Tasmania deserves far more than a week but life being what it is, you may not have much time to spare.
This ‘bit of everything’ tour will let you experience the mountains, the farmland and the seaside in about 7 days, give or take depending on how fast you cycle and how many bags you’re carrying.
Base image by TASMAP
© State of Tasmania.
It starts in Devonport, the landing spot for the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, and ends in Hobart, but you could just as easily skip the first two days and start from Launceston instead. Or, starting from Devonport, cut out a couple days by going directly south to Sheffield. There’s also an optional – and highly recommended – side trip to Cradle Mountain.
If you have more time on your hands, use this tour as a chance to see what you like, then go back and explore the areas that interest you the most.
One last word of advice: if you’re going in January, book accommodation ahead of time for Swansea and Hobart. Everything – and we do mean everything – gets filled up very quickly.
**Click on the thumbnail photo of the map to get a full-sized version for printing**
Duration: 7-10 days
Terrain: Lots of hills! Beautiful and ever-changing scenery from barren plains and mountains to farming fields to aqua blue seas along the eastern coastline.
Accommodation: Plenty of camping – both free and paying sites – as well as a range of hostels, B&Bs and hotels.
Highlights: Cradle Mountain, the buffet at Mt. Roland Backpackers, the area around Mole Creek and the coastline just south of Swansea.
Lowlights: Heavy traffic from Swansea south. Changeable weather.
Be sure to bring: A National Parks pass (A$28/person for 2 months) and warm clothing for chilly weather, even in summer.
**Click on the thumbnail of the map to get a full-sized version, suitable for printing!**
Day 1: Devonport to Narawntapu National Park (40km)
The ferry from Melbourne gets into Devonport at the early hour of 7am. A coffee on the ship goes a long way to putting a spring in your step. Eat all your fresh food before you disembark or the quarantine beagle will single you out as you disembark.
Devonport (large town – all amenities, bike shops) is split into two halves, across an inlet. You arrive on the eastern side and to reach the main town you’ll need to cycle south for a short distance and across the bridge. Follow the signs to the town centre.
Ready to go? Return across the bridge on Route 1, the major road out of town. Take the first exit for Route B74 (go left at the end of the exit ramp) and then take a right at the next intersection for the B71. From here you can follow signs for the Narawntapu National Park.
Chocolate fans can stay on Route 1 a bit longer to try free tastings at the chocolate factory near Latrobe. After filling your boots with sweets, take the C702 to Moriarty to rejoin the B71 and follow signs to the park.
The ride along the B71 is gently undulating and lined with farmland and poppy fields. Traffic is fairly light.
Once in the park, there are 3 camping areas to choose from (A$13/unpowered for 2 people), with rainwater and toilets but no showers. Pay at the ranger station as you enter. The park is popular with locals and there’s plenty of wildlife around. Don’t be surprised to see a wallaby wander past your tent.
Day 2: Narawntapu National Park to Deviot (54km)
Retrace your steps out of the park and take the first road to your left, the C741 towards Yorktown. It’s unpaved and a bit rutted in parts but overall the surface isn’t bad for a dirt road. There’s a steep climb about halfway through to 300 meters. This whole road runs through forest and there are a few good wild camping spots, if you didn’t want to stay in the park (get water before leaving the park).
When you reach the A7, there’s a picnic park with toilets and a barbeque but no water. Turn right onto the A7 and go 7km to Beaconsfield, where you’ll find a backpackers, wholefoods shop, IGA supermarket (7 days a week, even on holidays) and internet access.
Just past the IGA, the C724 goes left towards Rowella, Kayena and Sidmouth. Scrubby farmland quickly gives way to rolling hills alongside the picturesque Tamar River. After a steep climb to Sidmouth, you briefly go left along the B73 and then take the first right onto the C728 towards Deviot.
As you’re pedaling along the water, watch for the ruins of an old flour mill on your right, just after you cross a bridge. A 400m track leads from the parking lot to the ruins and you can ride your bicycle down the track.
There’s a waterfall here and picnic tables. This could make a wild camping spot.
A little further down the road is Paper Beach, with unserviced campsites.
Day 3: Deviot to Westbury (85km)
Your day starts with a pleasant meander along the Tamar River towards Exeter. After the town, turn left on the A7 to Launceston. There’s a climb up to a lookout point (toilets) and then it’s an easy run into Launceston.
Spend the night in Launceston and do a bit of sightseeing, or carry on south. To continue further, take Wellington Street towards the airport (ignore signs for Highway 1). This eventually turns into Hobart Road. Traffic is steady but not fast flowing.
Things slow down after the airport. Take the C417 towards Perth and then the B52 out of Perth, towards the B54 and the quaint village of Carrick (pubs, accommodation). The B54 leads you over rolling hills all the way to Westbury, where Andy’s Bakery & Caravan Park makes a perfect stopping point.
It’s just A$2.50/per person to stay the night, including free internet access (wifi or on their computer) and the bakery is wonderful. You can get meals, an ice cream or a loaf of bread. Delicious! The campground is basic but for the price, who’s complaining? There’s an IGA supermarket in Westbury if you need provisions.
*GPS data logged with the QSTARZ BT-Q1000
Day 4: Westbury to Gowrie Park (70km)
Rolling hills take you from Westbury to Deloraine, along the mostly quiet B54.
Deloraine is the biggest town in the area and it’s here that you’ll find a large supermarket, a camping shop, a wholefoods shop and banks, among other amenities. There’s also a YHA here.
To leave the town, head up the main street, past the Woolworths grocery store, and straight on to Route 1. It’s busy but there’s a wide shoulder and you only need to stay on this road for 6km until Elizabeth Town, where you turn left onto the B13.
Now you’re really in farming country and you can meander on tranquil roads all the way to Sheffield. Take the left turn onto the C156 in Kimberly, which meets the B14 for the final leg into Sheffield, famous for its murals depicting the town’s history.
There are also a fair few alpacas in Sheffield so don’t be surprised to see one or two wandering the main street.
Sheffield’s tourist bureau is staffed by exceptionally friendly folks who can tell you where to check your email, find a supermarket, get a shower (A$1/3 minutes) or even tell you where it’s possible to free camp near the town (on the Tasman trail).
Most cyclists continue on though to Gowrie Park, a tiny village just 14km down the road on the C136. The scenery on this approach to Cradle Mountain is nothing short of stunning and Gowrie Park has another attraction – an excellent campground.
Mount Roland Backpackers is run by the lovely Charlotte and family and is a screaming bargain. For A$8/person you can pitch a tent, with hot showers, laundry, internet access and a kitchen all included in the price. Rooms are A$15/person. The smorgasbord that Charlotte puts on in the evenings is a hungry cyclist’s dream! It’s worth breaking the budget for.
If you don’t want a hot shower, there’s also free camping at O’Neills Park in Gowrie Park, on the left just before you get to Mount Roland Backpackers.
From Gowrie Park, take a day trip to Cradle Mountain.
Day 5: Gowrie Park to Meander (80km)
Once you’ve recovered from the exertion of climbing Cradle Mountain, it’s time to do an about-turn and start heading towards the east coast.
The day starts with a left turn out of Gowrie Park and another left at the first junction, onto the C138. It’s a tough 3km climb to the stunning lookout point. Down the other side of the hill, there’s a steep but short descent, followed by a few rolling hills before the real thriller of a descent begins, around the 15km mark.
For the next 7km, the road twists and turns, through leafy forest before emerging into a broad, beautiful valley. The downhill run ends at the Mersey River and then it’s back to the rolling hills.
You’ll eventually come out on the B12. Follow signs for Mole Creek (hotel, gas station, shops, picnic area) and take time, if you like, to visit the caves in the area.
From Mole Creek, you could continue straight on back to Deloraine but a more scenic option is to go right onto the C169 to Caveside. This leads you through beautiful farmland on extremely quiet roads.
After Caveside, take the C168 to Western Creek. As you go through Western Creek, the road narrows and turns to dirt but it’s only for a short stretch before you reach C166. Keep going for some distance until you reach Sandy Lane Road, on your right, just after a dilapidated farmhouse and a bridge.
Take this to go straight to Meander, where you’ll find a picnic area, free BBQs and toilets. We free camped here but there’s also the option to continue into the Meander Forest Reserve, another 8km or so down the road.
Day 6: Meander to Campbell Town (115km)
Today is rather long. If you don’t feel up to the challenge, camp at Liffey Falls to break the journey up. If you’re starting from Deloraine, rather than Meander, the total distance will be about 20km shorter (using the C501 and the C505 via Osmaston and Cluan).
Traffic is light throughout the day.
Leave Meander by going 8km north on the C167 to the A5, then veer right on the A5 towards Golden Valley. The road climbs upwards for a short distance and then swoops down again as you approach Golden Valley.
Look for a small road on your left, leading to the C504, Liffey Falls Lodge and Quamby Brook. It’s another fast and furious descent to the C504, where you go right on the dirt stretch for about 10km. The surface is in good shape so, as far as dirt roads go, it’s good riding and very beautiful when you get to a lookout point over the valley around 27km into the day. There’s an optional detour to Liffey Falls (camping area).
Keep following signs for the village of Liffey and then Bracknell (shop, gas station, post office), a town with a historic church. From Bracknell, it’s mostly straight ahead, with a couple dog legs (follow the signs) to Cressy, the biggest town in the area (shops, picnic area, toilets, post office). Cressy makes a good lunch stop.
From Cressy, head south on the B53 for 4km, then take the C522 towards Ross and Campbell Town. It’s a long, flat and mostly straight road through endless fields of wheat, poppies, sheep and cows. Despite the unpopulated landscape, there’s little opportunity to free camp as everything is fenced. If you’re lucky, a tailwind will blow you along and you can cover this 45km stretch quite quickly.
Campbell Town is where you cross Route 1 and it boasts a range of shops plus a Lions Club campground down by the Elizabeth River. You’ll find a BBQ, water, picnic tables and toilets plus a grassy patch of land to pitch your tent on – all for free. If you’re desperate for a shower, the nearest caravan park is in Ross, 13km down the main road.
*GPS data logged with the QSTARZ BT-Q1000
Day 7: Campbell Town to Swansea (70km)
Grab food and water before you head out of Campbell Town. The B34 to Swansea, which leads east off Route 1, has no shops or services.
The climb out of Campbell Town towards Swansea is gentle, with a few downhill stretches to break up the ascent. The peak of 640 meters is just over halfway between Campbell Town and Swansea.
Although there are very few homes and plenty of trees along the B34, there’s almost no chance to wild camp for the first 25km because everything is fenced. A few opportunities pop up the further you go but the best spots start after you cross the peak.
If it’s a hotel you’re after, there’s accommodation and a restaurant on the shores of Lake Leake, 30km out of Campbell Town. Signs mark the turnoff and the lake is 4km off the B34. There’s also a free camping area by the lake.
From the peak, marked by a picnic table and a small information board on walks through the surrounding forest, there’s a good 20km descent to the junction with the A3, where you go right for the last 10km into Swansea.
Swansea (shops, IGA supermarket, bakery, online access centre) is a major tourist stop and in high season the hotels and campgrounds get booked out. Reserve before you leave Campbell Town or try to arrive early to find a spot. Once you’re set up, take a walk along the beach. Near dusk you may see seals or penguins.
From Swansea, you can also arrange a boat to take you and your bike to Coles Bay. For this, you’d ride down Nine Mile Road, catch a lift across the tiny sliver of water and cycle on the last few kilometers to Coles Bay. The cost is A$10-15/person and it saves about 50km of riding. You’ll need to arrange this ahead of time.
The caravan parks in Swansea should have the phone number of people offering boat rides.
*GPS data logged with the QSTARZ BT-Q1000
Day 8: Swansea to Sandspit Forest Reserve (85km)
This day starts out easy, with spectacular views, but ends with a tough climb on a dirt road. The easier option is to cut the day short in Triabunna or Orford and carry on, with a fresh start, the following day.
Either way, roll out of Swansea and down the A3 towards Triabunna. Keep an eye on traffic because there’s no shoulder for large stretches of today’s ride. Traffic can sometimes be on the heavy side of things.
If you start early, you’ll have a better chance of quiet roads, so you can really relax and enjoy the incredible views over the water. For the first 15km, the cycling is breathtaking. If you didn’t want to stay in Swansea, it’s on this stretch just south of the town that you’ll find the Mayfields Bay campsite, a free camping area (no showers).
Little Swanport is about 30km from Swansea. There are no shops or other services here but there is a small rest area. In a pinch, you might camp here for a night. There’s no water, just a pit toilet. There is a river but you’d have to filter the water and it’s not flowing so the quality is dubious.
Triabunna is the first town after Swansea. There’s a supermarket, cafes, a caravan park, backpackers hotel and tourist information centre, with an adjacent picnic and barbeque area. It’s also here that you catch a ferry to Maria Island (A$50/return plus A$10/bike).
Orford is just 10km down the road, also with hotels, restaurants and a supermarket.
From Orford, head straight through the main roundabout to Spring Beach and Rheban on a road that hugs the coastline. It’s not flat – you’ll climb a couple good hills – but the views over the water and towards Maria Island are worth the effort.
About 10km down the road, the asphalt ends and the dirt road continues through forest and past farms. It eventually merges with another road and brings you into the Sandspit Forest Reserve on the Wielangta Forest Drive.
The dirt road is a bit corrugated in parts but overall in good shape.
Bump along until the last hurdle of the day appears, a climb to nearly 300 meters at a reasonably steep grade, then a downhill and one more tiny incline, which brings you to a picnic area on the left hand side of the road. There are a few huts with tables, pit toilets and rainwater. A tranquil place to spend a night.
Day 9: Sandspit Forest Reserve to Hobart (65km)
A couple more hills await you as you leave the picnic area but mostly it’s downhill to Copping, a small town on the A9. There’s a B&B and a roadhouse.
From here, we took the A9 towards Sorell and then the A3 over the causeway and into Hobart but we don’t recommend this route. There’s no shoulder most of the way and it’s very busy. If you do take this route, just past the airport you can briefly escape the A3 by taking the exit for Cambridge but eventually you must return to the A3.
One alternative to this mess is to keep on the back roads from the Sandspit Reserve, heading for Nugent and Wattle Hill to Sorell and then towards Richmond and Risdon Vale before turning south for the Tasman Bridge into Hobart. This would be longer but far less hair-raising.
The Tasman Bridge is an adventure in itself. It has bicycle paths but they’re incredibly narrow. A touring cyclist and a racing cyclist can just pass side-by-side, as long as both parties suck in their stomachs. If you’re unlucky enough to meet another loaded bike coming your way, someone will have to back up. Have fun on the set of stairs at the Hobart end – another fine planning decision.
Make sure you book a room before you arrive in Hobart. The city gets booked up quickly during peak season and it’s not unusual to pay upwards of A$150 for a room.
*GPS data logged with the QSTARZ BT-Q1000