Two days in Tasmania
Ask your teenage children where your next family getaway should be and a plethora of tropical places with golden beaches emerges. So where did we go instead? Tasmania.
Hobart, specifically, for a quick two-day break on dates that suited everyone’s madcap schedules. The kids had never been to Tassie before so we thought we could help them tick off that state before they were all grown up.
On arrival in Australia’s most southern and second oldest capital city, grumblings about the lack of beach resorts soon gave way to a respectful appreciation of Hobart’s colourful history, natural beauty and, most of all, its gourmet experiences.
Dating all the way back to 1803 and with a population of just 220,000, Hobart has proudly retained much of its colonial heritage with fine examples of Georgian and Victorian architecture lining the broad, glassy expanse of the Derwent River. It’s also an easy, compact city to get around, with a peak 15 minutes of traffic instead of an hour or two.
For our first day, we hired a car to ascend 1270m-high Mt Wellington which towers over Hobart to offer one of the finest vistas in Australia. So high is the peak and on such a southerly latitude that it snowed during our summer visit to the summit. But not before we enjoyed the sweeping panorama over the wilderness-surrounded city. And at least we can now say we took the kids to the snow this year!
Back in a warm car, we headed down to Fern Tree in the mountain’s foothills for a gentle stroll through the ferny gullies and then crossed the Tasman Bridge to sample Tassie’s delectably famous molluscs at the Barilla Bay Oyster Farm near the airport. Here we tucked into Barilla’s renowned and well-named ‘Shucking Awesome Platter’ of three dozen oysters offering a variety of mouth-watering toppings – all devoured quickly with views of the clean, cold waters in which they are grown.
Just down the road (seemingly everything in Tassie is close by) is the historic town of Richmond, Australia’s finest Georgian village. Built just after Hobart with convict labour, Richmond boasts Australia’s oldest bridge, jail and Catholic church with an elegant, heritage streetscape befitting an English hamlet. The village is crammed with galleries, artisan craft boutiques, museums, cafes and a wondrous, all-year, three-storey Christmas shop, which captivates our teens. As you do in Richmond, we repaired to the cosy tea shop, Ashmore on Bridge Street, for piping-hot scones and hot beverages before crossing the road to explore Old Hobart Town, a fascinating miniature village depicting what Hobart looked like in the 1820s. Here, 60 model buildings and 400 little people tell stories of hardship and often cruelty in the early convict colony.
In 20 minutes, we're back in the Hobart of today, hungry for more of Tasmania's gourmet delicacies. On Franklin Wharf right in front of where the Sydney to Hobart racing yachts finish, we enter Frank, a new and eclectically airy restaurant where fresh Tasmanian produce is used to infuse South American influences into earthy, grilled feasts shared al fresco by diners keen to share their love for good food and wine. The service is engaging and efficient – and quick for families – with all guests taken on a unique culinary journey spiced with standout dishes like fire-roasted Bruny Island oysters with chorizo, peppers and garlic, Tasmanian salmon with brazil nuts, dill, coriander and mixed herb salsa and charred bananas with salted caramel ice-cream. A feast to remember!
Returning to the city centre, we step back in time in Battery Point, a village-like community near the water containing cute-as-pie colonial buildings now housing beckoning bookstores, antique shops and cafes. Among the historic landmarks is Arthur’s Circus, a circle of cottages facing a common green that once housed Old Hobart’s soldiers. It’s the only residential ‘circus’ in Australia and just around the corner we find Monsoon Thai Fusion, an expressive and innovative eatery showcasing Tassie’s world-famous seafood as well as amazing vegetarian and vegan cuisine. The food here is mouth-wateringly sublime, with the seafood dumplings, salmon fish cakes, laksa soup and ‘rocky road chicken’ matched in quality by the embracing service of staff who genuinely care about your tastebuds.
Filled to the brim, we saunter past the handsome, Georgian warehouses at Salamanca Place – site of Australia’s best outdoor market every Saturday – then fill our lungs by Sullivan’s Cove with pure Tassie air and prepare for our return to the mainland, satisfied we had introduced our teens to the natural, cultural, historic and culinary treasures of Tasmania.