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Trailblazing Tasmania

January 22, 2018

A remarkable transformation is taking place across Tasmania, Australia’s most southern state. The heart-shaped isle, synonymous with mystical creatures and stunning World Heritage Sites, is establishing itself as a global powerhouse with its array of of cultural, culinary and historical attractions. Fresh from a Tassie adventure, globestrutter Mira Comara Alexander tells why it’s a must for any 2018 travel list.


STAY


There is no shortage of upscale accommodation across Tasmania, often ideally situated to make the most of the scenic, and often quite unbelievable natural scenery. At the top end of the scale is one of the world’s most sumptuous lodges, the eminent Saffire Resort, located some 2.5 hours from Hobart on the east coast. Overlooking the Freycinet Peninsula and the untouched beaches of Wineglass Bay, the resort’s 20 suites are well designed for the most luxurious of stays.


The recently opened MACQ1 in Hobart is the perfect base for exploring the historic city. With views across the spectacular waterfront, each of the generously sized rooms is named after an eminent Tasmanian, capturing the island’s rich historical, cultural and sometimes downright barmy history. It’s a luxurious hotel, but with a decidedly localised feel.


An altogether more solitary experience can be had at Satellite Island in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, off the southeast shore. This 76-acre island, which can be hired in its entirety, is the last stop before Antartica. Surrounded by natural bushland, the rooms are Scandinavian in design and stunning in their natural simplicity.


EXPLORE


It is difficult to visit to Tasmania and not be awestruck by the dramatic scenery. The east coast is peppered with beautiful beaches and world-class hiking trails – Wineglass Bay and Bay of Fires are two of the most renowned sites. Further inland, Cradle Mountain is an entirely different environment, more akin to the Canadian wilderness and home to some of the most exciting and remote hiking trails. Lake St Clair, the deepest lake in the southern hemisphere, is yet another contrast – base yourself at Pumphouse Point, the old hydro-electric station converted into a boutique hotel, to experience these stunning fjords.


SEE


Undoubtedly Tasmania’s most interesting cultural attraction is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), which opened in 2011. Funded by the profits of a Tasmanian gambling syndicate, MONA is Australia’s largest private museum, home to some of the most controversial, exciting and thought-provoking art.


Located on the outskirts of Hobart, the site, which also includes a hotel, vineyard and restaurant, is an architectural masterpiece, largely built underground, and designed to challenge notions of how art is experienced. MONA is responsible for a surge in tourism to the island – in 2013, the team created Dark Mofo, an annual winter solstice festival, which includes a fortnight of artistic and culinary activities, culminating in the Nude Solstice Swim.


EAT


The air in Tasmania is scientifically proven to be the cleanest in the world, and combined with a temperate mediterranean climate, it’s no wonder that the island has become synonymous with great quality, locally grown produce. So much so that Tasmania now directly supplies many of the leading restaurants on both the mainland, and farther afield. The annual Taste of Tasmania festival takes place over Christmas and attracts a variety of local producers.


Champion of the farm-to-table ideology, The Agrarian Kitchen is a must for its fresh, unpretentious menu. Located in New Norfolk on the site of a former mental asylum, the restaurant sources much of its produce on the farm next door. They also run a cooking school for those wishing to take a dose of Tassie-style cooking home with them.


DRINK


Alongside its fabulous culinary scene, Tasmania produces some of the world’s most celebrated whiskies. The island has a rich history of distilling, dating back to the early 1800s when there were more than a dozen functioning legal distilleries – although these were closed during a crackdown in 1838. Legend has it that then governor Sir John Franklin was forced to ban non-commercial distilling after his wife famously complained ‘I would prefer barley be fed to pigs than it be used to turn men into swine’. The ban was eventually lifted in 1991 and today the island makes some of the best whisky in the world. Seek out award-winning Sullivan’s Cove, Lark and Hellyers Road distilleries to sample for yourself, or take part in the island’s Whisky Trail.

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