Tasmania is one of our favourite places to visit – and not just because most of my family live in this state. It’s beautiful, easy and perfectly set up for an awesome road trip.
I was especially keen after writing out my top things to do in Tasmania, an ultimate bucket list, earlier this year and having two items in this list that I was yet to do – Cradle Mountain and the Tarkine. I wanted to make sure I did them this visit!
My mission was accomplished and we discovered many other North West Tasmania attractions as well.
Below you will find our guide of what to do in North West Tasmania, the best accommodation North West Tasmania offers, visiting North West Tasmania with kids, how to get around and our verdict. Hopefully, this will help you have an awesome vacation as well!
If there is one place to visit in North West Tasmania that is a must see it is Cradle Mountain National Park, specifically the Dove Lake area.
The Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is part of the 1.4 million hectare Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It has a magnificent alpine landscape with many peaks, glacial lakes and deep gorges with ancient forests. It’s Tasmania’s most visited park and it’s easy to see why.
It’s perhaps best known for the Overland Track, the 65 kilometre hike from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. It’s also a great place to visit for much shorter walks – there are ones from a few minutes long, and there is a great variety.
In fact, I personally haven’t visited anywhere else which is so well set up for hikers ranging from people like us, who just want to have a tiny taste with little kids, to people dedicated to the task who are doing the Overland Track.
There are many hikes and the main ones are detailed in a handy information brochure which they hand out on arrival.
Car entry to Cradle Mountain National Park is limited with only a certain number of cars allowed every day which I believe is quite low. On the day we visited these had sold out very early so we caught the shuttle bus.
The shuttle buses run from the visitor centre, a couple of kilometres outside the park to Dove Lake making stops along the way. They run regularly – about every 20 minutes when we were there in December. They can get quite full. It can be surprising to see how many people visit this national park after driving through not much to get here.
Thanks to the buses, Dove Lake is very easy to reach and a highlight. This is the lake that is shown in most photos of the park and it is as stunning as it looks. There are quite a few walks from here. As we visited with 6 and 4 year olds plus a 6 month old, we just walked along a short section.
The Interpretation Centre is also a popular spot with displays about the park and its history, a theatre running an informational video about the park and many walks. There’s also a waterfall a minute’s walk away. We all enjoyed watching the video.
From here there is also the Enchanted Walk which is a good option with little kids. It’s only 20 minutes long and there are a few areas set up along the way where they can walk inside and see murals.
For everyone else, there are many great walks to choose from. I was very impressed with all the facilities. Many of the hikes are on boardwalks. If I wasn’t there with kids, it would be hard to choose with many walks perfect for a half day trip.
You do have to be careful and be prepared for the weather conditions. We visited in summer and it was still cold. It can get down to -20 degrees in winter! Many people have perished in the park so be sure to know the predicted weather conditions and behave accordingly. The forecasts are posted everywhere and there are people to ask.
We stayed a few minutes walk from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre at Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain. This is a great way to enjoy the park and the surrounds for longer. More about it below!
An adult pass at the time we visited was $16.50 including the shuttle bus. Kids under 5 are free. If you want to take your car into the park, I suggest arriving early.
The Nut in Stanley is a sheer sided bluff which is all that remains of an ancient volcanic plug. It makes for quite a sight and is visible on the journey to Stanley.
You can’t visit Stanley, or The Nut, without visiting the summit. Thankfully for those of us that don’t like steep climbs, there is the option of a chair lift to the summit. There is also a paved path to the top.
The chair lift is fun, although a bit scary for those of us that are terrified by chair lifts. It was super windy on it on the day that we visited.
Once at the top, there are a variety of walks on good paths. We did the shortest which was only 250 metres long so super easy for the kids. It had great views over Stanley.
It’s definitely worth spending some time hiking around the top once you make it there. You can see some more views here:
Stanley itself is a lovely town which is worth visiting and using as one of your bases in North West Tasmania. We stayed here for two nights and there is more about our great accommodation below.
There are some other worthwhile attractions here including a seal cruise (see the next thing to do in North West Tasmania!) a seaquarium and Joe Lyon’s Cottage (the home of the former Prime Minister of Australia).
One of the most unique experiences you can have in North West Tasmania is taking a Seal Cruise. Stanley Seal Cruises is a way to see to the Australian Fur Seal in Tasmania.
This involves a 75 minute boat trip from the harbour to Bull Rock, Calf Rock and Cow Rock, appropriately named based on their size. It is on these isolated rocks in Bass Strait that you are very likely to witness a gathering of seals. This is what makes the location so ideal for seal cruises.
In addition to the seals it is a great experience for bird watchers, and it is also not rare to see the Southern Right Whale which is both incredible and daunting – their size could easily topple the boat.
This time of year is definitely the best time to take a seal cruise. Around November and December, the seals pups are born and the rocks are flooding with baby seals – a very cute sight to see.
You can find their contact details at the Stanley Seal Cruises website. We found the information online about the timings of cruises to be inaccurate, and I would recommend calling ahead of time to make your booking and to check the latest information.
The Tarkine is an area in the North West of Tasmania which encompasses Savage River National Park, the largest area of Gondwanan cool-temperate rainforest in Australia and a high concentration of Aboriginal sites.
There is a scenic drive you can do through the Tarkine but we headed to what we knew would be the highlight for us – Tarkine Forest Adventure’s slide down to Dismal Swamp.
This is a family owned business by the main highway making it easy to visit. There is a beautiful visitor centre and then a walk, or 100 metre long slide pictured above, into the Dismal Swamp. Dismal Swamp is a 40 metre deep sinkhole with a unique forest habitat, believed to be the only natural blackwood forest sinkhole in the world.
Don’t be fooled by its name, it’s a lovely place to walk around and explore especially thanks to Tarkine Forest Adventure’s board walks with regular informational boards explaining more of the surrounds and facts about the area. There is Tasmanian art featured too.
If you don’t want to take the slide, or when you want to return to civilisation, there is a gently sloping walk down and back up again.
The 110 metre slide itself is lots of fun. How fast or slow it is depends on the weather. It was mostly slow when we visited but the middle section was suddenly surprisingly fast and I may have screamed a little. It’s a great way to feel like a little kid again!
The slide is only for 8 year olds and over, but the site in general is great with little kids. It’s relatively pram friendly (as long as your pram can handle the gravel walk down), the walks are a good distance and it’s just really nice. This was one of the Tasmania North West coast attractions that we did not want to miss, and I am glad we didn’t.
You can find more information on the Tarkine Forest Adventure website. Entry was $20 for adults, $10 for kids 8+ and free for under 8’s when we visited with slide rides costing $2 each. There is also a cafe.
There was a time when this probably really was considered to be the edge of the world. Made popular by a poem by Brian Inder titled ‘The Edge of the World”, this is a popular viewing spot on the coast and on our list of things to do on the North West coast of Tasmania.
It is named the Edge of the World as there is no land going West from this point until Argentina – which makes it the longest uninterrupted expanse of ocean on the globe.
You can stand here and get a sense that you really are at the edge of the world. The scenery really is spectacular and on a good day you could spend longer here. For us, it was somewhere to visit on the way and turned out to be beautiful. It was windy and I can’t imagine what it is like visiting in winter – the waves were already rough.
You can drive right up to the viewing spot which makes it convenient. There are also informational boards about the Aboriginal heritage of the area.
You can visit the Edge of the World in Arthurs River. There is no entry fee.
A river cruise on the Arthur River is one of the best ways to see the diversity of the landscape here. The M.V. “George Robinson” is an iconic boat built only in the 1980s but designed to look a hundred years older. A great way to spot birds and other wildlife, Arthur River has been stated as being Tasmania’s only wild river.
This cruise is also an amazing way to gaze up at giant ancient trees and see where the famous Tassie Oak comes from.
The cruise departs from the township of Arthur River and takes around 5 hours. This makes it a long day perhaps more suitable for those without kids. The scenes on the way make for some fantastic photo opportunities and you can move around the boat to find the best spot.
This cruise gives you a true sense of what Tasmania would look like if humans had never of stepped foot on the land.
Bookings are essential. You can make a booking by contacting Arthur River Cruises. Adults are $95 and kids under 3 are free. There are toilet facilities on board.
Everything might be bigger in America but Australia likes to pride themselves on being home to big attractions (literally). You will find several big Tasmania North West attractions, including the Big Cherry and the Big Platypus, but the best is the Big Penguin.
Why the big penguin? Because it is located in Penguin. This is a town that prides itself on its name and you can find penguins all around the town, even on the bins. The Big Penguin has been charming visitors since 1975.
Penguin itself is a charming town to visit with several spots for lunch right on the coast.
Boat Harbour Beach is absolutely stunning and looks more like it should be in Northern Queensland than Tasmania. This was my favourite beach when I used to visit my sister who lived on the North West Coast.
This beach is an absolutely beautiful spot. White sand surrounds the blue water and there is so much sand on this beach. The water is set back quite far so there is plenty of room to relax. If you choose to swim, the water is shallow enough to paddle. The picturesque town in the background gives this beach a very comforting feel.
As you can see in the video below, it can get windy. This does not stop people from visiting this fantastic beach. There are other things to explore too such as smaller rock pools where kids can collect shells. See the beach in the video below:
Boat Harbour Beach is located about 30 minutes outside of Burnie.
If you love chocolate then you need to stop here! House of Anvers is in Latrobe, just outside of Devonport and a quick drive from the Spirit of Tasmania making it a great breakfast stop option if you are heading elsewhere after hopping off the boat.
It’s called a chocolate factory and, while it’s definitely low key, there is a big window where you can see people making Anvers chocolates. Our kids loved watching!
There are tastings and a lot of nice green space including a pretend chocolate truck (pictured below) that the kids played on for quite awhile. There’s a fabulous cafe and we enjoyed a good lunch here. It was hard to go past the Belgian waffles! But we also felt we must try a couple of the chocolate platters just to make sure that this is a place worth recommending 😉 It is!
House of Anvers is located on the main highway south east out of Devonport and you can find more information on their site.
Tasmania has some of the most delicious raspberries I have ever tasted. Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm is another of the restaurants North West Tasmania offers, and is an ideal place to get a taste of Tasmania’s delicious raspberries.
If you are taking the boat from Melbourne, you can head straight there as it is located close to Devonport and ideal for your first stop – although it does not open until 7am, which may be too late especially during summer sailings.
In addition to delicious food and desserts, the facilities and location and great. The place is very child friendly. Our kids were given colouring books complete with pens and pencils, and there is a toddler playground outside. There is also a river and some nice walking tracks perfect for stretching your legs.
If you are not there early, it is worth booking ahead. When we arrived, we got the last table and it was only 11am on a Monday! This is a popular place with some delicious food and as such it can get very busy. It is one of the only places like it in the area and tourists flock here on their way to and from other attractions.
The Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm is open 7am to 5pm daily. It is closed on both Good Friday and Christmas Day. I recommend booking a table in advance. You can find more information on their website.
Passenger trains in Tasmania are a thing of the past, but the Don River Railway service remains. It is located in Don just outside of Devonport. Here you can take a ride from Don River Station to Coles Beach and back again.
There is some great scenery to see on the way as the train passes through a nature reserve. There is also a souvenir shop in Don.
The train is pulled by a traditional steam locomotive and really gives you the sense that you have stepped back in time. 100% of profits are put back into restoring trains and keeping their heritage alive.
You can read more at the Don River Railway website.
Below is a North West Tasmania map of all the attractions listed in this article.
North West Tasmania is a great region to visit with or without kids. The attractions are mostly outdoors which makes it ideal for active children. Even if your kids are young, like ours, there’s plenty they can do and we found it worthwhile still visiting places like Cradle Mountain even though we couldn’t hike far.
Planning your accommodation in North West Tasmania is essential before coming here. This is not the best place to leave finding accommodation until the last minute. Many places book out fast and you want to be sure that you are staying somewhere convenient, comfortable and affordable.
Below are some great choices for the best accommodation North West Tasmania has to offer.
There are not many North West Tasmania accommodation options in Cradle Mountain so when we picked the cheapest, I did not expect much! Thankfully, I was very pleasantly surprised and we were very happy with our 5 berth standard cottage.
The park is in a great spot – basically opposite the Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre making it a great base for exploring the National Park. The cabins are absolutely surrounded by bush and you feel like you are in the National Park rather than in a caravan park.
The park has a shop which is super handy with many supplies. There’s a BBQ area, internet in the reception area during business hours (note that only Telstra phones are likely to work here) and a laundry.
Our cottage was great – a decent size with a big couch, tables and chairs, TV with playstation and DVD player (and we borrowed a DVD from reception), self contained kitchen and two bedrooms. They both had double beds with one having a bunk as well above the bed.
Something to keep in mind is that you are pretty much in the middle of nowhere so things aren’t quite like they might be elsewhere. The biggest thing being is that the water isn’t treated. They recommend boiling it but we bought water instead since we have a baby.
The Stanley Hotel and Apartments consists of hotel rooms at the main Stanley Hotel and self contained accommodation at other locations in Stanley. We booked a cottage and ended up in a great 2 bedroom unit at the Pol and Pen site. It was great!
The cottage itself is spacious with a decent lounge area, dining table and chairs and kitchen. It also has two decent sized bedrooms with sleeping for 5. We especially appreciated the washing machine and dryer in our bathroom.
It is very homey and we felt comfortable straight away. There’s a wood heater if you want a fire as well as electric heating options. There is also a good WiFi connection.
Our favourite parts were the views of The Nut, water and surrounding town of Stanley. It was nice being surrounded by Stanley itself rather than other holiday cabins and rooms. We are a big fan of this place and think that is has some of the best accommodation North West coast Tasmania offers.
If you are looking for a good hotel choice in Devonport for before or after your trip on the Spirit of Tasmania or while exploring this region, look no further! The Sunrise Devonport is a great choice.
It’s located just outside of the centre of Devonport by the coast. It is a short walk from a beach and great playground. It’s a quick drive from the Spirit.
We were attracted to it as it receives rave reviews online and was one of the cheapest options for a family. We were very surprised, actually, by just how good our hotel room was. We booked the “two bedroom family room with kitchenette” and I imagined connecting motel rooms.
What we actually found was somewhat like two connecting motel rooms but with one bathroom in between and a dining and kitchen room off to the side. It is perfect for a family. Both of the bedrooms had couches with the main room also having a table with chairs and a desk. There is plenty of space everywhere and two fridges.
The hotel is very quiet and we had a great stay here.
The best way to get around North West Tasmania is by car. There are plenty of car rental companies whether you are coming in from Hobart Airport or a Northern airport. Your other option is to take your own car.
If you live on mainland Australia, you can take the Spirit of Tasmania from Port Melbourne to Devonport. You can read our full Spirit of Tasmania review here.
There is no tour group specifically dedicated to tours around North West Tasmania as most focus around Hobart. If you choose to travel from Hobart, Tasmania Tours has some options that include both transportation and accommodation.
For a family with kids, having your own car is essential and it remains the best way to get around North West Tasmania.
We had a fabulous time visiting all the places to visit in North West Tasmania. This area of the state is incredibly diverse and there are many worthwhile North West Tasmania attractions. It’s also a very convenient region to visit if you are arriving on the Spirit of Tasmania (read our full review here).
I wish I hadn’t ignored this part of the state for so long. I have visited it many times as my sister used to live in Burnie but we rarely left Burnie when we were visiting. This was a mistake!
We especially loved visiting Cradle Mountain and being based in Stanley. It’s a lovely little town that is too easy to overlook when you haven’t been here before – or even if you have! I actually visited Stanley with my family when I was 7 and we had a horrible experience at the local caravan park which took me 20 years to get over and finally visit again. I definitely had a very different impression this time!
If nothing else, North West Tasmania is just beautiful and you are sure to love your adventures in this part of Tasmania.
You can read our ultimate Tasmania bucket list in the top 25 things to see in Tasmania as well as our guides to North, East, West Tasmania, Southern Tasmania and top things to do in Launceston and surrounds. All our Tasmanian guides can be found here.
What’s your pick of the top North West Tasmania attractions?
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