Despite its name, The Apple Isle surprisingly doesn’t grow that many apples (55,000 tonne to be precise).
It could be better labelled the Grassfed-Meat-Isle, Fresh Seafood-Isle or Delicious Cheese-Isle, if Tasmania’s 2016 export figures and official Instagram page are anything to go by.
Since Tasmania is a living, breathing charcuterie board, you need to stop saying “I’d love to visit Tassie” and make 2017 the year to tick it off your bucket list.
If you’re looking for a “cooks tour” (literally, you’ll be doing lots of eating here) – these are my picks for a seven day self-drive holiday in Tasmania, designed for the first-timer.
Arrive in time for an early lunch
Designing itineraries with my stomach is what I do best. That’s why I recommend you hop off the plane in Hobart, collect a car and make a sharp right. Your first item on this holiday-agenda is oysters – Barilla Bay Oysters. At $11.99/dozen, there’s no need to be frugal with your serves on this oyster-odyssey.
Enjoy an afternoon of delight, wine tasting
It turns out all my friends are in Tasmania – Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris – and what’s more, they’re all on Hobart’s doorstep.
Make a beeline for Pooley Wines, a cellar door with early 1800s architecture as refined as the pinot noir they serve. The staff who run the cellar door are worthy of a gig on Netflix’s Somme doco, whispering tasting notes while you sip your way through their red and white varieties.
It’s not all crushed grapes as you head out of Hobart though, be sure to stop in at Sullivans Cove Distillery, Tassie’s original whiskey distillery which is home to the World’s Best Single Malt Whiskey (2014).
What’s possibly more impressive than the grandeur of this title, is the backstory that Tassie had a 150 year prohibition on distilling, which was only lifted in the 1990s. I’m amazed that local distillers like Sullivan’s Cove have caught their competition, sometimes 300 years their brewing senior.
Settle into adorable accommodation
If there’s one piece of advice for first timers to Tassie – it’s get in quick with your accommodation. Tassie can sell out faster than Adele tickets, which is why we ended up staying outside Hobart on our first visit to the island.
For all the sandstone barn lovers out there, look no further than Armytage House, nestled into wine-country aka Bagdad, 40 minutes north west of Hobart. This sandstone-sanctuary sets the perfect pace for couples who prefer being within arms reach of the city rather than staying right in the middle of it.
Make tracks to MONA
Tasmania has a lot to thank David Walshe for. He built Mona, Australia’s largest privately funded museum, which has put Tassie on the tourist map.
Ask anyone about Mona and they’ve got an opinion for you – it’s not a museum you visit only to fence sit about the art. Love it, hate it, blog about it – I guarantee you’ll have something to say about it – so dedicate at least three or four hours to this gallery which overlooks the Derwent River.
I’d highly recommend touring the museum with the O, an ipod, which talks to each of the artworks in layman terms.
Chew with a Derwent River view:
If modern art wasn’t attraction enough for you – Mona has a vineyard (Moorilla), brewery (Moo brew) and six dining options to extend your visit to the gallery.
We ate at The Source Restaurant, Mona’s take on fine dining, which pushes the limits of food in the same way as the artists do. I had one of the best meals of the entire trip here – goats cheese gnocchi, in a miso broth, a fusion that completely turned Japanese and Italian food on its head.
Work off your lunch with a stroll around the grounds – you’ll share the pathways with the many resident chickens and peacocks who have one of the best views in Tasmania.
Stay in Salamanca
If it’s your first time in Tasmania, be sure to stay in the thick of the action – Salamanca. It might be best known for its Saturday markets, but by night it transforms into a pumping bar scene.
For a stunning sunset
To get a lay of the Hobart horizon, take the 21-kilometer journey from the city to Mount Wellington in time for sunset. Mt Wellington rises 1271 out of the Hobart ground, making it the perfect vantage point for views over the harbour and the Tasman Peninsula on a clear evening.
Pack your camera and your coat – regardless of what time of day or night you’re visiting Mount Wellington, it’s much cooler than the CBD and can require thermal getup (especially for Queenslanders like me).
Dine out, ethically for dinner
For ethical dining that ticks the fine dining box, settle in for a memorable meal at Ethos Restaurant, known for its farm to fork produce.
Forget about reading a menu online, choosing a dish, and knowing what you’re in for – at Ethos, the Executive Chef, Iain Todd, designs the menu daily depending on what’s sourced from their suppliers. We tucked into a six-course degustation and settled into the rustic setting (dining in a stablehouse that dates back to the 1820s) – and still talk about the menu to this day.
Saturdays at Salamanca
Every Saturday (from 8.30-3pm), the sandstone wharves at Salamanca transform into a bustling showcase of over 300 market stalls. Time your visit for a Saturday to indulge in the fresh produce, gourmet food and booze on offer.
For a market snack, my pick is the Korean BBQ pork buns at Seoul Street. They are the perfect hit of sriracha to balance gooey pork belly – so good in fact, that I’ve since travelled back to Hobart for another hit.
If you have a fridge in your room, be sure to stock up on Bruny Island Cheese Co’s prosciutto wrapped Otto cheese. You’ll thank me in your cheese coma later.
Holidays were made for driving
Tasmania was made for driving, and the east coast road from Hobart to Freycinet National Park is Tassie’s answer to the Great Ocean Road and is an absolute must for any first timer.
From Hobart, you can zip up the coast road or drive through the midlands of Tassie to reach the coastline. Whichever way you choose to peel the apple isle and get to Freycinet, Google will tell you its 2.5 hours from Hobart, but I’d recommend doubling it because roadside waterfalls, enchiladas and pinup beaches will grind you to a halt for photo opportunities.
The best accommodation in Freycinet can be found through Stayz or Air B&B, unless you’ve saved your cash to splash at Sapphire Freycinet.
Visit my second favourite Wineglass
Today, lace up your hiking boots to see what the Wineglass Bay fuss is all about. Wineglass Bay is a beach that’s consistently rated by guidebooks as one of the world’s best beaches, thanks to it’s remote, pristine, and absolutely photogenic location.
From the carpark, it’s about 30 minutes to the lookout for sweeping views over Wineglass Bay – but don’t stop there – spend the extra 20 minutes walking down to the water edge to sink your feet into the snow white sand and get close to its famous orange rocks.
If you have time, I’d recommend completing the Wineglass Bay/Hazards Beach circuit – an 11km round trip that takes about 5 hours. Whoever says you can do it in less time, doesn’t like a view as much as I do.
Tip: Start early to beat the crowds and pack lots of water. Don’t forget to pick up your permits for the park through Tasmania National Parks. Entry is $24 a vehicle or $12 a person.
Pizza perfection, a long way from Rome:
What Freycinet has in raw, natural appeal – it lacks in options in its dining scene. It’s just lucky that of the few, they have Trombolo, who serve pizza and craft beers worth writing a blog about.
Go west! Freycinet to Lake St Clair
Make today a feast for the seafood senses as you make your way 287- kilometers west from Freycinet to Pumphouse Point, driving through Tassie’s midlands.
As you leave Freycinet, stop in at Freycinet Marine Farm for takeaway supplies of my favourite oysters on the isle (Freycinet Marine Farm is incidentally home to the wader experience you may have seen in Tassie’s TV commercials #oystergoals). From there, cut inland to Ross (Tasmania’s cleanest town) home to the best curried scallop pies IN THE WORLD. It’s a death row dish and the scallops have their roe on too!
Pure luxe at Pumphouse Point
Go on, spoil yourself and stay at Pumphouse Point in the Lake St Clair National Park.
This immaculately restored hydropower station in the middle of Lake St Clair is the realisation of Simon Currant who transformed this previously abandoned station into a tourism icon – a luxurious industrial inspired accommodation.
There’s 18 suites to this pumphouse, which is suspended 250m out into the dark, calm waters of the lake.
The room and the common areas give you very little reason to leave with an open bar and honesty larder, packed with every type of dip, cheese, smoked and cured meet you could imagine. If you do decide to leave – let it be for dinner to enjoy a shared meal at the Shore House.
Experience World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain
If you’ve been going hard at your in-room larder, you’ll need to do some walks to earn your supper. It just so happens Lake St Clair is in the foothills of the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain National Park.
Sure, The Overland Track might be the most famous way to pound this hallowed hiking pavement, but there’s four short walks to suit people on a time frame.
We did the Enchanted Nature Walk and Weindorfers Forest Walk, both 20 minutes each, before heading further west (by car) to marvel at Nelson Falls.
That’s a wrap – Lake St Clair to Hobart to Home
After one last search for Fergus, Pumphouse Point’s resident friendly echidna, make tracks from Lake St Clair to Hobart, for an early afternoon flight.
Before you disconnect from the rugged wilderness of Tasmania – don’t forget your carry on luggage – a take away dozen oysters from Barilla Bay.
Trust me, you’ll drive the Jestar cabin wild as you tuck into a fresh feed of oysters somewhere over the Bass Strait.
What did you think of Tassie? Let me know in the comments!
**This blog was written in the opinion of the writer, uninfluenced by external sources.