24 April, 2024

Your best ever winter road trip

Snuggle up with Tasmania’s wonderful whisky, truffles, spas, snowy landscapes, crackling fires and cosy accommodation.

Nowhere in Australia does winter better than Tassie, where European-style weather and traditions meet exceptional flavours and wilderness. Annual festivals like Dark Mofo, Tasmanian Whisky Week, Mid-Winter Fest and Tassie Scallop Fiesta are a great excuse to come on down and do this seven-day road trip loaded with winter pleasures.

Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. Photo: Paul Fleming.

Day 1: Devonport to Cradle Mountain

Just 20 minutes after driving off Spirit of Tasmania at Devonport, find yourself in pretty countryside looking for culinary gold: black truffles. This rare fungus with an earthy aroma and taste is gathered in winter, when Truffledore offers their Truffle Hunt and Harvest Lunch experience.

Follow a specially trained dog sniffing out truffles, which you can help dig from the soil, before enjoying a fireside meal. Fresh truffles star in all four courses, which might include truffly pasta or mushroom and truffle pizza. Products are available for purchase, so you can take some of that deliciousness home.

From here it’s less than 70km to Cradle Mountain Lodge, which is made for getting cosy on comfy leather armchairs beside massive stone fireplaces. There’s also a good chance of beautiful snow-draped wilderness vistas during winter.

Before your hearty dinner by the lodge’s Highland Restaurant fire, try squeezing in a walk. You will probably see Tassie’s extra-big, furry wombats grazing steps from the door.

Enchanted Walk. Photo: Paul Fleming.

Day 2: Cradle Mountain

Today’s the day to see a Tasmanian icon: Cradle Mountain. This twin peak in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is always awe-inspiring, but at its snow-covered best in winter.

Experienced, energetic hikers could tackle the eight-hour Cradle Summit walk, or you can admire the mountain from different angles on the quicker, easier Dove Lake circuit. Either way you’re doing one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks.

Want a cruisier day? An eyeful of the mountain is an easy drive from the lodge, and the aptly named Enchanted Walk is on your doorstep. Another of the 60 Great Short Walks, it only takes 20 minutes, and is especially magical with snow sprinkled on the mossy trees and colourful fungi.

Whatever you do, find time for the lodge’s Waldheim Alpine Spa, where pampering comes with wilderness views. Choose from spa treatments such as the Hikers Ritual mud wrap, body scrub and massage, or luxuriate in the private Spa Sanctuary. Designed for singles and couples, it offers everything from outdoor hot tub to Tasmanian sparkling wine.

Stillwater. Photo: Samuel Shelley

Day 3: Cradle Mountain to Launceston

After some more walking or relaxing, head to Launceston 140km east. It’s a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, so choose CBD accommodation that puts you in the thick of this town’s good food. Smart, newish Hotel Verge is next to Saturday morning’s Harvest farmers’ market – a top breakfast option – and strolling distance from great cafes and restaurants.

Tonight’s warming dinner could be at Stillwater, recently named among Tasmania’s five best restaurants by Gourmet Traveller magazine. Overlooking the Tamar River, this rustic-chic dining room in a heritage mill complex champions local, seasonal produce. Winter dishes might include wagyu rump with beetroot and rainbow chard, or hazelnut sponge with poached quinces.

Or try relative newcomer Grain of the Silos, the restaurant of a striking grain-silo conversion hotel. Spacious and modern, it also offers river vistas and a menu driven by what’s local and seasonal.

Floating Sauna Lake Derby. Photo: Jason Charles Hill

Day 4: Launceston to Derby return

Go big for breakfast, perhaps at Cafe Mondello or Bread + Butter, then drive 100km north-east to Derby and get your blood pumping on the world-renowned Blue Derby mountain-biking trails. Purpose-built through epic wilderness of towering forest, granite boulders, river and lake, the 125km of free trails range from easy to extremely difficult. Bring your bike on Spirit of Tasmania or hire one in town.

Two-wheeled adventure not your style? Consider bushwalking in the nearby Blue Tier Regional Reserve (including another of those 60 Great Short Walks), or take an easy detour for golf at one of Barnbougle’s three premium seaside courses.

Exercise done, it’s time to relax at Lake Derby’s wood-fired Floating Sauna. It has a glass wall that doesn’t steam up, so you’ll be soothed by the wilderness view. Start with dry heat, followed by even warmer steamy heat, then jump in the lake. Yes, it’s freezing in winter, but this Nordic-style hot and cold full-body invigoration makes you feel awesome!

Dine at another leading restaurant back in Launceston or, if you prefer something more laidback after a big day, head to Havilah. This wine bar’s small but mighty menu has snacky dishes such as cheese, charcuterie, lamb ribs and handmade pasta.

Lark Distillery - Pontville. Photo: Samuel Shelley

Spirited traveller road trips

Day 5: Launceston to Hobart

Take your time on the 200km drive south to Hobart, pausing to sample Tasmania’s legendary whisky at the source. Be sure to buy your designated driver a special bottle for later.

Callington Mill distillery offers sales, tastings, tours, the chance to make your own single malt, and the best lunch in Oatlands. It opened recently in the town’s heritage mill precinct, which is worth exploring even if you’re not into whisky.

Other places to stop for a wee dram amid heritage architecture are Old Kempton Distillery, and the new (but centuries-old) home of pioneering Lark Distillery.

Your Hobart accommodation is the Old Bishop’s Quarters’ latest unique, self-contained offering, Maud’s Cottage. From the wood heater in an inglenook fireplace to the deck’s copper bath, it’s a comfortable, stylish winter haven.

Many dinner options are within walking distance. If you fancy an open fire try Hope and Anchor pub, which was established in 1807, or one of the new breed of beery good times, Hobart Brewing Company.

Summit of kunanyi / Mt Wellington. Photo: Emilie Ristevski

Day 6: Hobart

If it’s winter there’s snow on Hobart’s kunanyi/Mount Wellington, so drive up to build a snowman and throw snowballs. Or just enjoy a scenic bushwalk or mountain-bike ride, pausing for warming drinks and snacks half way up at little Lost Freight cafe. Consider returning to the summit tonight if the Aurora Australis is lighting up the sky.

While away some time at one or two of the city’s numerous museums. Mona and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery are always interesting, and winter is prime time for visiting Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum.

This recreation of the 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition’s base has many fascinating period details, including the sound of howling wind like those explorers experienced on the icy continent.

Continue the Antarctic theme at Institut Polaire, meaning “polar institute” in French. Another of Gourmet Traveller’s top five Tassie restaurants, this elegant white-and-grey space celebrates cool-climate ingredients and wine. Also on the menu is the house Süd Polaire (“south polar”) craft gin and vodka.

Clarendon Arms. Photo: Alastair Bett

Day 7: Hobart to Devonport

Travel the 290km north to Devonport at a leisurely pace, perhaps stopping at another whisky hotspot such as Killara. It’s owned by Australia’s first second-generation distiller, Kristy Booth-Lark, daughter of Lark Distillery’s founders.

Lunch is at Clarendon Arms, an old English-style pub right at home in the heritage town of Evandale. Its vintage vibe, including the open fire and wooden furniture, makes this place wonderfully cosy. Tuck into dishes like scallop and fish pie or lamb curry and you’ll feel warm down to your toes.


Information included in this blog is correct at the time of publishing. Please contact individual operators for further information.

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