Have I shared enough about my deep love for Tassie yet?
Here’s four things we did near Hobart- and because, like us, you’ve just invested in an airline ticket to cross the Pacific, and then another one to jump the Bass Strait, these things are FREE.
#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!)
#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 roadtrip 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.
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 in February- and it did not disappoint. The city of approximately 218,000 people is a small, desirable place. It’s easy to navigate, traffic is light, and while our accommodation and rental car were by no means cheap, Hobart is worth the trip!
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 a little 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 detail 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 beautiful walk on a sunny day. THIS is when I was ready to give up life in Ohio (Bahaha, 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 loonnggg 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:
I definitely have more to share from Hobart and Tasmania, but I need to go and buy this shirt. Lol.
Have you been to Tasmania? What did you think of Hobart?
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.