Australia | Tasmania Self drive the island- good to know
Is driving around Tasmania in 12 days doable? Absolutely! Monty and I have just completed the circuit of Tassie and ticked off many of items on our must-see and must-do lists, but we have learnt a few valuable lessons along the way. This is what we found:
Travel alone or with friends.
Monty and I have travelled as a couple as well as with friends. Personally I enjoy travelling with another person or another couple as it’s fun to chat about the day’s adventures.
For our Tassie trip, Monty and I with another couple, Lewis and Lindz. Although we had not travelled together before, from the moment we met, we simply clicked. We figured the comradery would be the same on our trip. And it was. Lewis has the driest sense of humour (so too Lindz for that matter) – we laughed 99.9% of the time. I can’t imagine what it would be like to travel with people who are not similar in likes and dislikes to you. Nor can I imagine travelling with someone who isn’t flexible. Each day we had a basic plan but we literally went where the mood took us and it worked out perfectly.
Your choice of car is key to your comfort.
Sharing a trip with other people as well as the type of trip you have planned will determine the type of vehicle you will need. Will you be staying on the main highways or will you go off-road? Do you need a four-wheel drive or will an SUV suit better?
Lindz and I were happy to be ensconced in the back seats, leaving the front passenger seat to Keith. Monty was the driver throughout the trip, but Lewis was also a registered driver. (It’s always advisable to have a registered back-up driver in case of emergency.)
We booked a Nissan X-trail SVU. No complaints about the car. It was very comfy, but the boot could not have taken any more luggage than we had. Monty had his suitcase plus a carry-on stuffed with his photography kit. I had a suitcase. Lindz and Lewis also had their suitcases plus Lewis had a backpack and Lindz had a small carry bag. It all squeezed in nicely but there was no room to add extra ‘finds’ if desired, which Monty was rather pleased about. I had taken a liking to a delicious oversized French dome-style cane food cover that I came across in Fingal. There’s no way it would fit; I still dream about it.
Car Rental – be careful, read the fine print.
We discovered car rental in Tassie isn’t cheap but if it’s the freedom you’re after then this is the way to travel. As in mainland Australia, there are the usual car rental companies at your disposal: Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, to name a few… you’ve certainly got flexibility of choice.
Due diligence is important when settling on the car company. We chose Economy Rentals because they offered the best competitive price for what we wanted. It wasn’t until we went to pick up the car after landing at Hobart’s airport, we discovered Economy Car Rentals is a broker for vehicle supplier Bargain Car Rentals. We learned that we had to pay an additional fee of $500 (the cost to be credited back to our Mastercard after the car was returned). If you’re on a tight budget and you’re watching your credit card debits then this could be a shock, especially when you’ve just arrived.
In all, the Nisson X Trail SVU fitted the bill.
We had the car for 13 days. The cost was just under $1013 which included excess protection ($120). It was definitely cheaper than some of their car hire competitors.
Remember too, some car companies charge more if you don’t return the car to the original pick up point. For example, pick up in Hobart, return to Hobart vs pick up in Hobart and drop off in Launceston.
When on a driving holiday, I have found you usually arrive at your destination mid-afternoon. You check in. Get settled. Before you know it, dinner has been and gone and you need to be up early to reach your next destination. Unfortunately, it’s not until you’ve left a place that you feel as though you really haven’t seen it all, properly. We stayed one night in Launceston and wished we had stayed for two. There are also places that you can use as a stopping point and take day trips. This saves you unpacking and packing every day. Tassie’s towns are not far from each other, so this option is doable.
When planning your trip, note the seasons, open days, open hours of the main attractions.
We travelled during the Off Season. It never occurred to me that major tourist attractions would be closed, after all, Tourism Tasmania has been heavily promoting Tassie as a key place to visit during ‘off season’. (Peak season is around October to early April. During this time, expect to pay more for accommodation and flights. Surcharges on Cradle Mountain Huts Walk Overland Track, Bay of Fires Lodge Walk and Freycinet Experience Walk come into place during high season.)+
We were keen to see the Wall of the Wilderness. Turned out they had shut for winter to do repairs, sanding timber etc. I know this because when were at Cradle Mountain, I emailed them direct hoping we could sneak a quick peak, but no.
Some restaurants and tourist attractions change their days and open hours too. In Stanley, a local recommended we pop into Tasmania Wine & Food. Apparently, it’s a knockout. We‘ll never know because we rolled up on Monday at 5pm, keen as mustard to share pizza and down some local vino, only to catch the owner writing new times on his sign. Closed Monday Tuesday Wednesday. A First World problem I know, but it’s seriously frustrating when we could have dined there the previous night.
This happened more than once, so be prepared. Even if the website says ‘open’, it may not be. To be sure, phone first.
Buy a Park Pass from the Get-go.
We had read a Parks Pass was essential for our trip as we had planned to visit, amongst other places, Freycinet National Park, Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. We knew we could buy one online but due to the unpredictability of Covid and border closures we decided to wait until we arrived in Tassie.
As fortune would have it, our first major park stop was Freycinet National Park. We discovered we could buy the pass at the park’s Visitor Centre, and because our elected drivers (Monty and Lewis) are ‘Seniors’ we also got a discount! Winning.
You can also purchase your Parks Pass online from Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania. https://passes.parks.tas.gov.au/
For Covd-19 Safety information see https://parks.tas.gov.au/explore-our-parks/know-before-you-go/safety-in-parks/covid-19-safety-information.
Don’t over pack – especially if you’re doing a road trip. You don’t want to be loaded down with luggage when you’re on the move. Remember winter time is the best excuse to pack light because you don’t get hot and sticky as you would travelling in summer.
Two pairs of boots (in case one pair gets soaked); two pairs of jeans (one on, one airing); three t-shirts, one jacket with removable hood (waterproof and windproof); scarf, beanie, gloves; two pairs of socks (one pair on, one pair airing)… I think you get the picture.
For future Tassie travellers, our 12-DAY trip itinerary was:
Day One Brisbane to Hobart
Day Two Hobart to Bicheno
Day Three Bicheno
Day Four Bicheno to Launceston
Day Five Launceston to Stanley
Day Six Stanley
Day Seven Stanley to Strahan
Day Eight Strahan to Lake St Clair
Day Nine Lake St Clair
Day 10 Lake St Clair to Hobart
Day 11 Hobart
Day 12 Hobart
Day 13 Hobart to Brisbane
Over the coming days watch out for posts on MontyandMe.com.au. I’ll be posting snippets about our driving adventure. Travel with us on our journey around the Apple Isle: discover what we did, found, liked, and didn’t like, and what we would do differently if we knew what we know now.
For snapshots of our trip, check out Monty.and.me or johnmontaguephotography on Instagram. You’ll see where we went.