Touring Tasmania in a classic car

I’ve been touring Tasmania in my 1990 Mercedes 300TE this last week and a half.   While there are regular classic events here like Targa Tasmania I’ve been quite surprised how few classics I’ve seen touring around during my time here.   It’s a great place to go touring in an older car.  Not only is there great scenery, but there is little traffic, the temperatures are not too hot, the roads are mostly great, and its not speed camera infested.

I drove down from Sydney and took the car on the Spirit of Tasmania.

In addition, the roads are quite twisty so quite fun at legal speeds.   Based on this trip, at some point I will probably plan a road trip to Tasmania to explore more of the great roads.

Touring Tasmania in a classic car

The purpose of this trip was a family holiday.   There are plenty of travel blogs that cover the main sights to see, so in this article I will mostly focus on the roads I enjoyed driving on.  I ultimately did 2,400km in Tasmania, plus the trip to and from Geelong.

Devonport to Launceston

This was one of the biggest surprises on the trip.     When I disembarked the Ferry, my destination was Launceston.   Instead of taking the clogged up A1, I took the back roads to via Exeter.   This was primarily the B71.

There was almost no traffic and it was a great one our drive to Launceston.    I had time to check out the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania before I collected my family from the airport.   The museum was well worth it.

Given I enjoyed this drive, I also took the B71 back to Devonport for my return ferry.

North East Tasmania

The first full day of our trip we explored North East Tasmania.    The A3 is the main road here.   At least east of Scottsdale, its pretty good.    We went via the Bridestowe Lavender farm, so took the B81 for the first part of the trip.    All of these roads were pretty good.

After Scottsdale, we headed on the A3 towards the little blue lake.     The road to the little blue lake is paved, but only to the little blue lake.     After that most of the roads east of here are unsealed.   We headed to Eddystone point lighthouse.   This is nearly all unsealed roads, and I don’t think worth it.   In retrospect I would have stayed on the A3 towards Pyengana instead.   Our destination was St Helens, and there was a dairy and bush walk we could have done in the time that would have been preferable to a 100km of unsealed roads.

Some of the roads are not really maintained properly, the GPS wanted to send us down a road that would challenge a billy goat.    Of course the 300TE handled the regular unsealed roads very well, I just don’t enjoy driving on them.

Great Eastern Drive

We spent two days on the east coast.     We went north from St Helens to The Gardens to start the drive through the Bay of Fires.    This was one of our best days on the trip.    The bay of fires was amazing and the road down the coast is great and full of amazing sights.

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Over the two days we did the main road (A3) from The Gardens to Triabunna in various stages as we checked out the Bay of Fires and Freycient National Park.   The Bay of fires was our favourite including clambering over rocks to the blowhole at Bicheno.      The fish and chips in St Helens is great, whereas the Lobster Shack in Bicheno is a bit overrated.

Overall, taking the A3 from Launceston all the way in towards Hobart would probably be a good drive, although we didn’t stick to the A3 the whole way.

Around Hobart

We did a few drives around Hobart.   The first was getting there from Little Swanport on the east coast to Hobart Via Oatlands.    The first part of this drive was pretty good, but the roads around oatlands were not as good – rough and very narrow.    When we left Oatlands we made the mistake of taking highway 1 which is terrible.   Next time I would have paid more attention and taken the B31 which looks a lot better.

The A1 was full of drivers who drive a 30km below the speed limit.

From Hobart we also did a few day trips, the first was Bruny Island, which was a lot of fun.   There is one main road down Bruny Island with some side roads.   Its not a bad road, but quite busy.   I wouldn’t go there just to drive the road, although as a tourist destination Bruny Island is worth it.

Touring Tasmania in a classic car

The next one we did was Port Arthur.   These roads are pretty good, although quite busy in places.     Better than Bruny Island comparing roads.

The final thing we did before leaving for Strahan was Mt Wellington.   It was very cold and wet that day, so no view.   Also not as fun a road in the wet as it would be in the dry.

Hobart to Strahan

The drive from Hobart to Strahan was one of the best of the trip.     We were on the A10 nearly all the way.   The first part getting out of Hobart is a bit boring, but about an hour of Hobart this road turns great.

The section from Derwent Bridge to Queenstown is probably the best of it.    Getting into Queenstown involves going over the mountains and then down via multiple hairpins.   The scenery is quite amazing as Queenstown is the result of the mining companies being allowed to do whatever they wanted.   Rampant pollution created acid rain and denuded the hillsides turning the place into somewhat of a moonscape.    It was much worse in the 90s when I went through here as a child, but its a huge contrast from the lush rainforest from earlier in the drive.

Tailings from the mine have also turned the river orange, which is quite the sight.

Touring Tasmania in a classic car

The section from Queenstown to Strahan wasn’t bad, but mostly road works so hard to evaluate.

Strahan to Cradle Mountain

I think this was the best drive of the trip.   We went via Queenstown as we wanted to check out the town and didn’t have time on the way in.   from there we went to Sheffield, Mostly on the A12.

This road was highly enjoyable and I would come back to Tasmania just to drive it again.    There are great up and down sections, sweeping corners, great scenery and more.

Cradle Mountain to Launceston

There wasn’t an obvious alternative to highway 1.    My kids were not going to tolerate me adding significant time in search of a better road, so we took highway 1.  What a dreary road.   I think the main take away from this entire article is to avoid highway 1 at all cost.

What we didn’t do

Our trip didn’t take us to the north west of the state, and the south west is largely inaccessible.     We also didn’t visit the central part of the state.

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