This is a sponsored post for Spirit of Tasmania.
Q: What do you get when you cross two small children, one mum, and a giant ship that goes between Melbourne and Devonport, Tasmania?
A: A bloody good time!
Amid warnings of seasick nights, and my own apprehension about taking little kids to a fancy restaurant solo (twice!), there was plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong on our recent holiday. It turns out that fortune does indeed favour the brave, and we had two crossings and a road trip around Tassie with a minimum of fuss – just a whole lot of fun.
If your kids (or you!) aren’t good on flights, or you’re looking to take a car/camping equipment/caravan/motorhome/bring back excessive amounts of amazing antiques, then you can’t go past Spirit of Tasmania. Drive on board, have a nice dinner, go to sleep, wake up in Tasmania. Easy! Read on to see how we did it…
Day One: The Ship
The girls were super-excited to see the ship at the dock, even more excited to realise we were going on it! We drove up and waited our turn to park.
Everything went really smoothly, and before we knew it, we were heading up to our rooms and ready to party. I had packed the car with everything we would need for our road trip (including an esky for Ashgrove Cheese treats!) and because you can’t go back to your car after you set sail, I packed an overnight bag to take up to our cabin. You can pack anything you want as long as it fits in your car (no luggage restrictions!), except fruit.
I cannot begin to describe the sheer joy of these children when they realised there were bunks, and ladders on which to climb. I think this was seriously the highlight for a two- and three-year-old, and it took much convincing to get them out the door and into The Leatherwood Restaurant for our 7pm dinner.
The restaurant was all set with a high chair for Smalls, and plenty of chilled white wine for me. I brought the girls small bags of Cobs popcorn and some crayons and paper to entertain them while I forged my way through a whole three courses (for research, you see). The girls were such fun company, and more importantly, provided me with extra bread rolls and thick salted butter when they couldn’t get through all of theirs. They barely made a peep, and the staff was always on hand to help or tell them how cute they were (and sometimes both).
I had the veg options on the menu and wasn’t disappointed. Eggplant involtini was followed by a gorgeous sweet potato, feta, and caramelized onion tart with a side salad pretty much drowning in delicious toasted pine nuts. You know you’re onto a winner when the restaurant isn’t a scab with pine nut portions. Dessert (both trips!) was the toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce and double cream – I tried to get something different so I could report back to you, dear reader, but I just couldn’t. That sauce. Seriously. I know you’ll forgive me.
We rolled into bed (after much bunk-swapping, the kids wanted to try everything) and woke up in Devonport at 5.50am, ready for our adventure. I vaguely recall the ship rocking gently in the middle of the night, and me thinking how soothing it was. I could get used to maritime life.
Day Two: Devonport to Launceston
We dressed and packed up super-quick so as to be ready to go when they called our car’s deck number. We were right up the front, so if we didn’t get to our car on time, there would be plenty of people stuck behind us. We jumped in our car, they opened the doors, and we were one of the first ones off. A quick trip through quarantine, and we were on our way.
The first stop was to Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm (which my GPS couldn’t find, but my sleuth mind did), where the girls split a raspberry pancake and I had a famous raspberry latte. I also ordered the eggs benedict, which I barely got to eat because the kids were so unsettled. I think this unusual morning was a shock to the system, so they were both sitting there crying at me. Really loudly. A lovely lady from the Raspberry Farm came over to see what was the matter, and took them both into the kitchen to get their very own mini pancake each, and to watch it being made. I gratefully chowed down the rest of my breakfast, and we went outside to play in their garden.
We continued on to Ashgrove Farm, where the girls made firm friends with the many painted cow statues about the place. I made firm friends with the Rubicon Red, Bush Pepper, Smoked Cheddar, Wild Wasabi, and Cheddar (all Ashgrove cheese is made without animal rennet, BAM!). I stocked up for on-the-road/picnic snacks (plus milk and things for our hotel breakfasts) and bought some ice for the esky at a service station when I pumped my tyres and washed the windscreen – which is SUCH a road trip thing to do.
The next stop on our list was House of Anvers, a beautiful Belgian chocolate place just down the road, where we found seriously passionate people on hand to tell us all about the chocolate, the beans, the house, the people, and THE CHOCOLATE. Todd took us on a tour and described to us how it all started, how they make the chocolate (beans, local Tasmanian dairy, some organic sugar if necessary). The kids played on the cool Hot Choc car outside and were ferried around and given chocolate samples like they were royalty. I was super-smitten with their Dark Fortunato No. 4 from Peru – a variety that Anthony Bourdain calls “the best chocolate in the world”, and you know he never lies. Anvers has the exclusive sale rights in Australia (it’s very difficult to get as the beans are super-rare and thought to have been extinct in 1916). I’m no chocolate fan, but I’ll get down and dirty with a dark variety, and this one blew me away.
We carried on to Launceston, after Todd farewelled us with a takeaway hot chocolate. We stopped at the very pretty Cataract Gorge in Launceston, but not before we stopped by the not-so-pretty Officeworks to get a phone charger cord thanks to my deficient brain. You can fit anything you like in your car, and I forgot that one tiny thing.
We were welcomed at Peppers Seaport in Launceston at check-in time, and we were stoked to see such a huge apartment. The girls made themselves quite at home and I could see Biggie was waning a bit so we cancelled our tentative plans to go for a stroll and see the museum and the park. We poked our head out at about 4.30 to pick up some things at The Organic Grocery Store (another reason it’s awesome to take your own car!) for dinner and breakfast, but mostly just chilled.
The folk at Pepper’s were an absolute delight. They had left me a sweet welcome package of tea (they must know me well!) and a jar of biscuits to enjoy right alongside. The view was beautiful, and the bed large. I was super-impressed to even find eggcups in the kitchen – enough for both kids! It was very well-equipped, and we were cozily settled for the night. The girls tucked up together on the sofa bed and caught an episode of Dora, and I read a book. Such a beautiful place.
Day Three: Launceston to Hobart via Coal Valley
The next morning we were on our way to Hobart, by way of visiting the beautiful Mel from Coal Valley View. She was so excited when she found out we were coming to Tassie she offered us morning tea or lunch (or hell, just move in) and some strawberry picking on their farm. I did NOT want to leave.
We stopped once on the way for coffee, but otherwise continued on, the girls lulled to sleep by Emma Messenger’s very soothing rendition of The Tales of Peter Rabbit on audiobook. The children both know the first 15 minutes of that off by heart and now won’t sleep without it!
We checked into our digs at the Salamanca Wharf Hotel and I seriously regret not being able to spend more time here. Only two years old, it is utterly luxurious and fancy to the max. Mor bath products, futuristic lights, the best bed in town… I could have stayed for a week. The girls wrote a little note to Anthea, the owner, thanking her for her hospitality which was super-sweet.
It was a bit drizzly, and all I wanted to do was curl up here with a good book.
Next time though – I might swing for the loft penthouse. Seriously! Look at that place!
We carried on to our afternoon plans with Mrs Smyth and her family, and Obe + Lauren and their little owlets, which included wine, cheese, one kid (mine) falling off the play equipment and another kid (also mine) crying about EVERYTHING.
Day Four: Hobart to Devonport
The next morning we were treated to a gorgeous breakfast at the café below the Salamanca Wharf Hotel. Fresh avocado, sea salt and lime on thick sourdough for me, boiled eggs and soldiers for the girls. We were even sent on our way with a fresh chocolate brownie each and a hearty thanks for stopping by.
I wish I’d been able to spend more time in Hobart, and even more time at the hotel. It was right on the wharf so we were in the thick of everything. Would be awesome at Salamanca market time. We strolled around for a bit and had to be on our way to make it back to Devonport by 5pm to make check in for the Spirit of Tasmania return journey.
We stopped for a picnic lunch along the way in the historic town of Ross. The girls played and ran around and I ate Tasmanian strawberries and mucho cheese. They fought over having an Ashgrove strawberry milk each, and then we took a quick drive around the place before heading home.
The voyage back to Melbourne was just as rad as on the way over. We had to wait a little bit longer before boarding this time, but once we were on our level (make sure you remember that before you leave!), we were in a familiar cabin in no time. We strolled around outside and the girls splashed in some puddles while I took in the beautiful view.
We also stopped by the kids’ playroom for a little while and I had a nosey around all the different areas of the ship to hang – lounges, cafes, the cafeteria, a cinema, an on-board shop – there’s even a pokie room! You wouldn’t be lost for things to fill your time on the way. I hear the day sailings have plenty of entertainment to keep you going until you arrive. I’d love to do a day sail, to look out over the beautiful ocean and see nothing but blue for miles around.
Our dinner at Leatherwood was once again superb, and the kids once again spilled eight kilos of popcorn under the table. They hopped like bunnies all the way back to our cabin and I could tell they were having the time of their lives. PJs on, story read, lights out – ready to jump up the next morning and head on home. It was a tough job dragging them out of their bunks at 6am, they were so cozy and comfortable. They cried all the way down to our car and told me they wanted to stay. I’ll just have to take them again.
How cute is Biggie’s little drawing of the ship and a fish? Happiest fish on Earth.
We had an absolute ball, and I can’t wait to get back to Tassie. Such a beautiful place!
Have you been? do you live there? I missed so much – what should we do next?
(If you’d like to go too and have just as much as we did visit spiritoftasmania.com.au to book. Don’t forget that salted caramel sauce!)