Thanks to a long weekend and to an airfare sale, we recently found ourselves in Launceston, Tasmania. It was a whirlwind trip consisting of 3 days and 2 nights, but nevertheless a nice break from the day to day of work, school and home life. And the best part of the trip, according to the girls, will likely make you laugh. But more on that later.
We arrived bright and early at 8:30am and picked up our rental car. We found ourselves in a spacious Toyota Tarago and the girls were loving the 3 rows of seating. It was unfolding to be a very hot day (predicted to be 32 celcius), so we hit the first of my two favourite places in Launceston, the City Park for a bit of relaxation.
|Beautiful Flowers in City Park|
|Children's Playground, City Park|
The City Park is centrally located near the heart of the city. It’s filled with leafy trees, beautiful flower gardens, and a well equipped playground (best for under 3’s). It’s also home to a small community of Japanese Macaque monkeys. The monkeys are so fascinating to observe, especially as they are safely within an enclosure. And best of all, there is no charge for admission to both the park and to the monkey enclosure.
|Japanese Macaque Monkeys|
|The viewing area of the enclosure|
The heat coupled with the early start to our day (we were all up at 4am) meant that by mid afternoon, we eagerly sought refuge in our accommodation for a few hours.
A few things to note about Tasmania at this point: car rentals, accommodation and food prices in grocery stores, tend to be higher than on the mainland. As such, for our family of 4, the cheapest place that we could find in Launceston was at a backpacker’s hostel. We reserved a dormitory room for ourselves that slept 4. The communal toilet and shower facilities (one for females, one for males) were down the hall. There was also a communal dining room, kitchen and tv room. All this at a cost of $24 AUD per person, including the kids. Ouch.
|There was even a piano to use in the communal dining area.|
We’ve stayed in backpacker’s hostels a few times before during our trip. It is a bit ‘weird’ as a family as even as a single backpacker, the ‘vibe’ can be hit or miss. Ideally they are respectful places for like-minded people to have an economical place to sleep and to meet others. But sometimes the guests are not as respectful and in turn can be noisy boisterous places.
This particular weekend that we visited was a busy one in Launceston. Specifically there was a music festival nearby that resulted in the hostel being fully occupied. We braced ourselves for the worst, but as often is the case when you do that, it was a great experience, with no issues. In fact, Maddy commented that she felt that the people there were very friendly.
On second day, we set off on a drive to see the western side of the island, a place that we’ve never been before. On the map, it didn’t seem so far. In reality, we had to go over a few mountain ranges covered in lush vegetation of trees and ferns. After 3.5hrs we finally found a town with a small grocery store to stop for supplies for lunch. Aside from this store, the town was errily quiet. After a brief picnic in the shadow of a huge gold mine, we set off again.
After another mountain pass, we finally arrived at our
main destination, Strachan. We enjoyed a lovely few hours at the beach, where we had a bit of a swim, a play and a picnic dinner.
|A fine place for a picnic dinner (that's our mini van too)|
|A nice place for a swim and a play in Strachan|
But by the time we set off for Launceston again, it was approaching dusk. Little did we realise that the journey home would be even more arduous than the one we took to get there. More mountainous and windy climbs and decents, not to mention watching out for possums and wallabies on the road, but this time it included almost 100km of travel on an unsealed (ie gravel) road which was actually part of the main highway! Anyway, 4hrs later we arrived back at our hostel and fell quickly into a deep sleep.
We spent most of our third afternoon at my #1 favourite place in Launceston: Cataract Gorge. This place is amazing. It’s a river gorge through which runs the South Esk River and it’s enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. It features the worlds longest single-span chairlift, numerous well maintained walking/hiking tracks, suspension bridge, swimming basins as well as an Olympic size outdoor swimming pool. There is also a restaurant, kiosk, terrific shower/toilet facilities as well as an ‘Inclinator’ that is also wheelchair friendly to get easy access from the car park above. The best part of the park is that entrance is free, as is the inclinator and swimming pool. On a hot day, the pool was heaven. After a quick shower, we headed for the airport for our 6pm flight.
|Cataract Gorge, with Olympic sized pool, suspension bridge and First Basin|
So that was our 3 days. After a short 1hr flight, and a drive home on one of the hottest nights on record (it was 37 degrees still at 9pm) we were home in our beds by 9pm.
And as for the highlight of the trip according to the girls? Sleeping in bunk beds at the hostel! We had 2 sets and each girl got a top bunk. Another memorable trip in their eyes.
Climate: Due to it’s southerly location, it’s almost always at least a few degrees cooler in Tasmania than in Melbourne, which is also usually cooler than the rest of Australia. It can actually snow on the mountainous passes during winter.
Getting there: Flying to Tasmania is the best way to get there, especially if you can time one of the frequent seat sales with Jetstar. Virgin and Tiger Airways also fly there. If you plan to be there more than 2 weeks, it may be more economical to bring your own car via the ferry. Otherwise, the ferry is a long and slow journey, and expensive too.
Costs: Once in Tasmania, the cost of accommodation, car rental and groceries (especially fresh fruit and vegetables) are generally a bit more expensive than on the mainland. The cheapest car rental that we could find in Launceston was for a ‘rent a bomb’—that is, a car that was 10+ years old. Even that was $44 AUD per day, although with unlimited mileage and insurance and roadside assistance included. As I mentioned, the cheapest place that we found to stay was at a backpackers where we took a 4-bed dorm for ourselves for $96 AUD per night. We were not allowed to have the kids sleep on the floor. While sheets were provided (top and bottom), you had to pay extra to hire a towel and blanket (so bring your own if you can).
Here’s a summary of the cost of our 3 day, 2 night trip for our family of 4:
- · Return Airfares from Melbourne to Launceston: $341 (includes 1 x 15kg bag)
- · Airport Parking (Melbourne) 3 days: $30
- · Accommodation: 2 Nights, Dormitory in Hostel $195
- · Food (includes groceries, 5 takeaway/restaurant meals): $78
- · Car Hire 3 Days: $132
- · Petrol: $160
- · Total Cost of Trip: $936 ($312 per day!)
We’re certainly not in SEA anymore! Remember how much we spent there per day? See here.
In fairness, we aren’t comparing apples to apples, but then again, while we were in Tasmania, we didn’t spend any money at all on entertainment or activities as it was all free. But still, it was a nice getaway for the amount of time that we had. Tasmania is a wonderful state and a great place to travel especially for families.