A weekend in Hobart, Tasmania
Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Tasmania has always been known for the beauty of its rugged landscape. Visitors have long travelled to this southern island of Australia to marvel at the ancient forests, the stunning mountains and mile after mile of unspoilt, white, sandy beaches. And there is no shortage of experiences to enjoy the scenery whether it be the famous boat trip up the Gordon River where you can almost touch the ancient forests lining its banks, the walk through the rugged Cradle Mountain National Park, the less onerous Bay of Fires walk or the thrilling boat trip to see the marine life off south-east Tasmania.
However, there are now new attractions that are drawing people southwards. The best known of these, of course, is the unique MONA set on a promontory in the tranquil Derwent River a few kilometres north of the centre of Hobart. Here you can spend days revelling in ancient and modern art treasures of staggering beauty. MONA is sometimes confronting, sometimes bizarre, but always exciting and compelling.
In the past many visitors left with the vague feeling that the meals they ate in restaurants somehow didn't always do justice to the much-hyped produce that is found in abundance. Now however, there are restaurants that are committed to sourcing the freshest and best of local produce and cooking it with care, attention and skill.
So here is how you can make the most of a short weekend stay in Hobart. Fly down on Friday night choosing from accommodation that ranges from expensive luxury (think Henry Jones Hotel or the Islington Hotel) to excellent value (Red Door Apartment in historic Battery Point).
On Saturday morning start by heading to the favourite food haunt of the locals, the tiny Pigeon Hole, where you will find one of the best breakfasts in Australia and some of the best bread. You should then head to North Hobart to try the amazing pastries, ice creams and other treats prepared by Alistair Wise and Teena Kearney. Then wander down Elizabeth Street and drop in to Chado tea house for a cup of the best tea you will find outside of Asia. It is fresh and of the highest quality and the owner, Varuni Kulasekera, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of teas from every country, so she can guide you in your choice. Then on to the Salamanca Market and enjoy the waterfront ambience before an early lunch at hidden treasure Tricycle where flavoursome soups and salads and other delights are accompanied by very good coffee.
Then it is out to MONA to take in as much as your brain will allow during the afternoon. You can enjoy a delightful Moo Brew beer in one of the bars if you need a rest.
If MONA is not an experience you are after, perhaps you might book into a cooking class instead at the world class Agrarian Kitchen an hour north of Hobart where you can get expert tuition and hospitality from Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet.
Back into Hobart to the hottest ticket in town, the much-feted Garagistes where Gourmet Traveller 'Best New Chef' Luke Burgess pays homage to the best of local produce and co-owners Katrina Birchmeier and Kirk Richardson dispense wines from the extensive list of organic and natural wines from around the world. There are only forty seats and there are no reservations so go early (before 6pm) or drop in and put your name on the waiting list before heading for their nearby bar, Sidecar, which also specialises in the best natural wines the world has to offer.
On Sunday morning Hobart is fairly sleepy but you can always get a good coffee and a breakfast snack at Smolt in trendy Salamanca Square before taking a drive to Peppermint Bay at Woodbridge an hour south of Hobart to enjoy local seafood and other delights cooked by David Moyle and his team in relaxing surroundings overlooking the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
By the time you have finished here it will be time to head for the airport, but you will have had a glimpse of the best Tasmania has to offer.
Reviews of the places mentioned in this article can be found here:Pigeon Hole Tricycle Agrarian KitchenGaragistes Smolt The Stackings at Peppermint Bay Sweet Envy Chado The Way of Tea
If you are here for longer make sure you check our comprehensive A Food Lovers' Guide to Tasmania.