If you’ve read my blog for even a short length of time, you would have probably realised that I like to travel. I’m very lucky that my job affords me almost double the amount of time off most people get but I also make sure I use that time wisely. When I booked my trip to Bali during my recent fortnight off I realised it was right at the front of my leave so I decided to go to Tasmania in the second half for something to do. It turned out to be a great decision and I really enjoyed my time there.
I’d been to Tassie once before, in 2006, and to be honest didn’t think much of it. That said I was in Hobart in July without a car for most of it so it’s no surprise it wasn’t riveting. This time I hired a car and decided to spend two nights in Hobart and one in Launceston. I took a day trip to Port Arthur then drove up the east coast from Hobart to Launceston, coming back on the inland route. With a car it’s a really enjoyable place to go with lots to see and do in the smaller towns.
In Hobart I stayed at the Travelodge and it was reasonable but nothing special. I wouldn’t be hugely recommending it. It was on the fringe area of the CBD but easy enough to drive to areas such as the harbour or Salamanca. There was also a decent amount of parking nearby but to be honest I was gone most of the day anyway.
On my first day I went to visit MONA, which was pretty much the main reason for me going to Hobart. I’d heard so many great things about it and I’m always a sucker for a good art museum. I have to admit, I didn’t love it. It was great but maybe I created some over expectation because it didn’t blow me away. To get there you catch a ferry, which takes you about 20 minutes and costs you $20. They warn you against driving to MONA as it’s on a small island and parking is limited. This was a nice way to travel and see a bit of the harbour so I didn’t particularly mind. One thing that really annoyed me at MONA is that none of the art works are marked – they give you a small iPhone style device and you press it every so often and it tells you what art is around you and gives you details about it. This was frustrating and often it would pick up things properly. I’m glad I went and I would go again, but I wasn’t blown away. If you’re thinking of going then I’d say you only need 1.5-2 hours maximum to go through the place.
When I got back into town I headed to the Cascade Brewery, which is one of the loveliest and most recognisable buildings in the city. I did the tour, which sets you back around $25 and is well worth the hour. You then get beer and cider tastings at the end – I had mine and then stuck around to have lunch in the café. The food was great and the setting was perfect. It’s a great spot to spend an arvo drinking with friends and I’ve always loved Cascade beer.
The next morning I got up early and headed to Machine Laundry Café in Salamanca Square for breakfast. It was fantastic and I had a really terrible breakfast at another place at Salamanca the next morning so I regret not going back. I had French toast with poached stone fruits and lime curd – there was so much food. Good travelling fuel. After that I headed off to the Port Arthur historical site which is about a 1.5 hour drive out of Hobart, though there’s plenty of interesting stops and detours along the way.
It’s incredibly hard to go to Port Arthur and not think of what happened on 28 April 1996. I know the site has a long and interesting convict history and they have done a lot of work to preserve the buildings that are there. It’s actually a really beautiful spot, green and lush overlooking the water. The iconic pale gold gaol building dominates the view and there’s a lot of interesting things to do there. But still… it’s so hard not to stand in the middle of all that and not imagine the fear and horror of a man unloading a high powered firearm repeatedly and killing 35 people, injuring 23 others. What chaos there would have been there on that day. If you are visiting Tasmania I think it’s a must see area due to it’s rich colonial past but it also reminds you of the terrible things people choose to do to each other. Also I did the one-hour tour then the boat cruise and I definitely recommend it.
That afternoon in Hobart I did the drive up to the top of Mount Wellington, the massive chunk of rock that overlooks the city. You can drive all the way to the very top and they have a couple of lookouts, including one over the city. It’s a beautiful spot for taking photos but for anyone like me who is petrified of heights, it’s not a lot of fun. It’s an absolute white knuckle drive to get up there and eventually I stopped looking out the window at the view because I thought I was going to throw up. That said, it’s just amazing once you get to the top. My colleague told me he and his mates went back down the mountain in neutral and just let the car roll, almost getting all he way back into the city. I said I would not be doing that. I value my life.
The next day I drove from Hobart to Launceston via the coastal route. This takes a bit more time than the inland road and can take even longer if you stop all the time to take photos and buy drinks (like me). My first stop was in Orford – there’s a beautiful lake in town and some gorgeous beaches nearby, as well as a lot of cafes. From there I drove up to Swansea and stopped at Kate’s Berry Farm and I absolutely recommend it. When the first words you hear from the staff are “go inside and help yourself,” you know you’re on to a winner. They have a beautiful café there that only sells desserts and I had the best warm scones with jam and cream. I’m incredibly disappointed I didn’t get to have the lavender ice cream but I had no room left at the end and couldn’t take it with me. I ended up sitting out the front talking to Kate herself and a friend after I overheard them talking about visiting Cordoba, so I got to rave about my Spanish trip again.
From there I drove up to the Freycinet National Park and into Coles Bay. The area is amazing and there’s lots of great views to be had. However the one I wanted to see most was the famed Wineglass Bay and so I drove into the park and paid the $25 park fee. To be honest, I hadn’t done much research about the place and I thought I’d just rock up and it’d be a 5-10 minute stroll to some look out, get my photos, then get moving. Oh no. It’s a 1.5 hour round trip to get to the Wineglass Bay lookout (our a lazy four hours if you want to go down to the beach) and you basically go up and down a mountain. I was not impressed and so I switched my thongs for Toms and huffed off in my jeans and t-shirt. This will not take me 1.5 hours, I thought. Cut to me about 20 minutes later dripping in sweat and over it already. My jeans were sticky and I didn’t bring any water. I was sick of walking uphill. Please keep this in mind of you are going and be better prepared than I was! The view was incredible though and definitely worth it, plus I saw wallabies on the hike back.
After that I drove into Launceston and arrived around 7pm so it was already quite dark. Let me tell you this: Tassie LOVES a one-way street so navigating in a strange city in the dark was challenging. In the end I got to my hotel by the light of my iPhone and all was good. I stayed at Balmoral on York and I really liked it. While it doesn’t seem a little quaintly 80s inside, the rooms were giant, the bathroom was huge, the shower was probably the best shower of my life, the bed was comfy, lots of pillows, super high speed unlimited free internet and free Foxtel. Honestly, it was fantastic. There was also a lot of free parking on site and the place was really quiet, meaning you could actually sleep in instead of listening to people clomp up and down the halls. If you’re heading to Launceston I recommend it.
That night I had dinner at a little place called Alchemy, which had comic books for wallpaper. I had salmon and local beers and it was great. It’s on George Street which seems to have a lot of good restaurants along it, so if you’re heading there then that seems to be the best place to wander at night.
The next morning I decided to head to Stillwater for breakfast after a good recommendation via Instagram. It was easily my favourite meal of the trip and I would have loved to have had dinner there. It’s in an old mill at a beautiful spot down by the water and the views over the Tamar River are amazing. I had rye waffles with smoked salmon and poached eggs and it was spot on. It’s definitely not cheap – it was around $35 for breakfast including a coffee and an orange juice – but it’s definitely a worthwhile experience.
I was flying out from Hobart at 9pm that night so I had a bit of time to wander around Launceston before driving back. It’s a really beautiful, well maintained city full of gorgeous old houses. I definitely prefer it over Hobart. I headed to Cataract Gorge, which is pretty much right in the middle of the city, and another great spot full of photographic views. Despite my hatred of heights I was disappointed I left my wallet in the car so I didn’t get to go on the chair lift. It’ll set you back $12 and you do a lap out into the open space. Instead I went for a walk along the suspension bridge, panicked when people were rocking it, took photos and then cleared off. If you’re in Launceston then I recommend paying the gorge a visit as it’s so close to town and there’s plenty of lovely spots. Would be great for lunch.
I headed back to Hobart on the inland route and it took around 3.5 hours, though I am partial to a stop. Once in Hobart I parked in the city and had a bit of a wander around the shops. There’s a lot of open malls and big retailers in the CBD so while it’s not quite Melbourne, it’s not bad either. I was starving and feeling like a burger so I headed to The Standard, which is a tiny place down the end of an alley near the hospital. It serves American style food and there’s no tables, just an open bleacher. Prices are around the same as Grill’d and I have to say, it wasn’t half bad. A shame there were no tables but I could see them doing a roaring trade on Friday and Saturday nights.
After that I had one last wander down through Salamanca and the waterfront (sadly I was too late to get to Banjo’s bakery for on last raspberry house cake) and then it was time to drive to the airport for my inevitably delayed Jetstar flight and then head home. I’m really glad I made the trip down to Tasmania and I had an absolute ball. Having a car makes all the difference when you’re down there and allows you to get around at your own pace and stop whenever you feel like it. I’ll definitely be paying another visit ad will put the south and west on the agenda for next time.