Distances within Tasmania are far from huge, so air travel within the state is not very common. Of more use to travellers are the air services for bushwalkers in the southwest, and flights to King and Flinders Islands.
Par Avion Flies regularly from Launceston to Cape Barren Island (one way from $124), just south of Flinders Island. Also runs scenic flights over the east coast and southwest, plus bushwalker transport between Hobart and Melaleuca (one way from $290) for the South Coast Track or Port Davey Track.
Sharp Airlines Flies between Melbourne (Essendon Airport) and Flinders Island (one way $252), and Launceston and Flinders Island ($185). Also services King Island from Launceston ($286), Melbourne ($215) and Burnie/Wynyard ($219).
Tasmania's compact shape makes it arguably Australia's finest state for bicycle travel – there are bikes aplenty down the east coast during summer, and a trickle of cyclists along the hillier and wetter west coast. Roads are generally in good shape, and traffic outside the cities is light. There aren't many areas that can be described as flat, and it's an island…which means island winds.
Transport It’s worth bringing your own bike, especially if you’re coming via ferry: bike transport on the Spirit of Tasmania can cost as little as $19. Another option is buying a bike in Hobart or Launceston and reselling it at the end of your trip – hit the bike shops or the noticeboards at backpacker hostels.
Rental Bike rental is available in the larger cities, and a number of operators offer multiday cycling tours or experiences such as rolling down kunanyi/Mt Wellington in Hobart or the spectacular Jacobs Ladder on Ben Lomond.
Road rules Bicycle helmets are compulsory in Tasmania, as are white front lights and red rear lights if you're riding in the dark. See www.biketas.org.au for more information.
There are a few handy regional ferries around Tasmania, accessing the islands off the island.
Bruny Island Ferry Vehicle/passenger ferry running at least 10 times a day from Kettering to Bruny Island in Tasmania’s southeast.
Furneaux Freight Small weekly passenger and car ferry from Bridport in Tasmania’s northeast to Lady Barron on Flinders Island.
Encounter Maria Island Runs at least three ferries daily from Triabunna on the east coast to Maria Island National Park; carries passengers and bicycles.
Tasmania has a reasonable bus network connecting the major towns and centres, but weekend services can be infrequent. There are more buses in summer than in winter, but smaller towns are still not serviced terribly frequently. Small operators run useful services along key tourist routes and to smaller regional towns. The two main players – Tassielink and Redline – don't currently offer multi-trip bus passes.
Operators include the following:
Calow's Coaches Services the east coast (St Marys, St Helens, Bicheno) from Launceston. Also runs into Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park, connecting with Tassielink buses to/from Hobart at the Coles Bay turn-off.
Lee's Coaches Services the East Tamar Valley region from Launceston. Buses stop on Brisbane St.
Manions' Coaches Services the West Tamar Valley region from Launceston. Buses stop on Brisbane St.
Redline Coaches The state's second-biggest operator. Services the Midland Hwy between Hobart and Launceston, and the north-coast towns between Launceston and Smithton. Shuttles to Hobart and Launceston airports, called the Hobart Airporter and the Launceston Airporter, are also available.
Sainty's North East Bus Service Buses between Launceston and Lilydale, Scottsdale, Derby and Bridport.
Tassielink The main player, with extensive statewide services. From Hobart buses run south to Dover via the Huon Valley, southeast to Port Arthur, north to Richmond, to Launceston via the Midlands Hwy, to the east coast as far as Bicheno, and to Strahan on the west coast via Lake St Clair. From Launceston buses run south to Cressy, to Hobart via the Midlands Hwy, and west to Devonport, continuing to Strahan on the west coast via Cradle Mountain and Queenstown. Express services from the Spirit of Tasmania ferry terminal in Devonport to Launceston and Hobart are also available. Buses also link Burnie in the northwest with Strahan on the west coast, via a (relatively) wild northwest route.
Car & Motorcycle
With limited bus schedules (and no passenger train services), Tasmania is best explored with your own wheels…and you can crank up the music as loud as you like! You can bring vehicles from the mainland to Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania ferries, so renting may only be cheaper for shorter trips. Tasmania has the usual slew of international and local car-rental agencies.
Motorcycles are a great way to get around the island, but be prepared for all kinds of weather in any season.
Under the auspices of the Australian Automobile Association, the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania provides an emergency breakdown service to members, with reciprocal arrangements with services in other Australian states and some overseas organisations. Also good for tourist literature, maps and accommodation and camping guides.
To drive in Australia you’ll need to hold a current driving licence issued in English from your home country. If the licence isn’t in English, you’ll also need to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP), issued in your home country. Your home country’s automobile association can usually issue one on the spot (bring a passport photo). These permits are valid for 12 months.
In small towns there’s often just a pump outside the general store, but all the larger towns and cities have conventional service stations. Most are open from 7am to around 10pm daily, plus you'll find a few 24-hour petrol stations in Hobart and Launceston.
Unleaded petrol, diesel and gas are all widely available. In small rural towns, prices often jump about 10c per litre from urban rates, so fill up before leaving a bigger centre.
Third-party personal-injury insurance is included in vehicle-registration costs, ensuring that every registered vehicle carries at least minimum insurance. Extending that minimum to at least third-party property insurance is highly recommended: minor collisions can be amazingly expensive.
When it comes to hire cars, understand your liability in the event of an accident. Rather than risk paying out thousands of dollars, consider taking out comprehensive car insurance or paying an additional daily amount to the rental company for excess reduction – this reduces the excess payable in the event of an accident from between $2000 and $5000 to a few hundred dollars.
Be aware that if travelling on dirt roads you usually won't be covered by insurance unless you have a 4WD (read the fine print). Also, many insurance companies won’t cover the cost of damage to glass (including the windscreen) or tyres. Note that many rental companies won't let you take their vehicles onto Bruny Island in the southeast.
If you’re touring Tassie for several months, buying a secondhand car may be cheaper than renting. You’ll probably pick up a car more cheaply by buying privately online rather than through a car dealer, but buying through a dealer does have the advantage of some sort of guarantee.
Online, check out Car Sales (www.carsales.com.au) or Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au).
When you buy a car in Tasmania, you and the seller need to complete and sign a Transfer of Registration form. Inspections or warrants of fitness aren't required, but ensuring the vehicle registration is paid becomes your responsibility. See http://www.transport.tas.gov.au/registration/buying-selling for details.
It’s also your responsibility to ensure that the car isn’t stolen and that there’s no money owing on it: check the car’s details with the Australian government's Personal Property Securities Register (www.ppsr.gov.au).
Practicalities Before hiring a car, ask about any kilometre limitations and find out exactly what the insurance covers. Note that some companies don't cover accidents on unsealed roads, and hike up the excess in the case of any damage on the dirt – a considerable disadvantage, as many of the top Tasmanian destinations are definitely off-piste! Some companies also don't allow their vehicles to be taken across to Bruny Island.
Costs International company rates are pricey in Tasmania: expect to pay upwards of $90 per day for a week's hire of a small car in any season. Book in advance for the best prices. Small Tasmanian and Australian firms rent cars for as little as $25 a day, depending on the season and the duration of the hire. The smaller companies don’t often have desks at arrival points, but can usually arrange for your car to be picked up at airports and the ferry terminal in Devonport.
Autorent-Hertz Also has campervans for hire and sale.
Avis Also has 4WDs.
Bargain Select Branches in Hobart, Hobart Airport, Launceston Airport and Devonport.
Budget Car rental.
Europcar Car and 4WD rental.
Lo-Cost Auto Rent Branches in Hobart, Hobart and Launceston airports and the Devonport ferry terminal.
Rent For Less Hobart, Hobart Airport, Launceston Airport and Devonport locations.
Thrifty Car and 4WD rental.
Companies offering campervan hire include the following. Rates can be found from around $60 (two berth) or $75 (four berth) per day, usually with minimum five-day hire and unlimited kilometres. For rate comparisons, see www.fetchcampervanhire.com.au.
Apollo Also has a backpacker-focused brand called Hippie Camper.
Britz Also has 4WDs.
Leisure Rent At the airports in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport, as well as the Spirit of Tasmania ferry terminal in Devonport.
Tasmanian Campervan Hire Hobart-based; specialises in two-berth vans.
Tasmanian Campervan Rentals Based in Hobart.
Tasmanian Motor Shacks Two- and three-berth campervans; Hobart-based.
Tasmanian Motorcycle Hire has a range of touring motorbikes for rent from around $120 per day (cheaper rates for longer rentals); see the website for full pricing details. Based in Launceston.
Road Conditions & Hazards
Road conditions in Tasmania are generally pretty good, but there are a few hazards to watch out for.
Anyone considering travelling on 4WD tracks should read the free publication Cruisin’ Without Bruisin’, available online from the Parks & Wildlife Service (www.parks.tas.gov.au): click on 'Recreation', then 'Other Activities'. It sets out a code of practice to minimise your impact on the regions you drive through.
In cold weather be wary of ‘black ice’, an invisible layer of ice over the tarmac, especially on the shady side of mountain passes. Slippery stuff.
Cyclists & Log Trucks
Cycle touring is popular on some roads, particularly on the east coast in summer. When encountering bicycles, wait until you can pass safely to avoid clipping, scaring or generally freaking out cyclists. Log trucks piled high and coming around sharp corners also demand caution.
Distances may appear short when you peruse a map of Tasmania, especially compared with the vast distances on mainland Australia. But many roads here are narrow and winding, with sharp bends and occasional one-lane bridges. Getting to where you want to be usually takes longer than expected.
Most of the main roads around Tasmania are sealed and in good nick, but there are also many unsealed roads leading to off-the-beaten-track spots. Ask your car-rental company if it's cool with your going off-tarmac.
Watch out for wildlife while you’re driving around the island, especially at night – the huge number of carcasses lining highways tells a sorry tale. Many local animals are nocturnal – try to avoid driving in rural areas at dusk and after dark. If it’s unavoidable, slow down. If you do hit and injure an animal, contact the Parks & Wildlife Service for advice.
Cars are driven on the left-hand side of the road in Tasmania (as per the rest of Australia). An important road rule is to ‘give way to the right’ – if an intersection is unmarked (unusual), you must give way to vehicles entering the intersection from your right.
The speed limit in built-up areas is 50km/h. Near schools, the limit is 40km/h in the morning and afternoon. On the highway it’s 100km/h or 110km/h.
Random breath tests (for alcohol and illegal drugs) are common. If you’re caught with a blood-alcohol level of more than 0.05% expect a fine and the loss of your licence. Talking on a mobile phone while driving is also illegal (excluding hands-free technology).
Hitching & Ride-Sharing
Hitching is never entirely safe in any country in the world, and we don’t recommend it. Travellers who decide to hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. People who do choose to hitch will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go.
People looking for travelling companions for car journeys around the state often leave notices on boards in hostels and backpacker accommodation.
Taxi-but-not-a-taxi operator Uber (www.uber.com) is now operating in Tasmania. You might also try ride-share hub www.coolpooltas.com.au.
Metro Tasmania operates local bus networks in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie, offering visitors inexpensive services around the city suburbs and to a few out-of-the-way areas, including the Channel Hwy towns south of Hobart, and Hadspen south of Launceston. Check online for schedules and fares.