To whomever reading this, hello and Happy New Year (it’s not saying very much as we’re 5 months into 2017)! If you were keeping watch, I do apologise for the prolonged absence. I’ve had this article brewing at the back of my mind and I’m somewhat relieved to finally be able to let it loose. I hope your 2017 had tracked along wonderfully, and that you have holidays in store. If so, please make Hobart (and Tasmania) your destination soon.
This island at the southern tip of Australia must be one of my favourite places on Earth. My adventures here have been but a mere scratch on the surface, I’m sure, and Tasmania has lots more to offer. Nature is at is wildest, rawest, purest here and quite simply astounding. There is profound beauty everywhere you turn. Being amongst towering hills and mountains. Rolling carpets of green as far as the eye can see. Clear waters that sparkle in sunlight. Cotton-like clouds that blemish the unbelievably blue sky with their vivid whiteness. That fresh, crisp air.
I think that for all you holiday-makers out there, if you haven’t yet made Tasmania your next holiday destination, please hurry. For now I’m shining the spotlight on Hobart and a super memorable trip to Cradle Mountain (it comes complete with a HORROR STORY – you’ll want to read this I assure you).
Ah Hobart, where do I start? It’s Tasmania’s capital city and probably the only city here in the true sense of the word (even then this is not saying much as there is nary a skyscraper in sight). Launceston is almost like a suburb in Melbourne and I’ve not been to Devonport but I’ve heard its small. I love the climate here, which is probably closest to what you’d experience in the United Kingdom (mild summers and winters that mean business).
Hobart has an incredibly European feel to it. But what makes it special is how it seems to draw from the distinctiveness of several cities. The piers and the waterfront – such lovely features of the city – bear an uncanny resemblance to Oslo. Architecture-wise, the city is littered with examples of nineteenth and twentieth century Regency, Victorian and Edwardian buildings. Salamanca Place often reminds me of how I felt when I was in Edinburgh (especially the walk from Grassmarket up the W Bow / Victoria Street curve) whilst Hobart city resembled downtown Dublin sometimes.
Hobart doesn’t offer very much to do in a touristic sense, but my adoration arises precisely from this lack of distraction. The activities you will find here though, are simply amazing. The best thing about Hobart is how relaxed and happy it makes you feel.
Salamanca Market and Farm Gate Market
Salamanca Market is perhaps as touristy as Hobart gets. It’s open every Saturday of the year along Salamanca Place, unless there is extreme weather, or if the day falls either on Christmas or Anzac (see the Hobart website here and the Salamanca website here). This means that you simply do not visit Hobart without making sure you spend a Saturday here! Otherwise, you’d best plan your return before you even leave. There’s plenty of food, street performers and knick-knacks in the market. It would be a breeze to spend 2 hours wandering around. Fresh fruit and vegetables are in abundance. Peanut butter fans must stop by The Olde Spikey Bridge Store for a taste and (inevitable) purchase. The handmade caramel coated popcorn are devilishly addictive, so do yourself a favour and buy more than one packet. Curiously, there is plenty brewed/distilled alcohol to sample here – from gin to whiskey to whey vodka (yes, it’s alcoholic cheese). A major part of the fun here is the chance to sample so many local produce.
Farm Gate Market, on the other hand, is a foodie’s heaven. It is (not curiously) open every Sunday of the year, “come hail or shine“. Skip breakfast and arrive hungry.
- Chef Masaaki Koyama’s sushi store has a perpetual line and sells out rather quickly, but his sushi are a must-have. I recommend the handrolls (ask for spicy tuna and salmon with extra wasabi, it is grated freshly from the root and tastes a world apart from the tubed ones) and flamed salmon sushi (see picture below). Farm fresh beetroot and carrot juliennes adorn each lovingly made piece.
- Oyster-lovers keep your eyes peeled. A store shucks oysters (extremely fresh because they were only harvested the day before from nearby Bruny Island) to order. The oysters come in various sizes and jumbo is the size of your palm. There’s even a Bloody Mary Oyster shot if you’re up for it!
- If you smell grilled octopus in the air, that’s because … there’s a store that sells grilled octopus! Queue up for it, because you know you want it. The shopowner even offers you a shot of Sambuca at the end of the line. Incredibly tender and perfectly cooked on the spot, again, one serving is not enough.
- Don’t miss the bakery. Fresh pretzels, pizza and coffee icing scrolls. Take your pick.
Do try lots of Tasmanian honey too – Sweet and Raw’s Organic honey which can be found at Farmgate Market is highly recommended!
If after the street food you’re craving proper dining, or if somehow street food isn’t your thing, do your tastebuds and stomach a favour and go to Templo and/or Franklin (please reserve a table). To keep it mysterious I shan’t describe the dishes. But I assure you that you would absolutely enjoy your meal at these two places:
Templo is an amazing find. In my opinion, one of Hobart’s unmissable eating spots. This restaurant is not even located in the city; it’s hidden away in the back streets. It’s incredibly small and seats no more than 20 so you better be sure to reserve. There is no printed menu as anything and everything they serve here is based on whatever fresh produce of the day that the chef lays his hands on. You’ll see dishes handwritten in chalk on the blackboard . I recommend the chef’s tasting menu which gives you the opportunity to sample a wide variety of dishes. There is a clear however not overwhelming skew towards Italian cuisine and the pasta is comparable to the best you would find in Melbourne.
Franklin occupies a converted car showroom in the middle of the city. The menu changes with the season but please don’t leave this place without trying the very famous half a lettuce with sesame and nori dressing. With much less notoriety but equally gobsmacking is Franklin’s very simple boiled potatoes in a creamy sauce (Tasmanian potatoes are honestly quite out of this world). These two dishes linger on in your memory long after your Tasmanian holiday.
3) Pilgrim Coffee
Snobbish cafe-going Melbournians (or is it Melburnians?) will tell you no one else does cafes better than Melbourne. Guess what… Pilgrim Coffee is as nice a cafe as it gets and the food is absolutely delicious – I recommend the big breakfast and waffles for dessert before you head out for beer or wine tasting. I’ll let you in on a secret though: Pilgrim serves coffee beans roasted in Victoria.
A mere half-an-hour drive away from Hobart city is the pinnacle of Mount Wellington. It’s an idyllic spot (that’s not saying very much because pretty much everywhere in Tasmania seems idyllic) which is rather easily accessible by car. My brother is absolutely fascinated with the gradual change in vegetation as we gain altitude, and the plants you get to witness here. However, and obviously, for many the wonder of being here is the ability to witness Hobart sprawling right before your very eyes. On a clear day, the entire city is laid bare to see. A word of warning: regardless of how warm the day may feel, do bring with you some thick, warm clothing because trust me, you will need it!
Dare I say often overlooked but a nice little trip not too far from Hobart. Majestic view of the brewery, beer tasting and an unforgettable stout ice cream that cannot be missed!
MONA and Moorilla Estate Winery / Moo Brewery
I won’t give away too much on what you get to see at MONA, but it’s an interesting visit. What makes the drive here worthwhile, though, is that on top of fancy art you get to also sample some rather good wine at the adjacent Moorilla Estate Winery. If like me you’re not that into wine, Moo Brewery at this same location offers a beer tasting menu too. It was absolutely delicious!
We’re heading a bit further from Hobart now but to me still a short trip from the city, is Huon Valley. I haven’t done very much here yet but if you get the chance do stop by Willie Smith’s Apple Shed for a glass of ice cold fizzy organic apple cider. 100% grown and made in Tasmania – what could be any more attractive than that?
You may not necessarily care to part with $250 for a bottle of 500ml Tasmanian whiskey but you can always do a tasting! We tasted a few throughout our trip and the Old Stable at Redlands Distillery was the winner. This place is approximately 45 minutes away by car from Hobart.
If time permits, any trip to Tasmania should include at least a night’s stay at Cradle Mountain. It is quite simply, unmissable. An ideal itinerary would be to fly into the Launceston Airport, arriving sometime late morning/noon. Take some time to have lunch and shop for some groceries to take them all up with you to the Mountain. Allow yourself at least 3 hours for an easy, stress-free drive and be sure to factor in sunset times.
Here comes the horror story. I made the mistake of beginning the trek up to the mountain after dinner with approximately 2 hours left of daylight. It ended being a most adventurous (read: LONELY, LONG and WINDING) journey in pitch-darkness. We never seemed to arrive and did I mention Internet connectivity cuts out about 3-quarters into the drive? All the occupants in the car were frightfully wide awake and staring intently ahead into the blackness, wishing so hard that we would finally see the warm glow of our accommodation. I guess a few of us were even preparing to react; half anticipating that at each sharp turn, the car’s headlights would land on and illuminate some monstrosity that would eat us whole without any trace. To add to the “excitement”, we took a wrong turn at one point and technically speaking, were completely lost (albeit only for a few seconds when I realised we were no longer on my phone’s GPS route). Did I already say that there was no longer Internet? Thank god for GPS still working on the phone – I don’t know how it works but am so very, very pleased it did then. Finally, we made it and I now wear (with a lot of honour) the badge of successfully navigating the drive to Cradle Mountain at night. We stayed at the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. At that point, we would have welcomed ANY warm accommodation, but the lodge was absolutely warm and cosy and comfortable. And then to wake up to this in the morning made everything well worth it.
That’s about it for now. Hopefully you’ve worked up an appetite for whisking yourself off to Hobart soon!