Do you know which is the biggest island in Australia? Tasmania!
Also known as Tassie. This is an island-state of Australia. It is at 240 km to the south of the mainland, separated by the Bass Strait. You can reach it by boat or by plane. We opted for the second one because we wanted to get there as fast as possible. Also here we had a chance to have a camper van adventure! Tasmania’s area is 68,401 km2, so it isn’t realistic to think that you can see all of it in just 7 days. In our opinion it would take at least a month to see it a bit more in-depth. Unfortunately we had not set aside all of this time. However we are happy with what we managed to see and do in these few days.
A bit of history
Since we started traveling we thought it would be really important for our kids to understand better the reality of the country they were visiting. Starting from its past. History plays such an important role in how the Country is today!
Before being colonized by the British, Tasmania was inhabited by indigenous. They were wiped out because of battles with settlers, the Black War and the spread of infectious diseases to which they had no immunity. The near-destruction of Tasmania’s Aboriginal population has been described by some historians as an act of genocide by the British.
Abel Tasman, a dutch explorer was the first European to land on the shores of Tasmania in 1642. He named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, in honour of Anthony Van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. He was the one that sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery. Tasmania was permanently settled by Europeans in 1803 as a British Empire penal settlement. In order to avoid any form of claims to the land, around 75,000 convicts were sent to Van Diemen’s Land. Transportation ceased in 1853.
In 1854 the present Constitution of Tasmania was passed and the following year the colony received permission to change its name from Van Diemen’s Land to Tasmania. Finally in 1901 it became a state!
What did we manage to do on this beautiful island in only 7 days?
1. Sleep in Hadley’s Orient Hotel while in Hobart
Before moving ourselves into another camper van adventure, we needed a little break in a regular room with normal sized beds.
I saw the photos of Hadley’s Orient Hotel, also known as “Grand old Dame of Hobart”. I was immediately intrigued! Little did I know that it is the oldest hotel in Australia. In fact it officially opened in 1834, just 64 years Captain James Cook first sighted Australia. It is considered a local landmark here in Hobart.
For us it felt like walking in a different era. It was absolutely delightful!!! At our arrival we were greeted at the reception in such a welcoming way, that we could not stop chatting! The furnishings all around the property are beautiful. All you want to do is sit and have a cup of tea. Our room was enormous and the beds were so comfortable. We were seriously thinking of prolonging our stay for at least a week and just stay in the hotel!
2. Walk around Hobart
Our full day wandering around Hobart was a pleasant change of pace from being always in a home on wheels. We walked along the waterfront to Salamanca Place, an area full of shops, boutiques, cafés, restaurants and art galleries. Later we went on the Heritage City Walk. I think we got a bit lost and just improvised our way back. However we really enjoyed seeing all the different architecture along the way.
3. Spend a day in Port Arthur Historic Site
I read about this place on a flyer at the airport. The photos looked stunning, but I was a bit confused by what it was all about. So we decided to go see for ourselves.
In 1830 a penal station was established here at Port Arthur Historic Site. Initially they used convict labor to produce sawn logs. By 1833 it became a punishment station for repeat offenders. The idea was to reform them by breaking them using discipline, punishment, religious and moral instruction. Many were rehabilitated and skilled to go back into society unfortunately some kept on coming back.By 1840 it had become a major industrial settlement producing many goods at low prices. As the years went by the type of punishment evolved from being physical (whipping) to psychological (isolation). Many convicts never really left Port Arthur because they went crazy and were not able to care for themselves.
In 1877 the settlement was dismantled. Later on it changed name (no one wanted to remember what happened there). A new town was established for some time but it was always a tourist attraction because of its history. Many ex convicts were sharing stories about its past.
Our tour guide was really able to transmit us the sense of discomfort of being there. He guided us through the place as if we were convicts. He showed us all the different areas and described us what would happen to us there. At times it felt frightening and horrifying. The stories he told us just did not sit well with us.
At the end of the tour you visit a room where you can read about the crimes for which people and kids were convicted. It also reveals the length of their stay and often it was for more than 7 years. The absurdity was that lots were little crimes, compared to some of the horrible things we hear today, but the punishment was long and hard!
We walked away feeling that these small crimes gave cheap labor and terrible sorrow for these people. It is incredible to imagine such a beautiful area (at least before hearing the story) was actually a terrible place for who was there at the time!
4. Explore some of the natural beauties around Port Arthur
After the rough day at Port Arthur, we realized that we needed to be back into nature. We brought our kids to the see a few natural beauties!
We started off with the Remarkable Cave! It has been carved out of the sandstone cliff face by the sea, forming a rock bridge. Near the viewing platform are huge boulders remaining from a collapse of the cave wall. The viewing platform at the bottom of 100 steep stairs is where the back of the cave collapsed. As we walked down on the platform there wasn’t much water coming in. At one point a set of 3 big waves hit the shore and entered the cave. We heard a very loud noise, the cave was full of water and we got almost soaked! A truly remarkable moment!
We stayed for a while longer. Our kids thought it was the coolest thing ever to run all the way to one side of the platform and as soon as a big wave came run back yelling. As we walked back up and looked out at the view, we saw how big the waves were. It was no surprise that the cave was constantly flooded!
Tasman’s Arch and Devils Kitchen
After we visited the Tasman’s Arch which is a tall natural bridge in the sea cliffs. Right next to it was the Devils Kitchen which is a deep trench without an arch that has also been carved out by the Tasman Sea.
Next on our list was the Blowhole. It was not as strong as the one we saw on the West Coast of Australia but still pretty fascinating. It was formed by a former cave and tunnel. The roof of the rear of the tunnel collapsed and created a broad arch with a blowhole behind it.
The Tessellated Pavement
Finally we stopped at the Tessellated Pavement. This is an inter-tidal rock platform. Tessellated Pavement is so-called because the rocks have fractured into polygonal blocks that appears tessellated or tiled. The flatness of the pavement is due to first erosion by waves carrying sand and gravel. The rocks which absorb sea water during high tide dry out during low tide causing salt crystals to grow and disintegrate the rocks. This is a process which produces shallow basins.
This piece of beach was absolutely amazing! I had never seen something like this and was completely fascinated by it. Our kids on the other hand just loved running around and jumping in all the puddles formed into the blocks! Different ages mean also different ways of appreciating a new place!
5. Just enjoying the drive
It was a big change for us driving here in Tasmania compared to the rest of Australia. The distances were not as big. We were not on the road for hours, but we enjoyed some amazing changes of view from one spot to another!
We drove on the Great Eastern Road, in the forest, on 2 peninsulas, on the heritage highway and truly enjoyed every moment of it. The views, the animals, the little towns, the trees, the lakes, the ocean, it was all just so stunning!
6. Hike in the Freycinet National Park
Freycinet is a national park which occupies a large part of the Freycinet Peninsula on the east coast of Tasmania. Freycinet National Park was named after the French explorer Louis de Freycinet (1779 – 1841), who sailed through the area in about 1800. It was founded in 1916 and it is Tasmania’s oldest park.
You need a permit to visit all of Tasmania’s National Parks. It can be easily bought at the national park visitor centre at the park entrance. There are several different options: from a day pass for just one national park to a pass that is valid for an entire year and includes all National Parks of Tasmania. This park offers different options for hiking, from walks under 2 hours up to 8 hours!
Wineglass Bay is for sure one of the most popular hikes. It has been voted by several travel magazines as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It is on the South East side of the island. You can only get to the bay by boat or by a three-hour hike over hills from the car park. Unfortunately we are still a bit limited on our hiking distances. However we were lucky to have the opportunity to go to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. It is the same walk as the one which takes you to the bay, but it is half the journey. The hike up was a bit of a challenge with a 2-year-old that wants to do all by himself. In the end though we made it up and the view was worth the effort! As you can imagine the name is due to the shape of the Bay that looks like a wineglass.
Sleepy Bay beach
Not happy with our 90 minute hike we decided to go explore Sleepy Bay beach. This beach is full of huge boulders, that the kids could hide inside. The sand on the beach is actually made of tiny rocks, pretty amazing!
Cape Tourville Lighthouse
Finally we took the road all the way up to Cape Tourville Lighthouse! There is a boardwalk track around the cliff line to the lighthouse. Along this fenced track are breathtaking views along the coast, it is truly stunning! The best part of this stop is that we met two (3 if you count the little one in the pouch) wallabies hanging out in the parking lot and they were very friendly (probably hoping in some food….).
7. Stop to see the Blowhole in Bicheno
Bicheno is a little fishing and holiday village on the east coast of Tasmania near Freycinet National Park. It’s known for its fresh seafood, incredible diving and the Blowhole!
For thousands of years, the ocean has hit the granite carving out a sea cave underneath the coast. The water, battering the inside of the cave with increasing force, found a weak spot in the ceiling to blow a hole through the granite. Now water rushes into the cave, hits the walls, swells with increasing pressure and it all erupts out of the hole in the ceiling, creating a geyser effect outside of the cave.
The geyser erupts with varying force also when the ocean is calm. However the most fascinating eruptions happen when the ocean is rough, than you are up for great show!
Cosimo saw the diamond-shaped rock on the granite rock and walk right up to it. He was curious to see if anything was going to come out, well it sure did and in all it’s strength, scaring him off his feet!
8. Spend the day having fun in Launceston at Penny Royal Adventure
When traveling, we try to stand by one rule when possible. If we adults want to do something particular, we have to try to find something fun for our kids to do too, on another day. So after 5 days of seeing lots of natural beauty and some history it was time to give them the chance to have some fun.
Penny Royal Adventure is Tasmania’s only theme park. It celebrates the dark and playful past of bushranger Matthew Brady. The Penny Royal offers a rich experience steeped in convict history dating back to Van Diemen’s Land in 1825.
In this reproduction of the mill house and little village there are bars, restaurants and a range of activities for the family. They include zip lines, rock wall climbing, cliff walks as well as adventures at park level of gold panning, gemstone fossicking, barefoot sensation (a convict adventure trail made of obstacles and different textures) and the brig Tamar cruise. This takes you to a little reproduction of Sarah’s Island another penal settlement here in Tasmania.
After a full day of activities you can also sleep here at Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel & Apartments. Unfortunately we had a camper van so we couldn’t advantage of that opportunity.
Although the activities make it fun to be here, there are other aspects of this place that keep you thinking about Tasmania’s convict history……
Our kids had a great time and so did we!
9. Learn more about the production of the best wool quality at Tasmanian Wool Centre
On our way back to Hobart, after seeing many sheep along our drive, we decided to go explore the Tasmanian Wool Centre, in the historic village of Ross.
Ross has been a centre for wool growing since the earliest days of settlement, when landholders imported saxon merino sheep and established award-winning sheep studs and exported their wool across the world.
We wanted to understand better the steps necessary to process wool from the sheep to the fabric.
Behind the little retail area, you will find a very informative museum where you learn about the wool industry beginnings and heritage of this fascinating and vibrant village, established in 1821.
Entering the Wool Exhibition the scent of sheep’s wool pervades the air. A recreated shearing shed, with thrown fleece on its sorting table and manual wool press provide a glimpse of past times. Many breeds of sheep’s wool are on view to feel and inspect. Our kids loved touching them all, checking them out at the microscope and reading about the different breeds.
In case you want to read more about our adventures around Australia, feel free to check them out here!
In case you just want to enjoy some photos of this amazing country, check out our photo gallery.