It’s only a two-hour drive from Launceston to the Tasmanian capital Hobart, but if you’re not in a hurry, why not try some detours and pit-stops along the way? From amazing caves to a convict-built bridge with curious carvings, here’s a suggested itinerary that’s full of surprises.
Mole Creek Caves (88 kilometres)
There’s so much to love about Launceston – Tasmania’s second city – including fab food, heritage architecture and green spaces, and the natural beauty of ever-popular Cataract Gorge. But when it’s time to move on to Hobart, don’t head directly south. Go west instead, and discover one of the state’s under-the-radar natural wonders – the Mole Creek Caves.
Fuel up along the way with Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe’s ‘berry’ nice pancakes. Then join a tour of Mole Creek Karst National Park’s fairyland caves, which are filled with stalactites, stalagmites, crystals, colourful limestone shawls and reflecting pools. Marakoopa Cave also boasts Australia’s biggest publicly accessible glow-worm colony.
Ross (146 kilometres)
Backtrack a bit, perhaps pausing along the way for fun photos with some of Australia’s less famous ‘bigs’: Mole Creek’s big Tasmanian Devil, Westbury’s big cricket wickets, and the big coffee pot in Deloraine – where you can also stroll the Kooparoona Niara Cultural Trail. A celebration of local Indigenous culture, this easy 10-minute walk takes in bush-tucker plants, sculptures of native animals, and paving stones inspired by ancient rock carvings.
Then turn south along the route that has linked Launceston and Hobart for centuries. It’s dotted with villages established 200 years ago, including Ross. Don’t just drive across this historic town’s 1836 stone bridge. From the riverbank, admire its 186 decorative carvings – including notable faces of the day, such as a convict who claimed to be the King of Iceland!
Follow your nose to Ross Bakery, where the colonial-era brick oven produces scrumptious sweet and savoury treats. Be sure to try a quintessentially Tasmanian scallop pie.
Bothwell (86 kilometres)
Consider pausing at another historic town, Oatlands, best known for its restored 1837 windmill. If you’ve got even a flicker of thirst or hunger, pop into the Kentish Hotel’s TKO Bakery cafe. It’s decked out with vintage Hollywood memorabilia – especially of legendary Taswegian, actor Errol Flynn.
Alternatively, just shoot straight through to Bothwell, which is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s oldest golf course. The Australasian Golf Museum is close by, but if your fancy leans toward Tassie’s world-renowned whisky, Nant distillery’s tastings and tour are also only minutes away.
New Norfolk (65 kilometres)
New Norfolk is the state’s unofficial antiques capital. Several shops offer treasures from the past, but none are more intriguing than Willow Court Antique Centre. Its curiosities large and small fill and even spill outside one of the former Willow Court asylum’s buildings.
Another of this 19th century institution’s buildings is home to The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery. It’s among Tasmania’s most celebrated restaurants, so book ahead. Guided asylum tours reveal other structures yet to be reinvented, but be warned: the night-time ghost tour is pretty spooky!
Hobart (35 kilometres)
Got a Hobart hit list of fine dining and cool bars? Want to step back in time at museums and convict-era sites? Or are you yearning to see Mona’s mind-blowing art and the va-va-voom views from kunanyi/Mount Wellington’s peak? The capital’s many attractions are not far away!
About the writer
Patricia Maunder has been a media professional for more than 20 years, and has worked in print, online and radio. Currently based in Melbourne, she considers the Canadian city of Montreal to be her ‘other’ home town — having lived there from 2012 to 2016. Patricia has travelled in every continent except the one that’s beckoned since she was a child — Antarctica. A travel writer as well as an arts journalist, she enjoys culturally themed journeys and nature-based adventures.
Cover image: Ross Bridge. Image courtesy of Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett