Way Down Under − a week in Tasmania

By Anne Taylor
This article appears on page 45 of the October 2015 issue.
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Tasmania’s Painted Cliffs.

I had never heard of anyone going to Tasmania — just Tasmania — for a week-long visit, so when I said to my coworkers Mary Anne Scott and Megan Schultz, “If we leave after work on Friday and include the Presidents’ Day holiday, it will count as just four work days,” they were as excited as I was about visiting one of Lonely Planet’s top 2015 destinations. 

I promised to plan a trip that included what seemed to be the highlights: wildlife, food and wine, hiking, beach and mountain scenery and insight into the area’s convict past. I would learn that Tasmania offered all that and more.

Making plans

The challenge was fitting all the highlights into such a short trip. My strategy was to pick a city and take day trips from there — but what city? 

Well, there are really only two: Hobart and Launceston. I picked Hobart, the farthest south and on the water. 

The choice of an efficient flight schedule and a good airline was high on the priority list, especially since it was the most expensive part of the trip. A consolidator that I like, International Travel Network (San Francisco, CA; 800/981-0805, itncorp.com), found convenient flight times on Qantas for $2,221 per person. (I always ask them to email me the proposed flight plan before booking, as it’s simply easier to look at the printed schedule than to track it over the phone.) 

Qantas delivered a good meal, a choice of more than 100 movies and documentaries and, most importantly, a good night’s sleep. 

I booked Quest Waterfront Serviced Apartments (3 Brooke St.; phone +61 3 6224 8630, questapartments.com.au) online for our 7-night stay. The $1,770 cost was divided by three and paid in two different currencies at the end of our stay. 

Having an apartment with a service desk one block from the waterfront and Salamanca Square was perfect for the three of us. With Hobart as a hub and no need for a rental car, we were able to book day tours in advance of our arrival.

Tours Tasmania (phone +61 3 6231 5390, www.tourstas.com.au) was the only Tasmanian-owned tour company I found that offered a wide variety of tours, including a full-day tour on Maria Island, a “must do” to see wildlife. 

The Maria Island tour was offered only on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I booked a Tuesday tour. I scheduled Wineglass Bay and Freycinet on Monday and Mt Field and Mt Wellington on Wednesday. 

Tours Tasmania offered remarkable values. The tours lasted 10 to 12 hours, and they always included a variety of activities and stops at an average cost of $100 per tour (without tip). Remember, this is Australia, so a heartfelt “That was great!” is all that is expected.

To the beach

On Monday, the summer sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-70s (a nice change from Ohio’s February weather), so we headed to Wineglass Bay and one of the best beaches in the world. 

For the next three days, Mary Anne and I would pick up lattes at Hobart’s Harbour Lights Café (29 Morrison St.) while Megan stalled the tour guide, who was instructed to pick us up at the apartment at 7:30 a.m. 

After about an hour on the road, we had a grocery store/bake shop stop in order to pick up lunch. The spinach-and-chicken pies were yummy, and I kept my promise to eat fresh oysters every day. 

The odd-looking echidna.

We arrived at Freycinet Marine Farm (1784 Coles Bay Rd., Coles Bay) before we hit the beach. I ordered one dozen fresh-from-the-sea oysters (AUD15, or $10.50) and a local microbrew. Though I hadn’t even been there 12 hours, I thought, “I just love this place!”

Our group of six hiked to the lookout point to see the panoramic view of the crescent-shaped bay fringed with white sand. From the lookout, the three of us plus a young Dutch woman made the steep descent to the beach. 

The 3-hour round-trip hike was worth the effort. We can now say we dipped our toes in the Tasman Sea. It was wild and cold but worth it. 

The tour also allowed time to get wet in a calmer bay and to reward our efforts with delicious ice cream at Kate’s Berry Farm (12 Addison St., Swansea).

Island exploration

The next day it rained in the morning as our group set out to meet the boat that would take us to Maria Island. The boat was operated by East Coast Cruises (www.east coastcruises.com.au), which offers half- and full-day cruises around the island. However, if you are keen on seeing a variety of wildlife, you must hike on the island. 

The rain ended as we set out for a 2½-hour walk to the Fossil Cliffs, a trip to the sea through lovely forests. Along the way, we came upon Forester kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, Cape Barren geese and a little blue penguin. I had never seen any of these animals in the wild before. I took as many photos as I could until the guide rushed me along. 

Wildlife spotting and watching animal behavior was one of the unique pleasures of Tasmania; do take advantage of this opportunity. 

Our final hike of the day was to the Painted Cliffs, sandstone cliffs naturally colored orange, pink, tan and cream that overlook the sea. Walking through the multicolored natural sculptures lit by the afternoon sun was a beautiful experience. 

As if to top off our day’s wildlife experience, dozens of dolphins jumped around our boat on the trip back. 

We returned to the apartment after 7 p.m. The restaurants and bars in Salamanca Place were open, but virtually all of the shops had closed at 5. Fortunately, I had figured that out and had scheduled Thursday as a free day to enjoy our waterfront neighborhood. 

On Tuesday night we just wanted “a little something” for dinner, so off to Salamanca Fresh fruit market we went. We stocked up for a meal of local blackberries, apples, artisanal cheeses, walnuts, crackers and a lovely sparkling wine ($13 a bottle).

Into the woods

On Wednesday, Mark picked us up and drove 25 minutes from Hobart to Mt Field National Park. We traveled from our maritime accommodations to lush alpine moorlands with tiered waterfalls and tall trees. 

Before the scenery turned green, we passed black swans on the River Derwent and stopped briefly in New Norfolk to pick up our lunch. The local bakery sold the best meat pie I’ve ever eaten. 

Dr. Mark Poll was the best of our guides. He stunned me when he said the national parks are open 24/7. I am planning on going back, hiking until sundown, watching the wildlife, eating another meat pie and taking a telescope to see the stars! 

We hiked for about two hours, doing an easy up-and-down trek. Frankly, my neck got the most exercise looking up at the tall trees. When we looked down, we saw two of the cutest animals we had never heard of, pademelons. The aptly named pademelon resembles a super-chubby, 2-foot-tall kangaroo, and it is found only in Tasmania. Oh, we were so lucky to get a photo. 

Tasmanian devil, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

We walked the Pandani Grove Alpine Walk around Lake Dobson. The air was crisp and the pandani palms were more than 30 feet high. 

After the hike we headed to see the most famous of the state’s animals, the Tasmanian devil. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary works to establish populations of Tasmanian devils free of devil facial tumour disease. I applaud their efforts. 

We talked about wine and food with Mark as we drove back through Hobart to its stunning backdrop, Mt Wellington. We made a quick stop at a roadside stand to buy silvanberries, like blackberries, only bigger and sweeter. 

It was cloudy at the top of Mt Wellington, but when it cleared, Hobart and the River Derwent were visible beneath us. 

Mark suggested Smolt for dinner in Salamanca Square. It was the best dinner we had. The cheese platter (AUD24.50) was a good introduction to a variety of treats, and I stuck to my pledge — oysters and a pinot noir every day. 

On our own

On our free day, Mary Anne and I shopped the stores that had been shuttered when we returned from our tours, and Megan rented a bike and toured the central city. Our best shopping finds were a bowl and a cheese knife made of Huon pine. One of the longest-living and slowest-growing trees on Earth, it is native to Tasmania and its wood is a lovely golden color. 

A late lunch at the Bruny Island Cheese Company (at Salamanca Market) really hit the spot. The plate for two gave us a chance to taste everything. It was fun to read how each cheese got its name, right before popping a bit into my mouth. 

Soon after our lunch, we met Megan at Lark Distillery (14 Davey St.) to share a flight of whiskies. None of us claim to know much about whisky, but what a fine lesson it was to sit outside and taste. 

A previous visit to the visitors’ center revealed that the artist George Davis was giving a lecture at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (Dunn Place; www.tmag.tas.gov.au), a few blocks from Lark Distillery. Do not miss seeing this local treasure that is open late on Thursday nights in the summer. The lecture was free, as was the historical footage of the extinct Tasmanian tiger — a totally unexpected treat. 

Art and wine 

Since I thought a day of wine tasting should be paired with art appreciation, not hiking, for Friday I booked the “Wine & MONA Experience Tour” with Boutique Wine Tours (phone +0415 387 887, www.boutiquewinetourstas.com) for $126 per person. Three “cellar door” tastings were offered in the Coal River Valley. 

One other couple joined us, and the lone man was outnumbered by the women wine makers and drinkers at Meadowbank Estate. Apparently, grandmother “Meadowbank” continues to beat the boys at international sparkling wine competitions. 

I kept my pinot promise at all the tastings. 

Travelers Megan Schultz, Anne Taylor and Mary Anne Scott.

All the cellars sell out in Australia, so if you love it, take it home. The best lunch we had in Tasmania was included in the tour. Wicked Cheese offered choices of meat, salmon, cheese, fruits, bread and spreads. 

After lunch, we were taken back to the pier right by our apartment for the ferry ride to MONA (Museum of Old & New Art). MONA has its own ferry that transports visitors to its three underground galleries concealed in a cliff face. 

Professional gambler and art collector David Walsh paid $75 million to showcase a part of his ever-changing modern art collection. It was “over the top” and not to be missed.

The last day

Saturday was our last day, and we knew exactly where the Saturday Salamanca Market would be set up because we walked by the waterfront park across from the Parliament House every night. 

Our morning started at 8:30 with the best lattes yet, served from a market tent. Browsing the market, we saw items made of green serpentine stone spotted with deep-purple stichtite. Mary Anne bought earrings. I bought a coaster. 

For our final tour, we were going to visit the historic prison at Port Arthur for a ghost tour. Booking through tourstogo.com, we found that Adventure Island Day Tours offered a Saturday tour ($100 per person) that left at 1 p.m. and would get us back by 11 p.m. It was just the three of us on the tour. 

On the way, we had a quick walk through the town of Richmond before continuing on to Port Arthur’s historic site. The tide was out, and we watched people walk a mile or so out on the sea floor. 

During a walk to Cape Hauy to see the sea cliffs, we encountered a large crowd of tourists, but the crowds were gone when we arrived at the prison site. 

The inmates who had been held there were, for the most part, thieves and fighters, and their personal stories were told at the interactive museum. 

After oysters and pinot at the Felons Bistro, it was dark and time for our ghost tour to begin. A black-caped young guide distributed lanterns, and we went inside darkened buildings that were closed to us before. Stories were told and spooky sounds were made, but the highlight was walking on the lovely grounds at night. 

It was on this night, our last night, that we saw stars — the Southern Cross. I love Tasmania!    

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
Tasmania’s Painted Cliffs.

I had never heard of anyone going to Tasmania — just Tasmania — for a week-long visit, so when I said to my coworkers Mary Anne Scott and Megan Schultz, “If we leave after work on Friday and include the Presidents’ Day holiday, it will count as just four work days,” they were as excited as I was about visiting one of Lonely Planet’s top 2015 destinations. 

I promised to plan a trip that included what seemed to be the highlights: wildlife, food and wine, hiking, beach and mountain scenery and insight into the area’s convict past. I would learn that Tasmania offered all that and more.

Making plans

The challenge was fitting all the highlights into such a short trip. My strategy was to pick a city and take day trips from there — but what city? 

Well, there are really only two: Hobart and Launceston. I picked Hobart, the farthest south and on the water. 

The choice of an efficient flight schedule and a good airline was high on the priority list, especially since it was the most expensive part of the trip. A consolidator that I like, International Travel Network (San Francisco, CA; 800/981-0805, itncorp.com), found convenient flight times on Qantas for $2,221 per person. (I always ask them to email me the proposed flight plan before booking, as it’s simply easier to look at the printed schedule than to track it over the phone.) 

Qantas delivered a good meal, a choice of more than 100 movies and documentaries and, most importantly, a good night’s sleep. 

I booked Quest Waterfront Serviced Apartments (3 Brooke St.; phone +61 3 6224 8630, questapartments.com.au) online for our 7-night stay. The $1,770 cost was divided by three and paid in two different currencies at the end of our stay. 

Having an apartment with a service desk one block from the waterfront and Salamanca Square was perfect for the three of us. With Hobart as a hub and no need for a rental car, we were able to book day tours in advance of our arrival.

Tours Tasmania (phone +61 3 6231 5390, www.tourstas.com.au) was the only Tasmanian-owned tour company I found that offered a wide variety of tours, including a full-day tour on Maria Island, a “must do” to see wildlife. 

The Maria Island tour was offered only on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I booked a Tuesday tour. I scheduled Wineglass Bay and Freycinet on Monday and Mt Field and Mt Wellington on Wednesday. 

Tours Tasmania offered remarkable values. The tours lasted 10 to 12 hours, and they always included a variety of activities and stops at an average cost of $100 per tour (without tip). Remember, this is Australia, so a heartfelt “That was great!” is all that is expected.

To the beach

On Monday, the summer sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-70s (a nice change from Ohio’s February weather), so we headed to Wineglass Bay and one of the best beaches in the world. 

For the next three days, Mary Anne and I would pick up lattes at Hobart’s Harbour Lights Café (29 Morrison St.) while Megan stalled the tour guide, who was instructed to pick us up at the apartment at 7:30 a.m. 

After about an hour on the road, we had a grocery store/bake shop stop in order to pick up lunch. The spinach-and-chicken pies were yummy, and I kept my promise to eat fresh oysters every day. 

The odd-looking echidna.

We arrived at Freycinet Marine Farm (1784 Coles Bay Rd., Coles Bay) before we hit the beach. I ordered one dozen fresh-from-the-sea oysters (AUD15, or $10.50) and a local microbrew. Though I hadn’t even been there 12 hours, I thought, “I just love this place!”

Our group of six hiked to the lookout point to see the panoramic view of the crescent-shaped bay fringed with white sand. From the lookout, the three of us plus a young Dutch woman made the steep descent to the beach. 

The 3-hour round-trip hike was worth the effort. We can now say we dipped our toes in the Tasman Sea. It was wild and cold but worth it. 

The tour also allowed time to get wet in a calmer bay and to reward our efforts with delicious ice cream at Kate’s Berry Farm (12 Addison St., Swansea).

Island exploration

The next day it rained in the morning as our group set out to meet the boat that would take us to Maria Island. The boat was operated by East Coast Cruises (www.east coastcruises.com.au), which offers half- and full-day cruises around the island. However, if you are keen on seeing a variety of wildlife, you must hike on the island. 

The rain ended as we set out for a 2½-hour walk to the Fossil Cliffs, a trip to the sea through lovely forests. Along the way, we came upon Forester kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, Cape Barren geese and a little blue penguin. I had never seen any of these animals in the wild before. I took as many photos as I could until the guide rushed me along. 

Wildlife spotting and watching animal behavior was one of the unique pleasures of Tasmania; do take advantage of this opportunity. 

Our final hike of the day was to the Painted Cliffs, sandstone cliffs naturally colored orange, pink, tan and cream that overlook the sea. Walking through the multicolored natural sculptures lit by the afternoon sun was a beautiful experience. 

As if to top off our day’s wildlife experience, dozens of dolphins jumped around our boat on the trip back. 

We returned to the apartment after 7 p.m. The restaurants and bars in Salamanca Place were open, but virtually all of the shops had closed at 5. Fortunately, I had figured that out and had scheduled Thursday as a free day to enjoy our waterfront neighborhood. 

On Tuesday night we just wanted “a little something” for dinner, so off to Salamanca Fresh fruit market we went. We stocked up for a meal of local blackberries, apples, artisanal cheeses, walnuts, crackers and a lovely sparkling wine ($13 a bottle).

Into the woods

On Wednesday, Mark picked us up and drove 25 minutes from Hobart to Mt Field National Park. We traveled from our maritime accommodations to lush alpine moorlands with tiered waterfalls and tall trees. 

Before the scenery turned green, we passed black swans on the River Derwent and stopped briefly in New Norfolk to pick up our lunch. The local bakery sold the best meat pie I’ve ever eaten. 

Dr. Mark Poll was the best of our guides. He stunned me when he said the national parks are open 24/7. I am planning on going back, hiking until sundown, watching the wildlife, eating another meat pie and taking a telescope to see the stars! 

We hiked for about two hours, doing an easy up-and-down trek. Frankly, my neck got the most exercise looking up at the tall trees. When we looked down, we saw two of the cutest animals we had never heard of, pademelons. The aptly named pademelon resembles a super-chubby, 2-foot-tall kangaroo, and it is found only in Tasmania. Oh, we were so lucky to get a photo. 

Tasmanian devil, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

We walked the Pandani Grove Alpine Walk around Lake Dobson. The air was crisp and the pandani palms were more than 30 feet high. 

After the hike we headed to see the most famous of the state’s animals, the Tasmanian devil. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary works to establish populations of Tasmanian devils free of devil facial tumour disease. I applaud their efforts. 

We talked about wine and food with Mark as we drove back through Hobart to its stunning backdrop, Mt Wellington. We made a quick stop at a roadside stand to buy silvanberries, like blackberries, only bigger and sweeter. 

It was cloudy at the top of Mt Wellington, but when it cleared, Hobart and the River Derwent were visible beneath us. 

Mark suggested Smolt for dinner in Salamanca Square. It was the best dinner we had. The cheese platter (AUD24.50) was a good introduction to a variety of treats, and I stuck to my pledge — oysters and a pinot noir every day. 

On our own

On our free day, Mary Anne and I shopped the stores that had been shuttered when we returned from our tours, and Megan rented a bike and toured the central city. Our best shopping finds were a bowl and a cheese knife made of Huon pine. One of the longest-living and slowest-growing trees on Earth, it is native to Tasmania and its wood is a lovely golden color. 

A late lunch at the Bruny Island Cheese Company (at Salamanca Market) really hit the spot. The plate for two gave us a chance to taste everything. It was fun to read how each cheese got its name, right before popping a bit into my mouth. 

Soon after our lunch, we met Megan at Lark Distillery (14 Davey St.) to share a flight of whiskies. None of us claim to know much about whisky, but what a fine lesson it was to sit outside and taste. 

A previous visit to the visitors’ center revealed that the artist George Davis was giving a lecture at the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (Dunn Place; www.tmag.tas.gov.au), a few blocks from Lark Distillery. Do not miss seeing this local treasure that is open late on Thursday nights in the summer. The lecture was free, as was the historical footage of the extinct Tasmanian tiger — a totally unexpected treat. 

Art and wine 

Since I thought a day of wine tasting should be paired with art appreciation, not hiking, for Friday I booked the “Wine & MONA Experience Tour” with Boutique Wine Tours (phone +0415 387 887, www.boutiquewinetourstas.com) for $126 per person. Three “cellar door” tastings were offered in the Coal River Valley. 

One other couple joined us, and the lone man was outnumbered by the women wine makers and drinkers at Meadowbank Estate. Apparently, grandmother “Meadowbank” continues to beat the boys at international sparkling wine competitions. 

I kept my pinot promise at all the tastings. 

Travelers Megan Schultz, Anne Taylor and Mary Anne Scott.

All the cellars sell out in Australia, so if you love it, take it home. The best lunch we had in Tasmania was included in the tour. Wicked Cheese offered choices of meat, salmon, cheese, fruits, bread and spreads. 

After lunch, we were taken back to the pier right by our apartment for the ferry ride to MONA (Museum of Old & New Art). MONA has its own ferry that transports visitors to its three underground galleries concealed in a cliff face. 

Professional gambler and art collector David Walsh paid $75 million to showcase a part of his ever-changing modern art collection. It was “over the top” and not to be missed.

The last day

Saturday was our last day, and we knew exactly where the Saturday Salamanca Market would be set up because we walked by the waterfront park across from the Parliament House every night. 

Our morning started at 8:30 with the best lattes yet, served from a market tent. Browsing the market, we saw items made of green serpentine stone spotted with deep-purple stichtite. Mary Anne bought earrings. I bought a coaster. 

For our final tour, we were going to visit the historic prison at Port Arthur for a ghost tour. Booking through tourstogo.com, we found that Adventure Island Day Tours offered a Saturday tour ($100 per person) that left at 1 p.m. and would get us back by 11 p.m. It was just the three of us on the tour. 

On the way, we had a quick walk through the town of Richmond before continuing on to Port Arthur’s historic site. The tide was out, and we watched people walk a mile or so out on the sea floor. 

During a walk to Cape Hauy to see the sea cliffs, we encountered a large crowd of tourists, but the crowds were gone when we arrived at the prison site. 

The inmates who had been held there were, for the most part, thieves and fighters, and their personal stories were told at the interactive museum. 

After oysters and pinot at the Felons Bistro, it was dark and time for our ghost tour to begin. A black-caped young guide distributed lanterns, and we went inside darkened buildings that were closed to us before. Stories were told and spooky sounds were made, but the highlight was walking on the lovely grounds at night. 

It was on this night, our last night, that we saw stars — the Southern Cross. I love Tasmania!