I’ve always been curious about this part of Australia … It turns out we are in Melbourne and Tasmania is just one hour flight away from us…
It is December 31st, 2013 when we land in Hobart – ready to welcome the new year. In search of a good party, we head to the harbor around Franklin Wharf and Castray Esplanade and end up at a local tassie rock bar with live music and a few local friends.
It’s only the next day, though, that I fall for Hobart’s charms, as we walk through the old part of town and have breakfast at Environs Cafe. Then, we catch the camouflage boat towards the Museum of old and new art MONA, which is one of the nicest museums I’ve ever come across. The boat, the surrounding vineyards, and, of course, the exhibitions, are spectacular. Visitors are given an iPod that uses GPS to work out which artwork they are standing in front. Then, it gives a running commentary from Walsh (poker player and founder MONA) himself, interviews with the artists and much more. From the lobby, a spiral staircase descends 17 meters underground, ending in a cathedral-like basement cordoned by a 250 million-year-old Triassic sandstone wall that Walsh, who once described himself as a “rabid atheist,” left exposed to challenge creationists on their beliefs. There are plenty of good restaurants here but it’s that time of the year when one can experience the best of Tassie’s cuisine in only one place, at Taste of Tasmania food festival – Tasmania’s most popular summer event. It takes place in Hobart’s waterfront, where I try a little bit of everything and get impressed by the freshnesss and high quality of the food.
Hobart’s charms aside, it is for Tasmania truly great outdoors that most come. Driving across the country is when you can really appreciate the change of landscape from Eastern to Western Tasmania. East and West coasts of Tassie are quite different but each has something to offer. We kick off our road trip along the A10 to Lake St. Clair. We drive towards the west coast to the mining town Queenstown and reach Cradle Mountain. World Heritage-listed, the Jurassic peaks, and plateaus of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park are the setting for some stunning glaciated scenery. The deeper you venture, the more the roads twist and turn, revealing a beautiful landscape drawn from primeval swatches of pastel and torn bark. On Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest freshwater lake, you’ll find Pumphouse Point, a truly unique endeavor not just for Tasmania, but all Australia.
We visit the Devil Sanctuary, where we have an intimate encounter with the famous Tasmanian Devil and learn about its conservation programs. Unlike their names, the devils are adorable animals and quite different from what we are used to watching on the cartoons.We do the Enchanted Walk, one of the greatest short treks of Tasmania and have a dinner to remember at Cradle Mountain Hotel.
A range of easy-hard walking tracks of varying distances are available within the National park, a walk in the wilderness is highly recommended in this area, so we try to do as many walks as we can. We do the Dove Lake Walk, which is one of the most scenic walks in Tasmania, although weather can be cold.Back to the road, we drive from the Cradle Mountain towards Devil’s Corner vineyards, where we taste some outstanding Pinot Noir. From there we continue towards Freycinet.
Freycinet National Park consists of knuckles of granite mountains all but surrounded by azure bays and white sand beaches. The dramatic peaks of the Hazards welcome you as you enter the park. Freycinet is effectively two eroded blocks of granite – the Hazards and the Mt Graham/Mt Freycinet sections of the peninsula – joined by a sand isthmus. It is also a great place to take a walk to the pass overlooking the perfectly shaped Wineglass Bay.
Thanks to the Safire Freycinet hotel, we experience Tasmanian wilderness in Haute style. The hotel commands spectacular views across the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s East coast.Tasmania is a little-known treasure unmatched by any other island destination. Its diverse and stunning landscape is nearly hallucinatory: rolling dunes covered in beautiful wildflowers and granite formations that erupt from the beaches. Despite its remote location, Tasmania has a freestyle culinary scene. We had the best food and wine there. It is great to observe the differences between the east and west coast. The East is “beach/summer holiday” spot of choice for many people. It has Tassie’s driest, warmest weather, although the water (if you plan on swimming) can be quite cold. There are some stunning beaches and towns along the East Coast, and you can also detour south from Sorell and check out the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur etc. too. The west coast has a very different character. The weather comes in from the west of the ocean, so it tends to be wetter than the eastern half of the state. The landscape is also quite rugged and mountainous. However, this makes for some spectacular wilderness: temperate rainforest, waterfalls, etc. Strahan is well set up to cater for tourists, whereas Queenstown, Rosebery, and Zeehan are still mining towns and have a more authentic “frontier” sort of atmosphere. I can’t wait to go back!
We traveled across Hobart, Cradle mountain and Freycinet from December 31st to January 4th, 2014 (5-day trip). Stayed at Henry Jones Art, Cradle Mountain Hotel and Safire Freycinet hotel. Had some amazing Tasmanian food at Environs Cafe and Cradle Mountain Lodge. Flew to Hobart from Melbourne and returned from Lanceston back to Melbourne with Jet Star.
In the bag: Jacket (maybe also a raining jacket); Sweater; Long pants; Swimwear; Comfortable shoes.
Back to part 1 of our AUS trip