From the moment the wheels of your vehicle roll off the Spirit of Tasmania, Devonport starts serving up the beauty that Australia’s smallest state is so famous for.
Located on Tasmania’s northern coast, and framed by water on three sides, Devonport is Tasmania’s third largest city, and a great base for exploring the north-western corner of the island. World-famous natural attractions like Cradle Mountain are just an hour away by car, but leave enough time to see what’s in the immediate vicinity. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s a selection of amazing things to do in Devonport.
In the city…
Navigate your way to the Bass Strait Maritime Centre
Given its location, it will come as no surprise that Devonport has a rich maritime history to explore during your visit. The city’s roots lie in coal, timber and the shipping of such natural resources across mighty Bass Strait to mainland Australia. Make your first port of call the fabulous Bass Strait Maritime Centre. Housed in what was once the Harbour Master’s residence and just a stone’s throw from Aikenhead Point overlooking the mouth of the Mersey River (popular for photos), the centre documents the city’s relationship with arguably Australia’s most infamous stretch of water.
From there a short five-minute walk will take you to the Mersey Bluff Lighthouse with its distinctive red and white stripes (another great photo opportunity). The lighthouse is not open to the public. Stop by Drift café for a coffee or bite to eat. The menu draws solely on Tassie produce.
Immerse yourself in Aussie political history at Home Hill
Oz history buffs will want to head across town to Home Hill – the modest white bungalow built for Joseph Lyons and his family in 1916. Lyons went on to become Australia’s only Tasmanian prime minister and died in office of a heart attack in 1939. His wife Dame Enid Lyons, who was the first woman elected to federal parliament, lived in the house for the rest of her life. It’s a fascinating time capsule, which is managed by the National Trust. Tours are available.
Get arty at the Devonport Regional Gallery
MONA in Hobart has lead Tasmania’s cultural renaissance over the past decade. That’s breathed new life into many regional cultural institutions and the Devonport Regional Gallery is no exception. The gallery moved into its new digs in 2018 in the paranaple arts centre in Rooke Street. Well, they’re sort of new. The galleries are located in the refurbished former Courthouse building. The collection is a mostly Tasmanian affair, with a strong emphasis on northern-based artists. The gallery’s Robinson Collection is made up of thousands of photographs taken by two local photographers from the early 20th century right through to the 1970s. Small portions of the collection are on display at any one time and they’re an absorbing look back at northern life over the past century.
Ride the rails at Don River Railway
While passenger rail services in Tasmania ended back in the late 1970s, the island’s rich rail heritage is far from forgotten. There are a variety of rail attractions across the state, including the famous West Coast Wilderness Railway steam train out of Strahan. Visitors to Devonport can get on board at the superb Don River Railway – a labour of love for local volunteers and home to a variety of colourful, fully restored locomotives and carriages of the past – which kids of all ages will absolutely love. The facility operates a rail service to Coles Beach every hour from 10am to 4pm. Your ticket to ride includes access to the site’s museum.
Taste-test wild rivers at the Southern Wild Distillery
There’s an interesting story behind everything in Tasmania, like the fact that distilling liquor was outlawed in the state for more than 150 years. It wasn’t until the 1990s that laws were changed and the world got to taste whiskeys, gins and vodkas legally distilled from the island’s pure waters. Head for the Southern Wild Distillery in the heart of Devonport to taste their Dasher & Fisher range of gins, named after the snowmelt rivers that feed their stills. The botanicals used in the distilling process are sourced from growers across the region. Distillery tours need to be booked in advance.
Within easy reach of the city…
Visit the Lillico Beach little penguins
The opportunity to see little penguins doing their thing in the wild is irresistible to most tourists and there are penguin colonies dotted around the Tasmanian coastline – including at Lillico Beach, ten minutes’ drive west of Devonport. Unlike penguin attractions on the mainland, the tourist infrastructure at Tasmania’s penguin sites tends to be relatively low key, and here it’s run largely by volunteers (who assist the Parks and Wildlife Service to supervise visitors during the breeding season). Play your part to ensure these little guys thrive in the modern world. Stick to the penguin viewing deck and boardwalk, and remember that flash photography can stun the birds and even cause them to desert their chicks.
Relax at The Tasmanian Arboretum
Tap into your inner Tassie tree-hugger at The Tasmanian Arboretum in Eugenana – a park dedicated to the preservation of tree species, both native and exotic. The arboretum is located just 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre and offers a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of town. The park features plenty of green recreational space, picnic areas, walking trails and a seasonal café. There’s another very good reason to visit – the arboretum’s lake is a platypus habitat, and you are almost guaranteed of catching a glimpse of one of these incredibly shy locals.
Celebrate street art in Sheffield
Melbourne is renowned as Australia’s street art capital, but the small country town of Sheffield, about 30 minutes’ drive south of Devonport, certainly gives the Victorian capital a run for its money! The town is home to more than 150 fabulously large and colourful street murals. The annual Sheffield Mural Fest ‘paint-off’ sees nine artists competing over the course of a week for a major cash prize. The entries are displayed for the next 12 months in Mural Park. The town comes complete with quaint cafes, quirky galleries, and craft and gift shops.
Indulge in chocolate and cheese
One of the things you’ll quickly learn about Tassie is that there’s no shortage of waist-expanding delights on offer. If you are hitting the road from Devonport to Sheffield, stop off and get your Wonka on at the House of Anvers chocolate factory just outside Latrobe. The factory is housed in what resembles a Swiss chalet and offers an onsite café (which serves extraordinary hot chocolate) and a ‘Chocolate Tasting Centre’ that more than lives up to its title. The Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm at Elizabeth Town will take you a little off course (it will add about 40 minutes of extra driving time to your day out) but if you’re a cheese lover, we promise you, that’s a small price to pay!
Accommodation in Devonport and the nearby region
Are you planning to explore the beauty of Tasmania’s third largest city? We’ve got some top-rated properties you’d love to stay in, like Comfort Inn The Pier located on the banks of the Tamar River, or the perfect base to explore Tasmania’s Western Wilderness – Comfort Inn Gold Rush. Popular accommodation options in the city include Quality Hotel Colonial Launceston and Comfort Inn Coach House Launceston.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.