© Jennifer Ennion
Fascinating history, windswept seascapes and top-notch attractions make Tasmania a bucketlist destination for road-tripping families. After a month touring the island with a caravan in tow, Jennifer Ennion shares her highlights.
The first stop on our lap of Tassie 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.
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.
Our first port of call is Bay of Fires Conservation Area, where we pull into Swimcart Beach campground and set up behind the dunes. This has to be one of Tasmania’s best free camps for ocean-loving families. A few days later, we arrive at another gem: Freycinet National Park. The park is most famous for Wineglass Bay, 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).
© Lachlan Ennion
Hitching up again, we continue to Tasman Peninsula to check out Port Arthur Historic Site, one of Australia’s most important penal settlements, where 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.
Book a ticket aboard the harbour cruise and to the spooky Isle of the Dead. Make sure you call into the gallery, which opened late last year with a cafe and new restaurant, 1830.
Free range run
A week of camping down the coast follows before we point the 4WD inland and travel 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.
Owners Leanne and Rowen Carter 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.
© Jennifer Ennion
We want to see Strahan and nearby Queenstown due to its logging and mining history, but 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, and 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 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.
© Jennifer Ennion
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 first-timers:
• 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.
© Lachlan Ennion
This article appeared in volume 55 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.