Hobart for two nights
Years ago, Tassie wasn’t known for its coffee – anyone for instant stirred with a paddle pop stick? Today, it’s a very different story. A vibrant café scene alive with skilled baristas roasting their own beans and others opening second shopfronts. What better way to start your morning than with a Coffee Walking Tour that doubles as a history lesson and hits all the caffeine hot spots. For the curious, expect street art laneways and stories about how bad colonial coffee used to be.
Fueled up on your espressos and brews, take in Pandemonium at Hobart Convict Penitentiary. Don’t worry, there are toasty rugs during winter months. This might warm your insides but the tales are rather chilling.
Tonight, venture to Franklin for dinner. Sit at the bar or enjoy the lounge with a fur skin near the fire. You can watch the chefs cook your fresh local produce as the kitchen is smack-bang in the middle of the restaurant. Finish the evening with a local whiskey over ice or a vodka made from sheep’s whey. Yes, it’s a thing.
Let’s hope the brakes are working for your adventurous descent on bike of kunanyi/Mount Wellington. This two-wheeled, 1,271 metre downward venture ends (thankfully) at Cascade Brewery for a beer and tour. It’s the perfect ending to the ride.
As the adrenalin levels return to normal, there’s an evening tour with your name on it. Hobart’s Dark Past Walking Tour is a grim and grisly two hours dripping with gorgeously dark humour. On the menu is invasion, execution, smugglers, convicts, badly behaved crims and bush rangers. What makes this even more eerie than a ghost tour – all the stories are true.
After this, it makes sense to dine at Pancho Villa where skulls feature on the walls and in the artwork. You might need a cocktail for two, set on fire at the bar. That’ll help with everything.
Leave the darkness behind, it’s time for Bruny Island. This glorious island off Tassie is a foodie’s haven – a microcosm of Tasmania – which means the distance between cheese and oysters is even shorter. Ferries depart from Kettering around every hour.
The Bruny Island House of Whisky is practically the first stop off the ferry. When is it too early for whisky? Then there’s Bruny Island Cheese, kind of a must-do, especially now that it has beer. The cows eat hay and silage in the colder months so expect a stronger flavour to the milk. This milk is turned into pasteurised hard cheese with a mellow flavour. Pair it with the Oxymoron Ale, a winter brew with a growing fan base. NOTE: The lookout at the Bruny Island Neck is closed for renovations until October so spend more time sampling oysters, cheese and beer.
Take your pick between a walk out to Cape Queen Elizabeth that features long sweeping beach walking or head to the far south – lighthouse territory. Both options require rugging up in woolies as the sea breeze can whip with vigour.
Don’t go past Bruny Island Premium Wines and the grill, serving everything from Bruny wallaby to Bruny lamb loin chop. That’s right, lots of local on this grill. Tonight, stay at Adventure Bay Retreat where Jan has a delightfully deep bath and an open fire at the ready for you.
The locals call it “heading down the channel.” Perhaps it saves them pronouncing the French name (D’Entrecasteaux). There’s lots to see and the atmosphere has a certain calm. Make your first stop Grandvewe Cheese near Woodbridge. Here, the family’s son has set about building his name through Hartshorn Vodka – that’s vodka made from sheep’s whey. Yes, you read right! Pop into The Woodbridge Smokehouse and pick up some smoked fish to go with your vodka. There’s a Sunday Market in Woodbridge (1st and 3rd Sunday), ideal for picking up a ‘nanna-made’ knitted beanie or tea cosy.
Cygnet is well known for its quirky, creative side and is home to potters, painters and writers. When you get into town, visit Cobweb Designs and Gallery for artistic work with a mystical bent. There’s also wood-fired pizza that’s extraordinary.
Got a 4 am T-bone craving? There’s a 24-hour emergency butcher named Graham. His mobile number is on the front door and his smoked bacon is to die for. Settle in with the locals and you’ll soon know the difference between the top pub and the bottom pub. Pagan Cider is on the left as you head out of Cygnet. Stop for a tasting – the cherry cider is exquisite.
Head for Red Velvet Lounge if you’re keen on a vegetarian menu and like music with your lentils. Tonight, pull yourself away from those screens and open up a book at The Writer’s House, Frenchman’s River. The Southern Aurora looks fab from these parts too, so keep an eye out while you’re snuggled around the log fire.
Huonville and Franklin
Seen Gourmet Farmer? Want to live like Matthew Evans, roaming the peaceful hills of Tasmania’s south? Before you buy a block with some cows, book in for a day at Fat Pig Farm. You’ll have to be quick this winter because Matthew books up fast. Apparently everyone wants the slower life. Their Friday Feasts are a winner – start the day in gumboots to meet the pigs, and end up at a long-table lunch.
Blink and you might miss The Cat’s Tongue Chocolatier in Huonville. Umm, who knows what a cat’s tongue feels like? Apparently Andy does. And he makes the most delightful fine chocolate.
Don’t leave the channel without a visit to Willie Smith. Find out about Tasmania’s apple history next to a wood heater and learn just how big they made apple pies back in those days. Time it for Friday night live music.
If this doesn’t float your boat for a day out, the Yukon will. This Danish ketch was found submerged just out of Copenhagen and now does sailing trips all over Tassie. The channel is their fave. The Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin is well worth a peek.
Tonight, stay in luxe tipees complete with a fire, and enjoy an outdoor bath beneath the stars.
Geeveston and Tahune State Forest
Roll into Geeveston as the old timber workers did. For those interested in the region’s forestry tradition there are stories and exhibits in the Geeveston Visitor Centre that describe the history of the region and the harsh, wintry conditions of the forest. Street carvings depict local heroes who worked deep in the forest. The town is named after William Geeves who was given a land grant in an area known as Lightwood Bottom. (It’s a type of timber common in the area.) Wander along the main street – it might look familiar? This is where the ABC filmed some of their Rosehaven series.
Head out to the Tahune Airwalk, 50 metres above the riverbank, and walk through the tree tops. There’s a cable eagle glider for those keen to fly. Back in town, the Old Bank is great for lunch and is fashioned with wallaby furs on the back of chairs.
If you’re feeling energetic, head to the Hartz Mountains National Park for a bush walk. You might see icicles on the small alpine plants as you go. If you’d prefer, head further south and visit Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs. Discovered by timber workers back in 1917, these dolomite caves were formed millions of years ago. There are guided cave tours and you can warm up afterwards with a soak in the steamy outdoor thermal pool.
Why not head down to Tassie’s most accessible southern tip? There’s a whale sculpture down at Cockle Creek and beautiful beaches to stroll along. From here, however, you must turn back – there’s no driving further south in Australia. Now that’s something special!