Tasmania has been dubbed the ‘provedore island’ – an astute moniker given the state’s booming foodie scene. Super seafood, juicy berries and stone fruits, splendidly calorific dairy products, craft beers, excellent cool-climate wines and winning whisky compete for your attention on the Tasmanian menu. Around the state, organic farms, orchards, vineyards and small enterprises are busy supplying fresh local produce, and buyers (restaurants, markets, provedores and individuals) are snapping it up.
Visitors may find themselves underwhelmed by menus in some country towns, especially if the local pub is the only eatery. However, excellent provedores are popping up around the island selling local produce, so a DIY Tasmanian picnic is usually an option.
Like the rest of Australia, Tasmania is 'girt by sea' (to steal a phrase from the national anthem). It's a no-brainer that the seafood here is magnificent, harvested from some of the cleanest ocean water on the planet.
Essential specialities include oysters on Bruny Island, at Coles Bay, in Swansea and at Barilla Bay near Hobart; and ocean trout from the waters of Macquarie Harbour. Deep-sea fish such as trevalla (blue eye) and striped trumpeter are delicious, as is the local Atlantic salmon, extensively farmed in the Huon estuary and D'Entrecasteaux Channel south of Hobart. Squid (calamari), rock lobster (known as crayfish in these latitudes), abalone, scallops and mussels are also menu regulars.
From a humble curried-scallop pie or fish and chips at Hobart’s Constitution Dock to an innovative meal at one of Hobart’s gourmet restaurants or a menu-topping abalone meal at a Chinese eatery, Tasmania is a spectacular seafood destination.
Tasmania is known for its high-quality beef, based on a natural, grass-fed (as opposed to grain-fed) production system and free from growth hormones, antibiotics and chemical contaminants. Beef from King Island and Flinders Island is sublime, and if you see it on a menu and the wallet allows, tuck into premium Wagyu beef from Robbins Island, also in Bass Strait. Flinders Island also farms prime lamb. Cape Grim, on the northwestern tip of mainland Tasmania, has similarly gained market traction for its beef. These meats have made the grade in upmarket restaurants throughout Australia, and command a ransom in overseas markets such as Tokyo.
Game meats feature on menus too, with quail, wallaby, kangaroo and farmed venison often available. Wallaby and kangaroo meat is tender, lean, flavoursome and packed with protein – if you can banish the imagery of these doe-eyed animals cavorting in the wild from your mind, you're in for a treat.
Tasmania’s cool climate equates to fabulous berries and stone fruit; picking your own (in season) is a great way to enjoy them. Sorell Fruit Farm near Hobart is a favourite: raspberries, cherries, apples, pears… Impromptu stops at roadside stalls in the Huon and Tamar Valleys offer the chance to buy freshly picked fruits. Other places worth a visit include Kate’s Berry Farm outside Swansea, Eureka Farm in Scamander and Hillwood Berry Farm near George Town.
Jams, sauces, fruit wines, ciders and juices made from Tasmanian fruits are also excellent. Many varieties are available at gourmet food stores and provedores statewide, and from stalls at Hobart’s Salamanca Market and Farm Gate Market, and Launceston's Harvest market.
Tasmania has an impressive cheese industry, somewhat hampered by the fact that all milk here must be pasteurised, unlike in Italy and France. Despite this legal inconvenience, the results are fabulous – just slap some local leatherwood honey over a slice of blue cheese for tasty confirmation.
Visit the Pyengana Dairy Company, not far from St Helens, for sensational cheddar. Grandvewe Cheeses, just south of Woodbridge, produces organic cheese from sheep's and cow’s milk. Ashgrove Cheese near Deloraine conjures up traditional cheeses such as Rubicon red, smoked cheddar and creamy Lancashire, while the Bruny Island Cheese Co produces Italian and French styles. In provedores and restaurants, keep an eye out for the superb brie from King Island Dairy. If you do find yourself on King Island, a visit to the walk-in refrigerated tasting room here is one of the more generous foodie experiences you'll ever have (don't eat beforehand).
Wasabi, Truffles & Other New Directions
Not content with seafood successes and champion cheese, Tasmanian producers are getting creative and showing off their agricultural skill, growing or harvesting some wonderfully diverse products, including buckwheat, walnuts, wasabi, wakame (a type of seaweed) and saffron. Black truffles are being harvested in the north of Tasmania, with an idea to capture the European market during the French off season.
Tasmania also produces fantastic honey, chocolate and fudge, mushrooms, asparagus, olive oil, mustards and relishes. To stock up, check out Hobart's Farm Gate Market and Salamanca Market or Launceston's Harvest market, or hit provedores statewide.
Top Farm Gates & Artisan Food Producers
Chat with the farmer, fisher, fruiterer or orchard owner at these top spots to pick up the freshest of local Tasmanian produce.
Get Shucked Oyster Farm, Bruny Island
King Island Dairy, King Island
Sorell Fruit Farm, Sorell
Freycinet Marine Farm, Coles Bay
Grandvewe Cheeses, Woodbridge
Cradle Coast Olives, Ulverstone
Pyengana Dairy Company, Pyengana
41° South Tasmania, Deloraine
Melshell Oysters, Swansea
Eureka Farm, Scamander
Where to Eat
Like the rest of Australia, Tasmania has fallen hard for coffee, and the humble bean is taken super-seriously at city cafes such as Pilgrim Coffee, Yellow Bernard and Mulberry Street Espresso in Hobart; the Chapel in Burnie; Milkbar and Sweetbrew in Launceston; and Laneway in Devonport.
Cafes are the traveller's best option for breakfast and brunch; expect to pay $12 to $20 for main-course menu items. You will find good cafes outside the big cities too: towns like Bridport, Cygnet, Dunalley, Longford, Penguin, Wynyard and Ranelagh have some of the best cafes in the state.
Tasmania’s best fine-dining restaurants rival anything on the Australian mainland, and local chefs are renowned for making the most of the island's excellent produce. Menu items can be expensive (mains sometimes exceed $35), but diners are guaranteed innovative and thoughtful interpretations of local seafood, beef and lamb, partnered with the best Tasmanian wines.
In Hobart, Franklin and Aløft are outstanding. Meanwhile, Geronimo delivers Launceston’s most interesting high-end tastes. Elsewhere on the island, Edge at Coles Bay, Mrs Jones in Devonport, Piermont in Swansea and the Home Hill Wines restaurant in Huonville are all excellent.
The quality of Tasmanian pub food swings between gourmet and grossly outmoded. Upmarket city pubs brim with international flavours and innovation, while utilitarian country pubs proffer a more predictable slew of schnitzels, roasts and stodgy frozen-then-deep-fried seafood. Still, a quick pub meal is a good option if you're travelling with kids or don't want to break the bank (main courses are generally $15 to $30). At most pubs you can eat in the bistro/dining room out the back, or in the front bar (often accompanied by horse racing on the TV and blokey airs/aromas).
Vegetarian menu selections are common in large Tasmanian towns and tourist areas, but dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurants are thin on the ground here. Indian and Asian eateries are usually your best bet for dinner. During the day, Tasmanian cafes usually have a few vegetarian options, but vegans will find the going much tougher. In Hobart, try the Heartfood Cafe; in Launceston head for Earthy Eats. Also see www.happycow.net for vegetarian-eatery locations.
Essential Foodie Experiences
Here are some island-wide foodie favourites.
- Pick your own fresh berries at the Sorell Fruit Farm.
- Slurp oysters fresh from Freycinet Marine Farm, Get Shucked on Bruny Island or Melshell Oysters near Swansea.
- Tasmanian food-and-wine festivals: get salivating for Taste of Tasmania in Hobart, Festivale in Launceston or Devonport's Taste the Harvest Festival.
- Pan-fry the trout you just caught yourself in a Central Highlands lake.
- Scoff down fresh fish and chips from the floating fish punts at Hobart’s Constitution Dock.
- Develop your culinary skills with cookery classes at the Agrarian Kitchen near New Norfolk, Fat Pig Farm near Cygnet or the Red Feather Inn in Hadspen.
- Explore Tassie’s foodie credentials on a guided tour with Hobart’s Herbaceous Tours. Destinations include Bruny Island, the Huon Valley, Hobart and Richmond.
- Take a Tasmanian Seafood Seduction boat tour down the D'Entrecasteaux Channel south of Hobart.
- Pick up a bag of apples for just a few dollars at a roadside stall in the Huon Valley.
Since the mid-1950s, Tasmania has been building a rep for quality cool-climate wines, characterised by full, fruity flavours and high acidity. Today vineyards across the state are producing sublime pinot noir, riesling and chardonnay, with many producers focusing on sparkling wine as their future.
Tasmania can be split into three key wine regions: the north around Launceston, the east around Swansea and the south around Hobart. There are plenty of large, professional outfits with sophisticated cellar doors, but you'll also find smaller, family-owned vineyards with buckets of charm.
Some wineries’ tastings are free, while most charge a small fee that's refundable if you buy a bottle.
The North & East
The Tamar Valley and Pipers River areas north of Launceston are Tasmania's best-known wine regions, and are home to a number of big-name wineries, including Pipers Brook and Jansz Wine Room, home to the best sparkling white this side of Champagne. Holm Oak in Rowella, Bay of Fires Wines at Pipers River and Tamar Ridge in Rosevears are some regional faves.
Around Hobart & The South
A major producer in Hobart's northern suburbs (next to MONA!) is Moorilla. Established in 1958, it's the oldest vineyard in southern Tasmania. A little further up the Derwent River is the very 'Med' Stefano Lubiana Wines, with a fabulous view and osteria (tavern). Just east of Hobart, the Coal River Valley is home to an increasing number of wineries, most notably Frogmore Creek and Puddleduck Vineyard.
Further south, in the Huon Valley area, you’ll find Hartzview Vineyard, Panorama Vineyard and Home Hill Wines. Cross on the ferry to Bruny Island Premium Wines – Australia’s southernmost vineyard – or continue south to Dover and St Imre Vineyard for Hungarian-style wines.
Top Five Vineyard Restaurants
A few places worth heading to for a long, leisurely lunch with some beaut Tassie wines (book ahead, and don't dress down):
Tasmanian Beer & Cider
The definitive example of Tasmanian parochialism is the traditional local loyalty to regionally brewed beer. In the south it’s Cascade, brewed in South Hobart; in the north Launceston’s James Boag flies the flag. Until quite recently you could draw an invisible line from Strahan through Ross to Bicheno, north of which no sane publican would serve Cascade. South of this hoppy division, any mention of Boag’s would provoke confusion and ridicule. These days things are much less definitive and you’ll find Cascade and Boag’s both freely available in ‘enemy territory’.
Cascade highlights include the very drinkable premium lager, a pale ale, the ever-present draught and saucy winter stouts. Boag’s produces similar beers to the Cascade brews, such as its premium lager and draught.
Tasmanian cider has had a real resurgence of late, filling the bar taps in pubs around the state and across Australia. Don't miss the Apple Shed and Pagan Cider in the Huon Valley, and Spreyton Cider Co near Latrobe in the northwest. How do you like them apples!
The Cascade-Boag's beer duopoly is under siege: Tasmanian craft beers are the flavour of the decade, and you don't have to travel far to find a brewery bar in which to sit, sip and savour. There are 20-odd craft breweries in the state now, with new ones opening up all the time: the Tasmanian Beer Trail website (www.tasbeertrail.com) has a catch-all list.
Craft-beer boffins may want to time their Tasmanian sojourn around the Hobart Beerfest and Esk BeerFest in Launceston, both in January. Otherwise, here are our five favourite craft breweries around the state:
T-Bone Brewing Co Savvy shopfront brewhouse on the fringes of the North Hobart strip. Try the pale ale.
Seven Sheds Specialises in a malty Kentish ale, plus seasonal brews and honey-infused mead. In Railton near Devonport.
Iron House Brewery Makes a crisp lager, a hoppy pale ale and a Czech-style pilsner. On the east coast near Scamander.
Two Metre Tall Real ale and ciders, with ingredients sourced on-site in the Derwent Valley, 45 minutes northwest of Hobart. Friday-night and Sunday-afternoon ‘Farm Bar’ sessions are a hoot.
Hobart Brewing Company This big, raffish red shed is delightfully anomalous on the polished Hobart waterfront. Try the Harbour Master Ale.
In recent years Tasmania, with its chilly Scotland-like highlands and clean water, has become a whisky-producing hot spot. There are about a dozen distillers around the state now, bottling superb single malts for a growing international market (and a few good gins to boot). Sullivans Cove Whisky, based at Cambridge near Hobart, has been racking up world whisky awards and now runs tours and tastings. If you're keen for a wee dram, worthy distillers to visit include Lark Distillery in Hobart, Shene Estate in Pontville, Nonesuch Distillery near Sorell, Old Kempton Distillery in Kempton, Nant Distillery in Bothwell and Hellyers Road Distillery in Burnie. Or try them all at the Bruny Island House of Whisky – who's driving?
Bills & Tipping
In Tasmania the total at the bottom of a restaurant bill is all you really need to pay. It will include GST and there is no ‘optional’ service charge added. Waiters are paid a reasonable salary – they don’t rely on tips to survive. Often, though, especially in the cities, people tip a few coins in a cafe, while the tip for excellent service in a whiz-bang restaurant can go as high as 15%, depending on your level of satisfaction.
Sidebar: Discover Tasmania
Travellers who want to eat their way around the Apple Isle should go to www.discovertasmania.com.au – click on ‘What to Do’, then ‘Food and Drink’, and start planning your next meal.
Sidebar: Fruit Growers of Tasmania
Download the Tasmanian Fruits Farm Gate Guide from the Fruit Growers of Tasmania website (www.fruitgrowerstas.com.au). This annual publication lists the best places to secure a drive-in, pick-your-own summertime vitamin hit of stone fruit, cherries and berries.
Sidebar: Tasmanian Wine & Gastronomy Map
Listing foodie haunts, wineries, breweries, distilleries and other purveyors of gastronomic bounty, the Tasmania Wine & Gastronomy Map with Breweries and Distilleries is an essential for galloping gourmets. Pick one up online at www.vwmaps.com/australian-wine-maps/tasmania or in Hobart’s main bookshops.
Sidebar: When We Eat
When We Eat: A Seasonal Celebration of Fine Tasmanian Food and Drink, by Liz McLeod, Bernard Lloyd and Paul County, is the companion guide to Before We Eat. It covers the availability of seasonal foods in the state, accompanied by great recipes and photographs.
Sidebar: Food Festivals
Sidebar: Top Foodie Tours
Sidebar: Gourmet Farmer
For some pretrip inspiration, hunt down the SBS television series Gourmet Farmer (www.sbs.com.au/shows/gourmetfarmer; 2010–), in which Sydney food critic Matthew Evans moves to Cygnet in southeast Tasmania to try his hand at organic farming and becoming a restaurateur. It's a highlights reel of gorgeous scenery and fab Tassie produce.
Sidebar: The Beer & Whisky Trails
For the comprehensive low-down on Tassie's burgeoning beer and whisky scenes, check out the Tasmanian Beer Trail (www.tasbeertrail.com) and Tasmanian Whisky Trail (www.taswhiskytrail.com) websites.
Eating in Tasmania these days is a pleasure: booking on the day of your meal is usually fine. Top-end restaurants should be booked a couple of weeks ahead.
Cafes Tasmanian cafes are the hubs of local life – meeting places, conversation backdrops and breakfast/lunch stalwarts. And the coffee here is usually pretty great!
Restaurants Restaurant dining ranges from reliable bistro encounters to amazing high-end gourmet experiences using organic local fare. Seafood and beef are standout ingredients.
Pubs Head to the pub for a quick-fire steak/schnitzel/seafood lunch or dinner, plus a couple of beers and maybe some ice cream for the kids.