The brainchild of Hobart philanthropist David Walsh, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has turned the Australian art world on its head. Subversive, confronting, funny and downright weird, this is art for grown-ups. Give yourself half a day to explore the darkened underground galleries. Laugh, be appalled, be turned on, then have a glass of wine…there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the country. To get here, catch a ferry upriver from the Hobart waterfront and eyeball the museum, carved out of a sandstone headland like a vast rusty bunker, from the water.
Hobart – Australia’s southernmost state capital and home to around 227,000 Tasmanians – has come into its own in the last decade. Affordable airfares, internet exposure and the arrival of the astonishing MONA (Museum of Old & New Art) have really put Hobart on the map, and put a spring in the city’s collective step. Don't miss history-rich Battery Point, the Saturday-morning Salamanca Market, a tour of Cascade Brewery, a trip up the leafy (and in winter, snowy) flanks of kunanyi/Mt Wellington and a beer at a harbourside pub.
Port Arthur Historic Site
Tasmania’s number-one tourist drawcard, the Port Arthur Historic Site is a compelling mix of gorgeous coastal scenery and the sombre legacy of the past – engrossing, quiet and disquieting. Take a guided tour to understand the site’s grand layout before exploring in depth the separate ruined buildings and constructions. While Port Arthur’s overall scale impresses, it’s the personal histories of the former prisoners that leave the strongest impression. Visit the Isle of the Dead Cemetery and the Point Puer Boys’ Prison to uncover the most poignant memories.
Tasting Gourmet Produce
Tasmania – aka the Apple Isle – has much more than just Huon Valley apples in its lunch box these days. The island's fresh air, fertile soil and clean waters sustain truffles, walnuts, blueberries, pears, plums, gooseberries, raspberries, stone fruit, seafood, trout, beef and lamb, while skilled producers are turning out artisan cheeses, honey and premium wine, beer, whisky and gin…the whole island is one big excuse to eat and drink! Festivals and farmers markets present the best of local produce, all on tap for Tassie's restaurateurs.
Cradle Mountain & the Overland Track
A precipitous comb of rock carved out by millenniums of ice and wind, crescent-shaped Cradle Mountain is Tasmania’s most recognisable – and spectacular – mountain peak. For unbelievable panoramas over Tasmania’s alpine heart, take the all-day hike (and boulder scramble) to the summit and back. Or you can stand in awe below and fill your camera with perfect mountain views across Dove Lake. Then, if you're feeling really intrepid, the Overland Track, Tasmania's legendary six-day alpine hike, kicks off from here.
Three Capes Track
An epic trail on the Tasman Peninsula southeast of Hobart, the Three Capes Track takes hikers on a four-day, 46km cliff-top tour. From the Port Arthur Historic Site a boat takes walkers to see Cape Raoul, before you hit the trail to Cape Pillar, Cape Hauy and around the coast to Fortescue Bay, with a bus ride back to Port Arthur to end your adventure. Accommodation en route is in architect-designed huts that are almost as good-looking as the eye-popping coastal scenery.
A 15-minute ferry chug from Kettering in the southeast, windswept Bruny Island is a sparsely populated microcosm of Tasmania. A thriving foodie scene has emerged here, producing handmade cheeses, oysters, smoked seafood, fudge, berry products, craft beer, and wines from Australia’s most southerly vineyard. Plentiful wildlife includes penguins, seals and marine birds: check them out on a boat cruise around Bruny's jagged south coast. Bushwalking and surfing opportunities abound around South Bruny National Park, while accommodation is often absolute beachfront, and with patchy mobile-phone reception, this is a relax-at-all-costs experience!
Freycinet National Park
Gin-clear water, blindingly white beaches and pink-granite headlands splashed with flaming-orange lichen – Freycinet National Park is a painterly natural domain. It’s also home to Tasmania’s most photographed beach: Wineglass Bay. Sweat it out on the climb to the lookout above the bay, then descend to the sand and dunk yourself under the waves. Escape the camera-clutching crowds on the three-day Freycinet Peninsula Circuit, or explore the peninsula on a cruise, in a kayak or from the air. Luxe accommodation awaits at the end of the day.
Rafting the Franklin River
Rafting the Franklin River in Tasmania's remote southwest may be the ultimate wilderness journey. Deeply (and often literally) immersed in nature, you'll feel as far from the rest of humanity as it’s possible to be. River trips involve up to 10 days on the water, navigating as the river dictates: floating in a world of reflections, battling surging white water and chasing rapids through deep, echoing gorges. Nights are spent in rainforest-fringed camp sites where the river hushes you to sleep.
Every Saturday morning since 1972, Hobart's historic waterside Salamanca Pl has filled with wobbly trestle tables, food stalls and locals selling everything from home-grown cucumbers to Huon-pine fruit bowls. Salamanca Market is arty, crafty and endearingly homespun. Spend a few hours negotiating the labyrinth, then grab some takeaway lunch and head for the lawns. The upstart rival, the Farm Gate Market in the city centre on Sunday, is challenging for the crown, but Salamanca will always be king.
Larapuna (Bay of Fires)
Licked by azure ocean and embraced by eucalypt forests and granite headlands, the larapuna/Bay of Fires is arguably Tasmania's most scenic slice of coastline. To the south, Binalong Bay is perfect for surf or a rough-and-tumble swim, and has dive sites full of crayfish and abalone. Mt William National Park in the north is bristling with wildflowers, bounding kangaroos and beachfront camp sites. Visit the bay under your own steam or be guided by the experts on the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk.
Tasmania’s northern hub, Launceston is an affable town that has shed its redneck rep and become the perfect pocket-sized city. Against a backdrop of amazingly well-preserved domestic architecture, lush parks, misty riverscapes and the wilds of Cataract Gorge, 'Lonnie' makes a great weekender. Expect a clutch of good restaurants and cafes, plus some cool bars, patisseries and providores. In winter you can catch an Australian Football League (AFL) game, get beery with the uni students at the pub afterwards, then explore the Tamar Valley wineries or surrounding heritage towns the next day.
Maria Island National Park
A short ferry ride off Tasmania's east coast, exquisite Maria Island is like an island zoo – minus the fences. You don’t even need to leave the historic settlement of Darlington to see kangaroos, pademelons, wombats and Cape Barren geese. On a bushwalk you might spot a prickly echidna, a Tasmanian devil or a forty-spotted pardalote, one of Tasmania’s rarest birds. Oh, and did we say historic? There’s World Heritage convict history here too, complete with a former penitentiary you can bunk down in for the night.
Bathurst Harbour & Port Davey
Within Southwest National Park in Tasmania's deep south, the hushed, mirror-still waterways of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey are true natural wonders. Tannin-tinged waters, craggy peaks, white quartzite beaches and underwater kelp forests – there can be few places left on the planet quite so untouristed and untouched. You can sail here on a yacht from Hobart, or fly in by light plane to the gravel airstrip at Melaleuca – an adventure in itself – then kayak and camp your way around this incredible watery wilderness.
The super-scenic Tasman Peninsula – less than an hour's drive southeast of Hobart – is home to the Unesco World Heritage–listed Port Arthur Historic Site, the location of a brutal convict prison that was in operation between 1830 and 1877. Thousands suffered here, and there's an undeniable sense of sadness imbued in the place – completely at odds with the gorgeous peninsula landscape. Explore further to discover sea caves, kooky geologic formations, 300m-high sea cliffs, surf beaches, small rural communities and abundant native wildlife. The fab Three Capes Track is here, too.
Tasmania's wilderness is just begging to be explored on foot. But if you're new to bushwalking, cringe at the prospect of sleeping in a tent or can afford a little luxury, a catered guided hike could be for you. There are several of these upmarket experiences across the state, including walks along the Overland Track and around Maria Island, larapuna/Bay of Fires and Freycinet Peninsula. Accommodation is often in flash bush lodges, and meals reach gourmet heights. A guided walk of the Three Capes Track is also being planned.
Mt Field National Park
Just 80km northwest of Hobart, Mt Field National Park was established in 1916: this is Tasmanian wilderness at its most accessible. The combination of mountain scenery, alpine moorlands, lakes, rainforest, waterfalls and wildlife makes it day trip of choice for Hobartians. Enjoy the beautifully hushed 20-minute circuit to the 40m-high cascade of Russell Falls, or stroll across the high country, punctuated by steep cliffs, deep valleys and shimmering tarns. Then you'll be back in a cosy Hobart pub by sundown.
Almost completely encircled by the sea, the little fishing village of Stanley on Tasmania's northwest coast is unbelievably photogenic – a tight clutch of heritage buildings at the foot of an enormous volcanic 'plug' called the Nut (a squat table-topped mountain, in effect). As you'd suspect, Stanley's maritime history, if it was written into a book, would be a storied, sea-salty tale. Bunk down in top-notch boutique accommodation, explore heritage sites, eat at some classy Mod Oz restaurants, or just scale the Nut and soak up the nautical vibes.
Heritage Highway Towns
The drive between Hobart in the south and Launceston in the north hasn't always been a straightforward two-hour highway sprint. This route – these days known as the Heritage Hwy – was once fraught with danger, bushrangers and displaced Indigenous Tasmanians expressing their (justifiable, in the case of the latter) grievances to the passing traffic. Largely bypassed by the highway these days, the towns here are a real history lesson, studded with heritage stone houses, bridges and civic structures – a time-warp experience that'll transport you back to the days of horses and carts.
South Coast Track
Tasmania's tourism boom providing you with too much company? Really want to get off the beaten track? Discover as much solitude as you could possibly want on the South Coast Track, an astonishing hike around the bottom of Australia, with nothing between you and Antarctica other than a few whales. It's a six- to eight-day undertaking over 85km, with lots of beach walking to really test out your calf muscles. Walkers fly into Melaleuca in Southwest National Park to get started, then hike out to Cockle Creek. Totally wild.