Launceston to Hobart via its most direct route is an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive. Given the bustle of contemporary lifestyles, this is more commute than road trip. But in Tasmania, things are different.
Wrapped in stunning wilderness, there’s an island-wide throughline of village atmosphere that whispers a mood of isolation and remoteness. Yet, everything and everyone is only a short drive away.
Tasmania is ideal for brief, exploratory road trips. And driving from Launceston to Hobart via Tasmania’s east coast has the potency of an epic journey packaged into what mainlanders might call a commute.
Let’s take a long weekend, and make our way to Hobart.
How Far Is Launceston To Hobart?
There are two common direct routes. The first and quickest is on National Highway One via Campbell Town and Oatlands, and it’s just 200km. The second most direct is on Highland Rd (A5), via Camps Bay, Steppes and Bothwell, and is only 216 km.
How Long Is The Drive From Launceston To Hobart?
Highway One is technically the fastest at only 2 hours and 40 minutes. Take Highlands Road, and you’re arriving in Hobart just 10 minutes later. However, both direct routes compete for the title of the quickest journey. With only 10 minutes in it, traffic often determines the winner.
What Are The Best Road Trip Routes Launceston To Hobart?
Tasmanian roads, highways and byways, crisscross, loop and intersect. Head off planless without a map, and however lost you feel you are, you’re never far away from your destination. And there’s something wonderful to see and experience whatever route you’re on.
West via Cradle Mountain – Lake Sinclair National Park is the long way to Hobart, but breathtaking in the winter snow. Before completing the Cradle Mountain loop, visit the seaside village of Strahan on the west coast. Heading east takes you through historic Queenstown, Lake Burbury, and Nelson Falls. It’s a magnificent and popular tourist route to Hobart. There’s camping and accommodation for all tastes and budgets.
Both central direct routes offer mountain and rural vistas, village life, history, adventure, and culinary experiences. There are detours aplenty and byways ripe for discovery. The drama of Tasmania’s central mountains is a compelling and rewarding road trip. So much so that east coast routes south of Freycinet National Park find it hard to compete.
But the east coast is our mission, all the way to historic Port Arthur. Non-stop our route is about five or so hours. We’ll break up into an extended coastal weekend road trip with a difference.
Head East To The Coast
Having left Launceston, waypoints include Four Mile Creek for your first views into the Tasman Sea. The coast road south has stunning vistas – make sure you stop – anywhere, there’s no hurry.
The next waypoint is Numie in famous, picturesque Freycinet. Here I recommend glamping on Pelican Bay. Freycinet National Park is incredibly beautiful, and worth a few days of exploration if you have the time. Crystal-clear waters and the cleanest air in the world are restorative and empowering. You’ll feel healthier. The morning you depart, wake early to take in the sunrise at Cape Tourville lighthouse.
From here, there are roughly 3 hours to Port Arthur, our next waypoint. By now, the lazy coast road has set the rhythm – you can turn 3 hours into 8. Take morning tea at Kate’s Berry Farm – awesome pancakes and coffee in a rustic setting.
Discovering Tasmania's Natural & Historic Treasures
There are several bays and beaches worth photo stops heading south – go with a random selection and be surprised. For fisherfolk, stop by Swanport for a couple of hours of peaceful fishing for Tassie's famous black bream. There’s some wonderful free camping on the river – a note for later.
Sparsely settled rural pastures meet the sea. Barnwell Beach is indicative of the terrain south to Marion Bay, with Pine Creek Beach, a worthy detour, showcasing subtle contrast. There’s a peaceful solitude you won’t have to share. It’s likely you’ll have these coastal gems all to yourself. And that’s the compelling aspect of this area. Peace and nature, yours alone, are accessible half an hour from a supermarket. It’s this notion that motivates many mainland Australians to cross Bass Straight and set up island roots, embracing Tasmania as home.
Reaching Marion Bay, there’s great accommodation at Pelicans Rest or the Red Brier Heritage Style Cottage – recommended, just 10 minutes from Marion Bay in historic Richmond. Book a historic tour, sample local produce and take in the architecture of colonial Tasmania. For an exceptional Tassie culinary experience, book lunch at Van Bon – allow 3 to 4 hours for this experience.
Rest up, it’s an hour's drive to Port Arthur for a late-night ghost tour of the historic and iconic convict prison. Should you prefer a daytime tour, I recommend the Isle of the Dead tour. On my last ghost tour at the Port Arthur historic site, the weather was eerily cold, wet and stormy. It enhanced the experience no end! Take weatherproof shoes and a good raincoat – NOT umbrellas.
Next stop. Hobart, just 90 minutes north of Port Arthur. There’s fabulous accommodation from boutique luxury to cheap and cheerful.
Three Of The Best Places To See In Hobart & Launceston
I’ve chosen three experiences from both Hobart and Launceston every visitor should add to their itineraries.
First on the list is Mona. Mona is a museum and gallery worthy of a flight price from anywhere in the world. The building itself is an edifice of world-class architecture – complex, impossible, inspirational and intriguing.
It houses profound artworks, as well as moments in history and engineering. It’s a shrine to human creativity with a deliberate absence of the ‘high art’ mentality so everyone can enjoy it - art connoisseur or not. Mona has attitude. It’s irreverent – nearly dismissive, reminding us that creative thought, actions and interpretation are as innate to us all as breathing is.
A must-see. Take the ferry, it’s a fabulous cruise, and a wonderful day out. If you do nothing else in Hobart – do this!
Kunanyi/ Mount Wellington
Driving into Hobart you can’t miss the enormous Mount Wellington. For countless millions of years, it’s been keeping a watchful eye over this land from its commanding 1271 metres. A 30-minute drive from the city, it’s open 7 am-10 pm from September to April, and 7 am-5.30 pm from May to August. There are fantastic short walks,guided tours, and cycling routes. Come winter, there’s fun in the snow too. I’ve not experienced any view like this. It’s so much more than a photo op. from yet another viewing platform. It’s a must-see.
Every Saturday from 8:30 am to 3 pm, the Salamanca Markets bring the harbourside alive with awesome local food, curios, and all sorts of products from local artisans.
It’s one of the few markets I enjoy, and always manage to pick up something practical or otherwise to commemorate my visit. There’s great music with live bands and buskers.
Incorporate your market visit with a self-guided walking tour around Franklin Warf. It’s the heart and history of Hobart, and the perfect location to get lost in the Hobart vibe. It’s easy to get around, and the Salamanca Market website has clever tips for parking.
James Boags Brewery
You have to book a James Boags tour. The passion for brewing will be in your blood following the 90-minute tour. Your guide is guaranteed to be knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining. It’s an enthusiasm that’s so infectious you’ll be planning your own brewery. The tastings are fantastic and Boags is a great beer. Drinking it following the tour, I had a brand new appreciation. Bookings are essential and easy to make via the website. Couple the tour with lunch at Rupert and Hound. It's close to the brewery and is a fantastic waterside restaurant. The focus is on local fresh seafood and produce.
Cataract Gorge is a historic location with an interpretive centre for those wanting a deeper dive into Launceston's history and gorge geography. The early engineering and rock formations are fascinating. Take the scenic chairlift for a bird's eye view, or simply laze about the beautiful gardens.
This is astonishing geography and just a 15-minute stroll from the city. There are hours of walking, a great pool for when the weather’s hot, gardens, wildlife and a café with an elevation to take in the view.
Queen Victoria Museum And Art Gallery
From dinosaur fossils to Penny Farthings. There’s contemporary, traditional and classic art. QVMAG is a full day out. Make sure you include the planetarium, which you’ll enjoy and the kids will love.
Beautifully, and thoughtfully presented, Tasmania knows how to do galleries. Check the gallery website before you go as there are always new and travelling exhibitions that may require special tickets.
Best Time Of Year To Drive Between Launceston & Hobart
Even in summer, Tasmania has a cool climate. Temps average between 17 and 23 degrees, with winter averaging 3 to 11. Our east coast road trip can be a little warmer thanks to the ocean, but cold in a southerly wind.
This road trip is great all year round, with each season offering a new palette of colours. For me, I like this trip in winter. Firstly, you’ll likely encounter snow. Secondly, there’s an energy you get from the Great Southern Ocean that reminds you that the next stop south of Hobart is the South Pole.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.