Australia’s island state has cultivated an impressive arts scene—with hip restaurants and bars to go with it.
Tasmania has always had a mysterious end-of-the-earth allure to rugged adventure seekers and luxury travelers alike, with its diverse wildlife and stunning natural beauty. The intrepid can choose to explore the island state's wilderness by foot or bike, and discerning adventurers can seek out luxe lodges like Saffire Freycinet and Pumphouse Point , which offer immersive experiences with sophisticated trappings. Urban retreats like The Islington, Mona Pavilions, and The Henry Jones Art Hotel blend art with superb food and wine.
But since the 2011 opening of David Walsh’s iconoclastic Museum of Old and New Art in a working-class suburb of Tasmania's capital, Hobart, another ecosystem prospered, complete with edgy art and hyper-local eateries that might give Scandinavia’s Nouveau Northern restaurants a run for their money. Naturally, this newish hip scene has made Tasmania a major destination for culture vultures as well as adventure and luxury travelers.
Here what’s hot right now.
Museum of Old and New Art
There’s always something in the works at Mona, one of the world’s largest private museums where antiquities sit alongside avant-garde art in a womb-like cave on the edge of the Derwent River. Start your Mona journey at the new Brooke Street Pier by boarding the Mona Roma cool cat(amaran), all decked out in camouflage, street art, and fibreglass sheep, with Trevor the noisy parrot in prime position at the bar.
One of Mona's most popular exhibitions is James Turrell’s Amarna, a work harnessing the numinous potential of light and space at sunrise and sunset. Mona describes it as an elevation of the museum’s subterranean ponderings on the human condition. Make an evening of it with The Golden Hour, where you gather at the Wine Bar for drinks and appetizers before enjoying Amarna’s sunset sequence which turns the sky supernatural colours. Then feast on a communal sort of Last Supper where Christ (David Walsh’s cat) might even make an appearance. Four more Turrell works will be housed in an upcoming gallery extension.
In the meantime, take a tour of the existing gallery with Tim Steiner, whose tattooed back Tim is a living artwork by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. When not leading tours, he’s on display in the museum.
MoMa (Mona’s summer art, craft and food market) takes place every Sunday until the end of March. This year’s theme is about promoting gut health with fermented food and themed arts-and-crafts activities. Cloaca Professional, the museum’s controversial poo machine that recreates the human digestive tract, is also getting a detox and you can see the results when it does its business at 2pm each day.
And from June 10-21 there’s Mona’s Dark Mofo pagan-like winter festival in and around Hobart. It celebrates ancient and contemporary winter solstice mythologies, through large-scale public art, food, film, music, and most importantly light, culminating in a nude swim in the Derwent River.
Some of the fairy dust from Mona has brushed off on the recently refurbished Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which features a terrific reimagined collection of the island state’s natural and social history as well as a rich spectrum of visual arts.
Hobart has a number of exceptional art galleries featuring the work of Tasmania’s (and Australia’s) finest contemporary artists. The Tasmanian College of the Arts, next to the Henry Jones Art Hotel, attracts a lot of budding artists whilst the natural environment and Mona’s energy makes them stay. Check out Despard Gallery, Colville Gallery and Handmark Gallery (which also showcases jewelry, woodwork, ceramic and glass art) in Salamanca Place and Bett Gallery in North Hobart. Contemporary Art Tasmania mounts exhibitions from the Tasmanian avant garde as well as experimental work from visiting artists.
Further afield in Launceston, Design Tasmania, Centre for Design and Craft features the region’s finest furniture design utilizing unique woods like Huon pine, Blackwood and sassafras.
FOOD AND DRINK
Located in 19th century stables, Ethos is the ‘elder statesman’ of the new Hobart dining scene and continues to impress with its thoughtful daily degustation menus sourced from local artisan suppliers. It has spawned Providore, offering terrific sandwiches, salads and other gourmet goodies, and Vita, an uber-cool frozen yogurt and cold-pressed juice store.
In a pared-back concrete space with open kitchen and giant wood-burning oven, Franklin channels the essence of Tasmania’s remarkable raw materials right onto the plate.
The brand-new Brooke Street floating pier has two of Hobart’s hottest new eating and drinking establishments. Aloft offers inventive, faintly Asian-inspired fare in a blond wood interior that floats above a dreamy view of Derwent Harbour. Downstairs, The Glass House is Hobart’s first glam bar, with stunning water views and designer cocktails. Try the local whiskies and gins with a bar menu that features sparkling fresh oysters and local fish with a Japanese/Korean twist.
In North Hobart, exciting new offerings include the 20-seat Templo restaurant serving superb riffs on modern Italian fare, with hand-crafted pappardelle and veal scaloppine with figs. Nearby, Willing Brothers Wine Merchants mixes a carefully selected wine list and great tapas with edgy art-installation light fixtures and a bearded hipster vibe.
If all these new spots are too much to digest, take one of Mary McNeill’s Gourmania walking tours to get the inside scoop on the local food and drink scene. She’ll even give you the keys to her little black book of Hobart’s best addresses.
In case you’ve missed it, Tasmania’s craft whiskies are taking the world by storm. The Godfather of Tasmanian whisky and founder of Lark Distillery, Bill Lark, was recently inducted into the Whisky Hall of Fame. Sullivans Cove was named the world’s best craft whisky producer of 2015 and The Whisky Bible has ranked whiskies from five Tasmanian distilleries in the world’s top 2%. Want to experience it all yourself? Take a guided whisky tour or follow the Tasmanian Whisky Trail to meet the visionaries, learn about craft whisky distilling, and taste their liquid gold.
Tasmania has just been named the “undiscovered golf destination of the year” by 200 of the world’s leading golf travel journalists. At the top of the list are Australia’s number one and two public courses, Barnbougle Dunes and, its sister, The Lost Farm, in a dramatic setting on Tasmania’s northeast coast.
For something more rustic, play a round at Ratho Farm, Australia’s oldest golf course, and stay in the refurbished convict cottages on site in Bothwell.