So last month I took a break from my working life in Melbourne and headed off to the great outdoors on the beautiful island of Tasmania. I didn’t know what to expect, and hadn’t had much time to think about it as I was working right up until the day before we went, although it had always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to visit. And I can’t tell you how nice it was to get away from the bustling city for a week. With the mountains, sea and fresh country air, we immediately relaxed into the laid back island lifestyle of the locals.
After a very early start and a much needed breakfast (and lots of large mugs of coffee) outside in the morning sun, we decided to spend our first day exploring the small port town of Hobart. Hobart’s main hub of activity is the Salamanca area, a small square near the waterfront dotted with traditional English pubs, green grass, water fountains and lovely views over to the harbour. On Saturday mornings, Salamanca comes alive with its famous markets, selling homegrown and organic produce from fruit and vegetables to handmade soaps, bags, clothes and souvenirs. We spent a couple of happy hours wandering around the markets in the sun and admiring the views of the snow-capped mountains in the background.
A great way to start your time in Hobart and to get your bearings of the city is to do the City Sightseeing hop-on-hop-off bus tour, which departs from outside the Visitor centre near the waterfront and costs $30 for a day pass. Hobart is a small town so it covers all the main areas, which means you can also do the route on foot (like we did). But if your budget isn’t an issue then sitting on the top deck of a bus is a nice way to see a place!
One of the main attractions in and around Hobart is Mona – The Museum of Old and New Art, which had an exhibition of Marina Abramovic on at the time we visited. I am a massive fan of modern art and was really looking forward to it, as so many people had told me to visit. The whole experience started with a ferry ride to the museum over on the Berriedale peninsula. The museum itself was nothing like anything I’d experienced before. I spent the entire time walking round so confused, as if I was missing some important and key element to the exhibition. Each exhibit was different – one entire room filled with horrific ear piercing screams, other pieces about extreme emotions such as depression, anger, freedom and happiness. There was a meditation room filled with interactive blocks, and a Chamber of Silence where you sit with noise-blocking headsets and look out to the view below. And to top it all off, after being hurriedly directed by the museum staff towards the ‘feeding’ room, we found ourselves in front of a replica human digestive system which had a daily scheduled poop and was currently being fed its dinner when we arrived. It was definitely an interesting experience and one I will never forget!
Our second day was my most memorable as I ticked off one of the main things on my ultimate bucket list which was to see wild dolphins. Everywhere in Hobart you will see signs for Bruny Island Cruises, a gorgeous little island just off the mainland. It’s not cheap – it costs $195 for the trip but it’s a full day itinerary including – as well as the cruise – the bus transfer from Hobart, a mid-morning coffee and cake, and a post-cruise lunch and it was 100% worth every cent! You can do it cheaper if you have a rented car and just want to drive yourself around the island, but I would definitely recommend the cruise as you get to see all the sea wildlife and it’s the best part of the experience!
We departed from Hobart waterfront at 8am and our local tour guide Hugh drove us through all the suburbs: Sandy Bay, Kingston beach area, Margate, where he bought the bread rolls for our lunch later on, Snug, where he lived and which is a maritime term for ‘small and safe’, and finally Kettering. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny morning and as we drove we spotted in the distance the oldest square lighthouse in Australia on Iron Pot island (where you can also do a cruise), we passed families walking the kids to school, locals walking to the shop to get the morning paper, and houses with the most gorgeous panoramic sea views – a glimpse of everyday life in Tassie, which I love and always find is the best way to get the feel of a place.
Once we were onboard and had donned our lovely red ponchos, our adventure began and we were lucky enough to spot the dolphins in the first ten minutes! It was incredible to see – they were less than 20 metres from the boat and jumping playfully in the waves! I was really keen to get some good photos but it was one of those experiences that I wanted to remember through my own eyes instead of the camera lens. We saw seals resting on the rocks, an albatross flying overhead and zoomed past algae-covered cliffs and caves, including ‘The Blowhole’ which spat up huge spouts of water into the air every 30 seconds or so! It really was beautiful everywhere we looked, and despite throwing up over the side of the boat, I enjoyed every single second!
After a much needed lunch and spot of sun back on dry land, there was still plenty to see! We drove through Adventure Bay, the main township on Bruny Island, through eucalyptus tree lined roads, we passed Neck Beach with gorgeous shallow, turquoise waters, later stopping off slightly further along the beach where a giant staircase led up the inlet of land between two sides of water. It was beautiful!
We passed Resolution Creek/Two Tree Point where it is thought Captain Cook collected water on one of his expeditions, and finished the afternoon with stop offs at a local chocolate factory and an oyster drive-thru called ‘Get Shucked’ – only in Tassie! That evening, we were all in need of an early night and a good night’s sleep, so after studying our city maps and planning the next day’s activities over a couple of drinks in our hostel pub, we were off to bed – and I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well!
The next morning we found the cutest little coffee shop, Atlas Espresso (if ever I have my own coffee shop I would want it to be like this, with the walls and tables covered in maps of places all around the world) and set about our plan for the day, starting with Kelly Steps, just off Salamanca Place and leading up to Battery Point.
Next stop was Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery, full of local history and nature – and we managed to get ourselves on a free guided tour of the museum which I’d really recommend as you learn so much more. This was our last day in the city without a car, as we were picking it up the next morning, so we made the most of walking around the city and its cute cobbled streets, small shopping district, and had a lazy afternoon pub lunch.
One of the other main attractions in Hobart and its surrounds and one of the best afternoons we spent there was at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, home to lots of Tasmanian and native Australian animals, some of which are now endangered species. We saw wombats and wallabies, parrots and owls, watched one of the keepers feed the famous Tasmanian devils, petted Bert the resident koala, and fed kangaroos, some with joeys in their pouches – it was really special!
As well as feeding kangaroos, another thing which I ticked off my Australian bucket list was going to my first AFL game! It was perfect timing – the Saturday we were in Hobart was the day of the North Melbourne Kangaroos vs St Kilda Saints game. Our hostel receptionist managed to secure us some tickets that morning, we quickly decided who we were supporting – hard as they were both Melbourne teams so we just had to go for the colour combo we liked most…Donning our new blue and white Melbourne Kangaroos scarves, we had the best afternoon drinking beer and pretending to follow what was going on on the pitch.
Once we had the car for the last few days, we made the most of it and tried to do as much as possible. Visible from all over is Mount Wellington, where we’d planned to drive to the top for panoramic views over the city, but literally ten minutes up the road from the city, everything slowly turned white and the rest of the road was closed due to the snow!
It was beautiful and a completely different world to the town just below. We stopped off at a couple of viewpoints where we could see silhouetted mountains in the distance but it was getting a bit too dark to see anything below.
Another day we headed to beautiful Mount Field National Park, where we walked through the forrest towards Russell Falls, spotting a couple of wild wallabies on the way.
Another of the major attractions around Hobart is Port Arthur Historical Site, an old convict centre on the coast where we spent one of the coldest afternoons of my life! Our tour guide led us around the massive site, past the ancient buildings, through corridors of cells, common areas, the asylum centre and church, before getting caught in hail on the way back, where clambering into our little car, we had never been more glad of some heating.
The weather picked up again for our final day in Tassie, so we decided to spend it cruising along the South coast and stopping off wherever we fancied. We saw some beautiful beaches that day, our first stop being Opossum Bay, with gorgeous sunny views of the sea and mountains, and beach cottages and houses perched along the edge of the water.
Next was Seven Mile beach, with front facing views of Mount Wellington…
…and finally Clifton Beach with gorgeous white sands, gentle waves, and colourful shells – and we had it all to ourselves. It was the perfect way to end our week in Tasmania.