Sponsored by Spirit of Tasmania
We were just about to switch the lights out on the first night in Tasmania when my young travel companion said to me, “Mum, Tasmania has all your favourite things: cheese, raspberries, chocolate, salmon and wine.”
Wise boy that Master SY. In one simple sentence, he succinctly summed up why it had taken less than 24 hours for me to fall HARD for Australia’s only island state – a state I’m ashamed to admit I’d never visited until last month.
It was was thanks to Sprit of Tasmania that we found ourselves on a sampler holiday with two nights on board the ship and two nights and three days on the island.
Hardly enough to do justice to this beautiful part of Australia but definitely a delicious taste of what Tasmania has to offer – and more than enough to know that I’d like to go back.
The Tasmania holiday tips I’m going to share with you below are prefaced by the fact that we only explored a very small part of Tasmania. Yes, we covered a lot of kilometres but there is still so much we didn’t see. It may be an island but it’s not a small island!
Let’s get stuck in, shall we?
1. Drive to Tasmania
Ok, so this may be a crazy notion if, like me, you live in Queensland and have only a week’s holiday but if you have an extended holiday, are driving around Australia or live in Victoria then you’d be mad not to take your own car to Tasmania via Spirit of Tasmania. No luggage limits!
I must admit when I was told that the crossing would be nine hours overnight, I did worry a little just how we’d go with that. I don’t get seasick but Master SY was pretty much untested in that department. The thought of me having to manage that potential outcome alone was a bit scary.
It turned out that that initial worry was all for nothing. Both the crossing over and the one coming back were smooth. Yes, I felt the rock of the ship once we left the calm of Port Phillip Bay and headed into Bass Strait but it was nothing that woke my son.
The trip on the ship puts you in the holiday mood from the moment you park your car on the lower deck and make your way up to your cabin. There are plenty of things to do on board – before you turn in for the night. We dined at the Leatherwood Restaurant; watched a new-release movie in the cinema; and lost all my coins in the games room (read more about the onboard facilities here).
It was the Leatherwood Restaurant that set the scene and whet our appetite for the foodie adventure that was to unfold. Quite frankly they had me at the salmon – Woodbridge port-infused oak cold smoked salmon with shaved radish and cucumber salad finished with lemon citronette to be exact.
Meals are offered as a choice of two ($56 per person) or three ($64 per person) courses and featured dishes created around the gourmet fresh produce for which Tasmania is renown. Add in a glass or two of matching Tasmanian wines and I was a very happy sailor indeed. Kids can also dine here for $25 per person for two courses. And I was particularly generous with Master SY … sharing my map of Tasmania chocolate tasting plate featuring chocolates from House of Anvers (more on that later). Read more about the other on-board dining and bar options on board here.
Let’s talk about the accommodation. Options range from Deluxe Cabins featuring Queen-size beds, double portholes and TVs through to twin, three-berth and four-berth cabins. There are also options if you want to book a seat in the Ocean Recliner section of the ship or, in peak season, a Day Ticket, which would enable you to sit in any public areas of the ship.
We were lucky to be upgraded on the way over to Devonport to the Deluxe Cabin. It was roomy and something I’d book again – it’s only an option if travelling in pairs though. On the way back we had a twin Cabin – fine for our purposes but the ensuite was smaller and my companion did note the lack of TV. He’s clearly been too spoilt. (Read more about the accommodation options here.)
The only thing missing for me on the ship was wi-fi. I KNOW #firstworldproblem … I guess we’re just so used to the connectivity these days that I just assumed it would be there. However, the world didn’t fall apart because I couldn’t work and had to read a book instead!
The wake-up call is early. The smart passengers picked up a coffee on board before heading down to their cars. The upside of this – caffeine or no caffeine – is that the early arrival in Tasmania gives you a full day to explore. And that’s just what we did.
2. Have a plan
The lovely people at Spirit of Tasmania helped us with our plan for our short time in Tasmania. I knew I wanted to see Wineglass Bay, eat beautiful food and drink local wines, and check out the shopping options. All with a 9-year-old to keep entertained. Thankfully Master SY shares my love of food. The shopping not so much but we did a trade off there (see below).
Day one for us was the biggest for me in terms of driving. I was behind the wheel for about six hours all up. This was largely broken up into two parts – getting first to the east coast and Freycinet National Park and then on to Buckland for our first night. In hindsight it was a little too much driving for one person – it would be very do-able with two drivers. Staying around Bicheno or Coles Bay would be a good idea if going this way. It would also allow you to better explore this beautiful coastal area.
Day two was an easy one, driving-wise. It was only about an hour and 20 minutes to the MONA gallery outside Hobart and then on to Hobart itself.
Day three was about about three and a half hours’ drive all up from Hobart back to Devonport and we broke that up by stopping for lunch at a winery outside Launceston.
If you’re planning a driving holiday like this, be realistic as to how much driving you want to do each day. You want to see places but you want it to be relaxing, not exhausting. I’m always someone who votes for more stops – to see more and to be safe on the road.
3. Mix up the accommodation
We stayed in two very different accommodation places on each of our nights and I couldn’t have been happier about that. Both properties were beautiful and luxurious but both held different appeal. It’s so fun to mix it up – especially in a place like Tasmania were you have an evolving blend of historic and modern.
Night one was at the heritage property Brockley Estate (near Orford). The afternoon we arrived it was cloudy, starting to rain and completely magical for this Queensland girl who would have happily lit the open fireplace in the room to complete the effect. The six rooms in this boutique hotel are each part of the main house. Ours opened out on to the corner of the verandah and I threw open those doors like I was in an historical period-piece movie. Except there was electricity, wi-fi, luxurious bedding and an ensuite with a huge claw-foot bath with my name on it. Our room and the shared spaces have been restored and decorated very much in keeping with the feel of the 1841 colonial homestead, with many of the pieces antiques and sourced in Tasmania.
Apart from its authentic good looks, what brings this property to life is its owners. Julian Roberts returned to Tasmania after 15 years of living and working in hospitality in London. He brought with him wife Chaxiraxi Afonso Higuera (Chaxi). Chaxi grew up on Spain’s Canary Islands, also worked in hospitality and studied hotel management, bringing to Tasmania an incredible Spanish flavour spin on the readily available fresh produce. And when I say incredible, I very much mean it. I’m still dreaming of those oysters picadillo (with chardonnay vinegar and fresh chives) from nearby fishing village of Triabunna and Chaxi’s paella was a huge hit – particularly for my rice-loving nine-year-old. The property is licensed and has a well-stocked underground cellar with some of Tasmania’s best wines. It would have been wrong not to try one …
Night two was the Salamanca Wharf Hotel in Hobart – a boutique apartment hotel near the waterfront and backing on to historical Salamanca Place. The hotel itself is a new structure designed and built on a vacant parcel of land between two historic Georgian sandstone warehouses. Its design is sympathetic to its historical location but modern in its execution with a nod to Hobart being a jumping off point for boats heading to Antarctica.
Our one bedroom apartment was beautifully lit thanks to skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows. Polished timber floors and modern furnishings made it a sleek but comfortable place to stay. I love a bit of luxe like the next girl and I tell you having a free-standing bath in your bedroom is very ok. As was the supremely comfortable king-size bed. There is a cafe on-site for breakfast and lunch (which we can highly recommend) and dozens of dining options nearby (we dined at night Blue Eye restaurant about 200m down the Esplanade from the hotel and can also highly recommend) but apartments at Salamanca Wharf Hotel offer you the alternative to self-cater. Salamanca Fresh is not far away to pick up supplies for that. We weren’t there for a Saturday but this hotel is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the famous Salamanca Markets.
4. Be at one with nature
Visiting Wineglass Bay has always been on my bucket list of travel destinations. I’m a sucker for white sand beaches and turquoise waters (hello Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays) so I didn’t want to be that person who went to Tasmania and pretty much skirted past the turn-off to the Freycinet National Park and said, “next time”.
I did a little research beforehand and found that we wouldn’t have time to walk down and back on to the beach – just time for the lookout walk. It’s about 1.5 hours return to the lookout and another 1.5 hours return to the beach. The walk to the lookout is steep but very well constructed – you don’t need special hiking boots – sneakers were fine. I kind of played down this bit beforehand for Master SY, who repaid me with more than a few whinges on the way up. We had to move quickly too … the weather was closing in. It made for an eerie but beautiful photo at the top and a cooling drizzle on the way down.
To park your car in the national park and do any of the walks, you’ll need to purchase a permit. You can do this online ahead of your trip; buy on board Spirit of Tasmania or at the information centre and store at the entrance to Freycinet National Park. A holiday day pass costs $24.
5. Find your inner cultural beast
Melbourne guests who we dined with at Brockley Estate told us that it’s not uncommon for Melbourne culture lovers to book a weekend in Hobart to coincide with any new exhibition at MONA – Museum of Old and New Art. Others told us that MONA had put Tasmania and Hobart on the map. Styling You Facebook followers either fell into the “you can’t miss it” or “it’s not my type of thing” camp.
MONA is unlike any other public gallery you’ve ever visited. It won’t be for everyone and is probably best appreciated without a nine-year-old in tow. However, both of us did enjoy quite a few of the installations and pieces on display. Master SY was far from bored and I was taken in by the juxtaposition of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the abstract. And no I did not appreciate the “art” that was the digestive tract. Let’s just say we walked in at the smelly end of feeding time!
It wasn’t the best day weather-wise when we were there but it’s such a beautiful location – plenty of dining options and a beautiful place to stay too.
6. Eat all the things
We’ll let the photos tell a gastronomical story, shall we? We did not have one bad meal or morsel of food during our holiday. The morsels were so good and plentiful that I’m still dreaming of them. Especially those dark-chocolate-coated raspberries from Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm in Elizabeth Town. Mmmm … raspberries
Josef Chromy Winery Restaurant
Salamanca Wharf Hotel Cafe
Blue Eye Restaurant
Blue Eye Restaurant
Blue Eye Restaurant
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm
7. Drink (in moderation) all the things
Since returning home, I’m spotting more and more Tasmania wines – at stores and restaurants – I can’t get enough. Well I can but you know what I mean. The whites and sparklings are supremely good. I’ve even learned to love Chardonnay again. And the Pinot Noir? Oh how I love your beautiful soft, fruit-driven flavours.
We only squeezed in one winery visit – Josef Chromy – but it was a very good one to squeeze in. Lunch was exquisite; the location perfect and I may or may not have made a little cellar-door souvenir purchase.
8. See how all the things are made
We breakfasted at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe, sampled cheese at Ashgrove Cheese and tasted chocolate at House of Anvers. All three delights are within driving distance of each other and about half an hour from Devonport. It doesn’t get much better than that when it comes to eating close to the source. Master SY tried to tell me that that made the chocolate more healthy. Nice try buddy.
9. Shop a little – or a lot
Ok, so no holiday or weekend away is immune from me sniffing out fun and interesting shops wherever I travel. And I can tell you Hobart has a lot to offer in that department. We started at the Hobart Bookshop in Salamanca Square as I was doing an Unlock Your Style signing there and got to meet some Tasmanian SY readers. I do love a good bookshop and Master SY was bribed with two new books so that I could then take a wander and see what Hobart offered in terms of independent clothing and lifestyle stores.
The manager of The Dispensary and Inside had left me a gift at the bookshop and that was enough to whet my appetite and hunt down those stores. I was not disappointed. She then sent me off with a map, showing others stores I should visit – most near each other in Murray, Liverpool and Macquarie Streets in the CBD. I ran out of time to go inside them all but window-shopped the rest so I could share the links here: luxe | All Style | Oyster and Pearl | The Maker | Store & Co
Now, if you’ve got this far, congrats. This is one mighty big brain dump and photo download from our trip. Can you tell I loved it? I cannot wait to go back and take Mr SY with me. We’ve now both done separate work trips to Tasmania (he saw some beautiful places on the west coast on his trip) and I think it’s about time we shared it together – and saw more.
You might now be thinking it’s time for YOU to make a trip to Tassie? This special offer might appeal
Travel by Sea and KIDS GO FREE: Sail on Spirit of Tasmania and your kids can travel with you for free between 6 March 6 and September 13, 2015. Offer ends 28 February unless sold out prior. Visit spiritoftasmania.com.au to book.
*Offer available to new bookings only from 25/1/15. Limited availability on selected PM sailings. Up to 3 children per paying adult. Red Hot Deal fare conditions apply. Not applicable to school/group bookings. $5 fee per person each way applies to non-internet bookings. See website for full conditions and to book.
So, over to you, have you been to Tasmania? A regular? A local? Share in the comments below what we need to see and do on our next trip.
*We were guests of Sprit of Tasmania, Brockley Estate, Salamanca Wharf Hotel and Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe. All other activities, meals and permits we paid for ourselves.
* Coordinated by The Remarkables Group
… and even more tips from the Styling You Facebook community!