I’m pretty sure that in every blog post I have written about Tasmania, I’ve really emphasised that the best way to see what the island state has to offer is to drive around it. So these driving guides between Hobart and Launceston are very much long overdue.
Tasmania isn’t a particularly big state and its two biggest cities are only a little over 200 kilometres away from each other. But there are several routes you can take between the two, each with their own highlights.
This post focuses on the Midland Highway (A1) route, which is the fastest way and most direct way between Hobart and Launceston and has plenty to see along the way. If you’d like to check out one of the scenic route options, I’ve also got a post covering the Tasman Highway route along Tasmania’s stunning east coast.
The Midland Highway was initially built by convict labour in the early 1800s (obviously its been upgraded a few times since then!), so it is often also referred to as the Heritage Highway. It’s this convict history that makes this particular route so interesting.
That said, if you’re driving from either Hobart or Launceston to the other and you need to be there as quickly as possible, this is also the route for you.
Directly along the Midland Highway, it’s a little over 200 kilometres depending on where you are starting and finishing at either end. Just keep in mind after reading this blog post you might want to take a couple of detours into the small towns just off the highway.
You can get between the two cities pretty comfortably in 2.5-3 hours along the Midland Highway route. Keep an eye out for roadworks. The Midland Highway is regularly upgraded, so there are often roadworks along the way that will slow you down briefly.
Really easy. The Midland Highway isn’t a multi-lane highway all the way through. Still, there are ample overtaking opportunities and not typically a lot of traffic (with the obvious exception of peak hours at either city) to cause too many hold-ups along the way. Most of the key attractions along the way are pretty well signposted as well.
You won’t find service stations on the Midland Highway in the same way that you’d expect them on The Australian mainland. Particularly on the road trips between the big cities. If you need any services, your options are relatively limited along the route. Just keep in mind most of these are small towns so you might have a single petrol station with limited amenities depending on where you choose (or need) to stop. Always best to fill up and stock up before you leave the city.
Easily, very easily. That said, if you are really keen to discover all of the sites along the way, then I would make sure you give yourself a few extra hours to account for the stops and detours.
Let’s get into my tips and advice for the best places to stop along the Midland Highway between Hobart and Launceston.
Starting with Hobart, I’ve already put together a series of blog posts to help you get started in the Tasmanian capital. You can check those out here:
When you make your way north out of Hobart, as soon as you cross over the Derwent River, you’ll come across the town of Bridgewater. It’s your last taste of the big city before continuing along the Midland Highway. I would highly recommend you stop here for any last-minute fuel, snacks etc. before continuing along the rest of the route.
Brighton isn’t all that far out of the Hobart. Depending on traffic it might be 30 minutes outside the CBD. That said if you’ve got the whole day to get to Launceston it makes a great first stop.
If you didn’t get a chance to visit either Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary or Zoodoo Zoo while you were staying in Hobart, these attractions on the north side of the city are a great way to spend a couple of hours before continuing on your way.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is much less of a detour off the Midland Highway. Its focus on local animals is a great way to see Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats and the ever-elusive Tasmanian Devil, especially if you have had a chance to see them in person before.
Zoodoo Zoo is much more of a detour, so I’m less inclined to suggest you make an effort to stop on this particular road trip, but I wanted to include it for the sake of giving you options. Tickets for Zoodoo Zoo are cheaper with more variety of animals especially those from overseas like Lions, Monkies and Meerkats.
Home to the largest number of colonial sandstone buildings in Australia, if you only make one stop on your way up the Midland Highway, Oatlands should be it.
A little over an hours drive outside of Hobart, with its origins as a military encampment this heritage town was largely built by convict labour during the early 1800s. Those sandstone buildings still stand and are in use today lining the main street, as a genuine journey back in time.
Amongst all that history, Oatlands is best known for Callington Mill. Built back in 1837 it’s still operating as a mill to this day and the only one of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. The mill is open to the public, so make sure you drop in to see it in action, along with the rest of history on its grounds.
Make sure you drop into the Oatlands Heritage Highway Visitor Centre and the Oatlands District Historical Society to get a proper understanding of the town’s history. And if you have the time, drive or walk around to take in all the impressive historic architecture around the town
Another of the old colonial towns set up along the convict route, Ross has even more stunning examples of the sandstone buildings and history.
This riverside town is well worth the short detour off the highway to discover more about the regions convict past. Make sure you plan to visit the Ross Bridge for its stunning stonework and carvings, one of Australia’s oldest bridges. The Ross Female Factory Site one of only a few in Australia, the historic quarry and churches.
Ross has plenty to discover if you have the time. Make sure you look at this website that the towns tourism board has set up to make sure you don’t miss any of the key historical sites while you are in the area.
If you happen to be in town around lunch time, drop into either the historic Man O’Ross Hotel or the Village Bakery.
No detour required for this one, the Midland Highway still runs directly through the middle Campbell Town.
Campbell Town is another historic garrison town along the convict route also known as the Heritage Highway. However, unlike Oatlands and Ross, it has also kept up to date with many more modern facilities, so it doesn’t quite have the same colonial charm as the others.
That said, there is still plenty of history to discover including the Red Bridge which made up of half-million red bricks built by convicts back in 1838 and is still in use as part of the main highway.
You can also follow The Convict Brick Trail to discover more about the people brought to Australia during these early times in the nation’s history.
Another town steeped in heritage. Longford is the last little detour you should take before you arrive in Launceston.
If for no other reason, you should really make the quick detour to check out the Woolmers Estate and Brickendon Estate which are stunning examples of Australian pioneer farms that are also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing also includes Port Arthur just outside of Hobart. Such is their significance.
You’ll also find many more examples of colonial architecture within the main township of Longford.
While for something a bit different, Longford was also home to the Australian Grand Prix, a motor race, between 1953 to 1968. Held on a combination of the town’s streets and a purpose-built race track it was graced by iconic names like Sir Jack Brabham, Jim Clarke, Bob Jane, and Jackie Stewart.
No longer in use, you can discover the remnants of the fastest motor racing circuit in the Southern Hemisphere at the time if you know what you are looking out for. Also, visit the Country Club Hotel, which marked one end of the circuit to discover more about the history.
Let’s round this out with my best advice to allow you to make the most of your time in Launceston. Check out the posts I’ve already put together:
Making the return trip back to Hobart? Might I also suggest this scenic route option along the stunning east coast of Tasmania.
If you’d like to get some more information to help in planning your trip to and around Australia… I’ve got a whole series of blog posts with all sorts of tips and advice for you.
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