This road trip includes lavender fields, secluded beaches, wilderness, history and top-notch food. Plus wombats. Because everyone loves wombats. This Tasmania road trip a bucket list experience for families. After a month touring the island with a caravan in tow, Jennifer Ennion shares her highlights.
Tasmania road trip itinerary: 9 unmissable stops for families
Tasmania road trip map
Lavender ice cream at Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Nabowla
The first stop on our Tasmania road trip is at Bridestowe Lavender Estate, not far from the small village of Bridport.
Kicking off our shoes in the red dirt, my husband and I chase our son down the corridors of French lavender plants that make up the 105-hectare plantation.
It’s a magical family outing made even better with a cone of bright purple lavender ice cream – a must-try treat.
We also sample the lavender-infused chai tea and scones, the latter of which are quickly scoffed by the boys. Although it’s best to visit in December and January, it’s still a lovely experience if, like us, you arrive after harvest.
Tasmania’s East Coast
After exploring Tassie’s north, we tow our vintage caravan down the bumpy dirt roads of the East Coast. Stopping to take photos of wild echidnas and wallabies, we reach the white-sand beaches and turquoise water we’ve heard so much about.
Bay of Fires
Our first port of call is Bay of Fires Conservation Area. The bay earned its name when early explorers saw a string of fires lit by Indigenous folk along its shores. However, the name is equally relevant for the bright orange lichen-covered boulders along the water’s edge.
Here, we pull into Swimcart Beach campground and set up behind the strikingly white sand dunes. This has to be one of Tasmania’s best free camps for ocean-loving families.
The protected cove at the northern end of Swimcart Beach in Binalong Bay is perfect for families road-tripping in Tasmania. The quiet stretch of beach has sand cliffs to jump on, rockpools to gaze at red anemones and black snails.
Freycinet National Park
A few days later, after stopping in Bicheno to see the fairy penguins we arrive at another gem: Freycinet National Park.
The park is most famous for Wineglass Bay. This is where the majority of day-trippers head, but we follow another dirt road to Friendly Beach. With only a handful of people about, my son, Theodore, and I splash about in the whitewash, while my husband goes for the cold-water surf he’s been craving. This beach rivals the best in the country and is made even better with a free dune camping area (national park fees apply).
Stop for lunch at the casual Freycinet Marine Farm. They serve oysters by the dozen and bowls of steaming mussels. Tip for young families: if you want your kids to like oysters, order Kilpatrick; if you want them all to yourself, order natural.
For hikers, you’ll find a number of short walks, including the 600-metre Cape Tourville track. It’s an easy 20-minute stroll along a boardwalk. Freycinet Adventures offers kayak tours to explore the national park from the water.
Triabunna to Maria Island National Park
Next on the southward itinerary is the small waterside town of Triabunna. Here, you can take the 30-minute ferry ride to Maria Island National Park. This car-less wildlife wonderland was once a penal colony and you can stay overnight in the former penitentiary. Walk to the Painted Cliffs to see a beautifully patterned sandstone on the water’s edge.
On the island, there is no food or water available for purchase. Make sure you purchase all your supplies before hopping on the ferry.
Maria Island’s main village of Darlington has a cluster of colonial buildings housing museums and historical centres. You can stay overnight at Maria Island Penitentiary, a white-brick colonial prison. The rooms are sufficiently eerie, but cosy with wood heaters, bunks and a table for card games by candlelight. Kitchen facilities and bathrooms are in nearby outbuildings.
If you’re not geared up for staying the night, a day trip is worthwhile. Wombats are as numerous as sheep, while Tasmania’s native pademelons hop about, and you might even spot the Tasmanian devil who has made a home for its babies under the verandah boards of the former teahouse.
Port Arthur Historic Site
Hitching up again, we continue to Tasman Peninsula to check out Port Arthur Historic Site. One of Australia’s most important penal settlements. My husband and I appreciate the fading beauty of the ruined buildings and sombre history. It was also the site of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
I imagine teenagers would relish learning about the crimes of young convicts, but my two-year-old is head over tiny heels scaling staircases and exploring the nooks, crannies and gardens of this picturesque place.
Port Arthur Historic Site offers a free activity book for kids aged 7-12. The Hidden Stories activity book is a great way for kids to explore the site as they search for answers, complete puzzles and collect stamps.
While your there, book a ticket aboard the harbour cruise and guided walking tour of the spooky Isle of the Dead. Which is the cemetery for more than 1,000 convicts, military and civil officers, women and children, who were buried here between 1833 and 1877.
The Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart
If you are stopping in Hobart you must visit the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). This is a wacky and wonderful pit-stop and kids will squeal with delight at the poo machine, a gastric and sufficiently smelly device that’s fed in the morning and poos daily at 2pm.
Other intrigues include an enthralling fountain that drops words made out of water from above, a truck made from wrought iron, a trampoline and a video showing a car that gets stuck being driven through a bottleneck.
We point the 4WD inland and travel 30 minutes south of Hobart to Huon Valley Caravan Park. It ends up our favourite holiday park in the state.
Located in Huonville, the park is special thanks to its hobby-farm attractions. Kids swap jumping pillows for sheep herding, slippery slides for Tassie devil feeding and go-karts for strawberry picking.
The owners go out of their way to make our stay enjoyable, gifting us with farm-made raspberry jam and ready-to-eat pears. Theodore makes friends with the animals and we all enjoy a paddleboard on the river before heading across the mountains to the West Coast.
West Coast Wilderness Railway
We want to see Strahan and nearby Queenstown due to its logging and mining history. However, our highlight is when we leave the caravan at a remote campsite for the afternoon and are whisked into a cool temperate rainforest aboard Tassie’s very own Hogwarts Express.
A trip aboard the historic West Coast Wilderness Railway is an adventure into the mountainside around Strahan. Although Theodore is too young for Harry Potter, he enjoys the steam locomotive’s puffing chimney and blasting horn.
It’s a clickety-clack, rickety ride over iron and timber suspension bridges, through narrow passes and alongside a pretty river. The half-day River and Rainforest excursion offers plenty of station stops. And even a mini hike to stretch legs and keep children entertained.
Make sure you get off at Lower Landing to sample Tasmanian wild honey varieties and learn about the bees that make it. We buy a pot, which we open only once we’ve arrived back on the mainland and need another little taste of Tassie.
Home to ancient rainforests, glacier-sculpted gorges and some of Australia’s most breathtaking alpine scenery. Cradle Mountains comes complete with log cabins and snow-laden fir trees in winter.
The Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is a place of haunting natural beauty in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The perfect location for active families and those who just want to connect with nature. Soak up the heavenly views of Cradle Mountain and trek one of the 20 guided or self-guided walks – some better suited to little legs than others. Keep your eyes peeled for wombats, wallabies and platypuses. For a guaranteed sighting of Tassie’s most famous furball, head to Devils @ Cradle, a sanctuary for Tasmanian devils.
If you’re travelling with older kids, check out Hollybank Treetops Adventure. Only 20 minutes northeast of Launceston, this adrenaline-pumping nature course is breathtaking – in more ways than one.
Spirit of Tasmania
The best way to get to Tasmania with a caravan, motorhome or camper trailer is to travel aboard Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry between Melbourne and Devonport.
Here are our tips for travelling on Spirit of Tasmania
- Book your tickets in advance, as summer sailings can sell out, and make sure it’s a return ticket, so you don’t get stuck on the island.
- Four-bed cabins are the best option for families, as tiny tots will need somewhere for day naps and you’ll want somewhere to drop your bags and take respite.
- Pack plenty of snacks and toys in the car for boarding day because you’ll have to wait in line.
- Check out the kids’ activities on board. The beach-themed play area is a hit with little ones, while teens are quick to head to the Game Zone on Deck 9 and the two cinemas are popular with all ages. There’s even day-time kids’ entertainment during the school holidays, from trivia to face-painting.
- Go with the flow. If you have a night-time sailing, accept that the kids will be up later than usual and will likely be too excited to go to bed as soon as you board. Plus, you may need to factor in time for dinner.
This Tasmania road trip article originally appeared in Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
Need more Tasmania road trip inspiration? Check out 10 Tasmania travel ideas on our sister title, Vacations & Travel here.
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