When a family trip is the journey, not the destination

What a view! The vista from The Nut, Stanley.
What a view! The vista from The Nut, Stanley.

This article is sponsored by Cradle Coast Authority

When going on a family holiday, sometimes it can be hard to relax until you’re reclined in a deck chair with a piping hot mug (or crisp cold glass!) in hand. The logistics of getting the family ‘away’ on a jet set holiday can be compounded by grumpy early morning starts, time trials for airport check ins and facing a heartfelt plea from Miss 8 to bring the family pet.

Conversely, the beauty of the self-drive holiday lies in the flexibility. When you decide to road trip, you’re holidaying on your own schedule – and you can take as little or as long as you’d like. Pack up the car, put the passenger-side spouse in charge of navigation and cruise at your own speed. There’s certainly plenty to see along the way in the glorious Cradle Coast region of Tasmania. 

It’s a short few hours from Launceston and Hobart, but instead of driving direct to your destination, enjoy the journey along the way. Roaming local gives you the freedom to wind and weave your way there, stopping at idyllic coastal spots, delicious foodie havens and off-the-beaten-track accommodation.

Pile the kids in and explore Tasmania's own picturesque North West this school holidays.

Pile the kids in and explore Tasmania's own picturesque North West this school holidays.

A quick road trip checklist: 

  • To avoid squabbling about clashing musical tastes, mix up the road trip with a live set from a favourite comedian (Ellen DeGeneres and Jim Gaffigan are family-friendly), or dive into a podcast together (This American Life gives a heads up whenever the subject matter is sensitive to young ears). 
  • Packed a mini first-aid kit with some necessities. Pain killers, sunscreen, anti-nausea tablets, lip balm and wet wipes for snacking hands are all useful additions.
  • Keep some wet weather gear on hand in case the heavens open; a few lightweight ponchos, a couple of umbrellas and parkas all may come in handy.
  • Ensure your technology is charged by bringing along a smart phone cord for the car, and a battery pack if there’s multiple devices. Navigation and multimedia can really wear down a phone’s battery. 

Hike up The Nut, Stanley

Stanley's The Nut, an unusually-shaped formation that was once a volcano. Image: Tim Bowden

Stanley's The Nut, an unusually-shaped formation that was once a volcano. Image: Tim Bowden

Kids will be impressed to hear The Nut was once an active volcano. The sheer-sided bluff is 152 metres above sea level, and is so-named for its unusual shape. 

Visitors can follow a walking track to see the top, which takes around 45 minutes depending on your pace, and be rewarded by some truly amazing views across the turquoise coast of the Bass Strait. 

See a Tasmanian devil up close at Wings Wildlife Park, Gunns Plains

Time your arrival to midday and head along to the Tasmanian devil feedings at 1pm. These adorable little critters are only found in the wild in Tasmania and are known for their enthusiam when feeding. Or say hello to some cuddly koalas, meerkats or reptiles with presentations running during the day. 

Wings Wildlife Park attendant Nicole Mason and senior keeper Tracey Lane with the three baby devils. Picture: Jason Hollister.

Wings Wildlife Park attendant Nicole Mason and senior keeper Tracey Lane with the three baby devils. Picture: Jason Hollister.

Wings Wildlife Park is also home to wombats, wallabies, quolls, sugar-gliders, wedge-tail eagles, reptiles, meerkats, marmosets, monkeys, bison, camels and more. Most of their inhabitants have been rescued following injury, and they are released back into the wild when they’re well and happy again. 

Ride a steam train at Don River 

Park the car in the plentiful surrounding parking and jump aboard the Don River Railway, a thirty minute ride in a traditional steam train along the riverbank of the Don River. It’s Tasmania’s own Hogwarts Express – the fully restored carriage is a step back in time and a great opportunity for a tea and coffee break for the parents. 

All aboard! Take a step back in time on the Don River Railway.

All aboard! Take a step back in time on the Don River Railway.

Families can also check our the extensive workshop and museum, with historical railway artifacts and photos, including a coin-operated model train that the kids will love.

Eat chocolate-covered raspberries at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe

Tempt the kids with some healthy-ish treats at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe including their famed chocolate-covered raspberries. The Farm Shop offers complementary tastings of all manner of raspberry products. 

Raspberries galore at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe

Raspberries galore at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe

Or head to the cafe and check out other delicious options on their kids menu, including raspberry waffles, raspberry pancakes and raspberry spiders. Bundle up next to the roaring fire with your raspberry goodies and check out the view – the cafe offers a beautiful view of the lake. 

Get weird at Tazmania and The Village of Lower Crackpot, Promised Land

Tazmania is a lot of things: a maze complex, a mini model village, a cafeteria and a gift shop. There are eight hedge mazes to get totally lost in, including the Great Maze, one of the world’s largest botanical mazes. Or you can wander through the Village of Lower Crackpot, a fanciful artwork in the form of a small-scale village. 

It's enough to get you lost - one of the hedge mazes at Tazmania and The Village of Lower Crackpot

It's enough to get you lost - one of the hedge mazes at Tazmania and The Village of Lower Crackpot

There are all sorts of quirky novelties sprinkled around every corner; Tazmania and The Village of Lower Crackpot prides itself on being a ‘politically incorrect’ experience, sure to get the kids giggling. 

Kits of all ages will enjoy the unusual mini village - and adults will enjoy the wry humour around each corner.

Kits of all ages will enjoy the unusual mini village - and adults will enjoy the wry humour around each corner.

Dive into yesteryear at Highfields House Historic Site

In 1826, European colonists sailed to the remote north-western region of Tasmania and were met by land covered in an almost impenetrably thick forest. The Van Dieman’s Land Company established their pastoral company, a company which would go on to drastically change the future of the area. 

Highfields House Historic Site is a relic of a bygone era, but restorations have opened up the site to the public.

Highfields House Historic Site is a relic of a bygone era, but restorations have opened up the site to the public.

In 1834, a stately home for the chief agent of Van Dieman’s Land Company was established on the property known as Highfields House. The structure has braved almost two centuries of ravaging from the elements to stand today. Restorations on the property have turned it into a homage to the birthplace of settlement in the Cradle Coast region, and families can wander through the iconic site to explore the history of this pioneering era.

In June, July and August, the site is open Monday to Friday from 9:30am - 4:30pm, though closed weekends.

Enjoy a bite and a sip at Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory, Sassafras 

If you’re looking to stop and relax for a couple of hours, there’s hardly a more picturesque spot than the Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory. The art deco structure with its huge arched windows was once a greenhouse and has been lovingly renovated. The restaurant is flush with life, with the surrounding exterior flora extending inside to hanging fern fronds and the light-filled timber dining area. 

There's plenty of space in The Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory, who offer breakfast, lunch and on special occasions, dinner.

There's plenty of space in The Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory, who offer breakfast, lunch and on special occasions, dinner.

Grown ups can enjoy a smorgasbord of cheese, charcuterie and pate, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon, while the kids can gorge on the iced cakes and muffins that adorn the counter. Pick up some Brunny Island or Bay of Fire cheese, locally made jam or even some Lark Distillery whisky as delicious souvenirs from your family road trip. 

Once a greenhouse, the striking venue is now a celebration of food and flora.

Once a greenhouse, the striking venue is now a celebration of food and flora.

When it’s time to kick up those driving feet and settle in, there’s some incredible accommodation on offer in Tasmania’s North West.

This article is sponsored by Cradle Coast Authority

This story When a family trip is the journey, not the destination first appeared on The Advocate.