Once you’ve just invested in an airline ticket to cross the Pacific, or maybe just one across the Bass Strait, you’re probably looking for something FREE to do in Tasmania. While getting to Tasmania can be quite the journey, there are free things to do once you arrive!
Here are 4 free things to do around Hobart. And a bonus, all of them are family-friendly.
#1 Cascade Brewery
The restaurant and gardens at Cascade Brewery are absolutely free to enter. Now, obviously you can purchase a flight of beer or a tour of the Brewery itself, but it’s free to enjoy the backdrop of the brewery against Mt. Wellington and have a walk through the landscaped gardens. The gardens are also a great place to let the little ones run off some energy.
#2 Mt. Wellington/kunanyi
A drive up Mt. Wellington is not for those who are afraid of rolling off the side of the mountain and plunging to their death #FYIthatsme. However, once you ascend the steep roadway, the view is worth the turmoil, and adults AND kids will enjoy the view from the (safe and secure) boardwalks.
While Mt. Wellington looms over Hobart and seems so close to the downtown, the drive from Hobart takes 30+ minutes through all of the hairpin turns and elevation changes. Entrance is free. Sanity lost watching your husband and dad take your boys to climb to the Pinnacle is also free of charge. 😉
Approximately 30 minutes outside of Hobart, Richmond is like stepping back in Tasmanian time. The oldest bridge in Australia is here, as well as the oldest Australian Catholic church. While walking around the quaint shops and strolling (or strollering, as we do) through the small town is free, spend a couple of bucks and get a treat at The Bakery Richmond. Eclairs, and scones and meat pies – OH MY! We tried all of their breakfast goodies and then bought an assortment of meat pies to take home for dinner (now there’s way to save some cash!)
The drive from Hobart to Richmond is only about 45 minutes. It may have taken longer because we needed to stop for some cows crossing the road.
#4 Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
On the banks of the Derwent River just steps from Hobart, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden is a 13+ hectare delight. We packed a picnic lunch and drove to the Gardens, which provided a few free hours of entertainment. The views of the Derwent along with the manicured gardens pleased both young and old. My favorite things were all the local Australian flora (I was already getting homesick and we hadn’t even left the country!) and this urn made of wood blocks (can you believe it?). The kids liked feeding the seagulls their leftover lunch. Everybody left happy!
A three generationsroadtrip from Hobart to Port Arthur is not one you’ll soon forget. Port Arthur Historic Site is one of 11 historic sites in Australia that together form the Australian Convicts Sites World Heritage. However, while the history of Port Arthur is engaging for the entire family, the drive from Hobart is just as exciting.
Traveling to Port Arthur from Hobart is easy. We rented a GPS unit from our rental car agency, but signage was frequent and helpful. The roads were another story. Roads in Tasmania are NARROW. While Google maps says you can make it to Port Arthur in 1 hour and 23 minutes from central Hobart, I’d add another 20 minutes WITHOUT stops. You’ll want to travel in safety. 🙂
That said, making the stops on the way to Port Arthur was definitely a highlight. We don’t have these vistas in mid-America! It’s said that the air in Tasmania is some of the cleanest in the world- And just from our road side view, the water appears to be just as clean.
After a quick stop at the beautiful Dunalley Bay, we noticed a turn-off for a lookout (and almost lost the rental on some washed-out road), but the danger was worth the cost:
Tasman National Park- what a view.
The kids were getting hungry and tired so we knew we could only probably make one more stop before continuing on to Port Arthur. We chose going to the Tasman Peninsula Blowhole. The kids were impressed, there was lots of room to run around, there were toilets, and there was a food truck with ice cream. #winning
This area is also known as Doo-Town. Where every house, boat, etc has a “Doo” name. This added some quirky fun to our Tasmanian roadtrip.
We made a doo-parture from Dootown (see what I did there?) and headed straight to Port Arthur.
Port Arthur Historic Site
Upon entering the Visitor Centre we were unsure as to what all the kids would be up to. Remember, our group ranged in age from 70 (sorry, dad!) to 2, so we needed to accommodate a lot of attention spans. The lady at the desk was very helpful and we decided to go with the standard entry ticket which includes access to all of the buildings, a 25-minute boat tour, and a 40-minute walking tour. As a plus to traveling with small children, kids under 6 are free, so Brian and I just had to pay for ourselves- the cost for adults was $37 AUD each. This is comparable to other Australian attractions and it is actually a two-day ticket, making it VERY affordable.
My only disappointment was that the walking tour wasn’t actually much of a walking tour. We walked maybe 100 feet. I was hoping we’d cover more of the grounds but the guide stood in a central location and just pointed to various sites. I think she was being considerate of some of the older crowd in our group (not my dad, ha!). I was thankful I’d packed little activities for the kids to hold. It was HOT and the information presented was probably more than these two cared to hear. Lol.
After the walking tour we roamed the buildings as we waited for the next timed boat tour. In retrospect, I wish we would have foregone the boat tour and just toured the buildings. The boat was packed and it was difficult to hear the guide. I’ve heard mixed reviews though, so if you go, do what feels best. If you are doing a tour of the Isle of the Dead of Point Puer Boys’ Prison, you’ll have to take the boat.
Places like this have a soft spot in my heart because being among the ruins allows you to picture how it would have been living there. This was a time when women were solely child-rearing homemakers and very few women existed on the island- except the Captain’s wives. Boys as young as 6 were doing hard manual labor! The guide pointed out to Jackson that at his age he’d be working 12 hours a day. In our day and age, it’s hard to understand how any child could become a convict.
Pictured above, The Penitentiary, one of the most photographed sites at Port Arthur. This building originally served as a flour mill, but as the convict numbers increased and the mill failed to supply enough flour, this was turned into a four story prison. The two lower floors were for the prisoners of the worst behavior.
I love old churches, so the ruins of “The Church,” built in 1837 with convict labor, was a highlight for me. Up to 1100 people attended the compulsory services each Sunday, as religion played a big role in convict reform. Walking through this reverent site, I thought of the young boys from the Point Puer prison that constructed much of the decorative stonework.
The government gardens were another memorable spot. This quiet space was off-limits to convicts.
If you go:
Take plenty of water. We went the first week of February and it was HOT. There isn’t a ton of shade, so pack your sunscreen as well.
Give your family plenty of time to really take in the history. In hindsight, we may have stayed the night near Port Arthur and went back the next morning. There’s much to see and one afternoon isn’t enough time.
Keep an eye out for wildlife! We were lucky enough to spot an echidna.
Oh, Tasmania. You took a little piece of my heart. Seeing how my beloved country began (albeit a little depressing) was worth the roadtrip. Don’t miss this.
What else we got into in Australia’s second largest city tips if you go
Melbourne, Australia is a family-friendly city often overlooked by overseas visitors emblazened with the images of Sydney. Unfortunately, we only had three full days in Melbourne and it’s hard to “do a city right” in such a short time. With that in mind, and the fact that my parents and I had been in Melbourne in 2006, I wanted to do a few things differently. Here’s more information on what we found to do in Melbourne, plus tips for if you go with your family.
The next day we wanted to leave for the Open around 2pm, so we had hoped to spend the morning at the Queen Victoria Market. We’d been to Melbourne’s market 2006, but the QVM is definitely something to write home about, and worth a second look! Plus, Mr. YT hadn’t been there and we wanted to show him what all of the hype was about. Luckily, the Queen Victoria Market was a short walk from our hotel.
We spent the morning eyeing goods of all kinds- from touristy Australiana shirts to kangaroo jerky to Chinese-made toys and trinkets. Our whole family scored a shirt or two, but the win of the day were 10 jam-filled donuts from American Donuts (no joke!) and a pavlova sponge cake from a local baker (who told Mr YT and I we need to start watching TV and stop reproducing- 20 points for Aussie honestly, haha).
After dodging rain drops back to our hotel, Mr YT and I left for the Australian Open. Not only was this something we’d looked forward to for MONTHS, it was only our second time alone on the entire trip (#neededabreak).
Unfortunately, when we arrived it was starting to rain and it turned very chilly. Play was suspended on the outside courts so we headed inside to watch the women’s doubles final. Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza won and it was fun to watch a presentation of the trophies!
What we were most excited about was watching Andy Murray v. Milos Raonic in the men’s semifinal. I have always had a soft spot for Andy, he’s usually the underdog. Rod Laver arena was smaller than we expected (or it looks on TV- it holds 15k people). We were thrilled that the match went to 5 sets and we definitely got our money’s worth. Ha!
If you haven’t been to a professional tennis match, please go! It may be my favorite sport to watch because for the most part the fans are quiet and civil, yet the sport is fast-paced…and they serve sparkling wine. 🙂
Our only regret was that we’d gone to the earlier rounds. Since this was the semifinal, there wasn’t a lot of buzz outside of the stadiums. The weather didn’t help. Because we planned our trip around having Australia Day in Sydney, and meeting up with friends while they were on school holidays, it’s just the way it had to be.
Leaving Melbourne Park after Murray’s win was a walk full of SO many people — and tons of Canadian flags– Raonic sure had the fans in attendance. We walked briskly back to the hotel room since we had an early morning AND because my parents were stuck in our room holding down the fort.
Yarra Valley – a short day trip from Melbourne
The next morning we were at the front desk bright and early to meet our scheduled tour. We’d booked a Wild Wombat Winery tour so we could see more of the Yarra Valley. At a cost of $175 AUD per adult (approx $122 USD) and free for kids, it was an expensive option, but we avoided the drama of having to pick up a rental van. Now there were 8 of us, since my Aussie bff, Briony, flew to Melbourne to join us.
We were given a 12-passenger van (an Aussie Yoder Toter, YES), and so we had plenty of room to spread out. The children weren’t required to be in car seats, which was nice, but also a little scary at times! The first thing the guide said to us was, “I’ve never had children on a winery tour.” Ahhhh. The thing was, we weren’t all about seeing the wineries, we really just wanted to get a feel for the region.
Our first stop was Coombe Yarra Valley, once the Australian home for famous opera singer, Nellie Melba. The adjoining Melba Estate looks like the perfect place to enjoy high tea- or a wedding reception. Next we popped in to Warratina Lavender Farm. While the lavender had been harvested about a month earlier, the place still offered beautiful views and delicious snacks. We tried the lavender scones and lavender milkshake and I was pleasantly surprised 1.) that you could eat lavender! and 2.) that they tasted good.
It was about lunchtime now, even though we’d just gobbled up our morning tea (i.e. brunch), but our guide drove us to Immerse Winery where we enjoyed a tasting and probably one of the best meals of my life. When we walked in, Briony and I looked at each other and said, “Um, can we eat here with kids?” because there was so much glass, but our kids really rose to the occasion and were well-behaved for our wined-and-dined experience.
After lunch we could have all used a NAP, but our guide assured us that the next place was worth the stop. Not only were the views at Sutherland Estate the perfect backdrop for photos, on the way up the hill we spotted an echidna IN THE WILD. This is rare, folks. Echidnas are like Aussie porcupines, except they have a long snout.
The yard at Sutherland was also perfect for the kids to run around and burn off their carb-laden lunch. Because of this winery’s hilltop beauty and distance from the road, I’d definitely stop here again! Tip: You must try the tempranillo- I took mine all the way to Tassie.
Our last stop was the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. This stop was very family-friendly. I mean, what says kids more than sweets? The Chocolaterie also had rugby and soccer balls in the yard for the kids (and big kids) to enjoy. The ice cream was rich and creamy- I didn’t take a chance with the Vegemite chocolates. That’s where I draw the line!
What may have been the biggest drama of our travels was that my dad actually lost his cell phone at the Chocolaterie. The tour company, Wild Wombat, helped us so much with this– and I’d recommend them to other travelers.
The next morning we had cake for breakfast, thanks to this big guy’s 6th birthday…then we headed to the airport for our flight to Hobart. Until we meet again, Melbourne. There’s still so much more to explore.
TIPS FOR YOUR STAY IN MELBOURNE:
We flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Virgin Australia. The one-way tickets were about $97 AUD per person including the credit card fee, and we didn’t have to pay extra for bags and snacks like you do on JetStar. I would fly Virgin again.
Upon arrival in Melbourne, we caught the Skybus from the airport to the Southern Cross station. Once at Southern Cross, the service provides a shuttle to the hotel. This was quick and seamless, the only drama we had was getting the double stroller 4 bags 3 kids on and off of the bus. The price was about $45 AUD for our family which was cheaper than a taxi — and the bus had free WiFi!
We stayed at the Quest on William. The Quest on William features serviced apartments in a close proximity to the city. The rates were reasonable, and we were able to easily reach tourist areas such as the Southbank, Federation Square, and the Queen Vic Market. The cost was about $1100 AUD ($800 USD) for 4 nights, which was more than we typically like to spend, but we were there during the Australian Open and we chose to get a 2 bedroom instead of having 4 nights with the kids on top of us (you can’t put a cost on sanity. ;)) I would definitely stay here if I found myself in Melbourne again. There were two 7/11s within walking distance and we were able to save money by buying breakfast cereals, juice, and milk and eating in the room. We also ordered in pizza one night. So what we may have paid extra for accommodation, we made up for it in the cost of food. Check current rates!
Last, but not least, tickets to the semi-final of the Australian Open aren’t easy to get, so I’d like to thank our Aussie friend, Louise, for sitting on hold for 90 minutes THE DAY THEY WERE RELEASED to secure us some amazing seats. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You Aussies sure do always show us the most hospitality.
Have you been to Melbourne? The Yarra Valley? Maybe you’ve tried Vegemite chocolates?
*This post contains affiliate links, at no cost to you.
Oh, Melbourne. When we began planning our family trip to Australia the husband made one condition- if we were spending the big bucks to take a family of five Down Under, we’d 1.) Go in summer and 2.) Go to the Australian Open. Knowing those two stipulations, we knew we’d go in January and we’d have to make a stop in Melbourne. While I’d been to Melbourne with my parents in 2006, this was Mr YT’s first trip to the second largest city in Australia.
On our first full day in Melbourne we spent the morning catching up on correspondence and enjoying our spacious digs while we waited for some showers to pass. Here’s the walking tour we created that will give you a small taste of what Melbourne has to offer. NOTE: I’ve based this trek on staying at the Quest on William hotel on William St. However, you can use my map and just depart from wherever you’d like. That said, I loved the hotel. It was by no means “fancy,” but having a 2-bedroom apartment with all the amenities of home (Heellooo washer and dryer) was exceptional.
William Street is mostly offices and bank buildings, but head south towards the South Bank. The kids (and Daddy) were excited about going up in a “big, big tower” to view the city from a different perspective. The Eureka Skydeck is is on the 88th floor of the highest residential tower in the Southern Hemisphere. On top of that, the elevator takes you from the main floor to the skydeck in just 38 seconds- holy ear popping! Once you’re 300 meters (984 ft) above the city you have a superb view of not only the city, but the mountains to the northeast and the ocean to the south! If you want to add on to your walking tour, this is a great way to get an extra perspective of the things your family will want to see.
We exited the Eureka Tower just in time for the clouds to cover over and a brief rainstorm. We sought cover from Flinders Street station, but I don’t recommend crossing over the Yarra River there, because the walkway has lots of stairs and it’s definitely NOT stroller friendly. Instead, cross at the St Kilda Road bridge, or, if you’re getting tired, you can take the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle Bus Route from the Arts Centre of Melbourne and get off at Federation Square. Either way, you must get a good look at Flinders Street Station, as it’s one of the most iconic buildings in Melbourne.
Once you’re in Federation Square, feel free to pop a squat and enjoy some serious people-watching. Our kids were famished (and I was a little hangry myself), so we hit up Mr Burger’s food truck for some seriously delicious burgers and fries. FYI- the burgers are huge- our kids (all three) split one kids meal. Federation Square is home to a giant telly (as the Aussies say) and we were eager to catch up on what was happening at the Australian Open.
After crossing off Federation Square and Flinders Street Station, you can easily cross Flinders Street and enjoy the history and architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It may not be the best place for kids (they ask for quiet- oye!) but they do have a little table with a few coloring books if you have children that will sit still for a few minutes. We just made a quick look around the parameter of the sanctuary. I know everyone says, “you’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all,” but I don’t easily tire of the amazing structures men built before modern construction
From the Cathedral, you’ll head up Swanston Street through City Square. This is a well-trafficked area and another great place to people-watch. If you’re desperate for a taste of home, there is also a Starbucks and McDonald’s (aka Maccas)- and what says “family travel” more than a Happy Meal. Lol.
By this time our kiddos were starting to lose their minds a little- another reality of traveling with small children- excursions must be short OR include a time to nap. We headed back to our place, but first wanted to take in a little window shopping on Collins Street. Now, Collins in not the type of place you take 3 raggedy children after a long day, but if you just want to JUST window shop, it works. If you’d like to do some more family-friendly shopping, ignore my map and travel one more square to the Bourke Street mall. This is not an enclosed “mall” like we think of in America, but an area where the road is closed off to traffic where big-name Aussie stores like David Jones or Myer reside.
So that’s our walking tour of Melbourne! Have you been to Melbourne before? What would you recommend?
If you’re looking for a beautiful park to add a picnic lunch to your day, I highly recommend Fitzroy Gardens. We just ran out of time on this trip and didn’t make it there.
A well-known escape for those from Sydney and the Hunter Valley– Port Stephens is a tropical oasis about 2.5 hours north of Sydney. The Port Stephens region is a haven for local travels, but caters to the overseas visitors as well (ahem, me!).
I’ve been to Port Stephens, which includes the towns of Hawks Nest, Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay, and more, many times. I celebrated the New Year of 2001 on the curb in Shoal Bay, watching fireworks light up the sky, and Brian and I visited in pre-kid2006 when we took a dolphin watch tour. While much of visiting “The Bay” as the locals call it, revolves around the water, you can easily find things to do in the mild winter (as many of the things we’ve done can also be done in winter).
“The Bay” is actually 2.5 times the size of Sydney Harbour. It’s a much shallower harbour, though, so it’s perfect for dolphin-spotting and kayaking. You could easily visit for a long weekend, but one week would be even better.
Here are four things we did that would be perfect for your family, too:
Hike up Tomaree Head for a fantastic view of Port Stephens
If you want to do something that will not disappoint- hike up the Tomaree Head lookout. Now, I’ll be honest, we did not do this with our kids. The hike is STEEP. I think 5 and up could handle it but Jackson was happy to stay behind. So we headed out sans kids for a little quiet (and peace!).
The trail head is just south of Shoal Bay and will take you about 20 minutes to ascend if you’re going at a reasonable pace. My calves were BURNING and I asked my husband kindly to slow the heck down. 😉 The views at the top are really unbelievable. You’ll see this shot of Zenith Beach all over Pinterest (not mine, but in general) because well, it’s just that gorgeous. To the south you can also see Fingal Bay and the spit.
To the north is Hawks Nest and your view extends inland as well as out to the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also see lots and lots of spiders. These golden orbs aren’t poisonous, but they are everywhere. “Kindly” ask your husband to stop pointing them out. Ha!
Take a boat ride
There are many options for gliding across the pristine waters, most of them take off from the marina at Nelson Bay. Kayak rentals and tours are available, plus whale watching (May to Nov) and dolphin spotting (year round).
This past trip we took the ferry from Nelson Bay to Tea Gardens. This can also double as a dolphin-spotting trip although the region had just had lots of rain and the water was not ideal for them.
From Tea Gardens you can visit Hawks Nest (gorgeous beaches) or do like we did, and have lunch at the pub and turnaround! If the kids are along, the Tea Gardens Hotel has a courtyard with playground equipment. So order your food, let the kids play a little, and enjoy your stopover.
Visit Oakvale Farm
From floral and fauna to the FARM? Huh? That’s right. Oakvale Farm is located in Salt Ash, right at on the cusp of the Port Stephens region. I didn’t really know what to expect, and sadly, I wasn’t that excited because Newsflash: we have plenty of farms in Ohio! But I was pleasantly surprised because Oakvale Farm allows you to feed the kangaroos, pet a koala, and they also have reptile shows! It’s the perfect place to experience Australiana.
Our kids loved every minute- and the Thomas the Train- was like the icing on the cake.
Tip: Our friends had an Entertainment Book with a 25% off coupon. This saved us a substantial amount, so try to get your hands on one.
Beaches Beaches Beaches
It’s really a no-brainer, but throughout Port Stephens you’ll find plenty of perfect beaches for your family to put up the umbrella and then have a nice swim. The thing I love about the area is that so many of the beaches are sheltered, so with no waves to pummel them, they are perfect for swimming with kids.
We swam at Shoal Bay Beach and near Soldiers Point, but there were so many other places I wanted to visit. Fingal Bay is idyllic and if you’re wanting more of a surf, hit up Birubi Beach.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of Port Stephens, can you see why it’s my happy place?
Thanks again to Ron and Judy who took on our entire family at their beach house! xo We are so blessed with the best friends!
((I was not paid by anyone to blog about Port Stephens. Now, if someone would like to pay for me to visit again, I’d kindly oblige.))
I read so many things about Hobart before we visited, and truth be told, it did not disappoint. The city of approximately 218,000 people is a small, desirable place. Hobart is easy to navigate, traffic is light, and while our accommodation and rental car were by no means cheap, Hobart is worth the trip!
Here is my guide for travel in the city of Hobart- with kids.
The main tourist centers in Hobart are Battery Point, Salamanca Place, and Franklin Wharf. The city is walkable. Your best bet may be to secure parking near Salamanca Place and spend the day on foot (just don’t get a parking ticket like us).
We were visiting as a 3-generation family- my parents, my husband and I, and our three kids- so we parked at Battery Point and explored and then drove down to Salamanca Place and parked again. This allowed us to walk the length of Salamanca Place and through the Wharf area.
Battery Wharf is a darling part of the city. Evoking the Australia of old, the stone homes and quaint shops feel like alittle like you’ve gone back to England. Battery Point takes up the southern part of the city’s harbour where the houses were built by the owners and sailors of the shipyards.
We strolled up and down Hampden Road to get a good look at the Federation and colonial style cottages and shops. The Jackman and McRoss bakery looked ah-mazing (we had just eaten!) and the there were plenty of lodging options. My mom is a florist, so we enjoyed all the blooming hydrangeas and roses, while noticing all the minute details of each property- if you go, pay special attention to the door-knockers and fence colors.
Walking through Salamanca Point, it was easy to see why people love Hobart. I’m a sucker for a view with water AND history, and this gives you both.
This is the place to shop and eat, although the shopping was a little out of our price point! Pubs were-a-plenty and we settled upon a wonderful Irish Murphy’s pub, and not just because they had this hilarious sign!
Once you walk the length of Salamanca Place (going north), head east toward Franklin Wharf. This is a winsome walk on a sunny day. THIS is when I was ready to give up life in Ohio (not a hard decision) and move to the edge of the southern hemisphere.
If the kids have anything left, go all the way to Hunter St.
If you make it this far, they’ll get to see statues of penguins and seals and a dog. This is something to promise! Or at least promise chips (french fries) from Mures Fish Centre. They were cheap, and the view can’t be beat. Just watch for the blood-sucking, french-fry eating seagulls. We saw a few servers trying all they could to remove patron’s food without a bird strike.
**We actually did not walk the full length on the first day. (You know that point when the kids have hit THE POINT). But we came back a few days later and parked next to the Tasmanian Museum (Davey St), so we could walk to the Old Wharf near Victoria Dock (see map below which is titled, “Why Leah shouldn’t do graphics. ever.”)**
Those are my best tips for a walking tour, here’s the nitty gritty of where we stayed and how much we paid!
Getting there: Hobart airport is itty-bitty. If you’re coming from Melbourne or Sydney, you’ll be sure you’ve stepped back in time! Hobart only offers domestic flights, and is serviced by Qantas, JetStar, Tiger Air, and Virgin Australia. We flew in on JetStar on a one-way ticket from Melbourne and left the island with Qantas, who was also our international carrier. Our one way flight from Melbourne on JetStar was approximately $90 USD per person, this included a prepaid checked bag for each of us and a $5 credit toward a snack onboard.
Boarding JetStar at Melbourne is not very convenient with kids. The JetStar terminal is a long walk from security and you’re not allowed to take a stroller because you board on the tarmac. Just something to think about. For us, the cost savings in flying to Hobart was worth it. The price of Tiger Air was comparable, but Tiger Air definitely has a bad reputation down under.
Getting around:You must have a rental car in Tasmania!Hobart has plenty of rental car choices right at the airport. We chose Europcar for it’s affordability. We needed a 7-passenger vehicle and so, just like home, we reserved a minivan! Renting a minivan for 5 days was almost as expensive as the flights, we paid about $800 AUD ($610 USD), which included the cost of the GPS unit. The GPS unit was a worthwhile expense, we would have been lost without it (pun intended)! If you’re looking at a smaller vehicle, you’ll find much better deals.
Getting some sleep: I want to go back to Hobart just to rent the same house. No joke. We stayed in a rental just south of Hobart in Sandy Bay. I found the place on airbnb and it was even better than expected. Our rate for 5 nights was $1600 USD, which is a LOT, but we shared some of that expense with my parents AND we had a full backyard with a playset for the kids!
We definitely saved money on eating out by having sandwiches for lunches and having a bbq for dinner one night. The view was unbeatable, too. Here’s a picture from my phone of the view from the dining room table, looking out over the Derwent River:
How did the kids do? What worked well? What would I change?
It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back from Australia for 6 weeks. Time travels quickly! While things are still fresh in my mind, I thought I would review our trip in the hopes that it would help others planning a trip Down Under, but also to serve as a future reference for myself!
How did the kids do?
Despite the jokes before our departure that we were “gluttons for punishment” and braver than the masses, the kids did exceptionally well on the flights. The trip over went so smoothly. We arrived in Dallas with about 2 hours until our connecting flight. This served as a very quick turnaround considering we needed to change terminals, eat something, and change the kids into their jammies (in hindsight we could have done this on the plane). We heard Qantas reps offering premium economy over the loudspeaker so we asked at the gate if there was a chance they could upgrade all 7 of us (Did you know my parents went, too?). The gate agent told us there was no premium economy, but for $250 TOTAL he would give us a row across of 10 seats! SOLD! This was really a brilliant upgrade. Qantas made some extra money and we were assured that no one could try to squeeze into our space.
The kids were extremely excited to have their own TVs and remotes, and after a few hours they hunkered down with their blankies and fell asleep. The flight from Dallas was about 16.5 hours (although scheduled for 17). They woke up with nearly 5 hours to go and were entertained by Transformers, Peppa Pig, and the like. Kudos to my mom for packing some Lucky Charms because C chomped down on them while waiting for breakfast service. I will say, Qantas has exemplary safety records and comfortable planes, but their food service could use a 1-up. I had to go scouting for a cup of coffee about 14 hours into the flight. It seemed like the food/beverage service was pretty non-exist from hour 4 to hour 14.
The first day in Australia we were all walking zombies and in bed by 7 pm. The first morning the kids were up bright and early at 4:45. The next day they made it to 5:45 am. The first week was full of early mornings as they adjusted to the time change. January is summer Down Under so it was daylight for much longer, whereas we’d just come from darkness at 5:30 pm. Overall though, sleep was not an issue with the kids. They shared a space everywhere we traveled and we only had a few nights where we had to tell them to settle down!
Probably my favorite part was seeing my sociable oldest make so many new friends. Our last trip to Australia was in 2008 and since then, most everyone has had babies! He is still talking about his new buddies. Probably the most heart-warming thing he said to me was just a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about the trip and I was lamenting how much I miss Australia he said to me, “Mommy, the problem is we have friends in Australia and here. When we are here we miss them but if we move there we will miss our friends here.” He is wise beyond his years.
What would I change?
Is there a way this mom of three could make airport security non-existent? Ha. I love the idea of airport security because it makes us safer, however, going through security SIX times in 3 weeks was A LOT. Even though we packed light, we didn’t pack light enough and there just weren’t enough hands to manage our luggage and the kids. Our family packed 2 medium suitcases and 4 carry-ons and a camera bag However, my mom and dad each had a suitcase and carry-on so no one really had a hand free to push the stroller or hold a tired kiddo. Thank goodness we could hang some of the carry-ons from the stroller! Then to go through security we’d have to pull out the laptop, the toiletries, and fold-up the stroller. C holds on to her monkey and blankie ALL DAY and each time they’d take it off of us to put through the machines so on top of it all, I’d have a crying, cranky 2 yr old. I realize this is totally a #firstworldproblem, but it definitely tested my patience, and made getting through the airports always the most stressful time of our trip.
In hindsight, I think we would have changed our itinerary to include driving from Sydney to Melbourne. I know this would have added two days of travel, but we could have avoided the drama of getting through Sydney airport. It would have also given us a chance to see some of Australia we’ve never visited before. In fact, when we go back (it’s not an if) we hope to road trip the entire time.
We’re so thankful that one of the families we know in Australia allowed us to borrow their 7-passenger SUV while we were in the Hunter Valley. This saved us money and was a huge convenience. It even made the time we spent visiting host families more like being “home.”
It wasn’t really an option, because our total trip was 23 days, but I would have loved two or three more days in Tasmania. I underestimated how much there was to see and our 4 days there really only allowed us to explore Hobart, Port Arthur, and Richmond. I guess that’s just another reason to go back?!
What worked well?
Again, the kids did so well. And we lucked out on the weather because NSW had it’s rainiest January but it usually happened on a down day or in the morning before our plans. I think the most important thing for us was having the kids in a separate room– except for our accommodation in Sydney. Being able to put the kids to bed and then have our own space is important to us. Luckily in Sydney my parents got a connecting room and so still were able to do this– even though it wasn’t long until we went to bed after walking 7 miles on Australia Day.
I think one of the reasons things went well is because we stayed 3+ nights at every stop and did not expect the kids to do repeated early mornings or late nights. What we missed out in sightseeing opportunities, we made up for in sanity. 😉 In the past year of traveling with the kids, the most important thing I’ve learned is, whatever your expectations are…lower them. Ha! It’s true though, if you go into a travel experience just hoping to have a great time with the ones you love, you’ll usually have a good time. If you go into it hoping to cross of x amount of destinations and experiences, you’ll probably leave disappointed. Most important for us was having time to spend with my host families and friends and then getting to experience some new things like Australia Day, the Australian Open, and Tasmania. Beyond that, I didn’t have a clear list of to-dos.
Our flight schedules worked well until the last day when our flight was cancelled from Sydney to Dallas and we were rerouted from Melbourne to LAX. From Los Angeles, they had Brian and I on two different flights! Yikes! I spent two hours in Melbourne getting us all on the same flight, which actually worked for the better. However, we had two hours in LAX to clear customs, go through security again, then walk a mile to a new terminal. It was hectic! We had no relax time and the four hours from LAX- Columbus were not the best. I may have been more cranky than the kids! I didn’t have time to upload new shows or anything for the kids and they were hungry (or maybe more truthful, hangry!). Nonetheless. we made it back in one piece after 28 hours of travel!
Probably the hardest part of the entire trip was once we returned home. Jet lag is legit! While we didn’t feel it so much on the way there, it took the kids a solid week to return to normal. The first night I was watching cartoons with Jackson and C at 3 am. The next night was 1 am. I felt bad for feeding my baby dinner at 9 pm, but boy were our bodies messed up. I did enjoy those few days of sleeping in until noon. That was a first since becoming a mother!
Overall, the trip exceeded our expectations. We loved seeing our kids play with our kids’ friends and growing their bond with my Aussie bff. We saw more beautiful places and had some wonderful experiences. We were truly blessed to take this vacation with our family. And, thanks to a great exchange rate and friends who abundantly took care of us for the 10 days in Maitland, we were able to come home WAY under budget! Woohoo!
Have you taken a major trip with your kids? How did it go? Did your kids get excited about the bells and whistles on the plane? What do you do to keep them entertained?
Ever since returning from my year as an exchange student, I was kicking myself for not attending Australia Day in Sydney! Australia Day is regarded as a party day for Aussies the same way Americans regard the 4th of July. Being in Sydney for Australia Day is truly a Bucket List experience.
One added benefit of going to Australia Day in Sydney was that for the past few years, the date has included a special free performance by The Wiggles. The tickets are free, but are given out on a draw. We were lucky enough to secure tickets through a friend!
At the close of the Wiggles concert, we found ourselves in the perfect locale, as Sydney Harbour is the centerpiece for the Australia Day programming.
The Salute to Australia began at 12 pm from the HMAS ADELAIDE. After a singing of the Australian National Anthem and “We are Australia,” there was a 21 Gun Salute in North Sydney and an aerial flyover of the RAAF fighter jets. (As a side note, I should have read the program about the jets because my word it scared the daylights out of Jackson and I)!
After the jets came a pair of helicopters which I was sure were going to crash into the Sydney Harbour Bridge and plunged everyone into the sea (no anxiety here, folks)! Their maneuverings were quite spectacular- but not for the faint of heart!
Maybe our favorite part of the ceremony was when the Qantas Airbus A380 did a flyover of the bridge and the Sydney Opera House. We’d just arrived 11 days earlier on the same aircraft, so it was neat to see the giant from below.
After a quick lunch at the Western Foyer bar, we returned back to the water’s edge to watch the Tall Ships as they race from Bradleys Head to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This iconic view is just what my mind went to when I thought of spending Australia Day in Sydney, now my only wish was that we’d been on the northern side of Harbour (just for the race, not the entire day), as we would have had a better vantage point. At the conclusion of the tall ships race, we returned to our hotel for a short rest and respite from the sun!
Darling Harbour was another hub for Australia Day action, so after a rest we headed over to check out all of the hoopla. The evening activities in Darling Harbour were to include a live DJ and a fireworks spectacular. Unfortunately, after a full day in the sun, the heavy crowds of people were a little disheartening. Instead we chose to exit Darling Harbour and find a quiet spot for dinner. This was one of those times when traveling with three little kids meant plans sometimes change. The enormity of spectators, and our level of exhaustion from a full day in the sun, took a toll.
My top tips for visiting Sydney on Australia Day:
If possible, go the night before. You’ll want to be in the city early in the day to begin your time at the festivities, so why not travel in the night before when crowds are few and enjoy a leisurely evening? There were many kiosks along Circular Quay with Visitor Information and event listings. We grabbed a map and schedule for the next day so we could plan ahead.
Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. At midday, there’s really no shade near the Opera House or Circular Quay. Most Aussies know the sunscreen/hat deal, but us Yankees totally underestimate the Australian sun.
Be strategic with your hotel. We stayed at the Sydney Harbour Marriott (Check current rates). While expensive, the location in relation to Circular Quay can not be beat. When traveling with small children, you need a place that’s easy to access for naps and rest. If you have littles, ask for a tub at time of check-in. Our room only had a shower.
Water. Water. Water.
A stroller is a necessity. The sidewalks of Sydney are handicap accessible. The only place we had an issue was in the Historic Rocks area where we got off of the beaten track and had to carry the stroller down a large flight of stairs. Around Sydney Harbour (Circular Quay) and Darling Harbour there are plenty of lifts (elevators) to get you where you need to go.
The Opera House was open for the use of restrooms. This was convenient– and necessary. 🙂
I’d be amiss if I didn’t discuss the controversy surrounding Australia Day. Australia Day commemorates the anniversary of Captain Arthur Phillip’s possession of New South Wales and raising the British flag over the bay in Sydney. Many Indigenous Australians refer to this day as “Invasion Day” and believe it was the day that they losts the rights to their land and culture. Throughout Sydney, Aboriginal programming was also taking place. You can learn more HERE.
It’s only 6 months til we are “wheels down” in Australia.
If you’re new here, you may not realize that I was an exchange student to Australia. Actually 15 years ago (this Friday) I took my first ever flight to Australia for what would begin a year away from my family and friends. It was a fantastic time and I as much as I loved the scenery and the FOOD (secret- I weighed less after baby #3 than I did after a year in Oz thankyouverymuch host mummy), the people and relationships were the best part!
I’m super excited to share for #WishfulWednesday that we have MOST of our Australia itinerary finally cemented! It’s been a dream of mine since having Jackson to visit Down Under with our children and have them meet all of our friends and families. I’m also ready to introduce them to koalas, kangaroos, Lamingtons, and meat pies.
While most of where we are visiting I have been before, Melbourne will be new for Brian and I’m so thrilled we’ll be visiting Tasmania for the first time.
Here is a short recap of our itinerary:
Arrive Sydney and travel to Maitland, NSW
10 days total in the Hunter Valley region visiting with friends, sitting on the beach (Port Stephens), and hoping our children adjust to their new time zone!
Spend 2 days in Sydney for Australia Day – Not only are there tall ships in the Harbour and a fireworks display on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but a certain “Wiggly” group frequents the Australia Day celebration. I may be as excited as the kids!
Next we’re off to Melbourne for 4 nights and the main reason for visiting here is to take in the Australian Open. It has been a dream of Brian’s to see a major tennis tournament so we’re working on getting tickets (they open up in August) and hopefully we’ll get to see one of our favorites at Rod Laver Arena.
Our trip will end in Hobart, Tasmania and from here we’re hoping to explore Freycinet National Park and Port Arthur before returning home.
We’ll be on the ground in Australia for 3 weeks! There will be at least 7 plane rides and countless train, bus and ferries as well.
Everyone I’ve spoken to thinks we are nuts for taking such a long plane trip with three little ones, but I say “go big or go home” and hey, who else is going to take the LONGEST FLIGHT IN THE WORLD from Dallas to Sydney for 17 HOURS unless they are a little crazy?!
Anyone have any tips for a 17 hour plane trip? Maybe you have been to Australia? Maybe you just like Outback Steakhouse? I’d love to hear!