On the Wild Side
The island at the edge of the world is a hot spot for culture, gastronomy and natural wonders. By Rina Chandarana
Just 150 miles off the Australian mainland, Tasmania might as well be worlds away. The far-flung island state—which also encompasses 334 islands dotting the Pacific and Indian Oceans—offers the same turgid mix of unspoiled wilderness, fruitful vineyards, fascinating history and authentic Aboriginal culture that captured the imaginations of Charles Darwin and Mark Twain. At once strange and beautiful, it’s a must-stop on your Australian adventure.
With a population of just a little over 500,000, Tasmania has vast areas of wilderness and plenty of places to enjoy the view. Nearly forty percent of the island is protected as national parklands. Kayak along the rocky coastlines and spot the seals, penguins and dolphins that play in the turquoise waters and on the white sand beaches of Wineglass Bay.
Hike through forest trails past rivers and lakes in Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, teeming with wombats, wallabies, eagles and platypus. Feed Tasmanian devils and meet with a gang of friendly kangaroos on a night tour in Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.
Take in stunning vistas of Mount Wellington from The Islington Hotel. Or drive out 20 minutes from Hobart to the peak for city views and a look at the Tasman Peninsula.
Art & Culture
Once a notorious penal colony and a shipbuilding hub, the capital of Hobart is a thriving center of gastronomy and culture. Festivals and a vibrant foodie scene give the city a lively buzz. The Wooden Boat Festival celebrates Australia’s maritime culture, bringing together the biggest collection of wooden boats in the southern hemisphere.
The country’s largest private museum, the Museum of Old and New Art is privately funded by Australian businessman David Walsh. Situated almost entirely underground, MONA houses a controversial collection that includes ancient Roman mummies, scores of provocative oddities, and rare works such as Sidney Nolan’s 150-foot mural, Snake, inspired by Aboriginal mythology.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel sits among Hobart’s oldest waterfront warehouses. Formerly a factory, the 19th-century building features more than 500 works of art including prints, paintings and sculptures from Tasmania’s visual artists. Appreciate art here, but venture out to take in the sights at the Salamanca Market in the old town where local artisans sell hand-made pieces of woodwork, jewelry, glassware and ceramics.
Food & Wine
Fresh air, rich soil and clean water are the trifecta that produces fresh food and drinks. Apples were its first export, but today Tasmania offers a cornucopia of seafood, cheese, honey, nuts, fruits, craft beers and cool-climate wines. Local chefs whip up delicious meals with seasonal bounty from the local farmers markets. Every year, the Taste of Tasmania festival in Hobart brings together close to 70 stalls of foods from around the state.
Mild summer and long autumn days provide optimal conditions for Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and sparkling wines to be sipped at one of the many picturesque wineries. Visit the James Boag brewery or distillery to sample cider, whisky and gin. Pair your finds with oysters or abalone caught by your guide on a trip out to sea.
Once considered the end of the world, Tasmania was home to some of the largest and most notorious penal colonies. Travel through time at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites to learn more about the 165,000 convicts who were transported here in the 18th and 19th centuries to toil in harsh conditions. The Coal Mines Historic Site once held 500 convicts who labored underground. Nightly ghost tours are offered for the brave.
Pro Tip! Visit the many festivals that take place on this Australian island, including the charming Cygnet Folk Festival in the Huon Valley. - Lisa Chapman, Luxury Travel Expert