Ready for the Great Tasmanian Family Road Trip? Bundle up your kids in the backseat and head for the Spirit of Tasmania. That means the fun begins before you even roll onto the island. Think stretching your legs in a movie theatre versus being cramped up in seat 25A. Think kids joyfully tackling arcade games on Deck 9 rather than kicking the seat in front of them. There’s even circus performers and face painters on some sailings.
On arrival into Devonport there’s no waiting for luggage. Just pull on your seat belts and head for the wilderness. That’s right, Cradle Mountain is about a 90 minute drive from the ferry terminal. One minute your family is in bumper-to-bumper traffic heading for the boat, the next, find yourselves in wombat territory.
Image Credit: Lap Fung Lam
Hit the highway and turn right at the Elizabeth Town Café (ETC) towards Railton. If there’s noise in the back seat, plenty of freshly baked goods are on offer at this popular highway stop. Ashgrove Cheese is another great place to fuel up on picnic supplies and get selfies with the painted cows (just before ETC).
Image Credit: Melinda Ta
Hit the indicator and head towards Railton, Tasmania’s ‘Town of Topiary’. Hang on to your seatbelts, things are about to get downright kooky. You’ll be passing through small country towns known for topiary and mural displays and meeting the Mayor of Lower Crackpot all before dinner.
Seven Sheds Brewery in Railton is home to prize-winning craft ales with a small hop garden where the kids might like a game of hide and seek while you watch them from the deck. Tuck a few takeaways in the boot – perhaps their flagship Kentish Ale? Or a seasonal small batch brew.
This brewery and Ashgrove are just two of many tasty delights on the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail. Before you leave town, take a walk around town and see all the topiary. There are many topiaries underway in various stages of growth. There’s a walking guide to the topiaries in town which can be picked up at shops in the main street.
Image Credit: Kelly Slater
Next stop is Sheffield. You’ll notice this colourful township has enough murals to inspire even the smallest backseat artist (Mural Fest happens every Easter). Grab lunch here and some delectable fudge on the main strip.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Kentish Council
With a few coins, your family can enter The Contraptuary at the World of Marbles. This unassuming little room is filled with odd contraptions and inventions that are befitting of this quirky community. Let the kids pick some marbles while you take a closer peek at glass-blown vases and marble runs.
If you happen across a piano sitting on the footpath, feel free to belt out a song. Don’t take your eyes off the main street or you’ll miss the Alpaca man taking his pet alpaca for a walk.
Image Credit: Rob Burnett
After all, a Tassie Family Road Trip isn’t your standard. It’s not the road everyone travels. There’s also a lolly shop, a shell museum, craft, antiques, rare records and all manner of interesting finds in town. And just down the road at Tasmazia you’ll meet the mayor of Lower Crackpot, tackle his living maze and visit his tiny town.
From here, continue on to Cradle Mountain. There’s some great family friendly options for overnighting in this alpine region.
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Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain, though, has a particularly special treat in store. Not only does it sit on the edge of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park but it has another ‘only in Tassie’ attraction at the moment. You see, two wombats were hand reared by the folk at Devils@Cradle and released back into the wild. But these affable two haven’t ventured too far and quite like to hang out at the Discovery Park. With a little luck, the kids will melt at their new nocturnal grazing mates.
The Discovery Park has a camp kitchen and barbecue to cook up a family summer banquet. Come nightfall, after saying hello to aforementioned wombats, head for the Devils@Cradle After Dark Night Feeding Tour. The 5.30pm and 8.30pm tours are a chance to get up close to Tassie’s famed little carnivores and watch them feasting. It’s quite a spectacle and gives new meaning to the term ‘hangry.’ When your kids are tired, hungry and a touch angry, spare a thought for Tassie devil mums. Manners don’t rate when it’s devil feeding time.
Rise early for an energetic day in the wilderness. Fancy a morning dip in Dove Lake?
Image Credit: Tim Hughes
A great place to visit first off is Waldheim Chalet. There’s plenty of history packed into the walls of this chalet originally built between 1912 and the early 1920s. It was the vision of Gustav Weindorfer who stood atop Cradle Mountain and declared it should be a national park for all people for all time. Keep an eye out on the road into the chalet, often there are wombats hanging out on the hillside to the left.
Image Credit: Graham Freeman
A further short commute will take you to Dove Lake, where plenty of day walks depart. If the children are little, the Dove Lake Circuit is a relatively flat sojourn that features temperate rainforest and picnic spots by the lake. It’ll take around two hours to complete. A shorter option is the Enchanted Walk at about 30 minutes. This walk leaves from the bridge by the park entrance and features alpine pools, rainforest, waterfalls and sweeping moorland.
Want to really wear the kids out? Head for Marion’s Lookout or for the adventurous families, tackle the summit of Cradle Mountain. This 13 kilometre mission takes about 6-8 hours return and must only be attempted by those who understand that even on a balmy summer family holiday, Tassie’s weather can close in and have you feeling like a penguin in Antarctica.
Views from the top are spectacular, and clambering across the dolerite scree near the summit (providing children’s legs are long enough to cope) is something the family will never forget. It’s a fitting perch to consider the Aboriginal inhabitants of the Cradle Mountain area, dating back to the last ice age (10,000 years ago). Although non-permanent, it is believed seasonal hunting occurred during the Tasmanian summertime.
Before the kids fall into bed tonight, take them out for a rewarding lodge meal. Just because you’re in the remote highlands of Tasmania, doesn’t mean the menu is limited. Hearty steaks, kids’ favourites and smooth Tassie Pinot for the grown-ups is only a short hop from the Discovery Park. After the kids are safely tucked in, use the parks Wifi to check out ‘Sixteen Legs’ a movie made about the Tasmanian Cave Spider, your companion on tomorrow’s adventure. You might want to leave the lights on.
Back on the road, key Mole Creek into the nav map. From the highs of mountain exploring, it’s time to head underground. Whether summer or winter, the climate never changes in the Mole Creek Caves, so be sure the kids rug up to ensure no complaints about the 9 degree temps.
Image Credit: Renault Wong
There are three cave tours, each of around 45 minutes. There’s also a great 15 minute Fern Glade Walk to explore. Perhaps an Underground Rivers and Glow Worms Tour peaks the interest? Prepare to meet amazing critters, including the Tasmanian Cave Spider who has adapted to live without light. Some of these spiders are not found anywhere else worldwide. There’s stalactites, stalagmites, reflection pools and when kids turn down the volume, an eerie silence coming from abandoned river passages. Ahhh, the quiet.
Don’t leave Mole Creek without a visit to Trowunna Wildlife Park. The privately owned park has been operating since 1979, and has the world’s biggest heritage population of Tasmanian devils. It also teems with other birds, marsupials and reptiles. Take an interactive tour or explore the park yourselves and find out why many wild animals in the region are drawn to this safe sanctuary.
Image Credit: Lap Fung Lam
From Mole Creek, continue on through to Deloraine. From here, the options are plenty. Head on to Launceston or perhaps to Derby for some family mountain biking adventure. Or cut through to the East Coast and hop aboard the Great Eastern Drive for some beach time. Whichever way you head, there’s no time for screen time in the backseat. Out the window is where the action’s at! In Tasmania it’s all about connection – with the landscape, with yourself and with each other. So disconnect from the world and re-connect Tassie style.