Tasmania’s third city faces Melbourne across the vast Bass Strait.
The ferry service Spirit of Tasmania from the mainland docks at the Mersey Estuary in Devonport.
With breathtaking headlands and beaches along the rugged coastline, you can look north, and a museum to learn about Bass Strait’s ecology and shipwreck history.
Devonport, the closest major settlement to the stunning natural beauty of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, is just over an hour away, and it’s a journey that needs to be done.
1. Bass Strait Maritime Centre
Where better than the mouth of the River Mersey to explore the natural and human history of the strait that separates Tasmania from mainland Australia.
The center combines interactive displays, clear information boards and artifacts detailing topics such as prehistory, European exploration, settlement, shipwrecks, shipbuilding, naval history, maritime industry and the development of Devonport.
On a hands-on experience, you’ll be able to sail a turn-of-the-century steamship into the Mersey or Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.
The centre also maintains the recently restored Julie Burgess brig, which sails into Bass Strait from October to late June.
2. Mersey Bluff Lighthouse
From the Maritime Centre, you can follow the Devonport cycle and walking paths west to Mersey Bluff, a peninsula that juts out into the sea.
On the rock at the northern end stands the historic Mersey Bluff Lighthouse, built in 1889 to replace a series of beacons placed on the site.
After the lighthouse was built, there was a significant reduction in shipwrecks in the area, and it was automated relatively early when it was converted to electricity in 1920.
The first thing that will strike you about this structure is that it uses vertical red bands instead of horizontal ones.
See stunning coastal views and a gust of sea breeze.
If you’re lucky, you might spot a wallaby in the bushes, from here you can follow the trail west to Bluff Beach, which is full of rocky outcrops at low tide.
3. Don Railway
Opened in 1916, the Melrose Line branch runs from the Don Junction at the mouth of the Don River to Palona, about 20 km southwest.
The line was closed in 1963, but in 1976 the 3 km section between Don Junction and Don Township reopened as the Don River Railway.
This usually runs Wednesday to Sunday.
You’ll enjoy views of the river and picturesque suburbs of Don from a 1940s car, pulled by a steam locomotive or vintage diesel locomotive.
The attraction is staffed by well-informed volunteers who are happy to answer any questions.
You can also visit workshops where historic rolling stock is being restored, as well as signal boxes, turntables and a small museum.
4. Hometown Mountain
Tasmania’s only Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons (1879-1939) lived in Devon with his wife Dame Enid Lyons and their 12 children Porter in this charming weatherboard house.
Commissioned by the family in 1916, Home Hill is now run by the National Trust and has been kept exactly how it was when Dame Enid last lived here in 1981. She was the first woman to be elected to Australia’s House of Representatives, and the house Reflecting her taste, it is full of personal items and fascinating keepsakes.
On this tour, you will have the privilege of gaining insight into the political and private lives of two key figures in Australia’s 20th century history.
5. Southern Wild Winery
The exceptionally pure mountain streams and fertile soils of North West Tasmania are conducive to premium liquors.
At the Southern Wild Distillery on Oldaker Street, the specialty is gin, made with purified water and the freshest local ingredients.
The award-winning flagship range is crafted with a careful blend of local botanicals, featuring London-inspired Hill Gin, Meadow Gin infused with local garden herbs and citrus, and fresh rose petals and Tasman Island Tall seaweed. Featuring a sea of marine gin.
Devonport’s Cellar/Lounge Bar is attached to the distillery and is open 7 days a week for tastings, sales, or if you just want a drink.
Tours are available by appointment, with food trucks and live bands on weekends.
6. The Tasmanian Trail
Devonport is the northern terminus of a 460km multi-purpose trail that winds along Tasmania’s spine to Dover in the southeast.
Traversing tested but exhilarating terrain, the Tasmanian Trail is divided into 15 sections, each designed to be completed in a day, usually ending at a campsite or town.
This route does tend to use country roads, so it’s best for cyclists and horse riders.
The start is light along the Mersey River, but a pristine and majestic world of scenery will be revealed in the lower slopes of the Cron Echelon, Great Western Echelon, Central Highlands, Derwent River and Hobart’s Mount Wellington.
7. Coles Beach
Coles Beach, located east of the mouth of the Don River, is peaceful and off the beaten track despite the Don Railway service.
What awaits you is a long clean sandy bay, well protected by the headland.
The waves are active here, and the rolling waves break through a long way, so there is a large shallow area for the kids to play.
When it’s too cold to swim, you can still visit the scenic walking trails.
Coles Beach is well cared for, with decent facilities, shaded tables and easy access to the Don to Devonport bike path.
8. Tasmania Botanic Gardens
Not far from Devonport in Eugenana, there is a 66-hectare botanical tree park next to the Don River.
The Tasmanian Botanic Gardens is home to a wide range of temperate climate species from around the world and was established in the 1980s on farmland and remnant forest from Melrose Creek to the Don River.
The park also showcases Tasmanian woody plants, as well as species such as southern beech and southern hemisphere conifers such as wollemia.
Generally, you’ll see the kind of vegetation that grew on the supercontinent of Gondwana some 180 million years ago, until the Jurassic period.
This environment supports wildlife such as the platypus, which you might see at Founders’ Lake, and the flightless Tasmanian native hen, which roams the park freely.
9. Soul of the Sea
The Mersey estuary and harbour entrance are guarded by a bronze statue of 700kg.
Installed in 2009, The Spirit of the Sea was the most expensive public artwork in the state at the time, costing $250,000. Designed by Aden and Karena McLeod, the piece is posted on a concrete platform and represents “the power and charm of the ocean”. From the lookout, you can gaze at the vast Bass Strait.
It is also a great vantage point for boat watchers to watch the large container ships and of course the Tasmanian spirit coming in and out of the harbour.
10. Devonport Area Gallery
In 2018, the paranaple Arts Centre opened in Devonport’s CBD, integrating the historic Town Hall Theatre, Visitors Centre and Devonport Regional Gallery.
There is a mix of modern and historic buildings, based on the old town hall from 1899 and the courthouse from 1902. As for the gallery, it houses the council’s permanent collection, including paintings, sculptures, textile art, ceramics, glass and art paper.
There is a dynamic exhibition schedule, national tours and the chance to see some emerging Tasmanian artists.
11. Spirit of Tasmania
The best way to reach Devonport from mainland Australia is with the Spirit of Tasmania ferry operator.
Built in the late 1990s at Perno Shipyard in Turku, Finland, the eponymous vessel has been operating the Melbourne-Devenport route since 2002 after several years in Greece. On days when the liner is on a double voyage, it will take 9 hours to cross the Bass Strait, and on days on a one-way voyage, this time increases to 11 hours.
Obviously, if you want to bring your car, the Spirit of Tasmania is the way to do it, and a luxury cabin or a simple recliner is a more solemn and relaxing option than a flight if you’re available.
12. Cradle Mountain
Devonport is the easiest starting point for Tasmania’s natural landmarks and one of the most scenic natural landmarks on the island.
At 1,545m above sea level in the central highlands, the jagged peaks of Cradle Mountain climb above the glacial Pigeon Lake, presenting a pristine natural beauty.
For those who don’t want to miss a thing, the online travel platform GetYourGuide.com offers guided tours from the Cradle Mountain National Park Visitor Center.
Walk around Pigeon Lake and you’ll find native plants and wildflowers in this environment, before entering the pristine Ballroom Forest, where the myrtle beech trees are completely overgrown with moss.
13. Levine Canyon
On your way to and from Cradle Mountain, you can take a detour to Tasmania’s deepest limestone gorge, just southwest of Nietta Devonport.
Here you can see the Raven River between towering limestone walls covered in high-altitude alpine vegetation.
You can choose from a variety of trails to explore the landscape, taking you to the breathtaking Cruikshanks and Leven Canyon Lookout, along canyon cliff walls or down to the canyon floor.
You’ll see lots of native Tasmanian wildlife, giant ferns, striking lichens and strange fungi, most of which are explained on the information boards.
For a break, you can enjoy afternoon tea at the lovely nearby Kaydale Lodge Gardens.
14. Don Reserve
On the tidal east bank of the Don, just before it flows into the Bass Strait, there is a quiet scrubland rich in native plants.
Sawdust-paved paths run through bushes and riversides, with views of mudflats at low tide.
This makes Don Reserve a great place for bird watching, and there are facilities to make your stay even more comfortable, including grass for picnics and a shelter.
15. Devonport Visitor Centre
Back at the Paranaple Arts Centre, Devonport’s tourism resources are a must, especially if you’re planning to venture into the Tasmanian wilderness.
Here you can get your national park pass and learn about tours and itineraries across the state.
The shelves are filled with flyers and brochures from Devonport and beyond.
You can also book tickets for the Spirit of Tasmania, or simply grab yourself a coffee and the centre’s free Wi-Fi.
And if you can’t get inspiration, you can buy souvenirs from the center, and no one is smarter!
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Devonport, Australia
Lowest Price Guarantee