Just planning a family day out to meet the needs of all can bring on a headache. Kids want playgrounds and do not care for long lunches in wineries. Long treks through the wilderness can challenge adults and kids alike. So, how do you enjoy a taste of it all in one day and have contentment all round?
The Tamar Valley’s central feature is the Tamar estuary. The North and South Esk rivers meet at Launceston and the Tamar guides those waters north to the Bass Strait. Either side of the Tamar are undulating hills now dotted with vineyards, fruit orchards and easily accessible little patches of wilderness ready to be explored.
On this day our first destination was Notley Fern Gorge. Just thirty minutes out of Launceston along the West Tamar Highway (then left on the C732 at Legana – full directions below) is a small pocket of impressive rain forest still not often visited by tourists or locals. There are five of us, the youngest being 4 years old, 6 and then 12 make up our three kids. The track is a circular route and at a stroll we meandered around in just over an hour. It takes you through lush green forest and is sign posted along the way with interesting details of endemic fern and tree species.
Do not be surprised to see a wallaby or two bound off through the undergrowth. At the lowest section of the walk several bridges make for an easy crossing of the small yet pretty stream. On a previous visit we were lucky enough to spot a well camouflaged native freshwater crayfish in the trickling waters. A bubble rising to the surface every few seconds gave it away. The uphill section of the walk tested our youngest child but the mention of tasty pastries at our next port of call, the Exeter Bakery, spurred her on to walk the distance back to the car.
Through to Exeter is less than 20 minutes (via Loop Road: Feb-Mar blackberries are in abundance. Be sure to pull over for a quick roadside forage). Exeter Bakery has stood the test of time having been around for over 100 years. It is rustic and basic, with tables inside and out, we ordered sausage rolls followed by huge chocolate eclairs which certainly tested the appetites of our kids. Scallop pies are a thing in Tasmania, I don’t know why, so if you are keen to try a local delicacy they are almost always on the menu at Exeter Bakery.
The main road of Exeter is also part of the Tamar Valley Wine Route, so back tracking a little, our next adventure for the parents was a wine tasting at Moores Hill Vineyard. The vineyard was established in 1997 and is planted out with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and a few rows of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A verandah, encouraging you to linger, overlooks the vines and the interior is smart and welcoming. In the corner a big tub of Duplo kept our younger two children busy and our eldest strolled along the vines looking out for Otto the weimaraner. We tasted the range of wines, their Riesling is a stand out, and we came away with a bottle of Pinot Noir, Riesling and Rosé (all 2015 vintage). Without children, relaxing out on the deck with a glass of wine and one of their fine platters on offer would be bliss; next time!
Half an hour of adult time requires significant negotiation with wily children so it was time to head back in the direction of Launceston with a stop off at Rose Bay Park better known locally as Gravelly Beach playground (back on the A7 and left at Gravelly Beach Road). This is a fantastic play area for all age groups and is on the edge of the Tamar. There are climbing frames, swings, slides and a small skate park for the more adventurous. We had plenty of time so the kids well and truly exhausted themselves. We spent the last half hour simply sitting on the rocky river’s edge throwing pebbles into the water and watching boats sail by. The park has barbecue facilities and toilets too.
Brady’s Lookout was our final planned stop off. It is about ten minutes from the playground on the way back into Launceston. Mathew Brady was a notorious bushranger in the early 1820s. It is said the lookout area offered him a vantage point to see when supply ships sailed into Launceston. On the run for about two years he was betrayed by one of his own. Mathew Brady was hanged in 1826 at the old Hobart gaol. While the story is grim, the lookout offers wonderful vistas up and down the winding Tamar. Toilet facilities and a barbecue are on site and it is a place we have visited many times in the past packed with a picnic basket and frisbee for an afternoon of leisure. The park has good wheelchair access also. As we approached the turn off it was clear, in the rearview mirror, we had two sleeping children. We gave Brady’s Lookout a miss and it was time for home after a very enjoyable day exploring the West Tamar region.