Six months pregnant, the holiday in Tasmania on our New Year Resolution List for 2019 was now our babymoon in January 2020. After travelling to more than 20 countries together as a couple, this was our last hurrah together before becoming responsible for a small human. The easiest way to get around Tasmania is by car, so we decided on a babymoon road trip in Tasmania.
How to get there
Flying into Hobart gives you the opportunity to hire a rental car, drive up the east coast and fly out of Launceston. Jetstar has direct flights to Hobart from Brisbane. Flight time is about 2.5 hours.
Where to stay
Favourite accommodation choices listed below:
- Beachend Bicheno for the views of the water, peace and quiet and access to the beach to see the fairy penguins – $145 per night via Booking.com
- Goat Island Bungalow in West Ulverstone for its nicely decorated private and plentiful space in a good location – $203 per night via Airbnb
Things to see and do
- Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart
- Mt Wellington in Hobart for sweeping views of the city below
- Salamanca Place in Battery Point for the markets every Saturday
- Richmond village including the oldest stone span bridge in Australia built using convict labour
- Bicheno to see the blowhole and fairy penguins waddle ashore when the sun goes down
- Glass bottom boat tour in Bicheno to see stingray, sharks, squid, seals and fish
- Freycinet National Park for a rewarding walk to see the views of Wineglass Bay
- Binalong Bay and Bay of Fires conservation area for endless stunning beaches
- St Columba Falls for a 600m walk to closer views of the mist, falls and stream below
- Bridestowe Lavender Farm
Where to eat and drink
- Bar Wa Izakaya in Hobart for its delicious Japanese food and unique decor
- Norman and Dann in Battery Point for handmade chocolates
- Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods at the Gulch for fresh seafood and outdoor area with water views
- Blue Edge Bakery in Bicheno for reasonably priced bakery delights
- Meresta at Binalong Bay for its food and views of the beach
- Pyengana dairy for ice-cream fresh from the dairy cows
- Renaessance in Penguin for breakfast
- Laneway in Devonport for lunch
Day 1 – MONA, Mt Wellington and Bar Wa Izakaya
Booked on a 6:30am Jetstar flight from Brisbane to Hobart, our alarms went off at 4:45am. Thirty minutes is what we allowed ourselves to get ready and out the door for a 5:15am Uber. It’s so good living near the airport! While I’m sure we probably booked the early flight for the cheaper price, we landed in Hobart at 10am (2.5 hours later with daylight savings) meaning we had the whole day to explore. And Harry desperately wanted to see MONA.
Still dressed for Brisbane, we took the opportunity while waiting for our car rental to change into jeans and jumper. It was cold in Hobart! Thrifty was our car rental company of choice, mostly because there were still some cars available at the time of booking via rentalcars.com. Upgraded to a Mitsubishi ASX from an Eclipse Cross meant nothing to us with our limited car knowledge, we were just happy to have a SUV for a comfortable six day road trip in Tasmania.
MONA is only a 30 minute drive from Hobart airport. It opens at 10am and by the time we got there at 11:30am the car park was already full. Thankfully there are plenty of parks along the road and the walk is quite pretty. It’s uphill, but you are rewarded with stunning views at the top, which kids can enjoy from the trampoline! Our favourites were the poo machine (mature, I know), the Egyptian mummy room in which only two people can go in at a time, the light bulbs that flash at the same time as your beating heart (mine was a little faster than Harry’s, might have been the baby!) and the section with live music (and seats for sore feet) with a colourful art wall backdrop.
After MONA we checked into our Airbnb in West Hobart, ‘the cottage’. It was small but cosy, perfect for us. After successfully manoeuvring our big car in and out of the long and narrow driveway, we drove to the delicatessen to pick up some local snacks. Back at our Airbnb, as it rained outside we sat on the bed and enjoyed our snack platter while Harry tried local beers and I tried local non-alcohol drinks. Hartz Sarsaparilla was my favourite! Snacks consumed, it was still raining outside so I had a power nap for 30 minutes before getting ready to go out.
As we started driving from our park on the street (not doing that driveway again), given we were still full of snacks we decided to drive up Mt Wellington instead of going straight to dinner. It takes about half an hour to get to the top. When we did, I opened the car door and was smacked in the face with the freezing wind. A few steps later in my jumper that was not warm enough, I turned around, got back in the car and starting driving down the mountain. Passing a toilet block and having a desperate need, we decided to go back to use the toilet and try again to get to the enclosed viewing area. Well, I’ve never sat on a colder toilet seat in my life! Stainless steel. Ice cold water from the taps to wash your hands. Not a good start to preparing for braving the weather but we made it to and from the viewing building. And could happily drive down the mountain knowing we had at least seen the view from the top.
Now onto dinner! Having consulted Google and reading reviews, our restaurant of choice was Bar Wa Izakaya, Japanese restaurant. Walking through the door we could tell it was popular with people filling the tables beneath the ceiling decorated with different coloured bottles of all shapes and sizes. We were shown to the bar which was the only seating left in the house, and out of all the delicious food we tried our favourite was the tempura mushrooms. Highly recommend this place. Lucky for Harry he has a designated driver so getting home was easy with our rental car! More time for sleeping.
Day 2 – Salamanca Place, Richmond and Bicheno
Still cold. Like electric blanket and heater cold. With the cozy cottage having a fridge and kettle right next to the bed, Harry had coffees and cereal sorted so we could at least eat breakfast in bed until we and the room warmed up. Once packed up and checked out (aka leave the key in the door), we drove to Salamanca Place in Battery Point where the famous markets are. But not today. There are still plenty of art shops to check out, and Harry being from Tasmania introduced me to Banjo’s bakery. It’s a franchise with various pastry and other food options. So we had a second breakfast, sharing a mini sausage roll and bacon and egg brioche. Cereal was not enough for the baby (or me!)
On the way to explore the streets of Battery Point, we stopped in at Norman and Dann chocolate shop. We forced ourselves to pick only one chocolate each, ending up with a white and dark chocolate penguin and a caramel mushroom. Perfect to try while wandering the streets and admiring the old buildings and antique stores. The sun was shining and we were doing our usual dog spotting, pointing out the golden retriever sitting at the cafe with its owner, and standing outside an antique store pretending to be interested in what was inside until a schnauzer being walked by its owner trotted past us.
Satisfied that we’d seen enough (of Battery Point, not the dogs!), we made our way back to the car and drove to Richmond. It takes about 30 minutes from Battery Point and if you’ve been to Maleny or Montville in Queensland, Richmond has a lot of similarities. The main street or village has store after store filled with unique art and clothes, places to eat and drink and museums. Perhaps the most interesting history of Richmond for us was Richmond Bridge, built using convict labour and heritage listed as the oldest stone span bridge in Australia. Lovely to walk across. Before leaving Richmond we had lunch at the Richmond Arms Hotel pub where Harry’s granddad took him when he was younger to play pool (and have a bet!).
On the way to Bicheno where we were staying for the night, we stopped at Raspin’s beach near Orford for a stroll along the white sand, and Swansea for ice-cream and toilet break with a view. That’s the thing about road tripping in Tasmania, there are plenty of places to stop and explore along the way. And lots of toilets (yay for pregnant me!) One of the main attractions in Bicheno is the blowhole. Which is a place where the waves roll into large boulders that because of their shape and placement, the water flows through them at the bottom and sprays up into the air. With a low tide while we were there, the blowhole was quiet with the exception of a few small sprays of water and one decent sized one. Tough for the people trying desperately to capture the moment on camera. While standing on the boulders we spotted what we thought to be a seal on a rock out further in the ocean.
Before making our way to our accommodation, we stopped at the IGA to pick up more snack supplies. Funnily enough, we ran into one of my work colleagues (from Brisbane) in the IGA car park. That’s how small this place is. After the hellos, introductions and chat about what we’d done and what else we had planned, we finally drove to our accommodation. The place was perfect, a quiet spot with a balcony overlooking the beach. We had a drink and read through the information provided on how to see the fairy penguins, before getting back into the car to pick up some takeaway for dinner before everything closed. Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods at the Gulch has fresh seafood and an outdoor seating area out the back overlooking the water. Good food, good spot. But we took our food back to our accommodation so we could eat and get ready to see the fairy penguins.
Because the accommodation owner had an agreement with the property in front, despite the no entry signs we were permitted to walk through their property and onto the beach. As described, we found the boulders to sit on and wait for the penguins. We were early, ready and waiting at 8pm when the sun didn’t go down for another hour or so. Being early meant we could see the penguins in the waves not far from the shore. As each wave rolled in, we could see the black figures together, making their way closer to shore as the sun went down.
Finally, between around 9 and 9:30pm in the remaining light which was mostly from lights along the coastline reflecting on the water, we were able to see a group of three penguins stand up and cautiously waddle forward. Then all of a sudden they rushed towards our boulder, hopping up onto the lower part of the boulder behind us and continuing up into the bushes. Wow! Okay, where were all the other penguins we had seen in the water? Then we saw another group of three penguins do exactly the same thing as the others. Same path and everything. We could barely see them but it was still so special. Having battled with the insects long enough we admitted defeat and walked back towards our accommodation. And saw three more penguins in the bushes on the way! They might have been the same penguins, but this time we got to see them up close.
For the last part of our walk back, we heard something rustling in the bushes and wondered if it was more penguins. Then a black animal shaped like a cat darted out and away from us before we could shine our light on it to get a better look. Could it be a Tassie devil?
Day 3 – Wineglass Bay and glass bottom boat tour in Bicheno
Wondering if the fairy penguins made it safely back to the water, we set out for our next adventure. Wineglass Bay. From Bicheno it’s about 30 minutes drive to Freycinet National Park. Once you’re in the National Park, there is a place to stop and buy a park pass which is $24 per vehicle per day. We were happy with our decision to go to Wineglass Bay first thing in the morning, getting a park a short walk from the last toilet stop and entrance to the walking track.
The walk from the entrance to the top where you are rewarded with views of Wineglass Bay takes around 40 minutes. For comfort I’d recommend wearing enclosed shoes, hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and take a water bottle with you. The views are spectacular and I like to think it’s called Wineglass Bay because it looks like a wine glass. The history of the area however is that whaling stations operated here, and the water in the bay would turn red with blood.
Having earned our lunch, we listened to the start of the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown in the car on the way back to Bicheno. Blue Edge Bakery in Bicheno is a good place to stop for lunch, with its reasonably priced delicious food. Standard ham and cheese toastie was $5! With a line at least five people long at all times, you knew it was a local favourite.
Having read the day before that the glass bottom boat at The Gulch next to the seafood store operates at 10am, 12pm and 2pm each day, we made our way there around 1pm to book the 2pm tour. Thankfully there were two spots left! And it was so popular that day they put on a third boat tour at 3pm. It was perfect weather, the sun was shining directly down into the water making it even more clear to see right to the bottom.
Booked and waiting, Harry enjoyed a beer in the outdoor area of the next-door Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods. Keen for the tour, at 1:45pm we made our way towards the boat. First in line. Big kids before the little kids that soon joined the line. The boat tour goes for about an hour and costs $28 per person. It is well worth the money, with a large glass bottom section to see the creatures below. We saw stingray, shark, fish and baby squid. All in the bay area. And remember how Harry and I thought we saw a seal on a rock from the Bicheno blowhole? Well we were right. And from the boat we were able to see them up close. There were seals lying on the top of the rock, and a seal rolling about in the water using the waves to make his way back up onto the rock.
As we reversed out of the car park, we noticed three porsches parked next to us and more in the carpark. During the one hour drive to St Helens we saw all kinds of cars and later discovered there was a Wheels Wine and Dine event in St Helens. Scamander on the way to St Helens looked like a nice coastal town and almost enticed us to stop and check out an event that had secondhand clothes and live music.
Instead we continued on so we could check into our Airbnb accommodation. The Surveyor’s Cottage at St Helens is homely and well decorated. The host left us some gin so Harry tried that while listening to the last of the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown while I had another nap. I was exhausted! But I had been doing majority of the driving and growing a small human. For dinner we went for a walk and found a busy pizza place called Tromboli Family Restaurant. Pizza ordered, to pass the time we continued the walk past a small fun fair before returning to pick up the pizza and spending the night in.
Day 4 – Binalong Bay, Bay of Fires, St Columba Falls and Pyengana Dairy
Banjo’s bakery had been such a successful second breakfast stop earlier in our trip, after a bowl of cereal in the room and checking out of our Airbnb, we drove the short distance to Banjo’s. We had another big day planned, this time exploring Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires.
Binalong Bay didn’t take ‘along’ time to get to from St Helen’s, about 15 minutes. Driving around Tasmania reminded us of driving along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. The views of the water however in Tasmania are extra stunning with bright white sand and clear waters that are a rainbow of blue and green starting with light green at the shoreline to blue as the water gets deeper. And that was on an overcast day! It would be absolutely brilliant on a sunny day. Kicking our shoes off at the top of the beach, we walked down to the water’s edge and braved a toe dipped into the chilly waves approaching the shore for all of a second. Surf lifesaving training was happening on the beach and there was an area sectioned off for the bird life. A short drive not far along the coast from the beach at Binalong Bay, you’ll find the orange boulders and clear water that on a warm day would be inviting for a dip.
From here we drove to the Bay of Fires conservation area. There are so many turn offs to different beaches to choose from, but to start with we kept going until we got to The Gardens. This is one of the more popular areas of the Bay of Fires and the furtherest point we could drive to. It was spitting with rain as we got out of the car but we were determined to explore. There are some boardwalks but to get to the good stuff you need to climb the vibrant orange lichen boulders and up and down winding and uneven sandy pathways down to the crystal clear water and white sand. Interestingly and quite the contrast, on the way back to the car we walked past a neighbouring farm, watching the people and their pigs, wondering how they felt (yes, even the pigs!) about all these people wandering around nearby taking photos. Back at the carpark, we noticed people having a barbecue at their house with loud music and people outside having drinks and a chat. Well, it was 26 January!
So that we didn’t just go to the more popular parts of the Bay of Fires, on the drive back we turned off onto a dirt road. There was another car parked there, and it wasn’t until we walked through the bush (and stopped for a bush wee!) that we found paradise. White sand, clear water. Common theme of this trip really. It felt like The Beach movie where people follow a secret map to get to an island paradise. What perhaps looked the most Australian on a day like today (or BCF advertisement) were the seven fisherman in camping chairs on the beach with their rods in the water, eskies beside them and two of man’s best friend (Golden Retrievers) hoping their owners catch some fish or at least share their snacks. There were some boulders that started on the beach and made their way out to the water that we climbed to see if we could find any rock pools and if from a better vantage point we could see any marine life in the water. The waves crashing on the rocks were better than the Bicheno Blowhole but all we could see in the water was seaweed.
For lunch we drove back to a place called Meresta at Binalong Bay where they were serving Australia Day food options including a BBQ. While we didn’t choose the BBQ option, the food was good and the views of Binalong Bay from Meresta are even better. Good spot to enjoy a beer or a wine too if you’re not pregnant like me! It was tempting to give a walk on Binalong Bay another try now that it was a bit more sunny, but the wind had picked up since the morning. Instead we took one last look as we drove past onto the next destination.
Scottsdale is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Binalong Bay and is where we were booked to stay for the night. On the way, we saw a sign for St Columba Falls. Harry had read in the guest book at our St Helen’s accommodation that these waterfalls were worth a stop. You can see the waterfall as you drive into the parking area (there are also toilets yay!) but I would recommend doing the 600m walk to get closer to the falls so you can see the mist in more detail and hear the surge of water pouring over the rocks down to the stream below. The previous guests at our accommodation in St Helen’s were right!
Even better though, on the way back to our route to Scottsdale, we stopped at Pyengana Dairy. Here we had one of the best ice creams of our lives, which probably had something to do with the dairy cows on the vast green rolling hills outside. It is interesting to see the cows with full udders walking up to and through the turnstiles to be milked, and those with empty udders letting themselves back out again. There are of course other dairy products to try, including a range of different cheeses for free.
Just as we started continuing our journey to Scottsdale (again), a ute in front of us put its hazard lights on and came to a stop. Then, we saw a long line of dairy cows on one side of the road being herded to cross the road as quickly as possible by a girl driving a buggy behind them. Road trips in Tasmania hey?!
Soon we arrived at Willow Lodge in Scottsdale, our accommodation for the night. Booked via Booking.com Mr Magoo, a small white dog immediately greeted us and rolled over for a belly rub. The host told us to expect him and his old girlfriend (Mr Magoo that is, not the host!) at the breakfast table because they can smell the bacon. But before breakfast, for dinner that night we kept it simple and drove to the closest pub, Lords Hotel. It is the type of regional pub you’d expect menu options like rissoles (my choice), a few pokies, and a fight in the pool room. Whilst the customer service was warm and friendly, unfortunately this place won’t be making it onto the ‘where to eat’ list.
Day 5 – Bridestowe Lavender Farm and Goat Island
Breakfast at Willow Lodge was lovely. Fruit and yoghurt followed by a hot breakfast with of course bacon and two smiling dogs at our feet. No cereal or second breakfasts for us today! With one more look through our room window at the bunny rabbit hopping around outside, we packed our things and said goodbye to our host. We learned they were moving to Queensland and after liking their Facebook page found that this place was on the market. Any takers?!
The reason we stayed in Scottsdale which you might have been wondering with the Lords Hotel experience, is because of its close proximity to the Bridestowe Lavender Farm. It turned out to be a good time of year to visit, with plenty of lavender yet to be harvested and not too many tourists. It was another overcast day but despite this, the purple colour of the lavender in rows as far as the eye could see was still impressive. The bees were sure enjoying it, flying in and out of the lavender as we walked along the rows between the bushes. After taking a few photos we followed a path to a shed to learn how the lavender oil is extracted. Back at the cafe we tried scones with lavender and blueberry jam. More people were trying the lavender icecream, available from the van in the grounds. For only $10 each to get in, it is without doubt worth the money for such a unique experience.
The drive to our accommodation at Ulverstone wasn’t as picturesque as other parts of our road trip, but as we got closer it was nice to see the coast again. The Goat Island Bungalow was another Airbnb, with an inviting outdoor setting in the front garden which we discovered was right on the train line. As we ate yet another snacks platter, we wondered if we’d be kept up all night with trains, but there were only two trains that went past for the entire duration of our stay. In the afternoon before having seen one of these trains, because the train line hugs the coast and therefore crosses your path to the beach, we had to cross the tracks to get from our accommodation to the beach. Having high hopes we could walk across the rocks to Goat Island while the tide was down, we soon gave up with the type of sharp and wobbly rocks. Instead we returned to our bungalow and went for a drive to Burnie where Harry grew up so he could show me where he used to live and go to school.
For dinner we got Chinese takeaway from Burnie and took it back to our accommodation to eat at the outdoor setting in the remaining minutes of sunlight. It was then that the train came by, giving us a toot and the driver giving us a wave.
Day 6 – Breakfast at Penguin, Boat Harbour Beach and back to Brisbane
Last day of our holiday. But I don’t want to go back to work! Trying not to think about it, we went to a cafe called Renaessance in Penguin for breakfast. How cool is it that there is a place called Penguin? As you might have guessed, it’s because there are penguins in this area too. The town is decorated with penguins and there is a big penguin statue you can get your photo taken with. Which of course we had to do.
With our return flight to Brisbane that afternoon, our last road trip adventure was to Boat Harbour Beach, about 1 hour from Goat Island. Boat Harbour Beach was pretty quiet that day, which was perfect for a walk along the beach. But first we took our remaining snacks to a high flat rock that overlooked the full length of the beach. It wasn’t the most comfortable seating arrangement, particularly being six months pregnant, but it was slightly hidden so we could enjoy our own space, views and food.
Harry remembered there being a walk you could do in this area and after hearing people walk past behind us into the bushes we took a wild guess that it was the same walk he remembered. It is worth doing, short and easy with a few spots where the trees part to views of more crystal clear water and orange boulders. Bush walk done, we swapped the bush for the sand and walked along the beach one last time during our holiday in Tasmania before leaving Boat Harbour Beach and reluctantly driving towards Launceston Airport.
Along the way about one hour from Boat Harbour Beach we stopped at Devonport for lunch at a place called Laneway. Loved it! It has a rustic vibe and the food was delicious. Aside from stopping at Deloraine for a toilet break, we arrived in Launceston another hour later to return the rental car and wait for our flight back to Brisbane. The flight from Launceston to Brisbane takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
So there it is. Our last trip as a couple. A road trip in Tasmania. We’ve made a pact to continue exploring when the baby comes but everyone tells us life is going to be very different. I guess we’ll see. Until our first adventure with the baby!