Clear across the other side of the world lies a destination we have often longed to venture to – Tasmania. There’s a thrilling sense of adventure when one thinks of rural Australia, and we have always been fascinated by the outback and its Aboriginal, historical context – yet, we’ve found that Tasmania is rarely talked about amongst Aussies. Being incurably curious by nature, we were determined to find out exactly what we were missing.
Peering out of the window of our tiny dual-propeller plane as we jetted towards the island, we watched the vast, rolling, green hills unfurl below us. The plane seemed to skim over the glittering, oyster-filled bay near the island’s Hobart International Airport. Touchdown was unusually smooth, and our delightful flight attendant welcomed us to the beautiful island of Tasmania – and from what we’ve seen of it since, she was right – it is simply picture perfect. Hobart Airport is a lovely little piece of ‘international’ architecture, framed by the gorgeous blue Australian sky, with a gleaming ‘Welcome to Hobart’ sign perched on the rooftop, it looks every bit like the postcard we would later send home.
We were greeted by the most charming, and strapping, of men – a sailor, we later learned – who welcomed us at the airport with some delicious and decadent treats, handmade right there on the island. From the moment we arrived we were greeted by the sense of natural beauty and abundance that seems to suffuse the island.Whilst munching on our delectable granola bars, dried foraged berries and the freshest of fresh squeezed juices, we watched beautiful Tasmania flit past our car window, stunningly scenic and filled with plenty of eye-candy. Every question we had about ‘Tazzie-land’ was answered by our driver, an extremely knowledgeable and lovely Tasmanian native. The lengthy drive seemed to pass in a flash, our dreams of outback adventure coming to life before our very eyes. Our driver enchanted us with the history of the island and details of our destination, as we headed into the stunning Freycinet Forest.
Named for the French navigator Louis de Freycinet, who published the first map showing the full outline of the coast of Australia, the forest nestles around the aptly named ‘Wineglass Bay’ which – you guessed it – bears an uncanny resemblance to a glass of white, new-world wine. Perhaps this has inspired the locals throughout the years, as we were lucky enough to sample some simply delicious local wines – including a perfect sparkling at the hotel that could rival our beloved Dom Perignon.
Tasmania is often promoted as the ‘Natural State’, and it’s easy to see why, with almost forty-five percent of the land lying in reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites. One particularly gorgeous example of this preserved land was located very near our hotel, the Freycinet National Park, two hours into the forest. Here we spent a glorious day hiking, oyster hunting and marvelling at the shell middens – a whole world away, literally and metaphorically, from our lives in New York – as we retraced the footsteps of Aboriginal tribes along Hazards Beach. Our guide knew every in and out of the forest like the back of her hand and was a constant source of charm and energy.
A challenging hike, peppered with breathtaking views, brought us to the peak of the mountain, looking out over one of the most pristine beaches in the world. At this point, we really wondered why this part of the world is so rarely discussed – we concluded that perhaps the Aussies have something so beautiful here, they want to keep it secret all for themselves.
By the afternoon, we were back down, knee deep in crystal clear, calm waters learning about shell-bearing molluscs with a, literally, hands-on class. This culminated in a much-anticipated picnic, with more of that yummy sparkling wine and the infamous Tasmanian tradition, at least they told us so – a ‘shuck-to-face’ taste test – a simply divine way to spend a day.Before we left the island a dose of local culture was in order, and a visit to the Museum of Old and New Art provided that by the bucket-load. We were treated to a private tour of the diverse collection – one of the most interesting we’ve ever seen. Opened in 2011, it houses a mix of antiquities, modern and contemporary art from the David Walsh collection. Walsh describes the museum as a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’ – quite a claim. It certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Built into the cliffs around the Berriedale Peninsula, many visitors choose to approach by ferry up the River Derwent. Upon entering the windowless atrium, guests descend an ominous staircase and work their way back up as they enjoy the artwork. Indeed, the entire experience of visiting MONA has clearly been carefully and thoughtfully choreographed, to great effect, providing a truly wonderful end to our, already incredible, Tasmanian adventure.
Patrick stayed at the award-winning Saffire Freycinet. Click on the link to read a review of his stay there.