Along our journey, we have stopped at expected tourist destinations and little known destinations (such as Oman and Namibia). Tasmania was a little known destination. Stephen had to talk me into sharing a campervan for nearly two weeks. At this point, our family had been together for over 6 months and I was afraid that a campervan would be too much. Well….I was wrong. The campervan was a huge success! We rented a “6 person” campervan complete with a kitchen, two tables, three separate beds, and a bathroom/shower area. Since we are obsessed with “Hamilton”, we quickly named the van, Alexander Campervan.
Hobart- The beginning and the end
We bookended our traveling days with a stays in Hobart. We were able to leave items at the hotel (so we didn’t travel with all of our belongings for the year). Additionally, we were able to rent a car for a couple of days before picking up Alexander Campervan.
Once we arrived in Hobart by air, the adults headed to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and the kids stayed at the hotel since they had zero desire in this outing. True to its name, it has collections from ancient, modern, and contemporary time periods. The architecture of the building itself is quite an art exhibit. Although we enjoyed the museum, we were happy the kids had stayed behind. And we may have discovered that Tasmanian is know for its gin while admiring the view from the museum bar.
Port Arthur- Hobart Day Trip
We spent the first day exploring the Port Arthur Historic Site (UNESCO World Heritage). It has been listed as the most “infamous Australian prison”. Before becoming a prison, it was a wood timber camp. But from 1833- 1853, it housed British criminals. Yes, the British Empire sent prisoners from Britain all the way to Tasmania! Well, to be correct the British Empire sent the prisoners to Australia and when they became repeat offenders, they were sent to Port Arthur. By reports, it housed 40% of the convicts sent to Australia with the last penal settlement closing in 1877. Our ticket provided a guided tour, a ferry tour, and an audio guide. We started with the guided tour first. There were over 30 buildings to explore on the grounds (Penitentiary, Asylum, Officer Houses/Quarters, Separate Prison, Church, Gardens) and the guided tour included some of the larger buildings; the audio tour was amazing with the amount of detail provided. The grounds are quite extensive and have a simple tranquility which stands in contrast to their original purpose. The geography was well suited for a prison with the natural terrain making escape nearly impossible. Port Arthur is surrounded by water nearly completely. It is separated from the rest of Tasmania by a tiny “neck” of land (an isthmus that is 30 meters wide) earning it “inescapable” status. At one point, 2000 convicts along with soldiers and free personnel (and their families) lived at Port Arthur.
Maria Island National Park- Hobart Day Trip
Wombats everywhere! That was the motto of the day. We took a ferry ride to Maria Island mid-morning and spent a lazy day wandering around the island. We walked first out to Fossil Cliffs (yes, full of fossils!). We walked along rugged cliff edges before heading towards the Painted Cliffs with its layers of colorful sandstone. This island has some remaining buildings from its time as a convict settlement. This island has a colorful history- it served as a convict colony (twice), and then two cement quarries during the industrial era and lastly as a farming community. It was declared a National Park in 1972. The penitentiary now serves as a “dorm” for trampers staying overnight. The Tasmanian Devils (which are mainly nocturnal) are not the “prisoners” on the island. Australia has started a quarantine program on the island. Many tassie devils have been killed due to a facial disease and if shown to be free of the disease, they are being re-located to Maria Island. But we also wallabies and geese.
Roadtripping in Alexander Campervan
Freycinet National Park
This National park (founded in 1916) is on the East Coast and occupies a large part of the Freycinet Penisula. The East Coast of Tasmania is known for its beaches.
Wineglass Bay (Coles Bay)
Can you see the wineglass? Wineglass Bay appears on many Tasmania postcards. It is one of the views that has put Tasmania on the travel destination map. Many travelers will take a bay cruise but we decided to hike above the bay for a better vantage point. And by “we”, I mean the adults; our children decided to sleep in the campervan while we hiked. The hike wasn’t overly long or steep. The “lookout point” is actually a saddle between two mountains, so it was a bit of climb. Hazard Beach has been known to appear on the World’s Best Beach List. Rather than doubling back, we headed down to Hazard Beach and followed another path to the carpark to make a large circle (around Mount Mayson). The weather wasn’t perfect for enjoying the beach- it was a bit cool and drizzly. However, the perfect arc of white sand was present once you cleared the trees.
Bay of Fires Conservation Area
Bay Of Fires which was named after the Aboriginal fires spotted by Captain Tobias Furneaux when he sailed along Tasmania’s east coast in 1773. It has lovely white sand beaches, clear water, and reddish orange granite boulders. We camped without electricity or running water for this stop. But don’t feel too bad for us…..look at this beach!
St Columba Falls Conservation Reserve
This was a stop as we were driving- and all 4 Bepkos went on this trek! St Columba Falls is a multi-tiered waterfall. The hike was well marked and re-inforced with planks as needed through a shady rainforest. It was all downhill to the waterfalls- which meant uphill on the return trip!
Penguins (Little Blue Penguins). That is all that needs to be said. The Bepkos love penguins- its undeniable! And there is an entire penguin colony at Low Head. No question, we had to stop here! Jeni actually ran by the the magical beach earlier in the day and had no idea of the transformation! Once the sun set, the waddling began. The penguins started one by one from the waters of the Bass Strait heading back to the nest. It was molting season, so the activity wasn’t as busy as other times. The nests are expertly hidden in the Box Thorn bush along the coastal reserve. And waddling takes a LOT of energy, and a penguin may need to rest for a few minutes. And the crew working at Penguin Tours Tasmania were so knowledgable and respectful of these beautiful animals. We have no pictures of the penguins because it was after sunset and the flash would frighten them! Trust me, it was amazing- this was the highlight of Tasmania and quite possibly of Australia. There is a lighthouse and a Maritime Museum, but we were there for the penguins. Truth.
Narawntapu National Park
This beautiful national park is on the northern coast of Tasmania. It is known for its abundant wildlife (earning the nickname Tasmania Seregenti)! We were mainly interested in kangaroos…..and we saw them everywhere. We played at the beach (Baker’s Beach) during the day and then explored a nice long walk after dinner. Once the sun set, we saw kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons, and wombats; but sadly no Tasmanian devils.
Yes, we love Penguins- so another mandatory stop. This picturesque “town” along the coast and full of quirky stores/shoppes on its main boulevard. It is located at the edge the Bass Strait (north west region of Tasmania). We did by chance see penguins. There was a nest in the campervan park (yes, in the midst of 50 campervans there was a nest). We had tried to view Penguins at Penguin Point, but we were out of luck. This area of Tasmania is known for its farms, local produce, and cheese making. We indulged in all three.
Stephen and myself have seen some great caves over the years; but our kids really hadn’t experienced any large caves (until Oman!). Mole Creek is in the central north area of the island. There are two large caves that most visit; Marakoopa Cave and King Solomon Cave. Marakoopa has the added features of 2 underground streams and glowworms. We toured the Marakoopa Cave. The caves are only accessible by an official National Parks & Wildlife Service tour. There were stalactites and stalagmites with reflecting crystals throughout the cave. And who doesn’t love glowworms?
Cradle Mountain was the last stop before heading back to Hobart and then onwards to Sydney. It has rainforests, alpine glacial lakes, pine trees, and beech. We stayed two nights at the park; the first in a cabin and the second freedom camping. And we had rain the entire two days except for the first few hours we arrived. The focal spot is Cradle Moutain with its jagged edges standing above the rainforests. Although Tasmanian Devils, Echidna, and platypus call this park home; we didn’t see any of them (maybe because of the rain). The adults managed a hike around Dove Canyon before the rain started- which I am so thankful for that afternoon. The hike started with walking across boardwalks from the visitor center. Then the boardwalk gave way to scrambling up and down rocks until we reached our viewpoint. By this point in the trip, Stephen was battling an Achilles tendonitis issue and we had to be careful with making our way up and down. After we left the boardwalk, I don’t think we saw another person on the trail. We were disappointed that the weather didn’t cooperate with us, but we had really terrific weather for the rest of the our time here. And we hadn’t see a Tassie Devil yet. So that still needed to happen.
Hobart- Goodbye Tasmania
We spent our last full day in Tasmania at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. We hadn’t seen a Tasmania Devil! We did see a Tassie Devil (and I don’t have a photo). However, the kids loved feeding the kangaroos…and so did the adults.
Necessary photos of Alexander Campervan
Life in a camper van was pretty basic. Our son was in charge of hooking up to electricity and water and breakdown. We rotated beds so that no one shared a bed every night. We played a lot of games at night (and tried to watch the Olympics). We did some cooking but it was pretty basic.