When you decide to take a family holiday, sometimes the destination is chosen because of specific attractions, other times you just want to get away and hope to find the things to do once you get there. For our family, it was a bit of both when we decided to spend the week before Christmas in Tasmania.
We have three kids, at the time of the trip aged 10, 6 and 5. And when you tell people you’re going to Tasmania for a holiday they tell you the food and wine is amazing and you have to go to MONA.
With three little kids, there wouldn’t be much sampling of food and wine, so we set out to find things to do each day to try to get a real taste for Tassy.
Where in Tasmania to Stay?
After deciding on Tasmania, I looked at the map over and over again – should we go on a drive around the whole Island of Tasmania? Should we stay in lots of different locations?
In the end, we decided Hobart was the best place to be based, and with a Hire Car at our disposal, we could venture one to two hours out-of-town on day-trips.
As for family friendly accommodation the cost of a couple of hotel rooms was almost ridiculous. We ventured into unknown territory with an AirBNB rental. We looked at several, and found a place that seemed just right.
And it was. Down on “Sandy Bay” a suburb just south of Hobart central on the river, this seemed like quite a good area. Lots of shops, a new beach precinct and as long as you have a hire-car, a great spot to be based.
What to do?
Now we just needed five days of activities. I had a basic list, but boy did my wife Amanda do some research. Trip advisor this, reviews of that – it was like she was a local. And looking back on our week – she nailed it.
Tahune Airwalk & Hastings Caves
We kicked off day one with a trip down South. We considered doing these two things on separate days. But given the caves are an hour or so from the Airwalk, it seemed crazy not to get an early start and knock them both over in a day. Well worth it.
The Airwalk was sensational, a winding drive through regenerated forest ending at a well equipped visitors centre where you paid for the activities you wanted. We chose just the basic Airwalk, as this would easily wear the kids out.
A 15 minute stroll over the river and up the hill on steps built into the forest but not seemingly steep or too difficult, we arrived at the metal walkway, perched above the treetops and we set off. Don’t look down, the floor of the walkway is a metal grate and it sure can get you going if heights aren’t your thing.
The walkway itself is a brisk 20 minutes at most, but stop to smell the air and admire the view and it could be longer.
Near the end there is a cantilever section which points straight out into one of the most amazing lookouts you will ever see. This section shakes and moves under foot so it’s not for everyone. And the more people out there the more it moves, so look for a bit of a gap to head out.
We loved it, and would highly recommend it.
Another hour and twenty minutes in the car and you’re down to Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs. The cave tours are roughly quarter past the hour so try to time your run to the visitors centre to arrive at quarter to the hour before. You’ll then buy your ticket and drive another five minutes before a walk through the woods to the caves.
Our guide Donna was amazing, very descriptive, informative and took everyone’s needs into account.
The caves are fascinating, deep and there are so many you can tour through. I’ve never seen anything like this.
Our five-year old had tired of it all after three-quarters of the way but a bit of extra attention got him through.
These caves are a must see.
And, you’re only and hour and a half home to Hobart after that.
Web: Tahune Air Walk / Hastings Caves
Map: Google (Hobart, to Tahune then Hastings)
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
There were a few options for wildlife encounters or zoos that we found, but I’m sure glad we went to Bonorong.
Once a zoo in format, there are some animals a bit out-of-place. Their Koalas are in small enclosures, very much for tourists. Koalas don’t live in Tassie, but the staff are quite open about the history of the place and why they are there. Now a wildlife sanctuary they are dealing with wildlife from across Tassie and are building a wildlife hospital too.
An open park area surrounded by animal enclosures the Kangaroos make the open areas their home and you’re given a bag of food at the entry to feed the roos.
Stick around at the entry for a guided tour though, this ticked the Tasmanian Devil off the list as there was a great explanation of the animal and its circumstances. Very interesting stuff.
We also saw and were able to pat a Wombat and the Koalas.
Bonorong is about a half-hour drive out of Hobart. Kinda in the middle of nowhere, but that’s how the animals like it I guess.
Some people say MONA is the must see, but I think of all the places, it’s Port Arthur. An hour and a half drive from Hobart this is history from top to bottom.
The huge modern visitors centre kicks your visit off with a journey through the life of just one of many convicts. Each of you get a different convict, represented by a unique playing card.
Outside you should again stick around for a guided tour. This 45 minute walk through the site will teach you the history of the facility the conditions and the convicts who were there.
The other must do was the boat ride. A short 40 minute trip out into the harbour, around the Isle of Death (Cemetery) and children’s prison is again a great insight into the amazing convict history of our country.
Take some time to walk through the buildings, I think the Separate Prison is the must see building on the site – amazing stuff in there including cells and interactive displays.
Also worthwhile downloading the Port Arthur app to your smartphone which has maps and info built-in.
Oh, and the events of 1996 are not ignored. The former Broad Arrow Cafe building is memorialised in the memory of those killed and is a quite place of reflection should you so choose – but it does not form part of the tour.
Web: Port Arthur
On the way home from Port Arthur, take a quick detour down to the Tessellated Pavement at Eagle hawk neck. A short walk down from your car to the shoreline exposes the wonderful rock formations that are fascinating more than anything.
There’s a lookout on the pathway half-way down, but keep going right down to the waters edge.
For something completely different, and considering I was keen to find somewhere great to fly my drone – we headed to Bruny Island, and frankly, it was one of the better days if I had to choose.
About a half hour drive South of Hobart to the Ferry you get to drive onto the Ferry and head over to the Island. Ferry’s run every half hour or hour depending on the time of day, and it’s about a 20 minute trip on the water.
When you’re on the Island it’s quiet, with really just one road running down it.
We stopped off at the Great Bay – nice shallow water, sand and rocks, the kids found Star Fish in the rocks, and we saw Oyster Farmers heading out to their crop.
20 Minutes further south on the Island is the Neck – a narrow bit of land between the water on one side and ocean on the other. There’s a shallow farming beach on one side, a lookout up 200 odd steps and a huge beach on the ocean side.
We sat at that beach for a couple of hours, wading into the freezing water, building sandcastles and generally enjoying the isolation.
Plus, on the Island are a few great local food suppliers like Oysters, or Cheese worth a look for the foodies.
Oh, and a hot tip, the little shop on the Island side at the Ferry wharf – outstanding, hot pies, ice creams, chips and drinks, perfect place to sit and wait for the next ferry without a care in the world.
We ended our trip at the famous Museum of Old and New Art – MONA.
This $75 million building is built into the peninsular that pops out into the Derwent. Owned by a very rich man who clearly loves his art – it’s not like any other Museum I’ve been to.
The architecture is amazing, though parking is quite limited, so if time allows, perhaps grab the Ferry from Hobart.
Inside you are greeted with an iPod Touch and headphones for every single guest, as not a single work of art has a label or name. It’s all done in a very very smart App.
There is audio information, text to read and even a way to vote and comment.
As a non-art lover I loved the building and a few of the artworks, but I can see people without kids spending hours and hours here – for us it was two hours, we saw almost all of it and enjoyed it – some of us more than others for sure.
Oh, and if you’re worried about the Adults only art on display – there’s great staff who spot the kids and tell the parents what to look out for should you choose to avoid it.
I can see why everyone suggests it’s a must visit place, but I don’t think its the top of the list for families with little kids who probably can’t dedicate enough time to enjoy it as it should be.
I’m sure there are plenty more things to see and places to go in Tassy – but with just five full days on the ground, that’s going to give you a great experience – for the little ones too.