Nine-day Southern Edge road trip

A journey through southern Tasmania is framed by water and defined by the elements. Explore the hidden coves of the broad D’Entrecasteaux Channel, swing by the farm-gate stalls and cider houses of the Huon Valley, and detour by ferry for freshly-shucked oysters and farmhouse cheeses on Bruny Island. Venture into the South West Wilderness for wildlife watching, stargazing and solitude, and pause at Australia’s southern-most edge – next stop, Antarctica.

Bruny Island Ferry. Photo: Jess Bonde

Day 1: Devonport to Bruny Island

On arrival in Devonport, disembark Spirit of Tasmania and follow the Heartlands road trip to make your way to Hobart. Just south of Hobart, stop in search of antique and second-hand bargains at Margate Train. There are thousands of local artefacts held at the Channel Museum. Afterwards, maybe enjoy some birdwatching at Inverawe Native Gardens: it’s said all 12 endemic bird species have been spotted here.

Book ahead for a private tour of the Raptor Refuge, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to rehabilitating injured birds, located near Kettering. Numerous birds are brought in for treatment each year, including sea eagles, peregrine falcons, masked owls and the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle.

In Kettering, board the ferry for the 15-minute crossing of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to Roberts Point, on North Bruny Island.

At Great Bay, about 15 minutes’ drive south of the ferry terminal, pull over for tastings at the Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Co. Chat with the brewer making “slow beer” and watch the cheesemakers working on artisanal cheeses with distinctively Tasmanian characteristics and names.

A quintessential Bruny experience is to stand atop The Neck, a well-known strip connecting the north to the south of the island. From the carpark, take the steps to Truganini Lookout, stopping at observation platforms. The strip is an important habitat for wildlife, including short-tailed shearwaters and little penguins.

Stay overnight at Adventure Bay, where options include Adventure Bay Retreat and 43 Degrees Bruny Island.

Cape Bruny Lighthouse. Photo: Adam Gibson

Day 2: Bruny Island

Take a day to explore Bruny Island. Join a three-hour eco-cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, a 50-kilometre exploration of sea stacks, sea caves and remote inlets – providing a chance of catching glimpses of dolphins, seals, sea birds and migrating whales when in season. Follow up with a seafood lunch at Pennicott’s HQ, nestled on the picturesque Adventure Bay.

Back on land, at the eastern end of Adventure Bay, the Fluted Cape circuit is a scenic three-hour, six-kilometre walk rising to the cape summit and following sea cliffs. A shorter one-hour return walk to Grass Point along the coast suits families – don’t miss seeing the remains of a whaling station.

Drop by the cellar door at the family-run Bruny Island Premium Wines and sample  cool-climate wines, or linger for lunch every day or dinner on Saturdays.

For spectacular coastal views and fascinating history, book ahead for Bruny Island Safaris’ daily tours of the Cape Bruny Lighthouse – first lit in 1838 with sperm whale oil. Climb the cast-iron spiral stairs to the balcony for panoramic views and learn about life as a keeper of Australia’s longest continually operated lighthouse.

Among the island’s gems is South Bruny National Park, flanked by cliffs with dramatic views over pristine beaches, coastal heath and eucalypt forests. The park is home to numerous walks, from easy strolls to challenging treks, including the 12-kilometre East Cloudy Head walk, taking you along the sparkling shores of Cloudy Bay Beach.

Overnight options include a seafood dinner and stay at Hotel Bruny at Alonnah, or you could opt to stay in cottages and lodges across the island, such as the secluded Cloudy Bay Villa.

Mars Bluff, Cape Queen Elizabeth Track. Photo: Jess Bonde

Day 3: Bruny Island to Cygnet

Heading back north,  soak up striking views over The Neck and Adventure Bay from the Cape Queen Elizabeth Track – a scenic three-hour, 12-kilometre walk through both beach and bush. Admire Miles Beach, a rocky archway in the sand at Mars Bluff, and get the chance to spot the rare forty-spotted pardalote.

Stock up for your journey back: stop at the Bruny Island Chocolate Co., Bruny Island Honey and Get Shucked for some fresh oysters.

Before boarding the ferry, stop at the Bruny Island House of Whisky, specialising in rare Tasmanian single malts.

Back on the mainland, turn south from Kettering and follow the coastal road. Stop at Art Farm Birchs Bay, a working farm that hosts exhibitions, workshops and a popular sculpture trail. Visitors are welcome to wander through Tasmanian native pepper berry, orchards and an extensive kitchen garden.

Drop by Hartzview Vineyard, one of the world’s southernmost wineries, with its chapel-like tasting room and views across the Huon River to the Hartz Mountains.

Stay overnight at the Cygnet Old Bank B&B or at the charming Cygnet Retreat.

Pagan Cider Cellar Door. Photo: Chris Phelps

Day 4: Cygnet to Geeveston

Tap into the creative energy of Cygnet, a town full of musicians, dreamers and artists.

Swing by Pagan Cider to try their distinctive ciders, including a Pagan-only cherry cider made with local cherries.

High on a hill overlooking Glaziers Bay, Tas-Saff is a pioneering saffron farm growing purple crocus flowers, famed for producing high-quality saffron. Drop in for a visit to the farm and to sample their famous saffron tea and saffron infused spirits.

The historic river town of Franklin is beautifully positioned between rolling green hills and the mighty Huon River. The town’s most precious maritime treasure is the Wooden Boat Centre Tasmania – the last remaining school in Australia teaching traditional wooden-boat construction. On a guided tour of the centre and its busy workshop, smell the woody fragrance of Huon, celery top and King Billy pine, and watch shipwrights at work.

Inspired by what you’ve seen, head next door and set sail on the mighty Huon River onboard the Yukon – a 1930s Danish oak ketch, raised from the bottom of the harbour in Copenhagen and carefully restored.

Continue the nautical theme with a delicious fish and chips or a fisherman’s basket at Aqua Grill Cafe.

Stay overnight at Geeveston, dubbed “Australia’s most southerly town”. Here you could sleep at the Cambridge House B&B – dating back to 1868 – or at Bears Went Over the Mountain.

Hartz Mountains National Park. Photo: Jess Bonde

Day 5: Geeveston and Hartz Mountains National Park

Before you set off on today’s adventure, shop for baked goods at the popular Old Bank of Geeveston. .

Choose one of the walks available at the lush Hartz Mountains National Park. Ancient glaciers carved this rugged landscape of peaks, waterfalls and lakes, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Listed Area. It’s surprisingly accessible, though – walks to Arve Falls, Lake Osborne and Waratah Lookout (named for the blazing red endemic flower that dots the landscape in summer) are easy and take less than an hour return.

Dinner tonight could be enjoyed at the Kermandie Hotel, with a restaurant and bar overlooking the marina at Port Huon. Feel like fresh handmade pasta and Italian fare? Head to Franklin’s old riverside courthouse, home to the acclaimed Osteria at PettySessions.

Stay overnight at Geeveston.

Dover. Photo: Jess Bonde

Day 6: Geeveston to Dover

Take the scenic route to Dover, following the coastal C638 through Surveyors Bay. The pretty fishing village of Dover sits on Esperance Bay, overlooking the islands of Faith, Hope and Charity. Its cottages and English trees give the town a unique charm.

Take a leisurely cruise around the bay with Peninsula Cruising, where you’ll learn about the history of Port Esperance and the region’s aquaculture industry.

Bread and liquor are made side by side at the century-old Dover Bakehouse Distillery. Call ahead for wood-fired sourdough and for tastings of Evoke – a unique spirit made from the endemic Tasmanian southern (or blackheart) sassafras and native botanicals.

At dusk, stroll along the Dover waterfront or head to the local jetty, a popular spot to drop a fishing line. No bites? Head to Post Office 6985 for seafood and regional fare for dinner, or the Dover RSL.

Stay overnight at Dover, with the Ashdowns of Dover and Driftwood Cottages our top pick for the town.

Newdegate Cave, Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs. Photo: Lauren Bath

Day 7: Dover to Southport or Cockle Creek

Stock up on supplies in town, ready for a self-catering night far from the shops.

It’s time to head underground with a tour of Hastings Caves State Reserve, home to a network of spectacular caves, thermal springs and forest walks. Take a tour of Newdegate Cave, the jewel in the crown. It’s one of the few dolomite caves in Australia, full of flowstones and stalactites, columns and helictites. Linger for lunch – the reserve has barbecue facilities and picnic spots.

Nearby, in the remnants of an early Jurassic forest at Lune River, Lunaris Gemstones is a treasure trove of rare fossils, crystallised minerals, gemstones and curiosities.

Keep driving south another 40 minutes or so to reach the end of the road at Cockle Creek – the furthest point south you can drive in Australia. This is the access to Southwest National Park and the trailhead for the challenging 85-kilometre South Coast Track. For a taste of solitude, the much-shorter South Cape Bay Track takes about four hours return and has clifftop views of the Southern Ocean and South East Cape, Australia’s southernmost point.

You can also take the short beach walk from the carpark to the bronze whale sculpture (during the 1830s there were four whaling stations here), then on to Fishers Point Navigation Light and Pilot Station ruins.

Pitch a tent at the Cockle Creek campground and spend the evening stargazing – if you’re lucky, you might witness the elusive Southern Lights. If you are not camping, stay at Southport, about 35 minutes’ drive away, where options include the Jetty House Southport and Seaview Southport.

Tahune Airwalk, Tahune Adventures. Photo: Jess Bonde

Day 8: Southport to Huon Valley

Return to Geeveston and detour to the magical Tahune Airwalk, a 600-metre canopy walk that hangs high above the forest floor, with a final cantilevered section positioned 50 metres above the Huon River. Take in sweeping views over the Picton River and beyond to the peaks of the World Heritage Area. A day pass includes access to all the forest walks on site, including a couple of swinging bridges. Have lunch at the on-site café, surrounded by lush forest.

There’s more adventure in store, this time at river level. From Tahune, Twin River Adventure offers a four-hour return rafting or kayaking excursion bouncing down rapids and drifting along quiet sections of the Picton River.

Time your return through Geeveston to coincide with lunch at Masaaki’s Sushi. The acclaimed Japanese restaurant – headed by the charismatic “surfing sushi chef” Masaaki Koyama, gained a loyal following at his pop-up food van in Hobart, which followed him to Geeveston, where Masaaki’s Sushi opened in a restored church. Think Tasmanian wasabi and wakame, inari tofu pockets with sesame seeds and toasted almonds, and southern Tasmanian seafood.

Spend the afternoon wandering around the Huon Valley. Drop by family-owned Frank’s Ciderhouse and Café to sample local produce and gain insight into the proud tradition of orchard keeping in the Huon. While away an afternoon at the cellar door and restaurant at serene Home Hill Winery. Or settle in at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed for cider and apple-spirit tastings, a menu based on local produce, and a self-guided tour of its apple museum for insight into the rise, fall and recovery of the Apple Isle’s rosy industry.

Stay overnight in the Huon Valley, either at Crabtree River Cottages or at Huon Bush Retreats. Maybe enjoy a farm stay at Highland Getaway, starring woolly Highland cattle and alpacas.

Huon Valley. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Nick Osborne

Day 9: Huon Valley to Devonport

In the valley’s flagship town of Huonville, fossick for second-hand treasures and source baked goods along the main street and Wilmot Road. Or book ahead for a cooking class at the Farmhouse Kitchen, where you’ll learn the secrets of Italy’s Puglia region on a plate

After a spot of bargain-hunting, prepare for white-water thrills aboard Huon River Jet Boats.

In neighbouring Ranelagh, refuel at Summer Kitchen Bakery, known for superior sweet treats, pies and wood-fired bread.

After this exciting journey through the Southern Edge, depart Hobart to reach Devonport, where you’ll board Spirit of Tasmania for your journey home.

Original content is courtesy of Tourism Tasmania