Tasmania is all the rage right now with its many festivals and food and wine events. Travel editor Winsor Dobbin reports on some of the highlights of the island state.
Tasmania has been described as “the new Champagne” and “one of the most beautiful islands in the world”. Whether you are on a budget, or want to splurge on somewhere special to stay, the Apple Isle has something for everyone.
Tasmania is known for its cool-climate wines, fresh seafood, whisky distilleries, artisan cheese producers, organic beef, fresh truffles and seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is small – the population is only 510,000 and the vast majority of people live in the two major cities; Hobart and Launceston. The vibe is slow-paced with an emphasis on clean, green local produce.
Locals like to say that wherever you find yourself in Tasmania you can be sure there is an interesting food and wine experience ahead. Street markets in Hobart, Launceston and many smaller towns and villages offer a huge range of paddock-to-plate foods and roadside farm gate stalls pop up selling seasonal fruits like fresh cherries, apples and stone fruits.
Hobart, the capital and largest city, is home to world-class hotels like the Henry Jones Art Hotel and Islington, but also has two budget places where couples can stay for $100 or less a night.
That’s a bargain given that during peak times, including the Taste of Tasmania Festival, MOFO and the Wooden Boat Festival, it can be hard to find anywhere to stay at all.
Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse is halfway between a guest house and a hostel. A beautifully restored 1895 mansion in the Hobart suburb of Battery Point (with an extension built in 1910), Montacute has delightful gardens, plenty of car parking and is within walking distance of Salamanca Place and downtown.
From the outside it looks like a gracious old mansion; and inside is a revelation with recent renovations and some tasteful decorating resulting in what looks like a chic boutique hotel with lovely lounges, verandahs and nooks and crannies.
The bedrooms are simple but comfortable. All feature beds with crisp cotton linen, duvets, woollen blankets and fluffy pillows with reading lamps and power points for all.
So how, then, can double rooms in this delightful establishment cost just $50 per person per night? And shared rooms with bunks (ideal for backpackers or groups of children) come in at just $40 per person?
The answer is that none of the rooms have en suite bathrooms; all washing facilities are shared – as are kitchen facilities.
Also lacking in en suite bathrooms, but full of charm, is the Alabama Hotel. Rooms here start from $80 a night and larger, more comfortable rooms cost $100. That’s a flat rate, so it pays to book early before the Alabama gets booked out, as it often does.
On Liverpool Street, in the city centre, the Alabama re-opened late in 2013 after being closed for a decade. The Art Deco facade probably dates back to the 1930s.
It describes itself as a “boutique budget hotel” and there are 17 rooms, each different, styled with original artworks, vintage touches and very comfortable beds. The retro-chic rooms are clean, comfortable and secure, but don’t expect flat-screen TVs, iPod docks and fluffy robes.
Cosy standard queen-bed rooms are priced at $80 per night, twin rooms at $90 and deluxe queens, with a view down Liverpool Street, are $100 – and there is free wi-fi.
Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse, 1 Stowell Avenue, Battery Point. Hobart, Tasmania. (03) 6212 0474. www.montacute.com.au.
Alabama Hotel, Level 1, 72 Liverpool Street, Hobart, Tasmania. 0499 987 698. www.alabamahobart.com.au.
FOUR GOURMET TREATS
The Agrarian Kitchen
A sustainable farm-based cooking school situated in a cute 19th-century schoolhouse at Lachlan, 45 minutes from Hobart in the Derwent Valley, the Agrarian Kitchen can sometimes be booked out for months in advance.
It was established by Rodney Dunn and his French wife Séverine, who moved from Sydney to Tasmania in 2007 to transform the schoolhouse into Tasmania’s first hands-on, farm-based school.
Set on five acres, it incorporates a vegetable garden, orchard, berry patch and herb garden, all grown using organic principles. Also in residence are Wessex saddleback pigs, Barnevelder chickens, Alpine goats and a flock of geese.
650 Lachlan Road, Lachlan. (03) 6261 1099. www.theagrariankitchen.com
Bruny Island Cheese
Gourmets will be in their element on Bruny Island, a short ferry ride from Kettering, south of Hobart.
It is here that colourful television personality and cheese master Nick Haddow produces some of Australia’s finest cheeses, hand-made from local milk. Visitors are invited to do a tasting, check out the cheesery or sample a selection of artisan cheeses and wood-fired breads among the eucalyptus gum trees in the Bruny Island Cheese gardens. The cheeses are all made and matured using traditional techniques.
Tiny Bruny Island is a mini gourmet paradise and is also home to freshly shucked oysters from Get Shucked, wines from Bruny Island Premium Wines, Australia’s southernmost vineyard, the Bruny Island Smokehouse and the Bruny Island Berry Farm.
1807 Bruny Island Main Rd, Great Bay, Bruny Island. (03) 6260 6353. www.brunyislandcheese.com.au.
Hobart’s spectacular $175 million MONA is unlike any museum Australia has known – it also includes a winery, wine bar, cellar door, a micro-brewery and a restaurant with a superb wine list in The Source, which offers views across the Derwent river.
The creation of philanthropist David Walsh, the Museum of Old and New Art outside Hobart is designed to shock and offend, challenge, inform, entertain and provoke debate.
What was previously a small collection of antiquities has been transformed into a three-level multimedia museum of installations, paintings, light shows, mummies and African art as well as the Moorilla Estate winery. MONA also hosts a farmers’ market, known as MoMa, during summer.
651-655 Main Road, Berriedale (03) 6277 9900. www.mona.net.au.
Launceston Harvest Market
Fancy sampling some hand-crafted Tasmanian cheeses? Some new-season apricot jam, or perhaps some juicy fresh tomatoes direct from the Tamar Valley?
Maybe organic pork and beef from Mount Gnomon Farm, salmon from 41 Degrees South salmon farm, interesting cuts of rabbit meat, or new-vintage local wines from boutique producers Sharmans or Humbug Reach?
Many of the best producers in the north of the state are at Launceston’s Harvest Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday morning rain or shine and one of the best examples of Tasmania’s growing producer-to-punter food culture.
71 Cimitiere St, Launceston. 0417 352 780. www.harvestmarket.org.au.
SOMEWHERE SPECIAL TO STAY
Launceston is a lovely city and the gateway to the Tamar Valley Wine Route. Among the best places to stay are two new Hatherley Birrell Collection pavilions.
Tucked away overlooking a beautiful and stylish garden, high on a hill overlooking the city, the Magnolia and Muse pavilions are delightfully quiet and very well equipped.
This pair of eco-friendly retreats have an Asian feel, having been inspired by Chinese lanterns. but overlook a classically European jardin folie based on 17th-18th century landscape design.
The pavilions are furnished with sublimely comfortable beds, a library of in-house movies; a nicely provisioned minibar, modern bathrooms with luxury amenities.
Both have kitchenettes, flat-screen TVs, private outdoor areas, contemporary artworks, hairdryers, free and secure off-street parking and, a nice touch, complimentary port for a pre-sleep treat.
The Hatherley Birrell Collection. 0458 947 727. www.hatherley.com.au.
Visitors to Tasmania can now combine world-class walks around the coastline with sailing on a luxury yacht.
The new Wineglass Bay Sail Walk, which started operating just before Christmas, combines a guided trekking experience exploring some of Tasmania’s most stunning east coast locations with boat travel in between the destinations.
The experience is the latest offering from the Tasmanian Walking Company, which also owns the award-winning Bay of Fires Lodge Walk and the Cradle Mountain Huts Walk.
Over four- or six-day itineraries, walkers can explore Maria Island and both the Freycinet and Tasman Peninsulas, travelling by yacht from one location to another aboard the luxurious Lady Eugenie, a 23-metre ketch that also serves as their accommodation.
The four-day Wineglass Bay Sail Walk itinerary takes in Maria Island, Schouten Island, Cooks (or Bryans) Beach and Wineglass Bay. The six-day itinerary additionally explores the Tasman Peninsula, including a section of the new Three Capes Track. Both itineraries will originate out of Hobart.
Walkers can opt to relax on some days, swapping trekking with swimming, a stroll along a deserted beach, or simply staying on board.
Each night guests will be served drinks and canapés as the sun sets, followed by a locally sourced dinner served with a selection of Tasmanian wines. The trip operates with a maximum of 10 guests in five cabins, all with air-conditioning, private bathrooms and showers.
For more information ring (03) 6392 2211 or visit www.wineglassbaysailwalk.com.au.
For more details on visiting Tasmania see www.discovertasmania.com.au.