Who would have thought a holiday full of history lessons, nature lessons and even culture lessons could be this much fun? Danielle Norton shows the best places to take the wee ones on a trip to Hobart for a mind-blowing adventure.
Kunanyi/Mt Wellington, sharply outlined against the bright blue sky, beckons from almost every vantage point in this waterside city – and offers the perfect opportunity to get amidst nature without going too far from town. Book tickets on the hop-on-hop-off kunanyi/Mt Wellington Explorer (mtwellingtonexplorer.com.au) and be regaled by the informative and funny commentary from the driver. Get off at The Springs bus stop and grab a snack at the Lost Freight café (lostfreightcafe.com), where the kids can lounge in a beanbag drinking milkshakes before lacing up their hiking boots and tackling one of the many tracks crisscrossing the sides of the mountain. Pinnacle Road leads to a glorious lookout – but rug up: the temperature is usually 10 degrees cooler than Hobart at the summit.
Explore the market
Every Saturday between 8.30 am and 3 pm, the tantalising sweet aroma of French crepes and Dutch poffertjes, mixed with the fragrant spices of samosas, burritos, noodles and kebabs, wafts through the air at the Salamanca Market on the picturesque waterfront near the docks. Musicians entertain the crowds checking out the more than 300 stalls selling homemade jams, cakes and drinks, artworks, jewellery and wooden craft items – some made from Tasmania’s rare Huon pine. Kids will enjoy running around the market, where the colourful atmosphere, range of international dishes on offer, variety of crafts and friendly, chatty stallholders will keep them entertained.
Port Arthur, a 90 minute drive south east from Hobart along the Arthur Highway, is certainly worth the journey to visit one of the most well-preserved and significant convict era sites in Australia. Glide around the port on a harbour cruise (included in the entry fee) while the captain tells stories about the prisoners’ escape attempts and the dark history of the area, then wander around the 19th century prison cells and crumbling exercise yards to see this history come to life in your mind’s eye. Imagining the intense challenges of a convict’s experience, their hands raw from manual labour, living in freezing conditions far from their homeland in what has been described as “a god-forsaken” island, will give the kids a history lesson that no big-city classroom can replicate.
Bruny Island is famous for its white wallabies and rugged beauty. A 30 kilometre drive south from Hobart will take you to Kettering, from where a regular ferry service to the island operates. Climb the 279 stairs to The Neck lookout at the isthmus between North and South Bruny to take in the 360-degree views. Then, refuel with coffee and pancakes at the Penguin and Pardalote Cafe (penguin-andpardalote-cafe.business.site) or stop in at the Bruny Island Cheese Co. (brunyislandcheese.com.au). With kids and dogs playing and lounging beneath the trees, the place has the relaxed feel of colonial picnics in early Australian Impressionist paintings – only with more hipster clothing.
Kids and museums are only friends for a short time but when it’s as mind-blowing as Mona, there is plenty to mesmerise everyone. The experience starts when you board the funky camouflaged ferry at the Brooke Street Pier – the little ones will love hanging from the animal sculptures and riding the sheep statues on the outside deck. Once there, children won’t be able to look away from the famous poo machine, Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca Professional. This fascinating project imitates bodily functions in a perfect marriage of science and art – every day at 11 am and 4 pm the machine is fed portions of food and enzymes; digestion and then excretion (at 2 pm) occurs. Other kid-friendly highlights over three levels of artworks include Richard Wilson’s 20:50 and Grotto by Randy Polumbo and light shows and short films enchant children of all ages.
The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo sanctuary has an emphasis on creating spaces for humans to observe the endangered animals in their natural habitats. There’s no better – and more fun – way to learn about nature and conservation than with a Devil Tracker Tour, in which you can travel by 4WD around the nearby bush areas, helping rangers monitor the previous night’s devil activity through hidden infra-red cameras. The monitoring is an attempt to conserve the species; up to 90 per cent of the population has been lost in the last 20 years with estimates of wild devils remaining as low as 10,000.
Eaglehawk Neck, a tiny town that serves as a gateway to the Tasman Peninsula, is a sensational spot to see nature at its finest. Millions of years of ocean tides and wild southern winds have created the Blowhole, which spouts water up into the air in majestic sprays, and Tasman Arch. There are a multitude of hiking trails dotted in and around the Tasman National Park, including very short ones that are easy for families to take on.
Another natural attraction not to be missed is Remarkable Cave, located 7.5 kilometres south of the Port Arthur Historic Site, on Safety Cove Road. Descend the 100 steps to the viewing platform to see how rough seas over the years have carved the sandstone into the shape of Tasmania’s map. It’s a popular spot for Instagrammers and surfers alike (but before you go, check with Parks & Wildlife Service Tasmania that access has reopened, upgrade works were due to finish in November 2019.
A school in a previous incarnation, this recently-renovated hotel is one of only a few in Hobart with an outdoor swimming pool. There’s a stylish bar and restaurant which serves breakfast, as well as dinner Monday to Saturday and one and two bedroom apartments have space for families to spread out.
Close to the action of Salamanca Place, this hotel is directly opposite the CSIRO and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and is a great option for families with teens, who will enjoy luxurious rooms connected via a shared entrance.