Travel Tip

The Great Escape

Rani Milne
​Slip away to another world, without needing a passport and without the jet lag. Just a couple of hours and you’ll land in Tassie in time for a paddock-to-plate dinner and a glass of local red. A Tassie ‘Great Escape’ is all about epic road trips, indulgent long weekends and new discoveries on an island at the world’s edge. Tasmania. It is Australia – but not as you know it.

On this island, your daily grind is sneaky mid-morning whisky tastings, your life goals are learning to make sourdough the old-fashioned way, your hardest decision is what curious festival or event to attend next, dinner dates are with devils, winter woollies are compulsory and diets are out.

There’ll be rituals of feasting and light, noise, big-scale art and licking flames for warmth. Confronting, exceptional, disturbing or down-right bizarre? You decide.

Sing to our apple trees

Help us in our quest for good apples. You can do this by singing to our apple trees. Yes, that’s right. It’s traditionally called wassailing, and it’s done to scare away the evil spirits and ensure a bumper crop of apples. Part of the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest, it’s a pagan ritual that isn’t as scary as it sounds. In fact, it is really fun. There is hand-crafted cider to be drank, fireside food, live music, and celebrations at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed. If you love to spin a yarn, the Storyteller Cup celebrates fireside oration and the wonder of word weavers; and expressing yourself through costume is definitely de rigueur, so grab your flowers, feathers, fur and leathers and pagan up for a chance at the prize.

man in costume at the huon valley mid winter festival
Natalie Mendham Photography
Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival

Enter a winter wonderland

Snow falling, a good book, warm spiced gin and a crackling fire. Cradle Mountain in winter is a cosy fairy tale. Outside, tracks weave beside ancient pandanis dressed in white. Thick-coated wombats set a pace busy humans would do well follow. So don your winter woollies, take a turn around Dove Lake and experience one of Tassie’s most spectacular short walks. Come afternoon, pamper yourself in the Waldheim Alpine Spa before returning to the fire for a sip of whisky or pinot to warm your belly.

private alpine spa and sanctuary looking out to forest
George Apostolidis
Waldheim Alpine Spa, Cradle Mountain

Soak in a steamy outdoor tub

If you haven’t ever, then you must. It’s that simple. For pure unadulterated delight, slip into a steaming outdoor tub and experience the best Tassie has to offer in winter. You might want to wear a beanie and indulge in a pinot while the cool air hits your skin. Snap a selfie in Thalia Haven’s coastal outdoor bath. Sink into a stone bath in Launceston from the Hatherley Birrell Collection; or venture off an island to an island and slip into a Bruny Island tub at Hundred Acre Hideaway.

outdoor stone bath
Rob Burnett
Magnolia Garden Pavilion - Hatherley Birrell Collection

Perfect time for a skinny dip

It can get cold in Tassie during winter… so what better time to bare all and plunge into the icy River Derwent at dawn. Well, that’s what David Walsh figures. The nude swim is part of the Dark Mofo winter festival, celebrating the winter solstice and all things dark and subversive. Be brave. Be daring.

people wearing red swimming caps swimming nude at a beach
Mona
Dark Mofo Nude Swim

Meet a curious distiller

Beware of going down the rabbit hole of whisky and gin distilleries in Tasmania. A short stay in Tassie will only give you a taster, so prepare to titillate your taste buds and uncover a network of Tasmanian makers who are creating new depths and a maturing industry on our isle. Try a heated local liquor à la Dark Mofo, imbibe in antarctic surrounds at Institut Polaire, or visit any of the top spots to sip gin in Tassie. Indulge your palette down the Tasmanian whisky trail or join a gin workshop. Don’t miss Hellyer’s Road Whisky Walk Tour and plan a trip for Tasmanian Whisky Week when our distillers open their doors and invite you in (said the spider to the fly).

whisky tasting at Belgrove Distillery
Samuel Shelley
Belgrove Distillery whisky tasting

See the dancing lights

In winter, it’s human nature to create light to keep the dark at bay, but in Tassie we say embrace the dark and let nature’s light show (aka the Aurora Australis) shine your way! Those majestic Southern Lights can be seen from anywhere in Tasmania. Just head away from light pollution, find an unobstructed view south and enjoy this natural wonder. Nobody knows precisely when an aurora may occur; space weather maps and predictions are helpful, but ultimately Mother Nature decides. That said, there’s a handy Facebook page so you can find out when and where the party’s happening.

aurora australis in tasmania from Strahan
Dietmar Kahles
Tasmania's Aurora Australis

Feast on comfort food

Cook it, share it and sneak a second serve. Comfort food in Tasmanian winter is plentiful. Head to a local market for root vegetables from the farmer’s hands and prepare a hearty soup. Get cosy over a pub meal in a charming town. Our mulled ciders and local pinots are a match made for winter. This is when locally grown truffles are in season and our chocolate makers are renowned for creating cosy, rich and sometimes ribald treats. The culinary centrepiece of Dark Mofo – the City of Hobart Winter Feast – brings dark decadence and indulgent fare to Hobart’s waterfront. Keen to wear an apron? In the Derwent Valley, the Agrarian Kitchen offers paddock-to-plate culinary cooking, Sally Wise has the slow cooker simmering in June at her cooking school while Fat Pig Farm’s cookery school invites you to harvest its bounty and create a lavish country feast. Due north west, Ghost Rock Vineyard turns up the heat at its Hundred Acres workshops, and the Red Feather Inn offers passion and splendorous heat.

Serenade the skies above

Participation is not mandatory, but nothing takes away the winter chill during the Festival of Voices like gathering around a roaring bonfire, throwing your head back and releasing your primal roar for a good old cathartic burst of song. But if you prefer to watch, there’s never a dull moment as international, national and local artists join together in song, starting on the stunning east coast and then on to Hobart and Port Arthur with cabaret, choral and contemporary virtuosos, before closing with a spectacular finale concert.

people standing around a bonfire
Phil Kitt
Festival of Voices

Get wild

Our World Heritage Area protects one of the last true wilderness regions on the planet. So rug up and get out there. There’s 1.6 million hectares or so to discover. Base yourself in Stanley and explore the takayna/ Tarkine. Some say that this large remaining tract of temperate rainforest is simply transformative. You don’t have to rough it in our wilds unless you want to – our wilderness lodges allow you to snuggle up fireside while Mother Nature’s show unfolds beyond. Sleep suspended above Australia’s deepest freshwater lake at Pumphouse Point or head for the alpine landscape of the Thousand Lakes Lodge. Glamping in winter is an option for the adventurous at Bay of Fires Bush Retreat. In Tasmania, our back country is vast and untamed. We don’t just embrace the wild, we live it.

man standing on a rock in a wilderness area
Jason Charles Hill
West Point State Reserve

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