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 Tasmania 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 wandering down to the Salamanca Market and enjoy the waterfront ambience before an early breakfast at hidden treasure Tricycle where flavoursome congee or beautiful crumpets or a range of other perfectly cooked dishes are accompanied by very good coffee.
You should then head to North Hobart to try the amazing pastries, ice creams and other treats prepared by Alistair Wise and Teena Kearney at Sweet Envy. On the way to North Hobart, maybe you should stop for some sustenance at Pigeon Whole Bakers in the stunning new complex in the Mercury building. They have a window servery where you can buy a buttery pastry or an Eccles cake to take away.
Then it is out to MONA for lunch on the lawn and 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 for dinner at the hottest ticket in town, the much-feted Garagistes where chef Luke Burgess pays homage to the best of local produce. They also offer organic and natural wines from around the world. There are only forty seats so make sure you make a reservation.
On Sunday morning Hobart is fairly sleepy but you can always get an excellent coffee and breakfast at Pilgrim Coffee in the CBD before wandering up to the Farm Gate Market for a relaxing morning talking to producers such as Paulette and Matt from Provenance Growers who sell possibly the best herbs and small vegetables in the country or line up at chef Masaaki's sushi tent for some freshly made Japanese treats.
Then take a drive to Port Arthur and stop at the Dunalley Fish Market for fish and chips on the pier where they only use the freshest of local fish. On returning to Hobart, head straight for the bar at Frank in the Marine Board building for a pre-dinner aperitif and maybe a snack before heading up the street to Franklin to enjoy the fabulous food in the dining room (make sure you book - it is very popular) matched with a stellar collection of wines from Australia, France and Italy.
On Monday morning before your flight home, make sure you drop into Betsey, the charming cafe in the Franklin complex, to enjoy a dish of perfectly poached eggs (the best in Australia?) accompanied by excellent fermented cabbage and weisswurst sausage. The coffee here is sourced from Single Origin in Sydney and is excellent.
Reviews of the places mentioned in this article can be found here:Tricycle
Pigeon Whole Bakers
Dunalley Fish Market
If you are here for longer make sure you check our comprehensive A Food Lovers' Guide to Tasmania.