Family Fun in Tasmania

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Family Fun in Tasmania
Friendly locals, endless open spaces, quirky history, and some of the most unique animals on the planet make Tasmania a great choice for family travel. Boat tours, zip lines, penguin encounters, and hands-on dairy farms are all within a day’s drive.
By Serena Renner, AFAR Contributor
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hartshorn/Tourism Tasmania
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    Fun at the Farm
    Tasmanian farms are not only producing fantastic food products; they also provide fun visitor experiences. At Grandvewe Cheeses in Middleton, about 45 minutes south of Hobart, guests can watch sheep-milking demonstrations (October through March), taste award-winning cheeses, and visit “Sheep Hilton,” where the baby lambs live. Old Mac’s Farm and Fishery near Launceston offers fly-fishing lessons and access to a lake stocked with rainbow trout. Families can also paddleboat, canoe, barbecue, picnic, go on a horseback ride, and pick strawberries when they’re in season.
    Photo courtesy of Ryan Hartshorn/Tourism Tasmania
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    Unique Animal Encounters
    In Tasmania, guides facilitate some of the most memorable animal encounters. The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, about 30 minutes north of Hobart, is Tasmania’s only 24-hour animal rescue service. Visitors can interact with recovering wombats, Tasmanian devils, quolls, koalas, and emus, and hand-feed them during behind-the-scenes tours. The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo near Port Arthur offers similar experiences, including regular Tasmanian devil feedings. From October through March in Burnie, families should join a free tour with Friends of Burnie Penguins and learn fun facts about fairy penguins—like how they sleep four minutes at a time. Closer to Launceston, Platypus House is the place to see platypuses and echidna.
    Photo courtesy of Devils at Cradle/Tourism Tasmania
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    Offbeat Road Stops
    One of the most exciting things about Tasmania is the sheer number of surprises. Mole Creek Karst National Park offers three educational cave tours, one of which visits the largest display of glowworms in Australia. From there, head to Cradle Mountain but don’t miss the town of Promised Land. Here, you’ll find Tasmazia, a complex of eight mazes (complete with secret passageways and mind tricks), a miniature village called Lower Crackpot, a pancake parlor serving over-the-top flapjacks, and a lavender farm. Even winetasting can be quirky. At Holm Oak Vineyards in the Tamar Valley, the mascot is a well-fed pig named Pinot; kids are encouraged to toss apples to him over the fence.
    Photo courtesy of Graham Freeman/Tourism Tasmania
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    Memorable Museums
    While the controversial MONA museum in Hobart may not seem like an obvious choice for kids (its most prominent themes are sex and death), many of the R-rated works can be avoided, leaving subterranean caverns filled with mind-bending installations such as a stinky model of the human digestive system that poops at 2:00 p.m. At least explore the grounds of the museum, home to sculptures, pyramids, and a giant trampoline. A safer choice for younger kids is the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, also in Hobart, which revealed a $30 million renovation in 2013. Exhibits focus on science, art, and history and have a special emphasis on Tasmania. Don’t miss the exhibit on the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, the object of much local lore.
    Photo courtesy of Graham Freeman/Tourism Tasmania
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    Explore Tasmania's History and Culture
    If you have to bribe the kids to do anything involving “history” or "culture" start with a visit to the House of Anvers, where staff produce gourmet chocolates in a beautiful and historic wooded property in Latrobe. The town of Sheffield and its surrounds began commissioning murals in the 1980s in an attempt to revive the economy; more than 60 murals depicting Tasmanian scenery and history are on display. Train fans won’t want to miss Don River Railway or Ida Bay Railway. And you can’t go to Australia without facing convict history. Port Arthur is Tasmania’s most famous prison site, and a variety of tours—including a lantern-lit ghost tour—are designed for families.
    Photo courtesy of Kathryn Leahy/Tourism Tasmania
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    Walk on the Wild Side
    If you have nature-loving little ones but don’t want to plan your own camping trip, Tasmania specializes in guided treks. The four-day Maria Island Walk has won many awards for its wilderness experience, which also touches on whaling, Aboriginal, and convict history. The landscape changes from Dr. Seuss–like rolling hills to the orange-and-white-striped Painted Cliffs to the rugged peaks of Mounts Maria, Bishop, and Clerk, though the trail stays pretty flat. By sunset, the island crawls with Forester kangaroos, Bennett's wallabies, wombats, spotted Cape Barren geese, and, if you’re lucky, Tasmanian devils. Alternatively, the Freycinet Experience Walk, on a peninsula just to the north, offers spectacular scenery and child discounts.
    Photo courtesy of Southern Cross Television/Tourism Tasmania
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    Kids and the Sea
    Life doesn’t get much better than bouncing in the breeze, exploring sea caves, and spotting dolphins, seals, shorebirds, and migrating whales. Pennicott Wilderness Journeys is well respected for quality ocean cruises and environmental responsibility—a percentage of proceeds goes toward conservation projects. The most popular tour is the Bruny Island Cruise, which visits a blowhole that appears to be breathing and takes you darting through a narrow rock passageway. Tasmanian Seafood Seduction is a newer offering, during which guests help catch oysters, mussels, sea urchin, abalone, and fish, which are cooked up for lunch. Fishing charters are available across the east, and casual casting can be enjoyed in many stunning locations.
    Photo courtesy of East Coast Cruises/Tourism Tasmania
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    Magic in the Markets
    The Salamanca Market, held Saturdays in Hobart, is one of the largest outdoor markets in Australia and features live entertainment and more than 300 food and craft vendors; kids will love sampling chocolates, jams, sausages, and more. The Sunday Farm Gate Market combines local food and music plus occasional children’s shows and face painting. The Saturday MONA market (late January to late March) features a tent where parents can drop off the young ones for crafts and Aboriginal storytelling. The Cygnet Market on the first and third Sundays of the month is another reason to take a day trip to the Huon Valley, also home to such family attractions as Huon Bush Retreats, the Tahune Airwalk, and the Franklin Wooden Boat Centre.
    Photo courtesy of Sean Fennessy/Tourism Tasmania
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    Family-Friendly Events
    If you’re afraid to go inside the polarizing MONA museum with kids, consider attending the MONA FOMA music and arts festival in January, or the winter version, Dark Mofo, in June. Children under 12 for MONA FOMA and under 16 for Dark Mofo are admitted free. The Cygnet Folk Festival, held in January, is one of the most well-known and longest-running music festivals in Australia. On Easter, Mural Fest takes over the already colorful town of Sheffield. Nine artists paint their version of the same theme on boards, which remain on display for the rest of the year. In late October or early November, the town of Deloraine hosts the largest craft fair in Australia, complete with artist demonstrations and circus performers.
    Photo courtesy of Alice Hansen/Tourism Tasmania
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    Adventures for All
    Tasmania’s natural attractions offer exhilarating experiences that will make kids fall in love with the outdoors. Hollybank Treetops Adventure in Launceston was the first zip line outfitter in Australia, and takes guests on a high-speed flight through eucalypt forest; kids 12 and older can also do a night zip line tour, which whisks them under the stars to glowing platforms. If you’re after something tamer, try the nearby Cataract Gorge walk or the chairlift that floats over the canyon. Cradle Mountain Canyon Tours encourages families to walk or float down the Lost World Canyon and do a couple rock jumps in between. Near the ancient Tarkine rain forest, you can visit a sinkhole, a swamp, and a maze before riding down a gigantic tube slide.
    Photo courtesy of Rob Burnett/Tourism Tasmania