We had 8 glorious weeks to explore Tasmania in our Jayco Caravan and it did not disappoint!! Tasmania is the perfect touring state with so many amazing places to explore in close proximity. We had so much to share from this adVANture that we have split our story into two. These are our highlights of Tassie to the LEFT (the famous wild west coast, Tarkine wilderness and more).
Mt Field, Gordon Dam and The Wall (Derwent Bridge)
On the way to Mt Field National Park we stopped into the Salmon Ponds which was a great place for lunch and the kids loved feeding the fish. Not too far up the road is Westaway Berry Farm which was a great spot for berry picking – we all had a ball running around the rows and picking the raspberries and then cooled down with a yummy berry ice cream.
We then based ourselves for a few days at a quirky little caravan park called Left of Field. It had loads of fun things to see and do in the campgrounds, including playing a round of ‘oversized golf’ (with large sticks and a giant tennis ball), fishing down by the stream and having a cosy fire – it was a fabulous spot for us to bring in the new year for New Year’s Eve too!
Just up the road from here is the popular Russell Falls. It is a great short walk (pram friendly for the first part) featuring a stunning rainforest on the way to the falls themselves. We also recommend walking all the way up the stairs to the top to view the falls above as they were just as good.
While in the area another great adventure for us was a trip out to Strathgordon, to see the Gordon Dam. That thing is HUGE!!! The dam wall is higher than the Sydney Harbour Bridge and holds back thirty times more water than Sydney Harbour. When you see it in person it’s a pretty impressive sight… some crazy people even abseil down it!!! It was a bit of a long windy drive to get there but well worth it to see the amazing scenery – we felt like we were in the Rocky mountains in Canada and a grizzly bear was going to jump out of the wilderness at any minute!!
It was a pretty cold wet rainy day while we were there so we didn’t make it down onto the dam wall itself with the kiddies, but we managed a quick look (and a selfie) then retreated back to our warm dry adventure truck! As it was new years day were SO excited to find the Wilderness Lodge back in town was open so we happily sat next to the open fire and sipped a hot cuppa to thaw out. Then in true Tassie style, the rain cleared which allowed us to enjoy a little explore and fish around the lake.
Now when you plan a trip to Tasmania and talk to people about what to see and where to go one thing that will ALWAYS be recommended is a visit to The Wall. This is a stunning sculpture, about 100 meters long carved out of Huon Pine. At 3 meters high it is something you have to see in person to really take in the true beauty and workmanship of the artist Greg Duncan. We have no photos to share as photography is not allowed. We spotted loads of Echidnas around this area too so keep your eyes peeled on the side of the road.
Top Tip: If driving on the Lyell Highway make a stop in the town of Tarraleah to see the highland cattle.
Strahan, Arthur River and the Tarkine Wilderness
After our exciting, steep and windy drive through the mining town of Queenstown we arrived in Strahan – a harbour-side village with a dark and fascinating convict past. It is also the gateway to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. While in town we treated ourselves to an amazing boat trip on ‘The Red boat’ with World Heritage Cruises. We absolutely LOVED this tour and highly recommend it.
We took a trip out of Macquarie Heads into the ‘roaring forties’ which lucky for us were not so roaring!! We cruised past the salmon and trout farms and even spotted a seal! We then visited Sarah Island to see some of Australia’s oldest convict ruins. These ruins pre-date Port Arthur by decades with many interesting stories which were brought to life by our entertaining guide. We then meandered up the stunning Gordon River to enjoy a beautiful rainforest walk and viewed a few amazing Huon Pine trees growing in the wild. It was a wonderful day out and one to save your pennies for. The kids loved having a go at driving the boat and playing in the playroom as well as the lovely buffet lunch.
Top Tip: If you have little ones ask for your seats to be closer to the playroom
Interesting Fact: Huon Pine (pictured above) only grows in the wet, temperate rainforests of South West Tasmania – on the whole planet! It grows extremely slowly, averaging just 1 millimetre in girth per year. They can grow to be 2,500 years old which means some of them started life BC! Add to this the fact that they do not start to reproduce until 600 to 800 years of age and you have a very special tree whose timber also has remarkable properties.
The timber has a very high oil content which renders it impervious to insects and makes it waterproof. The high oil content also means the timber can be bent, shaped, worked and sculpted without splitting and finishes to a superb, fine lustre. It is a pale straw colour when first cut and ages to a rich honey gold. Huon Pine is now protected and you cannot cut it down.
One area often overlooked by tourists is Arthur River and the Tarkine Wilderness. We decided to leave our home on wheels for a few days and swap it for our trusty OzTent so we could take some time to explore along the wild West Coast and take a few more offroad trails to explore some more remote locations. The kids were super excited to be in the tent and it was a nice change for us too. We cooked dinner on our small Firebox Stove and spotted some awesome wildlife. (You can read more about our OzTent here and watch how easy it is to set up here).
We based ourselves at Arther River (Peppermint Camp Ground) where we explored the nearby wild and rugged coastline that is famous for its strong westerly winds that come across from the Great Southern Ocean. We viewed ‘the edge of the world’, Green Point Beach (a popular surfer spot which we caught on a rare flat day!) as well as some Aboriginal Petroglyphs near Nelson Beach.
Top Tip: Make a visit to the Ranger Station at Arthur River – they are super helpful providing loads of local knowledge and touring tips. They also have a great nature display for the kids as well as loads of colouring in sheets to take home.
The Tarkine Wilderness was one of our FAVORITE parts of Tasmania! Although not designated as a national park, the area contains a wildly diverse landscape – including Australia’s largest patch of temperate rainforest. Along this stunning Tarkine Drive we visited the Sumac Lookout with views of the Arthur River. Further on, we loved the old myrtle forests which take you to the flooded limestone sinkhole known as Lake Chisholm. These were all stunning but the highlight for us was the walk to Trowutta Arch as well as the arch itself – which is a collapsed sinkhole system. The rainforest held some special magic as you meandered down the path spotting fungi and fig trees amongst the tallest tree ferns we have ever seen. We highly recommend you put this on your Tassie itinerary.
Crayfish Creek, Stanley and ‘The Nut’
While we explored Arthur River and the Tarkine we left our caravan at a camp called Crayfish Creek. It was a great base for us to leave the van as well as check out the other ‘must-do’ locations like visiting the town called Stanley and climb ‘The Nut’…and by climb, we mean catch the chairlift! haha.
The kids thought it was a great ride and loved the walk around the top (1 Hr / 2.3km). The views were amazing and we even spotted a seal swimming happily in the waters below. The Nut is a flat-topped volcanic plug, 150 meters straight up from the water’s edge on one side and the lovely town of Stanley shelters in its shadow on the other.
Crayfish Creek was a lovely bushy camp right on the creek. We had some amazing sunsets and clear crisp nights by the fire. It was magic.
Penguin, Devonport and surrounds
As we continued East along the Bass Highway towards Devonport some great places to visit included Boat Harbour and a cute town called Penguin. Famous for its penguin population it features quirky little penguins along the main esplanade – even the bins had cute penguins on them!
Back in Devonport, we made our way to the Abel Tasman Caravan Park to catch up with our mates from Caravaning with kids and Trip in a van. While there, we enjoyed an awesome Happy Hour! We had a great turnout with fellow travelling families and even some local Tassie based families joining us for the night. It is so great to get-together with fellow travellers and like-minded people to swap stories and travel tips.
The Abel Tasman Caravan Park is only a stone’s throw away from where you get on and off the Spirit of Tasmania Ship making it a great place to begin and end your Tassie tour. Just out the front is Coles Beach which is great fun to explore and swim hosting loads of shells and driftwood treasures! We even found an awesome beach cubby someone had made which our mini Blondies loved… and as always, we also took the time to pick up some rubbish as part of our mission to Take 3 for the sea.
Top Tip: A good place to park your rig while waiting to board the Spirit of Tas is at the car park at Coles Beach
While in the area we also checked out a few nearby attractions and towns including Tazmazia at a place called Promised Land. Tazmazia is a great place for both little and big kids alike!! With 8 awesome mazes that feature witty jokes and quotes, a fun model village and an Embassy garden it is a great day out for everyone.
Not far up the road is Spreyton Cider which offers a Cider tasting paddle for mum and dad as well as a fun apple juice tasting paddle for the kids! You can also have a walk through the apple orchid too which the kids loved. Another must do if you are in the area is pay a visit to a crazy shop in Latrobe called Reliquare. This place had it all and is renowned for its eclectic wonderland of toys, clothing, games and science merchandise. It is all displayed in a labyrinth of rooms taking on the theme of Alice in Wonderland, Doctor Who, Harry Potter and even Dungeons and Dragons/Game of Thrones! We all had a fun time exploring and spent a good hour ‘getting lost’.
Two more little gems to visit include Sheffield and Railton. Sheffield is famous for its murals that feature throughout the town, as well as some great little shops and cafes and Railton is known for its topiary.
We knew Cradle Mountain was a must do and a famous landmark for Tasmania but again, the beauty of this place took our breath away. The photos don’t do it justice, it is definitely something you have to experience yourself. There are a variety of walks within the National Park that you can do including some great family-friendly walks. The Enchanted walk features cute little tunnels of pictures and information for the kiddies which they loved, but our favourite short walk was the Knyviet Falls walk (starting just across from Peppers Resort). There was something really magical about it and the rainforest was stunning.
We wanted to get the most out of each day so we based ourselves at the Caravan Park within the National Park. This allowed us to venture into the park a few times a day and pop home quickly for some downtime during the day for the kids.
If you are wanting to spot an Echidna or Wombat Cradle Mountain is the place to do it. They are everywhere! During our lunch stop (at Ronnys Creek Car park/picnic area), we saw a few resident Wombats and Echidnas. They didn’t mind the kids getting up close and happily went about their business as the kids watched on in awe.
Well, that is it for our Tassie roundup. We hope it is helpful for your own Tasmania touring adventures. We have so many amazing memories from our adventure and will be sure to come again – but for now, the rest of Australia is calling and waiting to be explored.
We’ll leave you with a few extra tips and tidbits –
Tassie Tips and Tidbits:
- Purchase a National Parks Pass – If you are planning a long trip and covering a lot of ground we recommend purchasing the parks pass as soon as you arrive. You can pick them up from any information centre or even at the tour desk on the Spirit of Tasmania ship.
- Tasmania has ‘banned the bag’ – so bring along your re-usable shopping bags for your food shops, or alternatively, you can purchase thicker bags for 10c or 15c at the register.
- Pink Eyes – We saw loads of signs for pink eyes on special!!! No, it’s not an eye infection, or a type of fish (as we thought), but a type of potato!!!
- Call ahead – Most big tourist destinations have room for you to park your rig. So if you are wanting to visit a place between camps simply call first to make sure you will fit.
- Four Seasons in one day – Yes, Tassie is cold, and windy, and it snows in summer! Then, when you least expect it the sun shines! Be sure to have a good rain/wind jacket and keep it in the back seat of your car!
- The sun packs a punch – When the sun is out it is beautiful and warm but also VERY strong with a high UV rating. The air is so clear that the suns rays can give you a good roasting so make sure you slip, slop, slap!
- Looong Days – We travelled in November, December and January and the sun came up super early and set super late! So you can get loads out of your day but when it comes to putting the kids to bed it was a challenge!! The sun was rising at 5.30am and set about 8.50pm!! In winter it is a different story with shorter days and the sun rising at 7.40am and setting about 4.30pm!
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