Tassie might appear compact on a map, but smart visitors allow as much time as possible to poke around its fascinating nooks and crannies. Learn about Indigenous and colonial history, ride a steam train, conquer a mountain-bike trail and soak away your cares in a floating sauna. Sip your way around scenic cellar doors and book the state’s most desirable restaurant tables well before leaving home. Remember that Australia’s island state is also about the simple things in life - so go right ahead and hunt down that humble scallop pie.
SEE AND DO
Among the things you’ll notice while exploring lutruwita/Tasmania is the resurgent culture of Aboriginal Tasmanians. Almost 30 places – including kunanyi/Mount Wellington and larapuna/Bay of Fires – have been assigned Aboriginal or dual names. On the multi-day wukalina Walk that departs from Launceston, allowing participants to walk on country along the east coast to larapuna/Bay of Fires, you’ll hear more about palawa kani – a modern constructed language written in lower case that is based on various Aboriginal languages once spoken here. Post-walk, you’ll also have a new appreciation for the iridescent beauty of maireener shell (also known as rainbow kelp shell) jewellery, one of the state’s oldest continuing cultural practices. Great examples reside within Queen Victoria Art Gallery in Launceston’s city centre and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (pictured above) in Hobart.
In recent years, Tassie has also become a mecca for mountain–bikers. Head to Derby in the north-east where, after a day of smashing the trails (or perhaps they smash you), you can relax in a picturesque floating sauna. There’s also a burgeoning MTB scene in Maydena in the Derwent Valley where a shuttle service conveniently drops you and your wheels at the top of the dramatic gravity trails. Tiny Maydena, a former forestry town, is also home to the more sedate Railtrack Riders, where you pedal a “rider” along a scenic former railway line.
EAT AND DRINK
Tassie is full of delectable eats ranging from humble to haute. One of the state specialities is a scallop pie – head to Bridport (near the world-famous classic links course Barnbougle Dunes and sister course Lost Farm) to try the award-winning curried version at Bridport Café or Sugar N Spice Bakery’s take with mornay sauce. At Launceston’s Havilah, pair a glass of wine with shared snacks or larger plates from the pared-back menu or launch into a more extravagant feast at the highly rated Stillwater (also a boutique hotel) overlooking the Tamar River.
In Hobart, make a beeline for Massimo Mele’s Peppina inside The Tasman hotel (pictured above), the stark white cocoon of wine bar and eatery Institut Polaire or next-level gastro-pub Tom McHugo’s Hobart Hotel (fried apple pie with a dollop of cream, anyone?). As for the state’s single-most desirable table? Tough call but many say it’s tucked inside the rammed-earth walls of Van Bone, a 50-minute drive north-east of Hobart near Marion Bay. Just remember to book early.
Perhaps you want to sample Tassie’s cool-climate wines straight from the producer. Book in for a long lunch at a scenic cellar door such as Ghost Rock Wines near Devonport, Velo Wines near Launceston or Stefano Lubiana Wines overlooking the Derwent River near Hobart. Or take your winery experience to a whole new level with Clover Hill’s Panoramic package that includes a scenic helicopter flight over Barnbougle Dunes and Bass Strait.
If you haven’t visited provocateur David Walsh’s MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) (pictured above), add it to the list. There are different ways to do Mona – one is the Posh-As package that includes ferry tickets from Hobart, a private tour of the on-site vineyard and winery Moorilla, lunch with matched wines, museum entry and more.
Launceston’s Cataract Gorge is also a must-do outing. Stroll straight into the gorge from town. Bring your swimmers if it’s a warm day – there’s a swimming pool incongruously tucked into the bush setting – and keep your eyes peeled for the resident strutting peacocks.
If driving between Hobart and Launceston, stop at Richmond to see Australia’s oldest bridge (built in 1825) and at Ross to see the extraordinary tiny sculptures adorning the 1836 stone bridge. Another stunning bridge, fashioned from 1.5 million red-clay bricks, was completed by convict work gangs two years later in nearby Campbell Town.
The West Coast Wilderness Railway (pictured above) just might be Australia’s most romantic train ride – as well as the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest steam haul. Book the Wilderness Carriage where you can stand on the open-air observation balcony (a popular spot for proposals) as the train cranks its way up into the rugged mist-wreathed rainforest separating Queenstown and Strahan. Passengers in this atmospheric carriage also enjoy bubbles on arrival along with morning tea and lunch.
Steam train enthusiasts can also head further north to tiny Tullah, where the dinky Wee Georgie Wood locomotive does a short run into town and back. The Don River Railway near Devonport is also a fun outing and there’s a steam train experience in Sheffield, known as the Town of Murals thanks to more than 200 artworks adorning its buildings.
Tasmania’s hottest new hotel is Hobart’s The Tasman. Part of the Marriott stable, the 152-room hotel is a visionary redevelopment of civic buildings spanning Georgian, Art Deco and contemporary architecture. Nearby Moss Hotel, (pictured above) split across two sites, is a reimagining of handsome historic warehouses. Check into one of the Grove Bath rooms to soak in one of the sexiest forest-green-tiled bathrooms around.
In Launceston, try to nab one of the seven rooms at Stillwater. Each room with waterfront views is different but the historic bones of the 19th-century flour mill have been thoughtfully incorporated into the design. Stillwater is near the gorge but, if you prefer a central Launceston location, try the “industrial luxe” vibe of Hotel Verge across from City Park (home to resident snow monkeys).
Perhaps you prefer a rural outlook that includes kangaroos hopping by in the mornings? Head to a secluded cottage on Curringa Farm, a 60-minute drive north-west of Hobart.