Finally getting around to blogging about our trip to Tasmania in November last year! We try to alternate big, international holidays with smaller domestic ones, and Tasmania has always held a bit of fascination for us – especially due to its reputation for food, wine, beer and whiskey. Outside Hobart it’s so different to what we’re used to in urban Perth, it feels almost foreign, with parts of it reminding me of New Zealand and Scotland.
We hired a camper car (basically a people-mover with the back adapted to fit a foldout bed) to drive around the state – pretty much the only way to see Tasmania outside of the major cities. Beginning and ending in Hobart, we spent two weeks on the road staying in caravan parks and seeing and tasting the best of what Tasmania has to offer. Being such a small state it’s far more driveable than Western Australia, although the remote nature of some of the places we visited meant that roads were winding and slow-going. I’ve now seen more of Tasmania than any other state in Australia, and absolutely loved it.
After breakfast at Pilgrim on our first day, we headed from Hobart down to spend the day at Port Arthur, a formal penal settlement. Much of the site is in ruins despite it only officially closing in 1877 – far younger than many whole buildings we saw in Europe. One comment I saw in a display about the history of the site as a tourist destination suggested that that the ruined state, though possibly bad for historical reasons, make it more desirable to tourists because it feels older and more mysterious than it is, which I can certainly relate to. Known for its brutality, the site is said to be known for being haunted. A door mysteriously opened for me as I was about to exit an old cottage, but I figured it was either the wind or a particularly chivalrous ghost, either of which I’m fine with!
Despite its gruesome history, the site was stunningly beautiful on the warm and sunny day, with perfect green grass and blue skies.
Back in Hobart, we visited the Lark Distillery, whose gin I had tasted a few days earlier back in Perth at Enrique’s School for Bullfighting. They specialise in single malt whisky, although they also do gin and an intriguing bush liquor. The tasting costed $10 for 3, but as we couldn’t decide the friendly bar staff were happy to let us have four. I was so tempted to buy the Tasi bush liquor as a souvenir, but as we were only at the beginning of our trip I was scared to break the bottle. It’s probably the most easily accessible distillery in Tasmania and very enjoyable, so I definitely recommend making a visit if you’re in Hobart.
The next day we visited the the infamous Museum of Old and New Art, better known as MONA. The largest privately owned museum in Australia, it’s described by owner David Walsh as a “subversive adult Disneyland”. We arrived early to have breakfast at Vivaxa Source Cafe and enjoyed the incredible view, which unfortunately are the only things I was able to take photos of as photography is strictly forbidden inside. The museum looks unassuming from the outside – just a small block the size of a shipping container really – but you soon realise that this is only the doorway to the subterranean floors. The works on display are dark, thought-provoking, often disturbing or just plain weird. The Cloaka in particular I found a bit confronting – a mechanical digestive system which needs to be fed twice daily, every day, then digests the food and actually produces a (realistic smelling) excrement. Mostly I was disturbed by how much food – actual food, it was fed lasagne, salad and a macaron from the cafe when I saw it – was being wasted on the machine, although I suppose it does make the comment that modern art can be, quite literally, shit. Can you tell I’m not the biggest fan of modern art?
Still, you can’t visit Hobart and not pay a visit to MONA – and oh that spectacular view!
To recover from MONA we ventured on to South Hobart to the Cascade Brewery, the oldest brewery in Australia. Having been on a couple of brewery tours before this one didn’t really hold much new, but the history of the place and its use of local malt we very interesting. The grounds themselves are beautiful and the beer is fantastic – don’t forget to try the ones that are only available in Tasmania. They also do ciders and non-alcoholic drinks for those that don’t enjoy beer.
From Hobart we ventured west, for a quick hike and a look at Russell Falls, on the Eastern boundary of Mount Field National Park. The area is known for its natural beauty and is one of Tasmania’s oldest national parks, with a beautiful temperate rainforest and some really gigantic trees.
We went to (and stayed in) Bothwell for one reason: Nant Estate. Nant Distilling produces whiskey made from Tasmanian brewer’s barley and water from the local River Clyde and is some seriously top-shelf stuff. Even a whiskey newbie such as myself could tell the difference in class (and corresponding price) between Lark and Nant’s offerings. It was 10am when we rocked up to the cellar door as we had some distance to travel that day, but that didn’t stop us from doing some tastings, which were $5 each. It helped that we were served by a very pretty and very knowledgeable Scottish girl (who reminded me a lot of Karen Gillan), which I felt lent an air of authenticity to the place. It also reminded me a lot of Edradour, the smallest distillery in Scotland. I really wanted to buy a bottle, but at $165-$325 a bottle and a long way to travel still, I decided against it. I have to say I regret it now – there are some occasions which really are best celebrated with a glass of really lovely whiskey.
That’s it for now – much more to come as we leave the area around Hobart and venture eastwards to Strahan.