Stationed in the capital, we ventured on a couple of excursions, to Bruny Island, Port Arthur, the base and summit of Mt Wellington, and the city of Hobart itself.
Blessed are the cheese-makers
Bruny Island is basically a big artisinal farmer’s market. There are honey-farmers, cheese makers, chocolatiers, brewers, you name it. The local whey stout went down magnificently with the just as local oyster, in a second breakfast for champions. While the whole island, and its isthmus, provided plenty of photo ops and a spectacular shoreline, it’s not really necessary for a Bruny Island day trip for those who have done the whole Tasmania loop.
That day was New Year’s Eve. The Sydney-Hobart race had just ended, but the yachts, the crews and the spectators had mostly lingered, so the town was bustling. We found a decent restaurant for our NYE dinner, but later met up with our co-travellers for drinks and fireworks. They had found a more or less perfect table at a nice place by the harbour, so we partied well into 2020.
Port of the who?
We got up early next morning, though, for yet another day trip. The whole of Tasmania was once a penal colony (though went by the name of van Diemen’s Land until 1856), but as we know from Sarah Island, even convicts sometimes commit more crime, and need to be sent to another level of punishment. Such is Port Arthur.
The southernmost tip of the peninsula is an entire historic site. Along with the penitentiary, there were also lodgings for the military and the wardens, and therefore most of the site is lush green, botanical gardens and groves of trees. Well worth a visit, but skip the boat tour, which adds little to the experience. Other than the historical aspect, the area also has some spectacular shoreline, such as tessellated rocks (looking like man-made tiles), blowholes and a cool-looking arch. Named Tasman Arch, natch.
Hobart itself is quite a different town when it’s not christmas day. There are plenty of eateries, microbreweries, theatre, and an entire street of basically outdoors shops and comic book stores. The Sydney-Hobart regatta in conjunction with the new year’s celebration also draws a crowd. Thus Taste of Tasmania, a festival that provides, you guessed it, the different tastes of Tasmania. Street food, vendors, cideries, dessert wagons and everyone and their aunt exhibits their gastronomical merch. Well worth a visit, although the actual breweries outside the festival area are often cheaper and provide better spread. And they always accept cash, which some of the venues inside sadly don’t.
The, probably, most interesting thing to see and do in Hobart is MONA, Museum of Old and New Art. Started by a rich man who owned a lot of cool art and wanted to show it, the museum and its surroundings is a cultural and epicural getaway a little distance off the city centre. That distance being 25 minutes, because in Australia, they measure distance in time units. So, it’s 25 minutes by bus, 40 minutes by bike and 25 minutes by the ever popular MONA ferry. Sipping drinks on benches made to look like sheep or tigers on the graffitied boat is part of the experience.
The museum itself is as interesting as can be. Outside the building complex are statues, installations and interesting architecture. There is a park area with barbecues, restaurants and it’s own local brewery and winery. The exhibitions focus mainly on the N (new), with the old mostly just there to give the complex a better acronym. Not sure how many visitors MNA would attract. Among the more noteworthy exhibitions is an augmented reality enhanced number on mining in a post-apocalyptic world, and an artwork on human skin, which means that there’s a man sitting there 16 hours a day, showing visitors his tattoos. Apparently, he will donate his skin after his demise.
Now this is pod-racing!
After seven weeks of full speed activity vacay, it’s nice to kick back, relax, maybe even hide away. A short drive from Hobart lies Kingston, and an even shorter drive from there lies Hobart Hideaway Pods by the foothills of Kunyani, aka Mt Wellington. It is run, or rather cared for, by an old friend and former tour leader of mine, and it is a delight. Serene and eco-friendly, the pods (two at the moment), lie in a slope, with big panorama windows presenting a stellar view. The loo is water and odour free and the shower water is treated bio-wise on-site. We had a nice barbecue dinner with the host and her family, and got a nice, quiet night’s sleep.
The next day was excursion day. Starting off at Willie Smith’s orchard and cidery, and followed by a drive up to the peak of Mt Wellington. The view, both near and far, is stunning. It’s above the tree line, so it’s barren and pinnacle laden and something out of Middle Earth. There are many outdoors activities to partake in, such as trekking, bouldering, climbing and mountain biking. During winter they sometimes need to close parts of the road, and construction of a cable car has been proposed, to much political divide in the community. We ended the little day trip slash reunion with lunch at Tasmania’s biggest brewery, Cascade.
Back at Hobart, we took the last chance to visit ToT, and on our way back got surprised by a little jazzy concert in a park, to which people, old and young, spontaneously started to dance. Tasmania had truly delivered, and is highly recommended. On the morning of our departure, I ventured through some of the steepest streets I’ve ever ventured, up to the recreational area Queens Domain, where I participated in my very first Parkrun.
Our final three days of the Tassie round-trip started on new year’s eve. A new tour guide who spoke with a rather soft aussie twang, that is until she spoke with other aussies. Then her twang became a full on slabang. Full on aussie speak. I think we all enjoyed hearing it.
In Tasmania the swans are full on black. I did not see a single white Swan. Hmmm, I wonder how the aussies received the first performance of Swan Lake….. But the island is so much more than a gathering spot for black swans. Foodies galore. Chocolate, honey, oysters (nomnomnom), food, craft beer produced locally using only local produce, wine and everything delicious you can eat, taste and smell. In between all the tastings we did do some short hikes into the fantastic nature. But all things com to an end and so did our day on Bruny Island, as the old year ended and the new began we celebrated with good food, good wine and even better company, our new friends from the tour.
To start the new year with another early start and another excursion is perhaps not the most brilliant thing to do, but we did and it was good. We visited a small town that boasted having the oldest stone bridge in Tassie as well as the oldest Catholic Church. Apparently the Anglican Church is a little bit older but lacks some historical paperwork so they can’t claim that “oldest” title as well. Port Arthur was a mixture of horror and beauty. The horror consisted of its history. Such suffering and so many evil characters mixed with not so evil ones. I would have loved to explore the grounds a bit more but time was limited so we only got to scratch the surface. More fantastic natural sculptures were on the program. We had oh’d and aaah’d so much I thought that I’d ooh’d out myself but the traditional pizza on the international pizza day made me go ooooh again. Or perhaps it was the hour and a half we spent searching for at pizza place that actually stayed open on new year’s day. Google did not deliver that day.
The Mona. Oh, the visit to a magical, fantastic and amazing place. Filled with art, dreams and seriously cool architecture. A winery, a brewery and seriously good food. I could have stayed there for an entire day. Or two or three. They had a poop machine for goddess sake. A proper gastrointestinal machine that got fed twice a day and poops once. We got to see (and smell) the pooping. This is apparently very modern art. Love it.
The Hobart hideaway pods are the brilliant brainchild of an old travel bud of Martin. Two pods with a view to die for and a very green approach. Spend a night there and your soul relaxes completely. It is beauty combined with an excellent environmental green approach. Next time we go back we will definitely spend more time at that lovely place.
But as all things must end so did our Tassie adventure end. It ended with good food, good eats and beautiful music at the Taste of Tasmania festival. We had a lovely last evening tasting this and that. And listening to good music. What a wonderful way to end this leg of our journey.