From museums devoted to all things brown and sticky, to swashbuckling pirate experiences on deserted islands and close encounters with little devils, there’s a lot of family fun to be had here in Hobart.
1. Visit MONA
Admittedly, a museum seemingly devoted to life’s darker themes doesn’t seem particularly child-friendly, but don’t be put off; the Museum of Old and New Art has got something for every age group, starting with the animal seats on the 25-minute ferry journey from Brooke Street Pier. Once at MONA, most families focus on the outdoor area where the giant sculptures double as a playground, but indoors, staff can give you a good outline on what to see (and what to avoid) depending on your particular sensibilities. Entry to MONA is free for Tasmanians and for children, but priced at $30 for everyone else. Be sure to book before you visit.
Take a Port Arthur Ghost Tour Some kids live for Halloween, school camp horror stories and ill-advised slasher movies when a lax sitter is in charge. They’re the ones to book in for a spine-chilling ghost tour of Port Arthur Historic Site’s infamous buildings and ruins. The guided, lantern-lit tours go for 90 minutes, each passing moment filled with vivid stories of unexplained events and things that go bump in the night that have terrified convicts, free settlers, soldiers and visitors. Held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, a family ticket is priced from $75 and pre-tour cake at the Visitor Centre café is a must. Tickets must be pre-booked online and you’ll have to factor in a one hour and 20 minute drive south-east.
3. Get up close and personal with some Tasmanian Devils
Nothing says ‘Tasmanian getaway’ quite like a bit of downtime with the Apple Isle’s most famous critters, and happily, there are two great ways to enjoy them. At Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, you can amble at your own pace or book in for one of its daily 45-minute tours. Over at Tasmanian Devil Unzoo where the creatures run wild, a great way to see them is with The Devil Tracker Adventure, a guided 4WD tour in native forest to see how they’re being tracked and monitored (currently on hold, check ahead). A family pass (two adults, two children) at Bonorong is priced at $93, while family entry (up to four children) at Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is $95, or $280 for The Devil Tracker Tour for kids aged eight and up.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a child (or adult) alive who doesn’t dream of heading to a deserted island – treasure map in hand – for a day of fun ‘foraging’. Esperance Adventures lets families do exactly that, offering a 2.5-hour tour which kicks o with a kayak from the beach at the River Mouth, Southport, over to an island where everyone will be given their map and clues to find the treasure. The Treasure Hunter Tour is available between December and May and the $330+ family ticket price includes morning tea, and what we hope are large bags of gold. Making a pit stop at Rocket @ The End of The Road for coffee and cake is the perfect way to end the experience.
Tasmania is no stranger to scenic, multi-day hikes, but when you’ve got little ones treading the path beside you, you’ll be thankful for this ‘maximum gain for minimal effort’ inclusion. Located at kunanyi/Mt Wellington (bring warm layers), the 2.7-kilometre wonder is a short, level walk to a sandstone rock formation with spectacular views of Hobart, the Organ Pipes and the River Derwent. Happily, you’re only a short distance from Rock Cabin, a historic stone shelter which is well worth the detour, and Lost Freight, a shipping container cafe located at the Springs and famous for its hot chocolate.
How long does it take an elephant to defecate? Why should you never walk barefoot on a tropical beach? All these questions (and many more) will be answered at Pooseum, a museum devoted to animal droppings. Offering more than 50 information panels and 40 videos on touchscreens, kids will love the PooTube videos, kids’ corner, farting machine (and other interactive displays) as much as they’ll get a kick out of the Pootrid Shop, which sells all manner of digestive system-related gifts. Not suitable for kids under five, the museum – located in the historic village of Richmond in the Coal River Valley, a 25-minute drive from Hobart – is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm (Cost: Adult: $16; Child: $10).
Take a step back in time with Old Hobart Town, the country’s only historical model village, which replicates (in miniature form) the life and times of the city back in 1820. Located in the main street of Richmond, the attraction is set out in streets so you can walk and share stories of what life was like waaay before the internet and television. Don’t worry: among the 60-plus replica buildings and more than 500 period figurines, you’ll also find informative signage to help you out. Family tickets are priced from $35 and the attraction is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Don’t forget to factor in time for Sweets and Treats nearby, where all manner of glass jars are filled with brightly coloured lollies.
Show me a kid who swears he or she isn’t obsessed with lighthouses and I’ll show you a liar (albeit an adorable one). Pennicott Wilderness Journeys is known for its extensive range of wildlife and nature cruises and its Iron Pot Cruise takes in Iron Pot, the country’s oldest lighthouse, as it traverses the seas in a 12-passenger vessel (don’t worry, the cabin is enclosed with large awning windows provided). Cruising down the River Derwent, you’ll see all the city’s landmarks, circumnavigate Betsey Island and discover the city’s rich maritime past. Iron Pot Cruises depart from the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys Hobart Booking Centre on FRANKLIN WHARF, with 10am and 2pm departures daily (Cost: Adult: $125; Child: $100).
How can you go past a museum that strictly follows a Kids in Museums manifesto (number 12 on the list? Not saying ‘shh’). At the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), combined museum, art gallery and herbarium focused on showcasing Tasmania’s natural and cultural heritage and identity, opportunities for adventure are everywhere. Grab a Discovery backpack (a free, in-gallery loan resource for kids aged between 7–12, filled with objects, props and activities across a number of subject areas), and let the kids go wild. Don’t forget to pop by mapiya lumi | around here, the specially developed museum experience for younger children. TMAG is open Tuesdays to Sundays, as well as public holiday Mondays with free admission.
Got a spare $20,000? You could sail to Antarctica (once international borders open of course), to see the huts of Sir Douglas Mawson, Australia’s most famous polar explorer. Prefer to spend $35 on a family pass instead? Head down to the waterfront to visit Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum, located a mere 200 metres from where Mawson’s expedition departed the city in 1911, and you can check out a painstaking replica which takes into account every detail of where the man himself lived and worked in Cape Denison, East Antarctica. The cherry on top? Proceeds from your visit go towards conservation of the original huts, and it’s a short walk to Van Diemens Land Creamery – yum! Open seven days, 10am to 3pm.