Tasmania as a holiday destination was never on my radar – not until my mum suggested that we go on a trip to the scenic Australian island together with the extended family. She thought it would be fun. After researching on what we could do in Tasmania with kids, I realised that she was right!
Located 240 km to the south of the Australian mainland, Tasmania has a considerable land area of 68,401 km2 but is inhabited by only about 570,000 people, which makes it the least populous state in Australia. This translates to lots of open spaces for kids to run around in!
There is also an amazing variety of child-friendly attractions, ranging from dramatic geological formations to wildlife encounters, exciting cruises and even a UNESCO-recognised prison town!
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One of the first stops on our self-drive holiday was Eaglehawk Neck. Built around an isthmus, which is a narrow strip of land that connects two larger landmasses and separates two bodies of water, the area boasts a number of geological wonders that have left many visitors in awe.
The Tessellated Pavement is one of the best examples of its kind around the world. Its tiled-like appearance is the result of cracks caused by stresses in the Earth’s crust. These fracture lines are then widened by the action of salt crystals and erosion over thousands of years, leading to the Instagram-worthy sight that we enjoy today.
We took a walk along the Tessellated Pavement and were fascinated by its beauty and the serene setting, complete with the soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore.
Another crowd favourite at Eaglehawk Neck is the Tasman Arch. A towering natural bridge that is the outcome of relentless erosion of a sea cave, it is a majestic sight to behold.
Kids will also be wowed by the skyward splash – and the accompanying rainbow – at the Blowhole. Some patience is needed as the water builds momentum, but the resulting gush is worth the wait.
Port Arthur Historic Site
The isthmus at Eaglehawk Neck connects to the Tasman Peninsula, where Port Arthur Historic Site is located. A former convict settlement, Port Arthur is one of the 11 places that form the UNESCO Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.
While its history sounds grim, Port Arthur is surprisingly beautiful, even – or maybe especially – with some of the structures in ruins. Buildings, such as the penitentiary, the guard tower and the commandant’s house, are spread across the sprawling premises, beckoning visitors to discover their stories.
We joined a free guided tour to get an overview of the place first, before spending the rest of the time exploring on our own.
I was a little worried that the younger children would not take to the experience, but they were happily running around, visiting the various buildings, looking curiously at the exhibits, even reading the information panels!
Included in the ticket is a short harbour cruise, which offers a scenic view of the site and its surrounds. Commentary on places of interest is provided on board.
For those who would like to gain a more comprehensive understanding of Port Arthur, it could be interesting to take part in tours like the Ghost Tour – Port Arthur After Dark and Escape from Port Arthur Tour. These are separately ticketed.
Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, has many family-friendly attractions too. One of these is Mount Wellington, which we could see every day from our Airbnb accommodation.
Towering 1,271 m above the city, Mount Wellington, also known as kunanyi in indigenous Tasmanian language, is well-loved by tourists and locals alike.
Not only can you catch breathtaking vistas from the summit, but you can also marvel at the unique rocky landscape up at the top and imagine yourself in a different climate, with the cold – sometimes biting – wind in your face.
Take the boardwalks to access the most spectacular views. When the weather gets too challenging, the Pinnacle Observation Shelter provides refuge while allowing you to look far out.
If you are adventurous and sure-footed, scramble up a jumble of odd-shaped boulders to the true summit of the mountain, where a tripod-shaped trig station stands.
The on-top-of-the-world feeling, coupled with a beautiful sunset as we were driving down, made our trip to Tasmania with kids – as well as the elderly – extra memorable.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
A holiday in Tasmania with kids would not be complete without a visit to a wildlife sanctuary.
Just a 30-minute drive from Hobart’s CBD, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is a social enterprise with the aim of getting healthy animals back to the wild. It also operates Tasmania’s largest 24/7 wildlife rescue service, which is funded by its entry fees.
Included in the ticket price is access to the sanctuary’s daily guided tours, which give visitors the chance to meet some of the native animals residing at the sanctuary, including Tasmanian Devils, wombats and some cheeky cockatoos.
These tours are fun and informative, but if your little ones are like ours, their favourite activity will be feeding the kangaroos, which roam freely in the sanctuary. A bag of kangaroo food will be given to each person upon entry; there is no need to make any additional purchase.
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Besides meeting animals, another favourite activity of most kids is running around in big open spaces – something that our young ones got to do at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Established in 1818, it is the second oldest botanical gardens in Australia. Featuring signature Tasmanian flora, themed areas like the Japanese Garden and French Explorer Garden, as well as heritage trees dating back to the nineteenth century, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens makes for a nice morning stroll.
If you are in Hobart on the weekend, it is worthwhile to pay the Salamanca Market a visit. Every Saturday from 8.30 am to 3 pm, more than 300 stalls sprout up, taking over the historic Salamanca Place.
From generic Tassie souvenirs to artisanal products and gourmet street food, there is something for everyone at the buzzing street market.
Bruny Island is a charming holiday spot off Southeast Tasmania, accessible via vehicle ferry. Its most well-known attraction is probably The Neck, a long isthmus that links the north and south ends of the island.
To see The Neck, you will need to climb more than 200 steps up the Truganini Lookout, where you can get an amazing bird’s eye view of the isthmus and the two water bodies – the d’Entrecastaux Channel and the Tasman Sea – on either side of it.
It was an incredible sight to catch! Our highlight at Bruny Island, though, was a 3-hour cruise to explore the ruggedly beautiful coastline.
On top of getting fantastic views of incredible geological formations, we saw dolphins jumping out of the water right next to us and got as close as we could to seals basking in the sun.
We also entered a sea cave, sped through a narrow gap between a sea stack and a cliff, and got splashed by a blowhole in action!
Some in our group were not up for the sea adventure, so they took the land route instead and visited the lighthouse at Cape Bruny, which is one of Australia’s oldest. The view there is spectacular!
Besides sights, Bruny Island is also known for its produce. There are various places to taste and buy cheese, honey, chocolate, even whisky on the island.
We zoomed in on the oysters at the famous Get Shucked Oyster Bar. They turned out to be the best that we had in Tasmania!
For a unique experience in Tasmania with kids, Cradle Mountain, located in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, is your answer. Not just because it is the most famous peak in Tasmania, but because it offers a stimulating natural environment for curious children to learn, play and simply enjoy the outdoors.
The park offers 12 trails to allow visitors to explore Cradle Mountain from different perspectives. From the wheelchair-accessible Rainforest Walk, to the children’s favourite Enchanted Walk and the challenging 6-day Overland Track, there is bound to be one – or more – that is suitable for your family.
As we had elderly in their seventies in our group, we did an abridged version of the most popular trail, Dove Lake Circuit. The full track loops around the glacially carved lake in a 6-km route, featuring the iconic Cradle Mountain view.
The Enchanted Walk was where we spent most of our time. Although it is supposed to be a 20-minute trail, we wandered blissfully for almost an hour in the magical rainforest with moss-covered ground, aesthestically fallen tree trunks and a cascading creek.
We were all smitten by the cute and furry wombats that we met along the way. A mother-baby pair of kangaroos also stole our hearts.
I can see why everyone loves Cradle Mountain.
Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot
One of the largest maze complexes in the world, Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot has eight different mazes for visitors to lose themselves in!
I am not sure how many hedge mazes we attempted, but we always managed to find our way out, even if it took a while at times. It was a fun way to hone the young ones’ problem-solving – and even leadership – skills, as they took turns leading the troop to the exit.
Besides the botanical type of mazes, there was one that tested our balance instead, which was much easier, but no less interesting!
The Village of Lower Crackpot segment of the attraction featured a quirky village built to 1/5 scale, with many laugh-inducing details. There is also a small area showcasing iconic structures from more than 40 countries, including a Merlion that seems to have gone on a diet!
Throughout the attraction, you will find many peripheral play areas, so even if children get tired of maze-cracking, there is no lack of fun to be had.
Burnie Penguin Observation Centre
Fairy penguins are some of the cutest residents of Tasmania. In the day, they spend their time at sea hunting for fish. By sunset, they are ready to go home.
To avoid predators, they wait in the water until it is dark before waddling quickly back to their families in the burrows.
There are many places where you can see fairy penguins in their natural environment along the northern coast of Tasmania.
We decided to hunt for them at Burnie Penguin Observation Centre, where, from October to March, volunteer guides share facts about the little cuties and help visitors to see them using a red light source. All this is at no charge at all, although donations are always welcome!
The kids were so excited to see the little penguins, they did not want to leave, even though they were shivering from the cold at the windy shore!
Cataract Gorge Reserve
We visited Cataract Gorge Reserve on the day that we were leaving Tasmania, so we did not have much time to explore the gorgeous grounds. We did, however, manage to take the Gorge Scenic Chairlift, which is the longest single-span chairlift in the world.
Suspended high up in the sky, we were treated to stunning views of the Gorge and the South Esk River, as well as a bird’s eye view of the reserve’s recreation hub.
During our short visit, we spotted quite a few wild animals, including some colourful – and noisy – peacocks and a handsome wallaby.
If we were not constrained by time, we would have taken a cruise along the river or gone on one of the walking tracks for a deeper appreciation of the Gorge.
Well, there is always next time!