It’s June. Winter, in Australia. I have 4 days off and what’s a girl to do? Well, obviously it must be to visit the only Australian state she hasn’t visited yet!
Booked myself in to the cutest “bunkhouse” I’ve ever seen on the internet, bagged myself a $20-a-day rental car and pretended that the 1 hour and a half flight didn’t cost me the same amount as if I’d gone all the way to Auckland, New Zealand (over 3 hours away).
I’d heard people talk about Tasmania before, of course. It looks like New Zealand they said. Everyone is inbred they said. The food is really good they said. Don’t forget to go to that Salamander market they said. It’s actually called Salamanca Market they say said.
So, my first Tasmanian experience was a seal on the luggage belt at the airport. Actually, I lie. My first experience was the beautiful majestic views of the rolling green hills as we came in to land over the scarily close water, which looked near enough to dip my toe in.
Next came the seal. Took me a few moments to realise said seal wasn’t real but actually advertising the local seal watching boat tours. The crowd of onlookers awaiting their bags looked unperturbed by this strange sight, and nobody even raised an eyebrow at the enthusiastic beagle who was sniffing everyone’s suitcases for illegal fruit.
WELCOME TO TASMANIA
I skipped over to the rental desk to pick up my rental car keys. Rental desks always make me a bit nervous because I think they’re going to say “FRAUD, I FORBADE YOU TO DRIVE” and then I remember I’m a real adult so, they never blink an eye. In Tasmania, they just handed over the keys and told me which bay it was parked in, off I went. Kia Rio, here we go!
As I set my hands-free kit in situ, and switched my GPS to navigate me to this aforementioned bunkhouse. I wasn’t really sure how big Hobart was, and if I should be concerned about traffic, but the bunkhouse turned out to be in the most perfectly elegant little area of Battery Point you can imagine.
I checked in, gave my 4 bed dormitory the nod of approval and eyed the beautiful period features with delight. It was mid-afternoon and the only sensible thing to do was explore. I excitedly wandered around the historical area of Hobart, admiring the colonial houses where the local painters must be doing a roaring trade; almost all houses having had a fresh lick of paint and looking exquisitely well finished.
There were cute stores to explore full of local handmade crafts, nice cafes and the picturesque hills in the background, framing it all. I returned to my bunkhouse with an inevitable cake from the cafe round the corner (a slice of almond and orange, if you must know).
I pulled up a pew at the communal table, befriending three Filipino sisters, over my cup of tea and cake. Darkness had already fallen, thanks to the winter nights drawing in fast, but we decided to explore the more modern part of Hobart together.
It was quiet out, despite only being just after 5pm. Most places already winding down for the night, as darkness fell. We ate a feast at an Indian restaurant, piled high thali plates, before retiring for an early night, along with the majority of the guest house.
I awoke early from one of my best dormitory nights sleep ever, thanks to the cosy sheets and neat privacy curtain separating me from the world.
First stop, breakfast round the corner and then a drive up a random hill to overlook Hobart, to kill time before MONA opened, a.k.a the thing I was most excited about seeing in all of Tasmania.
WELCOME TO MONA
Despite being in between exhibitions because of the odd time of year, it didn’t disappoint one bit. My expectations were pretty high but it exceeded them ten-fold. The building is incredible and the feeling you get from walking in to the vast space was just breathtaking.
Coined as The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), it is a pretty fair description. Curated like no other gallery you’ve visited before, it’s a mishmash. The only theme I can identify is to be thought provoking, confronting and completely challenging. It challenges your perceptions, thoughts, ideas, what you believe to be art, and everything in between.
I spent a solid couple of hours wandering round, and even did a second lap of the place, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Afterwards, I supped a coffee in the picturesque cafe, to make the most of the view and bought an obligatory souvenir (the MONA logo x+ on two pins).
WINTER WARMER IN MOUNT WELLINGTON
Next stop, Mount Wellington. I had been forewarned it can be snowy at the peak, so I diligently checked the weather and found it reporting a balmy 6c, not a flake in sight. You can hike Mount Wellington but, me and Kia Rio made a fun drive to the summit, as I quietly cursed the lack of manual transmission.
As I reached the top, I could see from other walkers who were doing a lap of the top, that there was a rather strong wind. I donned my borrowed jacket and braved it, clinging on to the car door so it wasn’t ripped out of my hands. It was an icy, bitter wind blowing that managed to knock several people over as they walked across the uneven rocks. I tried not to laugh, but it’d be a lie if I said I didn’t.
Thanks to the blazing sunshine, I couldn’t have picked a better day to enjoy the view. The wind was so cold I made two rounds of visiting, because after 10 minutes of being outside, my hands were like blocks of ice and my ears ringing. Undeniable though, the people watching was 10/10.
Once I’d descended the mount again, I decided to drive my way through the Huon Valley. Just for fun, and because if I didn’t, I might not see much more south of Hobart.
It was a picturesque two hour drive around the peninsular. I blasted my country music and lapped up the vistas, green hills and sunset sights of Tasmania. I stopped by a beautiful lake that was a flat as a pancake, before trying to beat the darkness and imminent danger of Australian wildlife that may bounce in to the road at any given moment, if it was dusky enough.
I got back to Hobart just in time, with no casualties to report. I found my Filipino friends again, who insisted on cooking me a delicious prawn and rice dinner, at the hostel. We all settled down together, with a freshly purchased bottle of MONA wine to enjoy.
The next morning was Saturday. Market day – those famous Salamanca markets! I trundled down the hill to start exploring. It was vast, though many things were repeated, and being spoilt in my travels, not much that I hadn’t seen before. I picked up a fresh coffee and settled on eating a bagel, which turned out to be the most delicious bagel I’ve had outside of America. I was especially excited it was a true “everything bagel” and they offered jalapeño cream cheese, aka two of my favourite bagel things ever.
I stuffed my face as I perused the stores and decided my one and only purchase would be a pair of earrings. Incidentally not in the market, but from a nearby shop, where I met the maker by sheer coincidence. My little Tasmanian takeaway.
The morning was already moving on, so I jumped in the car to make my way to Port Arthur. The weather was just absolutely fabulous again. I stopped at a beautiful beach, and enjoyed the sunny skies, before making my first visit at the notable sites on route.
There are 3 en route; Tasman Blowhole, Devil’s Kitchen and the Tasman Arch. For me, none of them were much to write home about though the archway was considerably larger, and more impressive than any photo I had seen could do it justice.
PORT ARTHUR AND ITS CHECKERED PAST
I tootled on to Port Arthur it’s self. Though marred for many Australian’s by it’s devastating shooting in the 90s, I hadn’t really done it the service of learning about that until the day before which made me feel rather queasy over my breakfast. Regardless, I knew Port Arthur deserved at least an afternoon of my time, and I was right.
In fact, I found that Port Arthur could easily eat up a day of anyone’s time and an afternoon was barely enough to scratch the surface. I popped my ear buds in for an informative audio tour, and enjoyed a jolly welcome tour with a real life guide who told us the horrors of the introduction of solitary confinement and the working conditions of Port Arthur, throughout its history.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the evident colonially English vibe. Gardens sculptured to make those English officers feel at home, whilst on a far flung posting in Tasmania (or Van Diemen’s Land, as it was then known). Quite remarkable and picturesque, in the most bizarre way.
I was keen to beat the darkness home again and made it back to Hobart for an indulgent banquet of food to myself.
I relished the evening of dining alone, with only my kindle for company, and thought of how blessed I am to enjoy such simple pleasures.
It was an early night for me, eager though I was to wake up early to drive the 3 hours to Launceston. I creeped out of my bed before the hour of 7am, hitting the road by 7:15am with a triple shot cappuccino in my hand, for the journey.
ONWARDS, TO LAUNCESTON, THEY CRIED
Once I really go out of Hobart and in to more central Tasmania, things got seriously beautiful. Not only was the scenery to die for, but the weather had made a magical turn for the best. Fog capped the hills, making for a mysteriously beautiful vista.
Dying for a wee, I took a turn off at Ross. A town I had heard mentioned, and a namesake to Ross on Wye, near where I spent many years growing up. I leapt in to the public toilets, emerging to the most eerily beautiful sight. A deserted Sunday morning town, shrouded by fog, with only a gentlemen enjoying this morning cup of coffee on his garden bench.
I said my hello’s, whilst doing a lap of the town. Eager to snap pictures of the gorgeous old church and historic sandstone buildings. I felt like I was in England. It was unbelievable. Like a Christmas fairytale and more moving than words can describe.
I got back in my car buoyed by the serenity, and continued on to Launceston. I arrived just after 10am, more than ready for breakfast. I was pleased to find parking was abundant (my favourite), so got on Trip Advisor to find myself the best breakfast I could. On it’s arrival, though delicious, was far tinier than I’d have liked. They mustn’t have realised just how greedy I am.
Being a Sunday, Launceston was relatively devoid of people. I had a quick look around the high street, before jumping back in the car to visit the museum and art gallery, though located nearby one another, housed separately. Whistle stop tour of both of these, as they weren’t too much to write home about, and then a quick hike up to see Cataract Gorge which was pleasantly green but little more than that to note.
On the hot tip of a friend, I was determined to squeeze one last sight in to my trip to Launceston, and heard Woolmers was the place to go. An estate built and ran by English settlers, in the early colonial days, I rang ahead to see if they had a tour I could take of the property.
I was in luck, and ended up not only on a tour, but being the only person! The extremely informative lady showed me around the old house that has remained relatively unchanged since it was first built and settled, bearing original 1860s carpet and wallpaper.
The estate its self was yet again unbelievably reminiscent of England. The family originating from Hertford, arrived to Tasmania and settled on this spot because of exactly that. It was easy to see why they couldn’t pass up building their lives here.
The afternoon was moving onwards, so I hopped in the car to make the return 3 hour journey to Hobart. I arrived back in time for a delicious dinner near the Salamanca market, with my new friend from Hong Kong. I devoured a perfect steak, with a delicious glass of red.
ALL IN ALL
It was an idyllic end to a very special 4 days in Tasmania and really solidified my love of traveling alone. It’s been a while since I’ve been adventuring without a boyfriend or friends in tow, and I have to say; I missed it! Whilst I love traveling with people, there’s nothing quite like travelling alone and just having complete freedom to do whatever the hell you like.
If you haven’t been on holiday alone before, I can’t urge you enough to just GO! Do it. You will not regret it.
TASMANIA – BUDGET RUNDOWN
Car Rental: Enterprise offered me a car for the bargain price of AU$20 a day
Petrol: My Kia Rio guzzled about AU$80 of petrol to do all that driving, approx 900 kilometres
Accommodation: AU$40 a night in a very comfortable 4 bed dormitory at the Montacute Bunkhouse
Food: Nab a mean steak and glass of Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon for approx AU$50. Eat a bargain thali plate piled with curry for approx AU$12. Tasmania offers a wide range of options, including great produce to cook at the bunkhouse, so it’s easy to spend as little or as much as you’d like.
Don’t leave home without… A warm jacket for those cold winter days!