A wild western family adventure
Take an unforgettable family adventure to Tassie's west coast with these top 10 spots.
1. Watch out for bushrangers
Head north from Hobart and when you hit the Southern Midlands the family will delight in spotting the black silhouettes that make up ‘Shadows of the Past’ – an exhibition by local artists. Following the highway starting around Kempton, it offers a glimpse into colonial life – think bushrangers, stagecoaches and more from the era of Van Diemen’s Land. Take the slight detour to Oatlands – be sure to check out the landmark Callington Mill and the town’s picturesque streetscape of grand architecture. Next, continue on to the small township of Ross for a visit to the tragic yet fascinating Ross Female Factory. Don’t miss the convict-built bridge – it makes for a stunning photo.
2. Creature comforts
As you make your way into pristine Cradle Country, keep a keen eye out for the wildlife – meandering wombats, curious wallabies and pademelons are frequently sighted. You’ll find the Cradle Mountain Hotel nestled in alpine woodland along the Cradle Mountain Road, less than a five-minute drive from the Information Centre and the entrance to the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. Relax for the night at Altitude, the hotel’s restaurant and lounge, and enjoy a selection of the freshest Tasmanian produce and local wines. Finish up relaxing in a cosy communal lounge (older kids might enjoy a game of billiards), or grab your glass of pinot or a pot of tea and sit next to the roaring open fire enjoying complimentary WiFi.
3. Rare wildlife encounters
The Devils @ Cradle conservation sanctuary is in the National Park, and is less than a five-minute drive from the hotel. It offers a rare chance to encounter the world’s largest surviving marsupial, the iconic Tasmanian devil, in a group night-time feeding frenzy. This tour is one of the most popular. Tasmanian devils are nocturnal, so night-time is often where the action is! If you can’t make this tour, the sanctuary welcomes guests to wander at their leisure during the day or to join one of its other tours. The sanctuary is home to the closely related spotted-tail and eastern quolls – also threatened in the wild – and your entry ticket supports the sanctuary’s valuable work in combatting the devil facial tumour disease and other challenges facing our native wildlife.
4. Tiger tales
After a generous buffet breakfast at the hotel, head next door to the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery. See the stunning work of Tasmanian artists on show, sharing stories from around Tasmania as well as work that celebrates the Cradle Mountain wilderness. Kids will especially love the Tiger Room – a fascinating attraction that combines history, storytelling and original artworks. The Children’s Room also offers a space to explore, draw, play and investigate – all with Tasmanian themes. Kids (and parents) might like to save up their pocket money – the gift shop next door has a beautiful selection of Tasmanian keepsakes. Entry for hotel guests is free.
5. Making magical memories
The magical Enchanted Walk will take you through old-growth rainforest and button grass moorland and along the Pencil Pine Creek. The easy circuit is approximately 1.1km, taking about 20 minutes, and makes for an ideal family walk (although perhaps a tad more difficult when covered in snow). Along the track you’ll see several wombat burrows, with their inhabitants usually being spotted around dusk or dawn. The walk includes fun interpretive tunnels perfectly suited for kids to crawl or walk through. Don’t miss the small but stunning waterfall towards the end of the walk, and if it’s fungi season, kids will love to discover these colourful gems.
6. Take the camera
The popular Dove Lake is definitely Insta-worthy! Formed by glacial activity over millions of years, the lake has the stunning backdrop of the Cradle Mountain range. There are well-maintained walking paths around the lake – the main walk is about 6km (approximately two hours). Don’t forget to sign in the visitors’ book and take sufficient food, water and appropriate clothing and footwear – alpine areas are known to have four seasons in one day. For a shorter walk of less than 15 minutes, head towards the boatshed for that perfect, and possibly familiar, photo. The habitat in this area is unique and includes snow gums, pencil pines, tussock grasses and the Tasmanian deciduous beech. Wildlife is regularly spotted, especially wombats and wallabies.
7. Picture postcard
Arrive at your waterfront destination on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area – Strahan Village. Picturesque Strahan is a working fishing port nestled on the banks of the Macquarie Harbour. Your accommodation offers sweeping water views and makes a perfect base for exploring the rugged landscape of the west coast wilderness. Strahan has a multitude of activities that the family can enjoy. In particular, don’t miss Ocean Beach – Tasmania’s longest beach stretching over 35km. The beach is best enjoyed standing safely on the shore, as it is famous for its howling winds, known as the ‘Roaring 40s’, and its massive waves. It is fringed by the Henty Dunes a natural phenomenon where the sand reaches a massive 30m at some points. If you’re feeling adventurous, hire a toboggan in town and take a ride.
8. Pack a picnic
Pack some morning tea and head to the People’s Park where the gentle walk to the stunning Hogarth Falls begins. The park is easily reached – less than five minutes’ drive along The Esplanade in Strahan. Named as one of Tasmania's 60 Great Short Walks, it makes an ideal option particularly with younger children, being approximately 40-50 minutes (1.2km one way), although children will need supervising as there is unprotected track edges and fast flowing water. Soak up the peaceful atmosphere as you meander among the towering eucalypts and rainforests of myrtle, leatherwood and sassafras. Keep an eye out – platypus are known to frequent the area. Along the way, local schoolchildren share their connections with the area on interpretive signs. Parents will appreciate BBQs and picnic tables as well as toilets at the start and end of the walk.
9. World Heritage wonder
An absolute highlight – an opportunity to experience Tasmania’s stunning west coast region at its finest – is a Gordon River Cruise. No preparation is needed today (just coats and camera) when you treat yourselves to the Premier Upper Deck aboard the Spirit of the Wild. After an elegant buffet breakfast/morning tea, soak in the views of Macquarie Harbour, and then head through the famous Hells Gates and into the Southern Ocean. Shortly after, you’ll reach the majestic Gordon River – famous for its deep tannin colours and rainforest reflections. The first stop at Heritage Landing allows time to soak up the ambience with a rainforest walk where you can marvel at the ancient Huon pines. Back on board for lunch, think decadence – including freshly caught local salmon and ocean trout. Next, step back in time at Sarah Island where convicts laboured under the harshest conditions, and solitary cells were not much bigger than a coffin (not to mention their ‘own version’ of the cat o’ nine tails). Sadly, Indigenous Australians were also imprisoned and tragically many died. The experience provides some perspective before you head back to a sumptuous afternoon tea of wine, local cheeses, coffee and chocolates.
10. Round the twist
As you make your way home to Hobart (about four hours’ drive), you’ll pass the crater-like terrain created by early 1900s copper mining as you follow the Lyell Highway back through Queenstown. You’ll reach the stretch aptly named ’99 Bends’ by locals, and don’t miss the ‘lookout spot’, offering a fascinating view of Queenstown. Also keep an eye out for Horsetail Falls, a stunning surprise around one of the bends, where the water falls down the mountain and is easily visible from the road. If you’re lucky to be there when it’s raining, you definitely won’t miss it in its forceful glory.
Written by Danielle Ross Walls
Hero image by Danielle Ross Walls