While Tasmania and I are old friends, a visit has evaded my tiny travellers, until now. And with its startling mix of ethereal beauty, dramatic landscapes, historic ruins and kick arse cuisine, The Tasman Peninsula proved to be the perfect spot to introduce my now smitten offspring to the not insubstantial wonders of the Apple Isle.
And what’s not to love? It is totally wild, in the true sense of the word. Its white sand beaches and brilliant blue waters wouldn’t be out of place in the Whitsundays, the air is some of the freshest and cleanest in the world, the food is world class, the locals are lovely, there are easy hikes that lead to spectacular wilderness areas and views that have jaws dragging on the floor, plus there’s plenty of wildlife for them to bother. All the makings of a perfect holiday.
But don’t take my word for it, Here, Raffles (9) and Sugarpuff (6) share their thoughts on Tasmania’s extraordinary Tasman Peninsula by kids.
TASMAN PENINSULA LANDSCAPE
Imagine sprawling green fields, lush sheltered rainforests, rugged sea cliffs, and tranquil white sand beaches lapped by water so beautifully blue that you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Tahiti. Then add to that a treasure trove of unique plants and wildlife and you have the Tasman Peninsula, a place of jaw dropping natural beauty that had Raffles and Sugarpuff in a spin.
He said: “This place was so epically stunning that it blew my socks off. Well, actually they came off because I stood in a puddle after the rain and my cons got soaked through, but you know what I mean. Seriously, this has to be one of the most beautiful places in Australia. There are awesome beaches, mountains, crazy jagged cliffs, incredible caves and bush that is a gazillion shades of green and packed with twittering birds, chirping bugs and so, so many butterflies. Amazing.
I really enjoyed the hike to Cape Raoul, where the views went forever and were mind blowing, and a spot called Remarkable Cave, which is called that because it’s totally remarkable. We were a bit naughty and hopped over the viewing platform and went for a bit of an explore of the interconnected twin caves, which were surround by sea and jagged cliffs, and which are definitely as advertised.
My favourite place to explore was the Tessellated Pavement at EagleHawk Neck. Originally, I wasn’t really bothered if we visited but I am so glad we did because it was incredible. The place is made up of thousands of little (and big) squares, all stacked up liked ancient Lego bricks. But these squares were 100% created by nature. They are created by a rare type of natural erosion and have been there for millions of years. However they got there, they are an amazing sight and all the individual little rock pools are filled with some of the weirdest creatures I’ve ever seen.”
She said: “It was so beautiful because it was so green and amazing and there were so many pretty trees and bushes. There was a beach that looked like lots of squares and it had creatures hiding in the rock pools.
We did lots of hiking through the bush and even visited some big caves. We even hiked up a big mountain to Cape Raoul with my new friend Grace. There were huge, amazing cliffs and you could see forever, but I liked Grace even more than I liked the view. And I liked the view a lot.”
TASMAN PENINSULA HISTORY
The Tasman Peninsula may be pretty and peaceful but its history is anything but. Originally the country of the Pydairrerme people, a period of violent conflict between British colonists and Aboriginal Australians all but annihilated its original custodians. In 1830, the Port Arthur penal settlement began life, originally as a punishment-oriented timber station.
While in operation, the Port Arthur Historic Site housed murderers and career criminals, but just as many of the convicts sent to Port Arthur were poor men and women and delinquent youths and children from the slums of Britain’s bigger cities, some convicted for crimes as petty as stealing a handkerchief and sentenced to brutal years of hard labour.
The nearby Coal Mine was Tasmania’s first operational mine, and used as a place of punishment for what the authorities considered Port Arthur’s ‘worst class’ of convicts. Despite its then reputation as a more “enlightened” prison, conditions at Port Arthur were as oppressive and harsh as other early penal settlements, but its brutal use of psychological punishment made it perhaps even more cruel.
Port Arthur was the site of more tragedy in 1996 when the deadliest mass shooting in Australian history saw 34 lives lost. The massacre was the catalyst in changing Australia’s strict and effective gun laws and a memorial garden to commemorate the 34 victims sits on the site.
He said:“There’s a lot of history in the Tasman Peninsula and though it is fascinating it’s also kind of awful. The Port Arthur Historic site is very famous and very beautiful and we went on an interesting cruise where we were told some of the history. It was an oppressive place where people, from the other side of the world, were forced into hard labour after being convicted of petty crimes. We learned about the British slum kids who ended up here and how they had no hope because they were so poor and their parents fed them gin as babies because the water was so dirty it could kill them. I wonder what my mum’s excuse is for drinking gin, because our water is just fine.
Whilst I found the site fascinating, I also found it really sad. Not just because of the treatment of the convicts but because I learned about the Port Arthur Massacre, where an evil man killed loads of people just a few decades ago.
I can’t really understand why someone would do that to other humans but I do know it forced our country to change our gun laws which has helped to stop such horrible things happening since. I felt distressed for the people who were killed but also sad that America won’t change their gun laws like we did because just a few days before we visited Port Arthur, a bunch of kids were killed at school in America by a man with a military style gun he really shouldn’t have been allowed to own. Kids shouldn’t be afraid to go to school.
There was another site about 20 minutes away called the Coal Mines where the really naughty convicts were sent. Though it too was a place of oppression and bad history, and we were like the only people there, I didn’t feel so sad when I explored the ruins, not even in the area where there were isolation cells which were dark and gloomy and horrible. The ruins are awesome to explore and the views are beautiful and I recommend people should make the effort to visit this place.”
She said: “This place is super-duper old. There were ruins everywhere. The most famous ruin is the Port Arthur Historic site, which I think looked like baby Hogwarts, so I called it Taswarts. I’m learning about heritage and tradition at school and I was really interested to learn about the people who lived here. They were convicts who didn’t really do that much wrong, like a boy I had to find out about on a card they gave me. He wasn’t really that naughty at all, he just stole a handkerchief and he was sent to prison for a really long time and they were really mean to him.
I also liked exploring The Coal Mines because it was all ruiny and awesome.”
TASMAN PENINSULA ACCOMMODATION
You’ll find accommodation to suit every budget and every family in the Tasman Peninsula, but we loved Stewarts Bay Lodge, a waterfront property dotted with lovely log cabins that come complete with kitchens and laundries, making it ideal for families looking to self-cater. Each has a deck overlooking forest or water, ours even had a stunning spa bath from where we could soak up the views. There is an onsite restaurant, the kid-friendly Gabrielle’s on The Bay, where we enjoyed buffet breakfasts overlooking the water and fine wines and dining at night. There’s a playground for the kids as well as a library of DVD’s and games in reception for rainy days. And it’s just a ten-minutes stroll along the water’s edge to the Port Arthur Historic Site.
He said: “Stewarts Bay Lodge was insanely cool. We had our own cabin in the bush. It was really spacious and comfy and had such awesome views from our balcony that I liked to sit outside and just watch the bush and be still. This kind of shocked my mum because I don’t think she’s ever seen me do still before.
Even though we could cook in our own kitchen, we visited the onsite restaurant, Gabriel’s on the Bay, and it was amazing. We had the most delicious dinner there and I had a yummy Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Hollandaise Sauce, it was like super eggs benedict for dinner. They also did an epic cheese plate and the breakfasts rocked.
There was also a cool library where you could borrow DVDs and games to play in your room, which I thought was a cool idea.
The hotel is located right next door to Port Arthur Historic Site so we were able to walk there through the bush, which was pretty awesome. There were so many reasons to love this place but the thing I loved most was watching the pademelons and wallabies hopping about on our doorstep.”
She said: “We stayed in a cool cottage and I loved it because it had tonnes of room and loads of places to play hide and seek. I loved the view from the balcony, but not as much as the view from the bathroom. I could sit in the big spa tub and watch the pademelons and wallabies in the bush.
I could even watch them from the toilet, I just hope they couldn’t watch me. In the restaurant at the hotel they even had a big corner with games and stuffed toys and books. I especially loved the squeaky hog toy.”
TASMAN PENINSULA BEACHES
While Tasmania isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of a beach holiday, the Tasman Peninsula offers dramatic coastlines and some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia.
He said: “The beaches in the Tasman Peninsula are so beautiful and there are so many of them. The water is so blue and the sand is so white that it looks like Tahiti, except without the hula dancers.
I didn’t have a favourite because they were all cool and and even though the water was too chilly to hop in, all the beaches had awesome rock pools full of amazing creatures and weird shells and we even found this crazy spiky thing that looked like a squishy pink miniature hedgehog but had teeth and ate shells! Freakshow.”
She said: “There are so many beaches that I couldn’t pick a favourite. It was too cold to swim but I really loved Safety Cove because the sand was so squeaky and white and there was no one else there. And the shells were some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.”
TASMAN PENINSULA FOOD
No self-respecting foodie should miss this part of Australia. With the freshest of seafood, lovely wines, farms full of beautiful berries, the orchards that originally gave Tasmania the name “The Apple Isle”, chocolate factories, and gin distilleries (for mum), plus wonderful festivals, the locals on the Tasman Peninsula serve it up fresh and fabulous.
He said: “Excuse me for going on a bit here but the only way to describe the food in Tasmania is EPIC. And the best part about it was how much of it there was. I think we spent at least 75% of the time we were there eating. Not that I’m complaining. A stand out for me was definitely the Koonya Garlic Festival where I stuffed my face full of garlic inspired delicacies. This festival was a huge surprise. I expected it to be like other food festivals I’ve visited, small with the same old market and festival food or expensive like the big food festivals in Sydney. But it was neither. The food here was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Creative, delicious and so affordable that I was able to go back for seconds of everything.
I really enjoyed a butter chicken in a naan bread taco but I have to tell you all about the Pork Belly Bao from Munchies Street Foods though. I mean, I’ve never met a Bao I didn’t like but this one kicked all other Baos butts into oblivion. It was spectacular. Spicy, soft, crunchy, sticky, sweet. It might actually be my true love.
The chef, DC Lim is from Korea originally and was awarded the Tasmanian chef of the year last year because he is a kitchen God. At the festival there were these super fun cooking demos and at the end of the day there was a cook off with DC Lim and two other famous chefs and they were so funny and so good that I couldn’t leave until it was all over. This festival was so good, I reckon the Sydney Food Festival people need to take some tips.
There were other things that I need to tell you about too. We ate at Gabrielles by the Bay which was amazing and had an awesome fish burger at Doo-Licious, but the most amazing meal was at a brand-new restaurant called 1830 which just opened at the Port Arthur Historic Site. The food was next level insane! Go there. That’s an order.
Oh, and be sure to try some of the delicious pears and apples that you’ll see hanging on trees all over the place. They don’t call it the Apple Isle for nothing.”
She said: “We ate so much! And it was all so yummy. At the Koonya Garlic Festival, which was epic fun, I had the best fish and chips ever. It had this yummy paprika mayonnaise which was the actual best. We also got to try other yummy garlic flavoured food, which I loved. At the (Port Arthur) Lavender Farm I got to eat a lavender flavoured ice cream as big as my head and the yummiest lavender milkshake, which I loved so, so much.
I also visited a man called Andy’s farm. He let us eat nashi pears straight from his trees and now they are my favourite thing.”
TASMAN PENINSULA WILDLIFE
The Tasman Peninsula is a haven for Australian wildlife including the ridiculously cute pademelon, a marsupial found nowhere else on earth. You can spot the gorgeous pademelons and wallabies day and night throughout the region. You might also be lucky enough to spot a long-nosed potoroos, echidnas and an incredible variety of bird life. On and around the water, you’ll also spot sea lions, dolphins and whales during the migration season.
He said: “Ok, so we didn’t get a chance to meet the Tassie Devils at the Unzoo, which was a bit of a bummer but there was no shortage of wildlife to see… in the actual wild. There were a lot of huge birds of prey, and even more seagulls, especially whenever there was a chip shop nearby. Then there were all the weird and wonderful sea critters on the rock pools at the local beaches, which I found especially fascinating. If we’d had more time and the water wasn’t so choppy we would’ve have gone out sea lion spotting too. But to be honest I was pretty happy to stay on dry land to stalk the super cute pademelons and wallabies that were running about all over the place.”
She said: “Every night we saw hundreds of wallabies and cute little pademelons, which are these tint teeny little kangarooey things that are so cute and adorable. We loved watching them hopping about around our lodge. Plus, I got to meet cows, lambs, chickens and bunnies at the Koonya Garlic Festival. I know they aren’t wild but they were super cute and cuddly.”
Disclosure: The Eats Worlds were guest of the Koonya Garlic Festival, but as always, all opinions, pademelon bothering, wilderness wandering and face stuffing is our own.