.
*It costs more money is drivers are under 25, so be aware of this when planning your road trip group. We had two drivers over 25 so just put them on the licence but with just one person it would be a lot of driving.
Planning your route
When I first came to Tasmania, a friend of mine recommended I head to the tourism office in Hobart and pick up a booklet called 60 Great Short Walks Tasmania – this booklet became my Tasmania bible and quite frankly the trip would have been nothing without it. The book splits Tasmania up into five key areas and breaks down the best walks ranging from 20 minute strolls to eight hour treks, all varying in difficulty levels and the incredibly beautiful views they sure with you. The booklet gives all the information you need including talking about what to take, weather effects on the track, whether they are suitable for children/elderly and what kind of footwear is suitable.We planned to travel up the East Coast, around Wineglass Bay, up towards Bay of Fires and Launceston then across to the West and down via Cradle Mountain back to Hobart. This was our original plan but we checked again and again with the weather – it’s so unpredictable down there that you have to be smart to get the most out of your trip. There is another useful booklet available from tourism centres called Tasmania, Your Complimentary Touring Guide, which gives you all the information you need on 11 different touring routes around the island if you have limited time or just want to target one specific area. For me, the most important thing was being active – I wanted to break up the driving and to stop off to do as many hikes/climbs and explore as much as possible along the way – by planning this way we stopped off in 11 national parks and saw an incredible amount of national beauty and different landscapes.
Packing the right gear
Tasmania is definitely not as built up as other parts of Australia so you’ll struggle to find many hostels outside of Hobart/Launceston. Skip them all together and save money by picking up camping gear and diving deep into the national parks. You’ll need a good tent, sleeping mats, take a tarp for sitting on damp ground and any chairs you can get your hands on. We borrowed a lot of items from the hostel which saved us a lot of money as we just put down a deposit for them which we got back when we arrived back at the hostel. One of the girls already had the tent, we all chipped in for a good stove and gas cylinders but this was our most expensive outgoing for camping gear. I bought myself a sleeping bag and torch from KMart which were great for the trip and perfect to sell afterwards. We bought a cheap plates/cups/cutlery set from Target, and everything else we “borrowed” from the hostel and brought back with us. Just be sure to make sure you try and sell anything you buy after the trip – recycling is great among backpackers and it helps you save money. Also, if you have big bags with you, just leave them all in hostel storage while you are away and just take the essentials.
Pack the right clothes
This is important because the weather is so changeable down there – you want to make sure you have clothes for all weathers without taking too much. The best things I bought for the trip were definitely thermals from Kathmandu – bright pink and stripey – they made one heck of a statement but most importantly, they kept me warm both at night and during the day and acted as a good wind resistor. The rest of my clothes were just workout leggings, a few tops and vests, lots of socks as there’s nothing worse than sweaty old socks. I took a jumper, a hoody and a thin waterproof jacket for the rain. I also took sweatpants which were a great warmer layer for over my leggings when it was wet or cold. You have to be prepared to smell and feel gross when you’re camping for 10 days, but small things can make it better. Things like wet wipes and keeping one clean set of clothes just in case you decide to shower at one of the campsites.
Other important details
Don’t forget to get your National Parks pass! This can be bought for around $50 from the tourism office and gives you access to all of the national parks, it stops you picking up fines and buying it in Hobart means not being slowed down later on.
Always make sure you are stocked up on fuel – some parts of Tasmania can see you driving for ages without a petrol station and it is not a nice experience to run out as we almost did on Sunday night miles away from an open fuel station. Trust me, driving on eco mode up steep hills is a pretty stressful way to drive when you don’t know where the nearest fuel stop is.
Use Wiki Camps app – this app is great for letting you know where the nearest camp sites are, particularly free ones, and what facilities they have available. We didn’t pay for a single one and had amazing campsites surrounded by wallabies on the beach or in the shadow of mountains.
Expenses apps like Splittr and GroupMe are great for working our what everyone owes on the trip, we had once person in charge of documenting every charge/cost and then worked out easily at the end what everyone owed to who. So much easier that way!
Planning a Tasmanian road trip? Leave any questions below and I’ll try to help. Also, look out for my upcoming posts on highlights of the East and West Coast.
What was your favourite part of Tasmania – did you road trip? Any tips for other travellers?