This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2018. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
It’s easy to see the appeal of the Tasman Peninsula as this area really has it all.
Stunning beaches that are nearly empty, rolling hills topped with deep green gum trees, towering sea cliffs, hikes inside of beautiful national parks, and an abundance of native animals that you are nearly guaranteed to see up close. Throw in some historic sites, great food and drinks, and a picturesque lavender field and you’ll understand why this destination is so popular with tourists.
Having grown up in Tasmania, I’ve visited the Tasman Peninsula plenty of times and I explored it more deeply on a recent trip south for a family wedding. Most of the people who visit this area do it on a day trip from Hobart as the city is only an hour and a half drive away, but there are so many activities on the Tasman Peninsula that it really deserves a few days to properly explore.
If you’re looking for some amazing experiences to have while you’re travelling around Tasmania, here are my suggestions for the best things to do around Port Arthur!
How to get to the Tasman Peninsula:
Driving is the easiest way to get to the Tasman Peninsula. You can rent a car from Hobart Airport or the city and drive from there. The journey takes around 1.5 hours and is very pretty, with lovely green landscapes featuring rolling hills and farms along the way.
If you don’t want to drive, then I think the best option would be the full day tour from Hobart with Pennicott Journeys, which includes bus transfers from Hobart hotels, the wilderness cruise, and a visit to the historic site.
Where to stay on the Tasman Peninsula:
If you’re heading down via car, it’s definitely worth staying for at least one night so that you can properly explore the area. Rob and I stayed in a Studio Cabin at the Port Arthur Holiday Park (pictured above), which was surprisingly nice for the moderate price.
Things to do around Port Arthur:
1. Visit the Port Arthur historic site
You can’t go to the Tasman Peninsula without visiting the Port Arthur historic site. This spot (which is officially Tasmania’s most visited tourist attraction) was one of the earliest convict settlements in Australia back in the 1800s.
Entry to the historic site is $45 AUD, which sounds a little pricey but it’s actually fairly good value as your ticket includes a walking tour and a harbour cruise. The site is fairly large so prepare to spend a few hours exploring it, and if you hang around after dark, you can even do a spooky ghost tour!
2. Do a wilderness cruise
If there’s one other activity that I would definitely recommend on the Tasman Peninsula, it would be the Tasman Island Wilderness Cruise with Pennicott Journeys. This 3-hour cruise has won numerous tourism awards, which is not surprising considering just how amazing and unique this experience is.
The cruise departs from Port Arthur and will take you around Tasman Island and up the coastline to Eaglehawk Neck. On the way, you’ll have the possibility of seeing ocean gulls, mutton birds, bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales (if you’re lucky!), and Australian and New Zealand fur seals. I absolutely loved seeing the seals lazing about on the rocks and having a pod of dolphins follow our boat on the way back to the jetty.
Not only will the cruise allow you to see these wild animals, but it will also take you by towering sea cliffs (the tallest in the southern hemisphere at 300 metres high), dangerous sea caves, massive rock arches, and waterfalls that flow down the cliff face. This coastline is absolutely mind-blowing. Truly an amazing experience!
3. See Tassie Devils
Tassie Devils are a unique Australian animal and are an endangered species, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see them in the wild. One place that you will find them in captivity is at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, which is part of the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Project. This place is a haven for the devils where they can live in a setting similar to their natural environment and be safe from the dangers that have decreased their population in the wild.
The Unzoo has 4 large enclosures which house kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons, quolls, possums, devils, and a selection of native birds. It’s also unique in that it has a glass dome that pops up from underneath the devil enclosure, so if you stick your head up into the dome while the devils are nearby, you may get a much closer look!
4. Hike out to the capes
For you’re into hikes (especially ones that end with a killer view), then you’ll be pleased to know that there are some fantastic trails on the Tasman Peninsula. Rob and I did the Cape Hauy track a few years back, and it was honestly one of the most scenic hikes I’ve ever done.
The trail begins at Fortescue Bay and is around 4 hours return. The path travels along the top of towering sea cliffs (the very same ones that are visible from the wilderness cruise). If you’re feeling brave, you can sit on the edge on let your feet dangle over the 200-metre drop to the ocean below!
Cape Hauy is part of theTasman Peninsula’s Three Capes Track, which is managed by the Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service. I’ve heard that Cape Raoul is also supposed to be a great option for a day hike!
5. Visit a secluded beach
There are plenty of lovely beaches on the Tasman Peninsula, but Fortescue Bay is one of the best. This secluded beach sits inside Tasman National Park and is almost entirelyprotected from the ocean. The water here is calm and the beach is pristine.
Fortescue Bay also has a campsite which Rob and I once stayed at after completing the Cape Hauy hike. We learned that we aren’t huge fans of camping, but it sure was a nice place to try it.
6. See incredible rock formations
One of the distinguishing features of the Tasman Peninsula is the rocky coastline. Once you pass Eaglehawk Neck, there are a few stops where you can pull over to see some of the rock formations.
Tessellated Pavement is arguably the most famous. The rock shelf has fractures that naturally form a criss-cross pattern, and the tide often leaves pools of water sitting in the rectangles to create a reflective surface which is popular with photographers at sunset.
Some other rock formations to see are Tasman Arch (pictured above from the wilderness cruise), Devil’s Kitchen, and the Blow Hole.
7. Frolick in a lavender field
Have you ever seen those photos featuring long rows of lavender bushes in Tasmania? Well, I bet you didn’t know that you can actually find one of those lavender fields on the Tasman Peninsula.
I attended a wedding at Port Arthur Lavender Farm (hence my flowy dress in the above photo!), and even though the flowers weren’t quite in season in December, it was still a lovely place to explore and take some Instagram pics.
The on-site cafe also has some lavender infused ice cream and fudge that you can try. Check out the gift shop and buy some delicious smelling lavender soaps, soy candles, or tea before you go.
8. Indulge your taste buds
If the lavender treats weren’t enough, there are more opportunities to indulge your taste buds at Federation Chocolate Factory.
This artisan chocolate shop uses as many local ingredients as possible in their products, and has some really interesting flavours like Apple & Cinnamon or Brandied Apricot. My favourite was actually the sugar-free dark chocolate, which sounds like it wouldn’t taste good but was actually incredible.
9. Sample local gin and whiskey
McHenry Distillery is strangely located down a long dirt road in the middle of a forest. This place is actually the southernmost distillery in Australia (#funfact) and produces top quality whiskey and gin.
I enjoyed sampling their sloe gin and barred-aged gin, though Rob and I were very excited to sample the single malt whiskey which was mind-blowing but a little out of our price range at a casual $280 a bottle.
*I was a guest of Pennicott Journeys for the Tasman Island Wilderness Cruise. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is a true review of my experience.