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All images © Narelle Bouveng | Sunset in Bicheno

Free-range fun in Tassie

Narelle Bouveng hits the open road on a girls’ own adventure with her daughters across Tasmania.

WWhen the travel bug bites, we’re quite partial to just upping and going, so with only two days’ notice and one night booked, we set sail on the Spirit of Tasmania – eager to see, taste and discover what the little heart-shaped island had to offer. I admit I’m not much of a seafarer but the palatial Spirit of Tasmania, complete with a kids’ play zone, games room, restaurants and even a cinema, makes us feel like we are already on holiday.


Bruny Island

Rocking the Cradle

It is dusk when we dock at the coastal port of Devonport and, after driving almost two hours in the dark, we arrive amid the first flurry of seasonal snow at Cradle Mountain. Our family spa suite at the wilderness retreat of Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge is well equipped for lazy lie-ins, but a snow globe-like landscape awaits us outside. The log cabins are surrounded by snow-laden fir trees. Here, both staff and guests rejoice as the first snow of the season falls!

We purchase our parks pass from reception (the permit covers all national parks in Tasmania plus free rides on the Cradle Shuttle), and set off to Dove Lake to walk a six-kilometre circuit, one of 20 guided and self-guided walks from which to choose.

Carrying a flask of warm Milo (sustenance and bribery in equal measure), we trek around the hauntingly beautiful lake, experiencing godly views of the Cradle Mountain summit. We meet a scampering colony of wallabies that keeps five-year old Tiah thrilled as she chases after them. The lake was once a glacier, evidenced by the striations running its entire length, before slowly slipping into its current liquid state. As we shelter in the Insta-worthy King Billy boat shed on the lake’s northwestern shore, we ‘happy dance’ when, once again, it snows.

Another a short drive finds us at Devils Cradle, where we meet a motley crew of snorting, snarling but sassy Tasmanian devils. The breeding program at the sanctuary is considered an insurance policy for the longterm survival of the species. Baylee discovers that the resident devils are named after characters from Game of Thrones and now insists she has met Jon Snow.

The real beauty of free-range travel and having your own transport is the flexibility to extend. After just day one, we decide to do just that. We hang around as long as the snow (three days) and made good use of the facilities, walks and spa. Ahem, it is a girls’ trip.


Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain Region

From Cradle to Coast

When we do move on, we join the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail through the state’s North West region. We stop for farm-fresh raspberries and cherries, couverture chocolate and ice-cream, and can’t resist filling our tummies and car boot with cheese, wine and cider. We make our way across to the East Coast as a last-minute call to a place I had read about on TripAdvisor.

At Piermont Retreat in Swansea, just one cottage is available for the night. As we settle in, I hear the sound of the ocean but it’s not until dawn that I realise just how much we have lucked out. I let the girls sleep while I tiptoe outside to soak in views of sapphire-coloured waters sparkling across Great Oyster Bay. I adore the gorgeous boat house on the edge of the beach, so as soon as reception opens, I book another two nights at this stunning resort.

During the following few days, we discover that the East Coast of Tasmania is as beautiful as it is beguiling. We rock-hop over lichen-covered boulders spilling into turquoise waters along the Bay of Fires at Binnalong Bay. We hike to the lookout in Freycinet National Park to admire the perfect contours and colours of Wineglass Bay. We pause only long enough to devour fresh local seafood at Coles Bay and raise a toast to the birthplace of a friend I often entertain at home – Devils Corner pinot noir from the Tamar region.

It is easy to wander without maps and find things shared gregariously by locals. “Follow the droppings” was one such piece of advice. Bicheno is our favourite hamlet. We find a blowhole, squealing as it showers us in mist, and watch sunsets melt through shades of pink and mauve over The Hazards. As we sit on the beach one evening, tiny blue penguins waddle past our feet to rookeries filled with fluffy babies hungrily calling out to be fed.


Relaxation time at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge

Hobart bound

We could have stayed on the East Coast longer, but we want to take our time in Hobart, so we continue onto the southern capital via Richmond, home to Australia’s oldest convict-built bridge and a famous little bakery serving creamy scallop pies.

In Hobart, we stay at Battery Points’ Salamanca Wharf Hotel, a boutique apartment hotel just steps away from the famous Salamanca Markets. We visit the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), an art museum located within the Moorilla winery on the Berriedale peninsula. There is free entry after 4pm for the last hour before closing time. This is ample time to explore with littlies in tow, as some of the exhibits aren’t really age appropriate.

We head to the Huon – the Apple Isle’s corridor of crunch – and after hand-picking apples from orchards and tasting organic ciders at Willie Smiths, we somehow manage to fit in a giant slab of warm apple pie in Huonville and find the world’s best lolly and fudge shop in tiny Geeveston.

When plans to visit Mount Field National Park are thwarted by snow, we find ourselves walking among the treetops at Tahune AirWalk, a 600-metre canopy walk with a 50-metre-high viewing platform above the mighty Huon River. It hardly seems a compromise. Our last stop is Bruny Island, a sleepy island paradise that welcomes self-drive exploration with a car ferry crossing. We find pretty beaches, jolly locals and albino wallabies. Here, we indulge yet again, this time on oysters at Get Shucked, and truffles at Bruny Island Chocolate Company.

Free-ranging to the very end, we discover that Tasmania is ideal as a self-drive destination as it offers plenty of places to visit, eat and stay. Short driving distances allow us ample time to explore and indulge – as any good girls’ trip should.


View of the sandstone arches of Richmond Bridge, which was built by convict labour

This article appeared in volume 54 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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