Where to Stay in Tasmania

Sep 01, 2013

by SUSAN SKELLY, Editor, Qantas The Australian Way

Guidebook producers and luxury travel networks alike are tipping Tasmania as the hot find. Home to art, fine food and cheeky hotels, the island inspired Qantas The Australian Way editor Susan Skelly to plot a short break on the east coast

There’s a sense of the last frontier about Tasmania, not least because there’s not much else between you and Antarctica. For Australians from other states, visiting has become a short-break imperative. Every convert has an opinion on where to go: which B&B, which restaurant, which provedore, which coast, which art house, which ancient thicket – and which wine you should drink with all that. The list is endless, but put these on it.

MONA
655 Main Road, Berriedale, Hobart.
+61 3 6277 9900.
mona.net.au
In the 12 months since it opened in January 2011, this trailblazing museum of old and new art is believed to have attracted 400,000 visitors. Its opening was unforgettable and founder David Walsh continues to up the ante, making MONA one of the most talked-about galleries on the planet, and there’s excitement, even for a third-time visitor. New to the space is the library (Walsh’s bedtime reading tomes), a reading room embellished by Brett Whiteley’s big Blue Studio; and the buzz was building for Wim Delvoye’s latest exhibition of 100-odd art works, open until April 2, which includes Tim, the man whose back was tattooed by the Belgian artist and then “sold” to a German collector for 150,000 (AUD$205,500). (Delvoye is “known to MONA” – he’s the one with the arty take on the human waste tract.) Late in June comes Theatre Of The World, with antiquities and contemporary works, curated by Jean-Hubert Martin.

MONA Pavilions
655 Main Road, Berriedale, Hobart.
+61 3 6277 9900.
mona.net.au
The Nonda Katsalidis-designed pavilions beside the Derwent River, mostly of translucent glass and steel cubes, are chic and cheeky – right down to the uninvited blowfly whose presence seems almost choreographed. You won’t find “Do Not Disturb” or “Please Make Up My Room” here. Rather, there’s “I’m A Messy Bastard”, “Undo the Damage” or “Come Back Later When the Noise Subsides”. There’s a twisted 1m-tall pedestal of books – The Rapture Of Death by Prue Gibson and Life Of Pee: The Story Of How Urine Got Everywhere by Sally Magnusson, as well as regular art books and Penguin classics. The carpet is an avant-garde welcome mat: “Apropros of nothing it’s nice to have you here and thank you we need the money”. It’s high-tech; there’s a TV in the wall at the end of the bath, art to peruse, a Lurex throw rug, plenty of space, a recharge view, the Source restaurant up the hill for fine food, and a sense of being part of a moment in art history. Standard rooms from AUD$490.

Gourmania Food Tours
+61 0419 180 113.
gourmaniafoodtours.com.au
Local produce, cooking schools and edgy dining have become the Tasmanian holidaymaker’s raison d’tre. Tapping into the new food appreciation is Mary McNeill (herself locally produced), with a four-hour, 3km walking and tasting tour of Hobart’s CBD, with plenty of history served on the side. Sample the goods at the Tassal Salmon Shop, Wursthaus Kitchen (with its 20 varieties of sausage) and R Takagi’s tiny stop dedicated to sushi. There’s a tasting at Cool Wine, presided over by wine judge co-owner Tim Goddard, who is as happy to advise on top-drawer wines and his 350-odd beers as he is on which cleanskin is the best value if you have only AUD$10 to spend.

Top treat on the trek is a visit to A Common Ground, tucked literally under a stairwell in the Salamanca Arts Centre building, it’s a new initiative of foodies Matthew Evans (former Sydney restaurant critic), Nick Haddow (cheesemaker) and Ross O’Meara (chef). Try tasty artisanal cheeses (raw milk, white mould and washed rind), plus pickled cherries, olives and chocolates. Other pit stops include the Jackman & McRoss patisserie and cafe (with its signature savoury Danish pastry); the ancient Brunswick Hotel (1827), transformed from biker bar to gastro pub in 18 months, and whose premises lay claim to housing the second-longest Chesterfield couch in Australia (at 6.8m); and finally to Smolt in Salamanca Square for a thank-you-and-goodbye arancini of gorgonzola and mushrooms.

Islington Hotel
321 Davey Street, Hobart.
+61 3 6220 2123.
islingtonhotel.com
The Islington has won a stack of awards, and with good reason. This beautiful home dates back to 1847 (it’s part of a dress circle of Hobart’s Regency homes) and became a hotel in 1986, with glass-roofed pavilion extensions instituted just a few years ago. Its rooms (it has 11 bedrooms) look out to Mount Wellington across gardens that are a profusion of rhododendrons, daisies and blossoms. The place is as much an eclectic art gallery as a hotel. There are paintings, etchings, tapestries, rugs, furniture, chandeliers, statues, ceramics and clocks from the 11th century to the 21st, and curiosities to amuse and impress for hours on end. The glazed conservatory abuts an open kitchen where in-house dinner can be ordered, and breakfast includes the best bespoke berry muffins around. From AUD$320 (April to September) including breakfast.

Garagistes
103 Murray Street, Hobart.
+61 3 6231 0558.

This place is so popular it’s standing room only by 6.15pm, the crush driven by both its no-bookings policy and high expectations. But the overflow is happy to perch at the bar. It’s noticeable time and again, that so tasty are its offerings, diners ask for repeat servings. Pick a number of steamed Bruny Island oysters with their lemony emulsion and then double it. The shared-plates menu includes pink-eye potatoes with a nettle sauce; text-book octopus and calamari with quinoa; Berkshire pork neck with foraged vegetables; and a triumphant burnt-cream shortcake with a raspberry granita. Luke Burgess and his team are having fun in their kitchen playground, folding together innovation, experiment and craftsmanship. See our restaurant review on page 157.

Salamanca Market
Salamanca Place, Hobart.
+61 3 6238 2711.
salamanca.com.au
A two-block stretch between the warehouses and the waterfront, and shaded by plane trees, Salamanca Market is a great Saturday morning stop for those in search of fresh local produce – and the rest. Have a Champagne glass monogrammed; pick up some fine ceramics; rummage for out-of-print biographies, a Bob Dylan disc or a pile of vintage magazines from the ’60s; unearth a handmade felt clutch bag, art works, funky jewellery or chilli beer. Nearby are plenty of coffee spots and boutiques.

Port Arthur Historic Site
Arthur Highway, Port Arthur.
+61 3 6251 2310.
portarthur.org.au
It’s hard to fathom that such brutal things could have happened in so beautiful a place. Notorious as a penal colony (1830-1877) – and in 1996 as the site of the gruesome massacre perpetrated by Martin Bryant that saw 35 people shot dead and resulted in the tightening of Australia’s gun control laws – Port Arthur has endless history to absorb. Its evocative ruins, extensive grounds and gardens house 30 historic buildings, many with footprints of past lives you can almost feel. Entry to the site includes a 30-minute cruise out on Carnarvon Bay with historical commentary. (In the 19th century, boys as young as nine years old could be transported to the nearby Point Puer Boys’ Prison, where many inmates were taught trades such as bookbinding, shipbuilding and bootmaking). Night ghost tours are rich with spooky stories, shadows and plenty of good old-fashioned scares.

Stewarts Bay Lodge
6955 Arthur Highway,
Port Arthur.
+61 3 6250 2888.
stewartsbaylodge.com.au
A real holiday find for families, couples and individuals alike. Set in bushland by a lake along the coast of the Tasman Peninsula, and just a short drive from the Port Arthur Historic Site, Stewarts Bay Lodge comprises 40 cabins on 9ha, some old, others more modern. Expect to sight wombats, echidnas, black cockatoos, iridescent rosellas and wallabies. There’s kayaking, tennis, a children’s play area and bushwalking, plus an in-house restaurant and – in the ’hood – horseriding, caves, beaches, a fish market and berry farms. Robert Pennicott’s eco-cruise, which takes in spectacular southern cliffs between Port Arthur and Eaglehawk Neck (including Tasman Island and the Candlestick and the Totem Pole – the formidable rock formations beloved of tightrope-walking adventurers) is mandatory: witness the abundance of fur seals, migratory birds such as black shearwater in their thousands, and possibly more albatrosses than you’ll ever again see in one place. Lodge cabins are neat and spacious, with kitchen and balcony, and come in one- to three-bedroom sizes. From AUD$150 per night per cabin.

Saffire Freycinet (pictured)
2352 Coles Bay Road,
Coles Bay.
+61 3 6256 7888.
saffire-freycinet.com.au
Off the beaten track and newly inducted into the Relais & Chteaux portfolio, and with a best hotel design award under its belt, Saffire is a seductive sanctuary and a model of architectural sophistication (designed by Circa Architecture, formerly Morris Nunn and Associates). Its form is commanding, with multi-textured stone, celery pine ceilings, local wood and large tiles. Its 20 suites are private (although some say not private enough), spacious, and there are views to the rugged mountains of the Hazards, double showers, top-drawer food by Hugh Whitehouse, an excellent spa and an overall sense of entitlement. But the wonder of this place is as much about what you can do there. Pull on a drysuit and wade out to the oyster baskets at Giles and Julie Fisher’s Freycinet Marine Oyster Farm; a guide will knife open the shells, set up a table midstream and uncork a bottle of sparkling white. Walk the trails, or indulge in a quite brilliant and unique half or full-day expedition in a 12.5m search and rescue vessel, nudging both pink granite and dolomite cliffs to Schouten Island, with sightings of Australian fur seals, penguins, a white-breasted sea eagle with a nest the size of a small car, Pacific gulls, and an albatross on patrol along the way. Suites from AUD$1450 per night (breakfast and lunch included).

Ocean Retreat
25c Morrison Street, Falmouth.
+61 3 5989 7666.
retreats@events.com.au
More the ocean-front home of a well-heeled friend than a resort, the house has four bedrooms and a huge living room offering views over the Tasman Sea (dolphins no charge), several nooks and crannies for time out, plunge pool, well-equipped kitchen and butler’s pantry or caterer’s prep area plus barbecue enclave. It would suit a family or two, or the friends-catching-up crowd. Sleeps 10, maximum. Stop by Bicheno or one of the other little towns (St Marys, Scamander, St Helens) for provisions. From AUD$650-$1300 per night depending on numbers (April onwards).

Source Qantas The Australian Way March 2012

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