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 is 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.
Fuelled up on your espressos and brews, take in Pandemonium at Hobart Convict Penitentiary. Be prepared for chilling tales as you explore these dark corridors, there’s a gruesome history.
Tonight, venture to Franklin for dinner. Sit at the bar in this former Ford showroom (c. 1923). 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 whisky over ice or a vodka made from sheep’s whey. Yes, it’s a thing.
Take an adventurous descent of kunanyi / Mount Wellington by bike. This two-wheeled, 1,271 metre downward venture finishes (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 just up the road in North Hobart where skulls feature on the walls and in the artwork. You might need a cocktail, set on fire at the bar. That’ll help with everything.
Leave the darkness behind, it’s time for Bruny. 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, a must-do especially now that it has beer. Pair a Farm Ale with Otto, a beautifully soft cheese wrapped in prosciutto. Right nearby is Bruny Island Honey. These apiarists have about 400 hives across the island and their Leatherwood from Mount Mangana is one to try.
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. Not sure which direction to head? Bruny Island Safaris has various tours including a lighthouse trip, sunset tour, overnight explorer and a walk out to Mars Bluff.
Don’t go past Bruny Island Premium Wines with its grill, serving everything from Bruny wallaby to Bruny lamb loin chop. Tonight, stay at Adventure Bay Retreat – a private oasis in the bush where Jan has a delightfully deep bath beckoning you to relax in. NOTE: The lookout at the Bruny Island Neck is closed for renovations until October so spend more time sampling oysters, honey, cheese and beer.
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 house made chutneys and the like.
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 4am 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. Head for Red Velvet Lounge if you’re keen on a vegetarian menu and like music with your lentils. A little further along is the Cygnet Old Bank Conservatory Café with its seasonal menu and house baked treats. Book the front dining room and eat by chandelier light or extend your stay to a beautifully appointed room upstairs. Also nearby is the Writer’s House at Frenchman’s River. Keep an eye out for the Southern Aurora, the vantage point from Frenchman’s is one of the finest. As you head out of Cygnet, stop for a tasting at Pagan Cider– the cherry cider is exquisite.
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 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.
Don’t leave the channel without a visit to Willie Smith. Take a distillery tour and learn about their French-style apple brandy from the in-house distiller. There’s seasonal releases and live music on a Friday night.
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 tepees complete at Huon Bush Retreats, and enjoy an outdoor bath beneath the stars.
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. 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. Note, site currently closed, see website for details.
Back in town, the Old Bank is great for lunch and is fashioned with wallaby furs on the back of chairs.
The Kermandie in Port Huon is a lovely waterfront hotel to rest your head tonight. Hungry? The oven-baked Huon salmon is a local favourite.
If you’re feeling energetic, head to the Hartz Mountains National Park for a bush walk. Or, venture 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.
Got some time? It’s worth going down to Tassie’s 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!