6 weeks caravanning Tasmania with kids and a dog
We travelled to Tasmania with our family, Jeep and caravan on the Spirit of Tasmania in Summer 2019. Tasmania is unlike anywhere we have been on the mainland, it has smashed all our expectations, we will remember Tassie fondly for these reasons:
- We love Tassie’s food ethos: its clean water, pure air and rich soil means the produce is the best! Businesses support only local Tasmanian produce, if they don’t grow it or make it they don’t sell it. It reminds us of Italy and their love of local seasonal produce.
- Friendliness: we’ve found Tasmanians friendly, helpful and very proud of their town and State.
- Stunning natural splendour: there’s 50 shades of green with beautiful rolling hills and water views; so much water (oceans/lakes/dams) everyone has a water view.
- Its slow pace: there’s a laid back relaxed culture, the roads are quiet and there’s no busy traffic jams.
To get to Tassie we sailed over with our caravan and dog on the Spirit of Tasmania, which was a great journey, we wrote about our return sail and our experience travelling with kids and a dog, if you're interested in reading all about our Spirit of Tasmania journey please click here to read our review.
Our first stop was the historic quaint little town of Stanley, home of The Nut. Stanley is a historic coastal village nestled at the base of the Nut, an ancient volcanic plug. We set up base camp here in far north-west Tasmania to explore the wonder of Stanley and Tarkine.
For our first 4 days the winds averaged 40km/h, with peaks of 60km/h but we weren't complaining (much) as we were being force fed the purest air in the world. The air station at Cape Grim in North-West Tasmania measures air quality and is the worlds baseline as pollution rises.
We picked up a brochure highlighting the Cradle To Coast Tasting Trail and thought we'd tick off as many foodie experiences as we could. We love to support local businesses and sample the best an area has to offer. We don’t often dine out as often these days (our kids don’t enjoy it and we’re rushed) but we still find a way to happily eat our way around a region. We enjoyed our first scallop pie 🥧 (wasn't the last), and a famous Hursey Rock Lobster curry. We bought some Tarkine fresh oysters and washed them down with some Tasmanian wine and local sourdough bread from Providore 24 in Stanley.
🌎 We drove to the Edge of the world on a day trip which was a unique experience. There’s no land between there and Argentina, making it the longest uninterrupted stretch of ocean on Earth. It was cold, wild and woolly and everything you would imagine it to be.
At the edge of the world 15,000km of wild and untamed Great Southern Ocean logs have been carried and washed up along the banks and entrance to the river. The ocean and the river mouth was black with a hint of burgundy, almost purple, eerily powerful. The colour comes from the tannins in all the driftwood logs.
We crossed Arthur River bridge and in typical Tassie style the weather was moody and wild on way over and then bright and sunny on return trip 🌬💨🌨⛅️🌤
Another foodie stop South East of Stanley was Blue Hills Honey. The pure honey there is from local Leatherwood trees, unique to the wild Tasmanian rainforests of the west coast 🍯 🐝 Also had to sample their whiskey honey mead 🥃 We enjoyed lunch in their cafe, tapas style delicious meals and kids had a watermelon sorbet.
Penguin is a gorgeous seaside town on the north-west Coast of Tasmania in between Ulverstone and Burnie. We camped at Penguin ocean front at a lovely little park for $35 a night, with no extra for kids which was very much appreciated!
Forever on the foodie train from there we tracked down the home of our favourite pickled onions, Blue Banner and visited Hellyer Road Distillery, to sample one of Australia’s best single malt whiskeys.
One of our favourites lunches was at Windows on Westalla the cafe at Blue Banner in Ulverstone. They do a kids platter well in Tassie, this one had fairy bread, fruit, cheese and biscuits, hot chips and a freddo frog.
Next stop was Strahan for a night, it's a small harbourside village with a dark and fascinating convict past set on the edge of the wilderness world heritage area.
From Strahan we set off for Hobart, big drive via The stark steep climb out of Queenstown, Tasmania is dramatic to say the least, add to this a dark, cold dreary moody day and it’s a vision I will not forget in a hurry.
The landscape is beautiful and continually changing, from rainforest to rolling green hills to farmland, all in the space of 10 mins.
Hobart / Huon Valley
At Salamanca Markets the RSPCA had pet parking where you could leave your pet safely whilst checking out the markets, brilliant fundraising initiative! 🐾 They also had family Christmas pet photos. Good thing our dog Ted was ok with us crashing his Santa photo.
Huon Valley, Southern Tasmania
We stayed at the picturesque Huon Valley Caravan Park. The lovely owners of this lush green park had been travelling Australia for 2 years when they ventured South to Tassie and found paradise in the Huon Valley, South of Hobart.
It’s an idyllic farm setting on 27 acres with river frontage. Large sites, green open space, platypus viewing, a swimming river with sandy bank, daily Tassie Devil feedings on-site, campfire and BBQ’s by the River.
Our son said he loved it there as he felt free and we couldn’t agree more, it was our favourite caravan park stay in Tasmania.
The caravan park has a beach front for swimming if you’re willing to brave the cold! Platypus are in the river, we saw one yesterday but our kids are so loud I’m sure they scare them away...
In the area we enjoyed Cider tasting at Willie Smith's Cider Makers and delicious lunch at Willie Smith's Apple Shed. Lots of 🍏🍎 history here as you would imagine in the Apple isle
25 mins north east of Hobart, we stayed 5 nights in historic Richmond, in the Coal River Region.
Richmond is a town steeped in history, it has a colonial feel and gorgeous historic Georgian architecture. It’s Main Street is full of historic buildings, artisan crafts and gourmet food and wine.
Highlights were driving over Australia’s oldest bridge still in use, visiting one of the best preserved gaols existing in Tasmania and Australia’s oldest Catholic Church and Australia’s oldest surviving large stone arch bridge.
Richmond has the oldest intact Gaol in Australia, the building commenced in 1825 and predates Port Arthur. Every room presented a great photo opportunity. The Kids participated in a treasure hunt, they were so keen to find all items on the list, we had to walk in and out of every room at least 3 times.
Near Richmond, Puddleduck Vineyard is a winery with a playground, which is genius! There we enjoyed a wine without the whine.
Bruny Island, Tasmania
Bruu’ny not Brr’run’ey as I was corrected by a friendly local is a short 15min ferry ride from Kettering, South of Hobart.
The ferry runs from Kettering, it’s quick and easy no booking just rock up and you get on the next one as they run every half hour. It’s a big island, around half the size of Singapore to put it in perspective, but with 620 people versus 5.8M.
The island is a nature lovers paradise, wilderness, bush walks, coastal tracks. We stayed at the caravan park in Adventure Bay. On 26 January 1777 Cook sailed the Resolution and Discovery into Adventure Bay and stayed for 2 days. This is where Cooks tree stood inscribed, they removed it and placed in the museum for posterity.
We mostly had the beach to ourselves but found the ‘must see’ foodie stops busy, very popular with busloads of tourists visiting. The roadwork signs were in English and Chinese, as tourism is essential for the success of the island.
Our favourite thing after the spectacular views was the Get Shucked Bruny Island Oysters and Bruny Island Cheese Co. & Bruny Island Beer Co. and we also enjoyed lunch and wine tasting at Bruny Island Premium Wines.
Bruny Island is home to a balanced mix of grazing land, pristine National Park, and dry Eucalypt Forest.
The Neck, connects north and south Bruny and important habitat for native wildlife. Boardwalks and viewing platforms let you observe short-tailed shearwaters and fairy penguins.
Port Arthur, Tasmania
We did a day trip to Port Arthur, one of our country’s most important heritage destinations and the one place that we had to visit in Tasmania.
On the way to Port Arthur we visited Eaglehawk Neck, a place of several unusual geological formations and history relating to Port Arthur.
In 1833 Eaglehawk Neck was the sight of a military outpost setup to watch for escaping prisoners, they had an army of dogs positioned to raise alarm if they spotted an escapee.
In this area we visited a natural arch, blowhole and the tessellated pavement; an unusual natural phenomenon found in only a few places on earth.
On to Port Arthur is one of our country’s most important heritage destinations and the one place that we had to visit in Tasmania. Finding out it was pet friendly was a plus. Ted has never walked so many steps.
At the Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania, there is 100 acres of grounds and gardens and it’s a beautiful sight. It was more than a prison; it was a complete community with more than 30 historic buildings and ruins and many stories to explore.
It’s an epic story of forced migration and settlement and the home of the ‘worse class’ of convicts. So much history and it’s hard to imagine the conditions the prisoners would have lived in.
However what’s more difficult to comprehend and tough not to focus on as you walk around is imaging the horrors that took place here 23 years ago, it’s just unfathomable.
It’s a place that will stay with you long after you leave.
Port Arthur is one of our country’s most important heritage destinations and the one place that we had to visit in Tasmania.
There is so much to see at Port Arthur, we were there for a good few hours until kids couldn’t walk anymore and we didn’t see everything. Your ticket gives you two days access, and this would be good if you stay close by in Port Arthur, but unfortunately the caravan park there is not pet friendly, so we did a day trip from Richmond.
The highlight from our time here was seeing the much photographed Bay of Fires; its name refers to the Aboriginal fires spotted by Captain Tobias Furneaux when he sailed past in 1773, but it could also apply to the brilliant orange lichen that grows on the granite boulders lining the bay.
Another unique and fun experience was visiting Pub in the aPaddock Pyengana where we met a very thirsty pig. Around the corner is the Holy Cow Cheese Factory and down the road is access to the rainforest walk leading to St Columbia Falls.
We spent an overnighter in Ross, on route to Launceston from St Helens. Ross is a convict built stone village in the Midlands, it’s so well preserved and arguably the finest nineteenth century village in Australia. The Ross bridge was a gorgeous sight, built by convict labour in 1836, making it Australia’s 3rd oldest bridge still in use today.
We walked through the town, had lunch at another of Tassies oldest pubs, the Man O’ Ross, which opened in 1835. The bistro was full so we ate lunch in the bar much to the kids delight. The lamb shank was amazing. The kids then had the best ice-creams they had in Tassie, voted by them at the Ross Ice Cream Shop! They had fresh fruit smashed in creamy ice cream.
Everything’s free at the Gorge except the chair lift. It’s a great place for kids, easy walks, suspension bridge, playground, pool for the brave, wildlife - we saw stacks of beautiful peacocks. We were very brave taking fidgety 3yos on the old school chairlift. I held on to Scarlett so tightly as she kept inching forward.
Visited Grindelwald, a small town just north of Launceston developed in the style of a Swiss village by Roelf Vos, a Dutch immigrant to Tasmania, after he sold his "Roelf Vos" supermarket chain to Woolworths. It would have been nice in its day but needs an upgrade.
The kids enjoyed a visit to Queen Victoria Museum, it’s the largest museum in Australia not located in a capital city. Entry for a donation, good place to spend a hour with the kids. In the same area is a Tram museum and art gallery.
Our last week in Tassie before boarding the Spirit of Tasmania, we left Launceston and headed North to Ulverstone.
We stayed at the Big 4 in Ulverstone and from there visited Reliquaire, a toy and gift shop in La Trobe, there they have all these secret rooms you can walk though and find magical things! So much more than a shop.
We checked out Mersey Bluff Lighthouse in Devonport and had to go back to Windows on Westella (Tasmania pickled onions) for the best platter we had during our 6 weeks in Tasmania! So good! And the kids thought there’s was the best too.
The weather finally warmed up for our last couple of days to mid-20’s which was a nice change, but still not warm enough to swim. We will remember Summer is Tassie for its gorgeous beaches with arctic water.
From there we we back on the Spirit of Tasmania, read all about our trip aboard here.
Tasmania you have so much to offer and we’ll remember our family time here very fondly and the highlight of our lap of Australia! I’m not sure how it can get any better?