Often forgotten by the rest of the world, Tasmania is the small island state which sits at the bottom of Australia. Far richer than any of the other Australian States in terms of natural beauty, Tasmania offers travellers and tourists that crazy thing called “fresh air”, and we noticed it as soon as we stepped off the plane.
With many national parks, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and beaches, Tasmania attracts hikers and bush-walkers from all around the world who are drawn to locations such as Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Wineglass Bay, and Maria Island. However Tasmania also offers an insight into its sandstone heritage – five World Heritage Convict Sites such as Port Arthur, The Isle of the dead, and Sarah Island are only a short trip from the historic capital of Hobart.
We spent 6 days in Hobart, Australia’s second oldest city, and loved our time there. It’s not the biggest of cities by Australian standards, but certainly offers enough to warrant several days. Our favorite area was definitely Salamanca with the historic sandstone buildings converted into restaurants, cafes, bars and specialty shops and opposite the tree lined park offering shade for the infamous Saturday Salamanca Markets.
In the early morning we headed out to explore the city, we walked past the waterfront, visited a museum and saw Salamanca Place. The Hobart waterfront is a peaceful area where piers extend into the ocean, fishing boats bop quietly on the water’s surface, sea gulls scream in the skies and seafood restaurants are filled with hungry tourists. It was one of our favorite areas of the city and even on a cloudy and rainy day we enjoyed strolling around.
We spent a bit of time at the Taste of Tasmania Festival. It was packed as you’d expect a free food festival to be, but well laid out and extremely well organised. There was plenty of seating, under cover and out in the sunshine, at tables or on the lawn. With over 70 food and drink stalls, part of the pleasure was in the looking and choosing. Kim found her place at the Clover Hill Wines sparkling wine, seafood and oyster bar, where she discovered the 1996 Clover Hill Blanc de Blancs and loved it so much she ordered a case for delivery to home, and happily slurped down oysters dressed with Pernod, tarragon and olive oil. We shared crispy scallops with mayonnaise and split a woodfire pizza.
The Taste of Tasmania was an unexpected highlight of our holiday and we won’t hesitate to go again if we’re ever back in Hobart at the right time of year. The festive season’s a busy but brilliant time to be in Hobart. The Taste of Tasmania festival coincides with the finish of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which we were lucky to watch Wild Oats finish first. After a long day we headed back to a well deserved sleep.
Next day we woke bright and early for a backed day of adventures. First on the list was a trip up Mount Wellington. It is said that 300,000 people visit Mount Wellington each year. This is no doubt due to its unique situation – an alpine mountain located next to a temperate Australian capital city. You really can go from the surf to the snow in 20 minutes. What’s more you can see the surf from the snow and vice versa. The views are awesome, the surroundings spectacular and the whole place is just made to be enjoyed. You could easily spend several days on the mountain, as long as you were happy to walk a lot. Anyone can find enough to enjoy a few hours in this magnificent natural environment, unrivalled in proximity to any other Australian city. Once on top we headed to the Pinnacle itself. You should climb up here if you can, especially if you have walked to the top, not us. On top is a “trig” point. The “point” is actually the metal point in the ground, and the pyramid structure above it enables people at distant locations to see it (with good optics). They were used for trigonometric surveying, and are largely useless in the GPS age. This one is most useful for holding onto as you climb to the top. We then headed to visitor shelter, which overlooks Hobart east of the carpark, and has interpretive panels inside along with a panoramic guide to what you can see. Lastly before heading back down we walked the summit boardwalk. This runs down beside the visitor shelter. Great views can be had from here on clear days, and it is worth a walk as we got spectacular photos.
Back on the bus and next on the agenda was a trip to Richmond. Richmond was about a 30-minute drive north of Hobart, and is Australia’s best-preserved Georgian village and home to more than 50 historic buildings, most dating from the 1820s. It’s also in the center of one of Australia’s fastest-growing wine regions, the Coal River Valley. Its most famous landmark is the oldest bridge still in use. Built of sandstone hauled to the construction site by convicts, the elegant arched bridge was completed in 1825 when tiny Richmond, now home to about 800 people, was one of the colony’s most important convict stations and military posts, and the third-largest town in what was then called Van Diemen’s Land. We checked out more than 50 historic buildings throughout the town, although not all are open to the public with many quirky shops and Kim found joy in the boutiques shops. Bit of a touristy town away from Hobart.
Back in the bus for the last stop for the day, a Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory tour to see the making of delicious chocolates, and to enjoy free samples. Wow, for chocoholic Kim, this was pure heaven. Boy did she stock up, after the tour you get to go into the shop on site to buy bags, boxes and truckloads of chocolate at discounted prices. She went nuts, fruit and nuts. She bought something for everyone we knew who liked chocolate, and let’s face it; there aren’t too many people who don’t like chocolate. Who needs lunch when you can stuff yourself stupid on chocolate?
The next day we decided to jump on the Hobart Explorer hop-on hop-off bus tour. First stop was at Battery Point to see an incredible array of historical houses that date as far back as the 1830s and enjoy the area’s fine old restaurants, pubs and lovely views of Sandy Bay. An empty rum bottle’s throw from the waterfront, the old maritime village of Battery Point is a tight nest of lanes and 19th-century cottages, packed together like shanghaied landlubbers in a ship’s belly.
We spend the morning exploring, stumbling up Kelly’s Steps from Salamanca Pl and doglegged into South St, where the red lights once burned night and day. Spun around picturesque Arthur Circus, refueled in a cafe on Hampden Rd, then ogled St George’s Anglican Church on Cromwell St.
Next stop off was a stroll around the Botanical Gardens, this popular Hobart attraction is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon, with its Japanese garden, Lily Pond, Herb Garden and much more.
Back on the bus a we visited the Female Factory, a former woman’s prison from whence you can set out on the popular Louisa’s Walk tour. Louisa’s Walk is essentially an immersive piece of outdoor promenade theater where the audience follows actors as they recant the story of Louisa Ragan, an Irish convict who was deported on a seven year sentence in 1841 for stealing a loaf of bread. Two actors take on the roles of Louisa and the men that Louisa encounters on her journey to Van Diemen’s Land and in the prison. It is a fascinating story, told with humour and compassion, and is a must if you have an interest in history and/or theatre. The story is enacted along a route in South Hobart that takes you from Cascade Brewery, to the site of the Women’s Factory and back to the brewery for a complimentary beverage.
The next stop wasn’t too far, Cascade Brewery. Even if you were unaware that Cascade is Australia’s oldest brewery, the castle-like grey building standing tall among the trees provides hints to its history. The brewery was designed by its founder, Peter Degraves while he served time in the Old Hobart Gaol. We had a lesson in the brewing process; a look inside the brewery, tastings, and lots of stories from Cascade’s interesting past, including more about the visionary Peter Degraves. The factory doesn’t operate on weekends although tours still take place, but we had the live spectacle and clatter of workers and moving machinery and watched the noisy, hazardous bottling process in.
When we checked in, we were each given two bottle caps to redeem at the bar at the conclusion of the tour, for Cascade beer or non-alcoholic drinks; this is the ‘tasting’ part of the tour, which we loved. After the tour, we stayed for lunch in the cafe, ordering meals from the special tour. It’s simple pub-style food, nothing outstanding or particularly memorable, but I was content on the day with my Cascade Stout & beef pie with chips and Kim had a cold bottle of Cascade ginger beer. We thought the tour was a worthwhile activity, giving us an insight into part of Hobart’s rich history. The souvenir shop sells Cascade merchandise and beer by the carton.
We then took the bus back for a late walk around the Rose Bay area.
Next day was a shopping day for Kim. We headed to Mongrelsocks first. Their variety of merino, possum fur, pure wool, bamboo and cotton blends in various thickness and lengths will keep your toes cosy warm no matter the weather. Onto Sally Cassandra, a Ceramic artisan who creates a range of jewellery, dainty dishes and homewares enriched with beautiful textures and patterns imprinted on porcelain. Sandra utilises vintage fabrics and laces that each have astory to create her special pieces. Next stop was Pili Pala, Helen crafts many of her pieces from Tasmanian blackwood with a mix of vintage patterns and inspiration to create unique necklaces, earrings, vases and wall art. Onto Big JellyMouse, which offers a great collection of quality clothing & accessories that encompass innovative, groovy and fun designs.
Next stop The Maker, which stocks a range of contemporary Tasmanian artists, jewellers, homewares and designers. It showcases distinctive and organic clothing using the finest quality wool, linens and cottons. From there we walked to the main mall with a row of shops and boutiques.
Late afternoon we headed to Wrest Point Casino, which is set on the Derwent River 2.6 km from Salamanca Market. There are 4 bars and 5 restaurants, including one with a revolving dining room. Kim had a little play, while I chilled in the sports bar. We stayed for dinner at the Point Revolving Restaurant and returned home late.
The last two days we had a day at the races and a full day wine tour. The first winery was Pooley Wines, a rustic, convict built cellar door circa 1830, were guided through an array of highly acclaimed wines. The Pooley team pride themselves on showcasing the Terrior of their Vineyards. Specialising in Riesling and Pinot Noir’s, there is so much more to their range that will suit every palate.
Second winery was Clemens Hill Cellar Door and Kitchen, which range of wines is renowned for their complexity, texture, flavour and longevity. Drawing from two premium sites their range epitomises Tasmanian wine, embracing old and new world techniques. Onto the third winery we hit Richmond Tasting House, which is centre stage at the moment in the Whisky and Spirits world. There are now around 13 different distilleries statewide and they are all kicking goals, winning an array of awards and acclaim. Sullivan’s Cove recently was awarded “Best Single Malt in the World” We tried 3 different Spirits / Liqueurs. Onto the forth location we hit Coal Valley Cider, which Julie and Josh have built. A great family owned and friendly business just on the outskirts of Richmond. Situated on a lovely parcel of land lies a hand built, mud brick cottage that the Coal Valley Cider family have established. Made from Real Apples, Pears and local Berries, Coal Valley Cider is extremely tasty, delicious and has minimal preservatives. We experienced the range of Ciders and shuck some Walnuts whilst we enjoyed our ciders to.
Our last stop was Wicked Cheese Factory, which is fast becoming a name synonymous with Tassie Cheese. Ashley has gained a reputation as one of Australia’s finest cheese makers, Wicked produce 15 types of cheese and we got to try quite a few of them. You can also purchase a cooler bag and ice pack to take Wicked Cheese home with you (you can take anything out of Tasmania, you just can’t bring anything in.
Late back to the BnB we had a small dinner and started packing for in the morning we were heading to Launceston early.