It’s December. Time to be with family and friends, come in from the cold, eat, drink and be merry. Or you can skip the cold and all the bundling up us Northerners must do, escape the relatives completely and head straight to Tasmania. Now is the perfect time as it is their summer and Tasmanians have enough wacky festivity to carry you on through til the New Year. I was lucky to have gone there earlier this year. It was fall and gorgeous and fantastically Aussie. With a twist of course.
Whenever someone says they have visited Tasmania, the first question asked is “Did you see a Tasmanian Devil?”. Or at least that’s the first thing I ask, being obsessed with the creatures. So it’s no shock that when planning my trip to Australia I was determined to get to Tasmania. On my brief flight from Melbourne to this mysterious island, I was a bit shocked at the rather “regular” looking people flying with me. If not odd passengers on the plane, I certainly expected something otherworldly or bizarre as soon as I landed.
In contrast, Tasmania is actually a lovely, mellow island very similar to Oregon or Sweden. Rolling hills, farm-to-table food, wineries, fishing boats and cold but powerful beaches create a wistful getaway for foodies and nature-lovers alike. A burgeoning art scene, a chic first-ever art hotel and the MONA museum add culture only found under Down Under. The cuisine is eccentric yet comforting and on most gourmands top list. There is adventure for the hiking enthusiast with hikes ranging from two hours to four days long. And have I mentioned the wildlife? Kangaroos, Wallabies, Wombats, Koalas and yes TASMANIAN DEVILS are all there! If you are lucky enough to go to a wildlife refuge you can even pet them. Well, all except the Tasmanian Devil of course.
Where to stay: Henry Jones Art Hotel
This first-class hotel, and the first art hotel in Australia, was a former jam factory. The architecture is a perfect blend of raw factory steel and new modern shapes and color. All 56 rooms are uniquely designed and the art displayed throughout the hotel is by Tasmanian artists. The art rotates and like a gallery, is for sale. One of the best features of the hotel, and one you must take advantage of if you stay there, is the local art tours. It’s a fantastic way to see up and coming artists and to take home something truly special from your trip.
What to Eat: Everything
But also try Garagistes and Fish Frenzy. The great thing about Tasmania is that everything is fresh and very little imported so the food can’t help but be amazing. Pop into any small eatery and you will find happy people enjoying fantastic food. Grab lunch to go at the Salamanca Market in Hobart (part Farmer’s Market, part craft fair) and sit in the park with a bottle of wine, enjoying the ocean breeze. For a fine dining experience without the uptight atmosphere head to Garagistes. Set in a minimalist room the food becomes the art. Choose from a five course or three course set menu with a vegetarian option as well. Paired with the extensive international organic and biodynamic wine list, the meal is exquisite.
For casual fare my favorite is Fish Frenzy. And a frenzy it is. Fried fish as a steak is the best description I’ve come up with for the thick, meaty, delicious fish they lightly batter and serve to you in butcher paper. Add some onion rings, seafood chowder, local wine and the perfect location right on the docks and you’ve got a winner.
What to see: MONA
Art like you’ve never experienced it before. I am not going to really elaborate on this, as it is really an experience travelers and art lovers should experience blind, BUT I will give a few teasers. The first thing you arrive to upon entering is a bar. It is one of the darkest museums I’ve been to, meaning the lighting, yet the art is perfectly lit. There is an adults-only room, meaning the art is for adults. The building itself is best viewed from the water by taking a water taxi from Hobart. Run don’t walk.
What to explore: Bonorong Wildlife Preserve
Soft fuzzy adorable animals and lots of crazy Kangaroos. It’s a petting zoo gone wild and I loved being so close to animals that I usually don’t see except in a zoo.
Wallabies, Koalas, Wombats, Birds and many more exotic Aussie fur-balls the names of which I have forgotten. AND TASMANIAN DEVILS OF COURSE. I read on their site that Devils are misunderstood and are actually very friendly. The ones I met just snarled at me. That’s OK. I preferred the scary image to the ranger’s sweet one. I mean the name says it all right?
Read: Tasmania Frommer’s Day by Day