A quick trip to Tassie for history, beauty and food
ASK your teenage children where your next family getaway should be and a plethora of tropical places with golden beaches emerges.
So where did we go instead?
Tasmania. Hobart, specifically, for a quick two-day break on dates that suited everyone's madcap schedules.
The kids had never been to Tassie before so we thought we could help them tick off that state before they were all grown up.
On arrival in Australia's most southern and second-oldest capital city, grumblings about the lack of beach resorts soon gave way to a respectful appreciation of Hobart's colourful history, natural beauty and, most of all, its gourmet experiences.
Dating all the way back to 1803 and with a population of just 220,000, Hobart has proudly retained much of its colonial heritage with fine examples of Georgian and Victorian architecture lining the broad, glassy expanse of the Derwent River. It's also an easy, compact city to get around with a peak 15 minutes of traffic instead of an hour or two.
For our first day, we hired a car to ascend 1270m-high Mt Wellington which towers over Hobart to offer one of the finest vistas in Australia. So high is the peak and on such a southerly latitude that it snowed during our summer visit to the summit, but not before we enjoyed the sweeping panorama over the wilderness-surrounded city. And at least we can now say we took the kids to the snow this year.
Back in a warm car, we headed down to Fern Tree in the mountain's foothills for a gentle stroll through the ferny gullies and then crossed the Tasman Bridge to sample Tassie's delectably famous molluscs at the Barilla Bay Oyster Farm near the airport ( http://www.barillabay.com.au). We tucked into Barilla's renowned and well-named Shucking Awesome Platter of three dozen oysters offering a variety of mouth-watering toppings - all devoured quickly with views of the clean, cold waters in which they are grown.
Just down the road (seemingly everything in Tassie is close by) is the historic town of Richmond - Australia's finest Georgian village.
Built just after Hobart with convict labour, Richmond boasts Australia's oldest bridge, jail and Catholic church with an elegant, heritage streetscape befitting an English hamlet. The village is crammed with galleries, artisan craft boutiques, museums, cafes and a wondrous, all-year, three-storey Christmas shop which captivates our teens. As you do in Richmond, we repaired to the cosy tea shop Ashmore on Bridge ( http://www.ashmoreonbridge.com.au) for piping hot scones and beverages before crossing the road to explore Old Hobart Town, a fascinating miniature village depicting what Hobart looked like in the 1820s http://www.oldhobartown.com. Sixty model buildings and 400 little people tell stories of hardship and cruelty in the early convict colony. 20 minutes, we're back in the Hobart of today, hungry for more of Tasmania's gourmet delicacies. On Franklin Wharf, right in front of where the Sydney to Hobart racing yachts finish, we enter Frank: a new and eclectically airy restaurant where fresh Tasmanian produce is used to infuse South American influences into earthy, grilled feasts shared al-fresco by diners keen to share their love for good food and wine
The service is engaging and efficient, and quick for families, with all guests taken on a unique culinary journey spiced with standout dishes such as: fire-roasted Bruny Island oysters with chorizo, peppers and gar
lic; Tasmanian salmon with brazil nuts, dill, coriander and mixed herb salsa; and charred bananas with salted caramel ice-cream.
We begin the next day with breakfast at the renowned waterfront eatery of Tavern 42 Degrees South on Elizabeth St Pier.
Fuelled by good coffee and fresh organic juice, we jump aboard the ferry on the adjacent wharf and head 30 minutes up the Derwent to Tasmania's must-see attraction: MONA - the Museum of Old and New Art.
Australia's largest private museum and the largest private collection of modern art and antiquities in the world with about 300 works on display, MONA has been billed by millionaire owner David Walsh as a subversive adult Disneyland. And while the often risque exhibitions are definitely not for the under-16s, the subterranean galleries hollowed into the side of a cliff are filled with unique, mind-expanding displays that sear into the memory.
Returning to the city centre, we step back in time in Battery Point: a village-like community containing cute-as-pie colonial buildings now housing beckoning bookstores, antique shops and cafes. Among the historic landmarks is Arthur's Circus - a circle of cottages facing a common green that once housed Old Hobart's soldiers. It's the only residential "circus" in Australia and just around the corner we find Monsoon Thai Fusion: an expressive and innovative eatery showcasing Tassie's world-famous seafood as well as vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
The food is mouth-wateringly sublime, with the seafood dumplings, salmon fish cakes, laksa soup and rocky road chicken matched in quality by the embracing service of staff.
Filled to the brim, we saunter past handsome, Georgian warehouses at Salamanca Place - site of the popular outdoor market every Saturday, fill our lungs by Sullivan's Cove with pure Tassie air and prepare to return to the mainland, satisfied we had introduced our teens to the natural, cultural, historic and culinary treasures of Tasmania.
The writer paid for most of his family's expenses.