Think of Tasmania and chances are the first image that comes to mind is a vast expanse of rugged wilderness. As a Tasmanian native, I can’t fault you since it’s true (national parks and world heritage areas take up about 40% of our land), but let me introduce you to other aspects of this alluring island.
Let me start by giving you some perspective. Tasmania is Australia’s smallest and most southerly state — about an hour’s flight from Melbourne. We have a population of about 500,000 and almost half live in my hometown of Hobart. Aside from being Tasmania’s capital city, Hobart is also the second oldest city in the country, which explains the quaint architecture and colonial buildings that line our streets.
Hobart also makes an excellent base camp for anyone visiting Tasmania. It sits right on the edge of the River Derwent, where schools of dolphin often pass, and at the foot of Mount Wellington. From here, you can head south for Bruny Island with its stunning coastlines, east for Coal River Valley and Tasman National Park, or west for Lake St Claire in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Cousin to the famed Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) are a magical natural light show concentrated in a ring around the Antarctica. Tasmania, with its vast skies and unpolluted air, is one of the best places to catch this natural wonder. Since the key to seeing the Southern Lights is little or no reflective light, you’ll have to venture out of Hobart.
I would recommend heading south, over the Tasman Bridge to Dodges Ferry, Cockle Creek or the South Arm Peninsular. You’ll need time, patience and a little help from Mother Nature to catch the Southern Lights so planning a one- or two-night stay is usually a good idea.
If lying back and watching electrically-charged particles create dancing coloured lights in the night sky sounds too tame for you, try bushwalking (that’s Aussie for hiking or trekking).
The Three Capes Track is a breathtakingly beautiful experience for those who are willing to work their leg muscles. The trail is relatively flat compared to many of Tasmania’s bushwalks but it’ll still take you a good four days to traverse the 46 kilometres of cliff-hugging wilderness.
Tasmania is also where you’ll find the world’s cleanest air and purest water, so it’s little wonder that our produce, especially our seafood, is the best in the world — at least I think so!
To test my theory, just head over to Hobart’s Salamanca Market on Saturday mornings. The fresh vegetables are beyond anything you have ever tasted! We take so much pride and joy in our produce that only organic sprays, if any at all, are used.
In addition to gourmet produce, Salamanca Market’s 300 stalls also offer authentic arts, crafts and handiwork from all over Tasmania and beyond. The market is regulated by the Hobart City Council so there’s no room for knock-offs here — just lovingly made crafts.
Foodies should also make time for a trip to Bruny Island. It’s famed for its fresh, plump oysters but there’s plenty more to indulge in, like berries, wines and cheese. Our temperate climate is ideal for growing chardonnay, pinot noir, gewürtztraminer and riesling grapes. These cool-climate varieties of grapes are then turned into elegant wines that can hold their own against some of the finest French selections.
If wine doesn’t tickle your fancy, Tasmania also produces whisky, cider and beer. Our tourism authority, Discover Tasmania, has even opened three drinking trails to pamper the palate. The Whisky Trail takes you to leading local distilleries like Lark, Overeem, Nant and more; The Cider Trail introduces you to the best cider makers like Willie Smiths, which produces Australia’s first certified organic cider, while The Beer Trail spans the island’s 20-plus breweries. Bottoms up, mate!
An alternative art scene
For about 10 years now, a quiet art and cultural revolution has been taking place in Tasmania. This culminated in the opening of MONA — the Museum of Old and New Art that you definitely have to visit. In fact, the year after MONA burst into the scene, Lonely Planet ranked Hobart as seventh in its top 10 cities to visit, with the museum listed as its main attraction.
Located within the Moorilla winery on the Berriedale peninsula in Hobart, MONA is the largest privately funded museum in Australia filled with art and antiquity. In addition to its core collection, it runs a busy exhibition programme with two major openings in winter and summer and smaller ones in-between.
MONA also holds a mid-winter festival called Dark Mofo, a large-scale public art, food, film, music, light and noise event that runs in June. Now in its fourth year, Dark Mofo has elevated Tasmania’s tourist status from a three to a 10, bringing tourists from all over the world to our shores.
From nature and food to art and architecture, Tasmania is a world apart from the rest of Australia — and the rest of the world. I hope that you will have a chance to experience all that is unique here!
Come stay with us:Somerset on Salamanca Hobart
Somerset on the Pier Hobart