When we had our solar system installed, we ended up with a stack of Qantas points as part of the deal. Neither of us had been to Tasmania before, so we decided to rectify that. So off we went to Hobart for a few nights to see what all the fuss was about. The conclusion was it’s a nice little place. It kind of felt like a baby Melbourne with a stronger convict flavour. I hadn’t driven an EV before and I thought that would add an additional element of novelty, so we rented a Polestar 2 for a day to get around in.

The central geological feature of the area is Mt. Wellington which offers amazing views, provided it’s a clear day. Fortunately for us, it was. The road network of the city can be described as uneven, narrow, and twisting, which made for a good test track for the electric car. Once we worked out how to make it go forward, the rest was effortless. Zooming up to the pinnacle was a breeze (literally and figuratively) and it was well worth the time. If you haven’t been up there just remember to bring a jacket, because it’s not warm.

Mount Wellington

A fine vista.

We didn’t have specific plans for the rest of the day, so we decided just to drive and see where we would end up. We had lunch at The Den in Salamanca Place, which was a funky little bar with great decor and good gyoza. The friendly bartender there happened to be roommates with someone who worked at Aloft, the restaurant we were booked in to that evening. We then headed south, through a number of little towns (including Snug, which seemed cozy), all the way down to Middleton, and then back again. It was then off to Aloft.

Mod Oz at its finest.

I’d picked Aloft because it was reputed to be one of the best restaurants on the island. I can confirm this, and I’ll go further to say that it’s probably one of the better restaurants in the country. We had the chef’s tasting menu and the matching wines, and the whole affair was of extremely high quality.

Oysters, lamb rib and wallaby tartare.

By about halfway through, we decided that it was in the Michelin zone in terms of dishes and pairings. Every dish was excellent, the wallaby tartare was something I hadn’t experienced (or even considered) before, and the main fish course stood out. My policy is that if there’s eggplant on the menu and it’s done well, the chef is on to something. It was and he is. It called to mind our trip to Birdsong in San Francisco, and that place has two stars.

The following day we set out to see more of the history and wound up at the Cascade Brewery. I can’t say that Cascade beers have ever been my go-to. Their fizzy apple drink makes me think of childhood though. The buildings and grounds were impressive, and I didn’t realise how steeped in heritage the place was.

The front building of Cascade Brewery

Since 1824!

We had a look around the gardens, tried a tasting paddle (I thought the stout was worthwhile) and then headed back into the city.

Four small glasses of beer.

Lager, Ale, Pale Ale, Stout

Given Tasmania’s reputation for whiskey, consuming some was requisite. Apart from Sullivan’s Cove, Lark is a well known name and they had two venues within walking (stumbling?) distance of each other. 2pm on a Wednesday isn’t considered by most people as whiskey hour, so when we visited “The Still“, which is their signature bar we had the place to ourselves.

Shelves lined with whiskey bottles.

An impressive / intimidating lineup.

The two very helpful bar tenders took me through two flights, the first being four samples from Lark’s lineup (Classic Cask, Rebellion, Chinotto Citrus Cask and Rum & PX Sherry Finish), and the second was samples from other distilleries from around Tasmania (Sprit Thief’s “Future Black” stood out). Apparently, they keep on hand examples from every distillery on the island which makes their list of available options remarkably large. We also had a whiskey sour, with their Symphony #1 as the base. Which was fantastic. The Rum & PX was fantastic – think Christmas in liquid form – so I got a bottle of that and a smaller bottle of the Rebellion.

From there we headed to Replay Bar. We tend to gravitate to retro games bars and this one in particular had a great lineup of pinball machines. In particular, Batman ’66! I’d been wanting to give it a shot since Stern announced it but had never come across it in the wild. It’s as silly and as fun as you’d expect. There was also an Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle and while I’m not really a fan, it had been a long, long time since I’d played a Spooky Pinball machine (the previous being 2015’s Rob Zombie’s Spookshow International). It was fast, dark, and loud. Good fun. They also had a range of cabs, so we spent a fair bit of time on Mortal Kombat 2, Street Fighter 2 and PacMan. Combine all that with a good range of boutique beers and you’ve got a place well worth visiting.

For dinner we went to Peppina, a nice Italian place which had an up-market dining hall vibe, if that makes sense. We had the salted fish, potato, garlic, Olasagasti anchovies and cucumber crosttini followed by their gnocchi, with stracciatella cheese, garlic, basil, tomato sugo and pangrattato. I thought I got some photos but apparently not. And with that, we were happy to call it a day.

The following morning was all about the Maritime Museum. Nothing says excitement than 300-year-old blocks of old wood and rope, and since I’d just finished reading Dana’s Two Years Before The Mast I was primed for some nautical history. For some reason, we were the only patrons. Tasmania has strong links to all things oceanic and there was a lot of good material on display, including some fine octants, compasses and journals.

An octant from around 1850.

A fine octant. Not to be confused with a fine sextant.

Wooden sea chests.

Travelling light was a must.

A log book from the lighthouse on Swan Island.

Quiet and still at his desk, The lonely light-keeper Holds his vigil.

The time ranged between pre-colonial, with Aboriginal bark canoes, all the way to the end of World War II. The bulk of the material was oriented towards settlement and the establishment of the colony.  The two elderly volunteers managing the place were more than happy to talk, and I bought myself a fine coin.

It was then off for a brief visit to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. We didn’t have much time but we did go through the wide range of taxidermy displays, and then through the “Our land: parrawa, parrawa! Go away!” installation, which was terribly depressing. That anyone could consider topics like this without sadness and anger is beyond me.

Tom McHugo’s, which is on the corner of Macquarie and Argyle St. is a great little pub, which we picked for lunch. It’s got a good range of boutique beers and even a classic beer engine with two local concoctions. I hadn’t had a warm brew since the Wig & Pen days, and the farmhouse ale they had on tap was really quite good (unfortunately I forgot to take a photo and can’t recall the brewery).

From there it was back to the airport, a brief stopover in Melbourne, and it our short trip to the south was over. Very worthwhile, and I’d be happy to go again.