After I-can’t-remember-how-many false starts in 2021, I finally made it to Tasmania this year. As soon as the border reopened in December I dusted off my plans and booked a visit. Never give up. That’s my motto. Travel in the Covid era’s not impossible. It just requires precision timing.
After I-can’t-remember-how-many-false-starts in 2021, I finally made it to Tasmania this year. As soon as the border reopened in December I dusted off my plans and booked a visit. Never give up. That’s my motto. Travel in the Covid era’s not impossible. It just requires precision timing.
On that point, it probably wasn’t my brightest idea to arrive early in January. It meant spending the better part of the post-Christmas lull trying to organize a negative test pre-arrival, per Tasmanian government rules. This proved next to impossible.
Fortunately, Hobart airport authorities were understanding, at the time handing out RATs to all arriving passengers. (Why doesn’t every state do this?) Within minutes of checking into my hotel I got a clear result – and a clear conscience – and was good to go.
It was a wonderful week. Following almost two years of no international travel, Hobart felt as exciting as Stockholm.
I stayed at The Tasman, the capital’s newest and most luxurious hotel, just opened between Salamanca and the waterfront. It’s a brilliant reimagining of two historic buildings and a contemporary glass-walled “pavilion” angled above the Derwent. Besides its 152 rooms and suites, there’s a restaurant, the tasty Italian trattoria Peppina, and a bar, the convict-sandstone speak-easy Mary Mary, that are actually places you’d want to hang out in. Like Mona, I reckon The Tasman will become a tourist attraction in its own right.
Elsewhere in Hobart I lunch at the popular gastropub Tom McHugo’s and have dinner at one of my favourite wine bars, Willing Bros. I’m at the point in this pandemic where just being in a bar makes me so delirious that I simply ask owner Carl Windsor to bring me food and bring me wine (please). “You choose what’s best,” I say.
To a soundtrack of swing and jazz I graze on really good things such as romesco and anchovies on toast soldiers, stracciatella with charred asparagus and Meyer lemon, grilled calamari on garlicky fennel purée, and pappardelle with braised rabbit and green olives. And savor a Coal River riesling made by ex-pat New Zealand winemaker Samantha Connew, a Sicilian greco and a French Chablis. Nothing like a bit of blowout to restore post-lockdown spirits.
Other capital highlights: a morning bun from Pigeon Whole Bakers. This only-in-Hobart indulgence is a swirl of sugar-dusted croissant pastry laced with cinnamon, cardamom, and honey. I almost run to Argyle Street on the first morning to buy one. And great coffee and a light lunch at Sunbear, a city café run by a team trained at Melbourne’s famous Lune Croissanterie.
The remainder of the week is all about long-lost friends. A road trip of remembrance and reacquaintance – a precious opportunity to reconnect with loved ones I haven’t seen in ages.
I motor down the so-called Southern Edge route (every major road in Tasmania is now a “brand”) to Cygnet, where old friends M&M treat me to a proper roast lunch on their deck overlooking Kangaroo Bay. The weather’s brisk, but the company’s exhilarating and warm, including occasional visits from Chook (a chook) and their two cuddle-hungry dogs.
Then a leisurely drive north along the “Heartlands Journey” to Launceston. I’d never really noticed before but this route, aka the Midland Highway, offers a chance to visit exotic places without leaving the country. Mangalore. Bagdad. Jericho. Stonehenge. Interlaken. All these towns lie along a short stretch of the Heartlands route. If the Tasmanian government was really serious about rebranding the state they’d call this section “Around the World in 80ks”.
Launceston is a joy. I meet my friend G at her farm just outside town for a tour and then lunch in the elm-shaded beer garden of Evandale’s convict-built Clarendon Arms, where local tastemaker Lydia Nettlefold has done a stylish makeover of an 1847 landmark.
I stay with friends in their rather grand hillside home at Newstead, where we eat in on Friday (paella, love cake, nice wines) and on the Saturday head out to Stillwater, which is still the city’s signature restaurant. The views over the Tamar are as serene and magical as ever, and the food, wine, and service are first-rate.
On Saturday we drive to Mole Creek to see still more friends (I have a lot of time to make up for) at the trophy garden and nursery Wychwood, which they bought five years ago. I’ve only seen them once since and worried the pandemic might have sent them broke for lack of visitors. But I arrive to find them looking so well and business thriving. It fills my heart.
Throughout the pandemic I’ve longed for foreign cultures and exotic new horizons. But it turns out what matters more, to me, is reuniting with friends after so many, many months apart.
Now back home, it feels like I’ve had a fresh start to 2022. Tasmania has reinvigorated me. Let’s hope that feeling lasts.
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com