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Visit Historic Tasmania

We missed him by just three weeks – the legendary nature broadcaster, David Attenborough, that is. The same man who once declared that our very own Great Barrier Reef was the planet’s greatest natural wonder.

An idol for my nature-loving teen, Serena, Attenborough and his documentary crew had spent a week on the Queensland coral cay, Heron Island, for a TV special that’s set to be released in late 2015. Just weeks later, we were on Heron to discover for ourselves the magic of this tiny 18-hectare island in the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, 72 kilometres north-east from Gladstone.

The trip was a reward for Serena after completing her HSC. She had long harboured a desire to visit the Barrier Reef and, as our seaplane spectacularly swooped over the idyllic islet, surrounded by the reefs of the opalescent Coral Sea, her dream had come true.

Tasmania may be the least likely place to go on a family holiday, but this tiny island state of Australia holds a few treasures of its own. There is an abundance of history waiting to be discovered in out-of-the-way towns ranging from a few minutes to a couple of hours drive from the big towns. During our four day stay, we explored the south-eastern side of Tasmania and found a great many historical destinations to visit.

Visit Richmond Bridge

Hobart is a great way to start your historic tour. Most of the city is made up of old buildings from the 1800s with a great range of shops, from Tasmanian souvenirs to second-hand bookstores and antique stores.

Salamanca Place, made up of mostly cafes and restaurants even has The Fairy Shop for your little ones and an affordable gourment chocolate shop for the older children. The markets at Salamanca Place on the weekends are a must, with a variety of food-stalls, jewellery and wooden ornaments and live entertainment. Not far from Salamanca Place is Battery Point. A short stroll through its quiet, narrow streets will show you beautiful architecture and some of Hobart’s most popular restaurants.

Other must sees include the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, one of the first colonial gardens in Australia; Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery; Narryna Heritage Museum, the beautiful Georgian home and gardens of a wealthy merchant; and Australia’s oldest theatre, The Theatre Royal.

Walk through Port Arthur Historical SiteDriving is the best way to experience the beauty of Tasmania. As you drive to the various historic towns and other destinations you are greeted by lush rolling hills, dotted with sheep and magnificent heritage houses. The drive will truly take your breath away, with country scenes and gorgeous ocean views.

A 20-mintue drive from Hobart is the small town of Richmond, one of Australia’s oldest towns and contains Australia’s oldest gaol, bridge and Catholic Church. Once there, you will fall in love with the beautiful scenery and quaint shops as you are transported back in time. The must sees at Richmond include the Old Richmond Gaol, St John’s Catholic Church, St Luke's Anglican Church and, of course, Richmond Bridge, which was built in 1823.

The kids will love the Old Hobart Town Historical Model Village, an accurate model of Hobart as it was in the 1820s, Richmond Maze and Tea Rooms and of course, Sweets & Treats, an old fanshioned lolly shop (face it, who wouldn’t?). You may also run into a runaway convict, by the name of Alan, who is only too happy to give you a tour of the picturesque little town and tell you delightful stories of the days gone by. For lovers of ghost stories, Alan also gives ghost tours of Richmond after the sun goes down. Perfect for older children, but it may be best to leave the little ones behind.

Just over an hour drive from Hobart is Port Arthur Historic Site, Australia’s oldest convict settlement is a fantastic place to visit. Here, you can view the ruins of the convict penitentiary, hospital and church, and you can even visit the Commandant’s House, which is furnished exactly the same way as it would have been in the 1800s. Introductory tours of Port Arthur and tours of the docks will give you insight of the working colony Port Arthur used to be. Picnic grounds are handy for families to enjoy a BBQ with a great oval for playing football and cricket games. There is also a memorial for the Port Arthur Massacre, which occurred in 1996.

Tour the Cadbury FactoryThe historic village of Ross is situated 90 minutes north of Hobart. Here you will find a quiet little town containing the site for the Female Factory, a female convict institution, historic Ross Bridge, one of Tasmania’s landmarks and the restored Overseer’s Cottage. It is a great place to relax in one of the tea rooms and drink in the peace and quiet of a country town.

The Cadbury Factory may be a place where chocolates are made, but has as much history as the rest of Tasmania. Built in 1928, it has produced Australia’s favourite chocolates and offers tours of the factory. The tour greatly reminded me of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, minus Willie Wonka and his Oompa-Loompas. Throughout the tour, you are given samples of freshly made and wrapped chocolate, enough to keep you going for the rest of the day. There is also a Cadbury shop where you can buy your favourites in bulk at discount prices and a fantastic souvenir shop with Cadbury memorabilia.

And this is all just the south-eastern part of Tasmania! After our four-day holiday, we plan to go back and explore the rest of the state.

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