Ahh Tasmania. Where was I? The winner of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race had come in, and second and third were in a tight race for the finish line. The wind was being cruel still and they were barely sailing… but they got there, just as we boarded out boat to Mona. You can’t go to Hobart without going to the Museum of New and Old Art- (Mona). It’s an institution in itself.
Mona is Australia’s largest private owned art gallery and museum. It is owned by the eccentric (would you expect anything else) David Walsh, who made his fortune gambling. Before you sigh and lose interest like I did, realise that a large proportion of that money was reinvested into the Tasmanian economy through the establishment of MONA. If you’re interested in his life, you can buy his memoir on site- you can’t miss it. MONA won the 2012 Australian Tourism Award for best new development and is a major Tasmanian tourist attraction.
I heard about MONA a couple of years ago from my friend Jane, whilst talking about death, as you do. (I love the friends that indulge me in my passions). Jane showed me the book she bought from MONA and told me about the exhibitions on death. I was excited to go for the component alone (a fact that I did not reveal to my travel companion).
When travelling by Mona Roma to Mona, you can travel cattle class or in the “posh pit” which gives you canapés, and champagne on the way over and back. If FOMO is an issue for you then don’t worry, there is an equally stunning cafe for the plebs, and you can order your own champagne, or pot of tea if that’s more your style. We were on the 9am ferry and had only just eaten brekkie, so opted out, instead hoping to indulge when we got there. The ferry ride is a pleasant 30 minute trip.
The middle pillar of the Tasman Bridge is wider than the rest due to a shipping accident in 1975. Twelve people died in the accident as the middle section of the bridge plunged into the Derwent River.
If arriving by water, you are greeted by the red cliffs and walk up a steep staircase to the top where there is a tennis court, trampoline and rusted steel art.
The most intriguing displays for me was the death chamber, and the Gilbert and George Art Exhibition.
I can honestly say that I have never spent so much time in a museum or art gallery, and by the end of it I just wanted to get out and see daylight and get some fresh air. I was over stimulated and my senses had been challenged to their limits. Mind you, I did enjoy every minute of it, until point of overwhelm!
After I finally emerged we decided that we DEFINITELY needed a drink. Luckily for us, there was an onsite winery 🙂 We enjoyed an amazing pulled pork bun and a glass of wine and then decided it was time for a lie in the grass on gigantic pillows. We were then entertained by a small child walking a peacock, and some gorgeous music, before it was time to head back down to the ferry to go back to Hobart.
All in all a MUST DO! So much to see, so much to think about and a great place to spend the day irrespective of the weather.
The Salamanca Markets are a well-known destination for both tourists and locals. They are the first stop for visitors who are looking to taste the fresh produce of Tassie. The markets are held in a picturesque location amongst the Georgian sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place that were built in the 1830s to house grain and other items. You can read about the history of Salamanca Place here. The markets are also close to Battery Point, which is Hobart’s most historic area.
The markets have been running since 1972, and are held every Saturday from 8:30am to 3:00pm. You can walk to the markets from just about anywhere in central Hobart, or you can catch the free shuttle bus.
We visited the markets near the end of our trip to Tasmania, and caught up with my dear friends Koel, Matilda and Tait, who were in Hobart for a family wedding.
Some of the Salamanca stallholders who caught our attention:
Made me giggle.
Approved by Matilda
We enjoyed strolling around the markets, drinking great coffee and munching on hot jam donuts and fresh raspberries (when with a child in a stroller, you eat to please the child so you can spend more time looking in the markets).
We would recommend it to visitors of Hobart, however we were probably less fascinated by the markets then we would have been had we not already spent the week eating and drinking at the Tastes of Tasmania festival.
Tastes of Tasmania Festival
One of the major reasons I chose to travel to Hobart at the end of 2015 was for the Tastes of Tasmania Festival. Held annually it is a celebration of the importance of gastronomical culture in Tasmania. Tasmanians have a wonderful innovative and entrepreneurial culture in relation to food, wine, beer, whisky and cider.
The Tastes of Tasmania Festival is held from Dec 28 to Jan 3, at Salamanca Place, in Hobart. Gates are open from 11 am to 11pm daily and entry is free, excepting on New Years Eve, when it is closed for a ticketed party.
I think that the Tastes festival appeals to people on many levels. For those who are young at heart, it is a fantastic excuse to soak up some sunshine, chill to some music and catch up with friends, whilst indulging great food and beverages. If I had a choice, that is how I would experience it.
There are street performers including contortionists, knife eaters and roving performers dressed in themed costumes, to entertain adults and children alike. This year live performances were by The Black Sorrows, Stickrad Trio, The Paybacks, Kashkin and Brad Gillies, to name a few.
There is a dedicated section of the festival (away from the alcohol) for children. This included a Twilight Cinema for the kiddies, Chinese Buddhist activities for the kids in the park, German dancing performances, musical performances, and organized games and craft activities.
However, for those with a passion for learning, there are ample opportunities to soak up the experience of master wine and cheese makers and other food professionals.
- The Tasting Table provides 45 minute tasting session with Wine Whisky Beer and Cider producers.
- Taste Food Tours- meet the producers
- Taste Theatre- cooking demonstrations
I watched a number of cooking demonstrations with my travel companion including a Thermomix demonstration (certainly not something I expected to attend) and one on making cocktails.
My biggest takeaway from the festival was that the Tassies know what it is to follow passion. They are not afraid of starting up ventures because of their love a singular product or way of farming.
This year was the first year that the festival trialled its cashless system. I found it fantastic- as I never carry cash anyway, but I believe some older festival patrons found it difficult.
I wouldn’t travel to Hobart for the Tastes of Tasmania alone, however, when combined with the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a visit to Bruny Island and general sightseeing around Hobart, it makes for an action packed and enjoyable two weeks in Tassie!
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
When I decided to travel to Hobart, one of the things I was most excited about was watching the yachts come in to cross the finishing line, at the end of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Even if you are not a sailor or a water person, it is hard to grow up in Australia without knowing about this race. It’s held annually on Boxing Day, and usually the world is in a post Christmas food coma, so somewhere there is a tv on, and it will be tuned to the cricket or the yacht race coverage.
I planned my arrival into Hobart for the 27th December, because on a “good year”, a year of fast winds and clear sailing, the first yacht could sail into Hobart. 2015 was no such year. It would become known as the most treacherous race in the history of the race. Some yachts didn’t even get out of Sydney harbour due to the wind conditions. So when I arrived into Hobart, there were no yachts to be seen. The forecast was that they would not be in before late that evening. So I explored the city instead.
When I woke up the next morning the yachts had still not arrived! So we continued to explore and watched social media and returned to the race area for updates on when the yachts were expected. By four in the afternoon we decided to stay put, lest we return to the hotel and miss the action. There was live music, and the sun was warm, so we settled in for the evening.
After a couple of glasses of wine, I became restless, and started to stake out my position for the evening, in order to be able to photograph the yachts. The marina had been cleared, and people were starting to move in.
I watched the media carefully, and made note of where they were standing for their live broadcasts. An official confirmed that the spot that I was standing in would be prime position, as the winner would make their way into the marina, and come to a complete stop in front of me! However, the wind was not being kind, and Comanche was barely moving.
Finally, I observed some action! The Comanche support crew were heading out on the water.
But it was to be hours…
It got darker and darker, and I bemoaned not having my tripod.
And then suddenly, in the darkness, the winning yacht limped into the marina.
Comanche had won, and although it was an American yacht, it’s owner was an Australian- Kristy Hinze-Clark. Not only is she an Aussie, but a Queenslander, and by this time I was like a sardine- squashed by other supporters, all who turned out to be from Queensland! This was our first real glimpse of Kirsty and her husband Jim Clark (of Netscape fame).
I can’t tell you how relieved and elated she was. It was written over her face, and her crew and the support team went wild. The feeling was contagious.
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I highly recommend adding to your bucket list!
If there’s one thing about traveling to a cooler climate that’s a bonus, it’s the knowledge that the botanical gardens are going to be spectacular! I visited the Royal Tasmania Botanical Gardens on my recent trip to Hobart. Established in 1818, there are 14 hectares of gardens with over 6,000 exotic species.
Lunch at the restaurant
For obvious reasons! It tasted as good as it looked!
Cold garden- Subantarctic Plant House
The subantarctic garden showcases plants and noises from Macquarie Island, to show realistically what the chilly fogs and mists of the windy island are like. I must admit I thought it was going to be freezing, but I would describe it as pleasantly cool. The official description is:
“The house was designed to replicate the appearance and environmental conditions of Macquarie Island and also to act as an experimental house for the cultivation of the plants from this region. The curved inner walls are painted with a mural depicting the various environments of the island, while the landscape has been recreated using plants, mosses and rock collected from Macquarie Island. An immersive audio sound-scape of the Macquarie Island environment adds to the illusion of traveling to this remote region and visitors will hear the sounds of wildlife from the Island, including elephant seals, penguins, albatross and skuas, as well as the ever-present wind and rain.“
Pete’s Veggie Patch/ Tasmanian Community Garden/ABC Gardening Australia
This is the garden that the ABC often filmed segments of its’ gardening show from. Originally part of ‘Pete’s Veggie Patch’ it is now frequented by Tino Carnevale for the ABC Gardening Australia show. The garden was
“Developed in conjunction with a coalition of community organisations and other interested individuals, it emphasises sustainability, highlights food security and produces local fruit and vegetables for the wider community. This garden provides inspiration and practical ideas for both the home gardener and other community gardens.”
How do you get there? We walked from our hotel, which was a good 30 minute walk, mostly uphill. On the way back however, we decided to catch the red double decker bus back into town for $3.50. This bus goes hourly, however, please check the timetable for details- it is clearly signed at the gardens and throughout town.
I have to admit, I’ve been procrastinating. I’ve finally edited all of my photos from our trip to Tasmania at Christmas.
Mum has asked not to be photographed in my travel writing and photography from now on, so this is the last mention I will make- the rest of the blogs will be from a purely technical travel writing perspective. But you know, I still believe in the power of travel to heal grief.
So as a little teaser, here is a video I made of our first stop Bruny Island.
A full blog is to follow.
Have you ever had one of those weeks, when you knew you just needed to get out of the house, or you would go nuts? That you couldn’t really afford to go on a holiday, but if you stayed inside, that despite the predicted wet weather, and the fact that you would normally curl up under the doona and read a good book, that this time, it would literally be your undoing?
Welcome to my world. After a long, frustrating week, I was facing a wet weekend at home. I had no plans and it was looking bleak. Rather than slide down a slippery slope to the blues, I decided to take positive action and just get out of the house. There is something magical about the effect of the ocean on your psyche. The sound of the ocean is calming, and there is nothing better than a long walk along the beach, no matter the weather. Yes, I activated plan personal health and had a solo holiday on the Gold Coast.
There was a condition. I wasn’t going unless I could have ocean views. Direct ocean views. I didn’t just want to hear the ocean, I wanted to see the ocean. I wanted to be as close as possible, with no big high rises obstructing my view. I spent an entire evening searching for the apartment of my desire, and in the end decided on Main Beach. Main Beach?! Yes, not Surfers, not Burleigh, little known Main Beach. For me, what was important was to not hear drunken party revellers at 2am as they bar hopped, I wanted to hear the ocean.
So I searched on Rovia, using DreamTrips.com, using the “Book Other Travel” tab and found the perfect apartment. Two bedrooms was a little more than I needed, but it was that or nothing. After my children were collected on Friday evening, I drove to Main Beach and checked into my apartment.
Main Beach is the “main” surfing beach of Southport at the northern end of the Gold Coast. Tedder Avenue– a two minute walk from the apartment is known for it’s cafes and restaurants and is beautifully lit with fairy lights in the evening. I’ll have to try that another time, because I brought with me a bottle of wine that fellow travel writer and photographer Amanda from The Alpha Odyssey had gifted me for my birthday. I had a bag of hot cross buns, a container of fresh pumpkin soup, some fresh grapes and plums and I intended to literally relax on the couch and not move.
Please note that the following photos are from my iphone 6s. I was excited to be trialling it out for the first time. Whilst it certainly was better than my old phone, let’s say that my real camera is certainly not going to be phased out!
I spent Saturday attending a travel industry seminar, and Sunday catching up with friends. I enjoyed the accommodation and the location, would recommend it, and would definitely recommend it as being family friendly and solo holiday friendly!
If you’d like to know more about my holiday and the other holidays that I am planning, stay tuned, or contact me for further information.
Sometimes all you need is a hug. A hug actually makes you feel better, because a hormone known as oxytocin is released from your brain and sends messages to your body, which promote feelings of devotion, trust and bonding, which well, they make us feel happy. So if you’re in need of a hug, or just a different location to have a cup of coffee, or an activity to entertain the kids, I recommend the Cat Cuddle Cafe!
The Cat Cuddle Cafe was opened in 2015 by Pussies Galore Rescue, and is Brisbane’s first cat cuddle cafe.
Why a Cat Cuddle Cafe?
Let’s ask them:
Cats are our passion and rescue is our mission. We wanted to create the perfect environment for cat lovers to enjoy and interact with cats.
To fulfil our mission of rescuing a ridiculous amount of cats, our cats will be highly trained to make you fall in love with them, ultimately leading to more adoptions. Seriously, they will be working it.
All of our kitties will be rescue cats. Unlike other cat café’s around the world, our cats will be up for adoption. Our adoption process though, is very stringent. Don’t think you are just going to walk out with one of our cuddle stars without being given the Spanish Inquisition.
We need to know that you have considered adding a fur baby or two to your family very seriously. This commitment is for the life of the cat and could be more than 20 years.
- Parking is very very limited, so trust me when I say- drive directly to Zig Zag Street, and park there. You just need to walk up to the top of Zig Zag Street and then turn right to the shops. You can’t miss it. (Yes that’s the Zig Zag Street made famous by the book)
Need to know:
- You need to BOOK to have a cat cuddle experience. It is $10.50 per hour per person. Coffee and cake are additional. Book here
- Please do not disturb sleeping cats.
- Check what time the cats are most active- we had a 10am booking, and most of the adult cats were asleep, which meant that given the number of adults in the room, my kids were a little disappointed. They got a chance to play with the kittens, however, with around 10 + adults and kids all wanting a cuddle, the kittens soon tired of it all. They were happy to play with all the toys, however, Hamish didn’t really get a cuddle. The manager helped out by bringing cats and placing them on his lap, however, they kept jumping off. Next time.
- You can do Yoga with the Cats (Thursday night $25) and also Knitting with the cats! Check the site for details, and if you do any of these- please send me photos! firstname.lastname@example.org
Affectionately known as “Straddie” to Queenslanders, North Stradbroke Island is a place where many of my friends spent their childhood holidays. For me, it has been a discovery only in the past two years, which I am enjoying 🙂 Why do you want to go to Straddie and when?
- July- for the WHALES! They swim directly past the North George Headland, otherwise known as the “Whale Highway”, which is 35 m above sea level. You can also see them from the beach, from your apartment and from the lookout. You can’t go on an official whale watching tour from straddie, but you can see them at their best, in nature. If you go at the end of the season August- September they swim back with their babies. PRICELESS.
- Summer- for the ultra relaxed pace of life. You have to catch a ferry to get to Straddie, and it seems like half of Brisbane is going with you, but I promise, as soon as you hit land, it is as if the world disappears in different directions. Some head to camp at Amity Point, others head to Point Lookout, but I can promise you it is not crowded like Noosa. There’s no pretension either.
- Seafood! Delish- but straight from the trawler at Amity point, or if like me you prefer to stay closer to the action, then I recommend Mal Starkey’s seafood house. They sell direct to the public from the downstairs shop in their house. You can pay by credit card.
- Dolphins! You’re officially not allowed to feed them, but try telling the dolphins this. They hang out at Amity Point just before sunset, on the pier.
- The gelatto!
- The pub with a view- the Straddie Hotel. There’s no bogan here – just great food and a stunning view of the ocean. I can’t rave enough about this after they re-opened their restaurant to help me out one afternoon after taking my friend Steph to Straddie. Steph is wheelchair bound after a double brain stem stroke which left her with locked in syndrome, and after showing her the whales and the long process of getting her and her chair safely out of the car, up the ramp, and tucked into the table ready to order, we found that the restaurant had closed 10 minutes before! I was almost in tears, and explained my predicament to the chef, who kindly offered to cook for us, if we were happy with the options he had available. We were very grateful and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
- The ferry across is not wheel chair friendly- you will need to stay in your car, as unfortunately on both the small and big red cat options both have stairs to access the views and dining areas.
- There are suitable public toilets at Point Lookout.
How to get there:
By Ferry- either the Big Red Cat or the slower ferry. You can take your car across or go as a passenger and take advantage of the bus, which is run in conjunction with the ferry. Both leave from Cleeveland and take you across to Dunwich. You need to book in advance, especially in peak holiday periods. Make sure you book your return journey at the same time.
Where to stay:
I’ve stayed at the following places
Whale Watch Resort– fantastic main beach location. Perfect for long beach walks, and if you don’t want to get the car out for the rest of your stay.
Pandanus Palms Resort – family friendly, close to the patrolled beach.
On my wish list of places to stay