Wukalina walk is owned and run by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community

The best eco-friendly activities in Tasmania

Eco-friendly activities abound in Tasmania, from paddock-to-plate dining and multi-day hikes, to carbon-offset marine jaunts and up-close encounters with native wildlife. Tasmanian travel writer Amanda Ducker highlights some of the best.

Tasmania brims with unforgettable natural vistas and distinctive wildlife, making it an ideal destination for genuine ecotourism experiences. Passionate tourism operators around the island are garnering environmental credentials that underpin an expanding array of low-impact, high-quality experiences.  

The tourism industry and state government want to grow positive-impact tourism in the state, as enshrined in their 2030 Visitor Economy Strategy. With Tassie boasting a self-sufficient renewable energy supply and a net-zero emissions rating, the state is well positioned to become an even more desirable destination for eco-conscious travellers.  

And that’s not only good for nature, it’s good for business. The perils of globalism and climate change have awoken the consciences of millions of travellers worldwide. In Booking.com’s latest Sustainable Travel Report (April 2023), the international reservation platform revealed that 76 percent of global travellers wanted to travel more sustainably, a remarkable 16 percent lift on 2021 data.  

Likewise, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council reports that 78 percent of respondents to an American Express 2023 survey wanted to have a positive impact on the communities they visited. At the heart of genuine sustainable and ecotourism is a commitment not just to do no harm, but to benefit the host environment and community, either directly by treading extremely lightly while splashing cash or lending a hand, or indirectly through carbon-offsetting initiatives and conservation sponsorship. 

Savvy travellers are wary of greenwashing. They expect genuine ecotourism and sustainable tourism experiences. And Tassie enterprises are taking that demand seriously, stepping up with carbon counting and other measures to achieve solid accreditation for sustainability and eco-friendly credentials.  

There is no doubting the sincerity of Tassie’s top eco-friendly tourism operators. For Vanessa Dunbabin of the multi-award-winning Bangor Vineyard Shed at Dunalley, conservation of the natural environment is a core driver. “Our environmental passion sits at the heart of what we do,” Vanessa says. “We created our tourism and hospitality business to share our environmental work with visitors, but also to support the work we do on our carbon-positive 6300-hectare farm.”  

Van Bone offers an intimate dining experience
Van Bone sits on the rolling hills of Marion Bay
Van Bone Head Chef, Timothy Hardy

Tasmania’s eco-friendly dining scene 

From paddock to plate, the passion for provenance in the Tassie food scene continues to evolve. If once it was enough to know where your meat came from, today every top restaurateur worth their local sea salt will know how that meat was grown and how it weighs on sustainability and animal welfare scales.  

With the proliferation of small-scale specialist producers, regional destination eateries are dramatically reducing food miles. It’s not happening by accident. Sprout Tasmania is a volunteer-supported not-for-profit that has nurtured many new small and micro producers over the past decade with a focus on local food systems and ethical and sustainable farming practices.  

Bangor Vineyard Shed, which won gold at the 2022 Australian Tourism Awards in the Wineries, Distilleries and Breweries category, shops close to home. “In terms of produce, our philosophy is to source from as close as we can,” co-owner Vanessa Dunbabin says. Bangor supplies its own lamb, and within a cooee are Blue Lagoon Oysters, Leap Farm Tongola Cheese and Bream Creek Dairy milk.  

At nearby Marion Bay the locavore spirit blazes at Van Bone restaurant. “We forage, preserve and utilise the changing season to create a uniquely Tasmanian experience,” says head chef Timothy Hardy. An expansive kitchen garden and orchard is enriched with stores from small-scale local organic farms. Food is cooked over a wood fire in a rammed-earth dining room. “Everything is cooked over coals or kissed by fire in some way,” Timothy says. 

Mures sits on the picturesque Hobart Waterfront

Credit: Oksana Simakina

Peppina's Culinary Director, Massimo Mele

Credit: Adam Gibson

Relaxed dining at Peppina

Credit: Adam Gibson

With a long history on the Hobart waterfront, the Mures family of seafarers and restaurateurs advocate for healthy oceans and hook-to-plate delivery. Indeed, founders Jill and George Mure were talking up ecologically friendly fishing methods way back in 1973 when they launched their first eatery. Four years ago Mures received Marine Stewardship Council certification, and last year it was named the Aquaculture Champion at the Sustainable Seafood Awards.  

A short walk from Mures is the glamorous Peppina at The Tasman, where culinary director Massimo Mele is so obsessively producer-led he is known to have driven around the state personally meeting and interviewing dozens of specialist farmers and graziers. “Peppina is committed to sustainable produce and the farmers who produce it,” Massimo says.  

On the cafe scene, you can’t go past Pigeon Hole in Goulburn St for laidback paddock-to-plate nosh. Much of the fresh food comes from owners Richard and Belinda Weston’s Brighton farm, which is run along organic and biodynamic principles. 

At Hobart’s Farm Gate Market, visitors can chat with growers and artisanal cooks every Sunday. Everything sold at Farmy, as it’s known by the locals, must be grown or produced in Tassie. Only the grower, producer or cook are permitted to sell their offerings, all of the packaging used by the street-food vendors, coffee stalls, fresh produce and bakery is 100 percent compostable, and producers must offer a bottle-return scheme. The market is racing towards its goal of becoming the first plastic-free farmers’ market in Australia. Its trestles groan with honestly grown goodness.  

In the Derwent Valley, paddock-to-plate trailblazer The Agrarian Kitchen continues to evolve its sustainable practices while serving a devoted destination restaurant clientele. “What is sustainability?” asks co-owner Rodney Dunn. “Often a word bandied about in this current day to give businesses an appearance of green credentials. To be truly sustainable often means looking hard and looking often at your own practices. To scrutinise every ingredient, every practice, every product and ask ourselves: can we do better? The answers we have come up with are not the easy solutions – no, we can't buy lemons not grown in Tasmania; no, we can't serve that natural wine from France; no, we can't cover that bowl with cling film. In a world where you can get any food at any time from anywhere, we have made the decision to be hyperlocal, to serve food and offer an experience that has a sense of place.” 

In Launceston, Stillwater has championed sustainable producers in its restaurant for many years as well as promoting GM-free food and more. “Our state regulations keep the modification out of our genetics, the artificial out of our hormones and the free in our ranging animals,” the restaurateurs say. “We know grass-fed, antibiotic-free, natural, happy animals make better meat… even if they aren’t ‘supersized’. Our water is clean, sourced from Cape Grim on Tasmania’s North West Coast, home of the cleanest air on the planet.” 

Eco-friendly shopping at Hobart's Farm Gate Market
Taking in the views at Flinders Island with Tasmanian Expeditions

Exploring Tasmania’s natural wonders: on land 

Positive impact tours that give back through conversation and wildlife education abound in Tasmania. If you’ve hiked the Overland Track, famed as the best alpine walk in the country, and the spectacular Three Capes Track, a former Tasmanian Tourism Awards Ecotourism winner, perhaps you’re asking, “What’s next?” Shake off that heavy pack mentality and head to one of Tasmania’s best walking destinations, Flinders Island, for the new Walking Adventure – In Comfort. This premium five-night hiking experience is hosted by Tasmanian Expeditions, part of the well-known group World Expeditions (check out its sustainable tourism guidebook, The Thoughtful Traveller).  

Walkers experience ecosystems from dunes and lagoons to woodland and mountainous granite ridges, unique species of flora and profuse fauna. At day’s end they return to a safari-style camp featuring tents with see-through roofs for stargazing. Tasmanian Expeditions works with Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (TPWS) on the Green Guardians program, which encourages travellers to engage in small-scale conservation projects while on holiday in Tasmania – from weed removal on the Franklin River to rubbish collection on the South Coast Track.  

Tasmanian Walking Company offers five multi-day experiences, bolstering its signature Overland and Three Capes offerings with two East Coast walks and a Bruny Island experience. Recently, it has been giving back with the Tasmanian Walking Company Foundation. Projects focus on restoring balance to threatened ecosystems, protecting vulnerable native animals and promoting sustainable use of wilderness areas. It donates to local organisations including Bonorong Wildlife Hospital and the Raptor Refuge Program.  

Tarkine Trails began when a group of like-minded nature lovers founded the hiking company to highlight the extreme conservation value of the then little-known Takayna/Tarkine region. Today the company offers several deep-immersion walking experiences taking visitors both into the rainforest and along the wild western coastline. Tarkine Trails walks have been accredited as Advanced Ecotourism-certified for tourism in natural areas focusing on optimal resources use, conservation practices and helping to support local communities. 

Short of time? Hobart hiking guide Andy Crawford offers some of the best short walks on Mt Wellington through Walk on kunanyi. With a background in geology, teaching and business sustainability, and a history managing the drinking water catchments on Kunanyi/Mt Wellington, Andy brings the natural and cultural history of the mountain alive. His signature Sea to Summit Walk goes from the Hobart waterfront to the top of the mountain via the recently upgraded Organ Pipes Track. 

Low impact paddling adventures with Roaring 40s Kayaking

Credit: Graham Freeman

Exploring Tasmania’s natural wonders: on water 

Most Tassie locals who know of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys are also familiar with founder Robert Pennicott, the passionate marine conservationist at the helm of the wildly successful Tasmanian powerboat expedition company. All tours are 100% carbon offset, and energy use, water consumption and waste output are measured through the internationally recognised EarthCheck system. Visitors can expect to learn plenty about the importance of pristine marine environments on a Pennicott cruise. The business, which won the 2023 Tasmanian Tourism Award for Positive Impact Tourism, is a major environmental philanthropist, contributing more than $350,000 to biodiversity restoration across Tasmania so far.  

Eco-friendly paddling options abound. For tranquil freshwater paddling, dream your way downriver with Tassie Bound Adventure Tours. No promises, for the platypus is a notoriously shy creature, but your chances of a sighting are excellent on Paddle with the Platypus tours in the waterways of the Derwent Valley. Further south, Esperance Adventures leads kayakers into breathtaking waterways, including the remote Lune River and Recherche Bay. Soak up the peace without disturbing a thing other than the mirror-clear water surface. 

Roaring 40s Kayaking is a bigger operation with a host of dazzling low-impact paddling adventures, mostly ex Hobart. The paddle focus is on fun and enjoyment, but it comes with a dose of sobering climate-change education, including that Tasmania’s waters have warmed at four times the global rate over the past seven decades, precipitating a host of alarming changes. Roaring 40s sponsors Wildcare and Save The Tasmanian Devil Program, and is involved with Green Guardians. 

Expect true luxury in pristine waterways aboard the custom-built Odalisque III expedition-cruise vessel. Owner Pieter van der Woude describes the newest addition to the On Board Tasmanian Expedition Cruises fleet as a floating luxury lodge purpose-built for minimal-impact tourism within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. On Board’s signature expedition is the multi-day Port Davey Escape.  

Day one of the wukalina Walk ends at this semi-permanent bush camp
Expert guides share their knowledge of traditional ways on the wukalina Walk
Wukalina walk is owned and run by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community

Connecting with local culture and communities in Tasmania 

Learn about the history of the First Tasmanians on the multi-award-winning wukalina Walk in the state’s north east. Winner of the 2022 Australian Tourism Award for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Experience, the three-night, four-day walk is a deep immersion experience and imaginative exercise as expert guides share their knowledge of traditional ways. It’s as high impact culturally as it is low impact underfoot. The semi-permanent bush camp, with its soaring semi-dome centrepiece, is an unforgettable place to end the first day’s hike from wukalina/Mt William. The walk, which concludes at larapuna/Bay of Fires, is owned and run by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. 

A new immersive cultural experience on Country awaits with North West Tasmania Tours’ Indigenous Day With an Aboriginal Elder one-day experience. This special day out promises to enrich visitors’ understanding of the region’s original custodians – including the peerapper, peternidic and tarkiner peoples. A smoking ceremony and a visit to culturally significant sites are part of the day.  

Conservation and wildlife encounters in Tasmania 

A favourite of southern Tasmanian schoolchildren, the privately funded Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary at Brighton gives the opportunity to engage with Tasmanian native wildlife up close. Entry fees directly fund the running of the sanctuary, as well as the operation of conservation programs, including Bonorong’s 24/7 Wildlife Rescue service – which receives around 14,000 calls for injured and orphaned wildlife annually – a seabird rehabilitation facility and Bonorong Wildlife Hospital, which treats about 120 wildlife patients weekly. This is wildlife conservation at its most humane and family friendly. 

On the East Coast, Bicheno Penguin Tours is on a mission to preserve the native fairy penguin population by raising awareness of the threats facing them, while helping to protect their habitat through on-the-ground conservation efforts. When the business was founded in 1992, the local penguin population was in serious decline, mostly from dog attacks, but Bicheno Penguin Tours has helped to re-establish a thriving penguin colony. Other initiatives include working with local farmers to restore land to penguin habitat. 

Maria Island National Park has long been a free-range sanctuary for threatened and endangered species, most recently for the Tasmanian devil, where a thriving population can often be seen and heard at night. Daytime on vehicle-free Maria Island – accessed via ferry from Triabunna – is a comically prolific procession of grazing wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons and Cape Barren geese. Ask the Parks and Wildlife guides about the peculiar adaptations of some of the native species brought to the East Coast island. Visitors are reminded to abide by the so-called Maria Island Pledge to keep their distance from wildlife, which reads in part: “Wombats, when you trundle past me I pledge I will not chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try to pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea. I pledge to let you stay wild.”