Australians are generally warm and friendly and will make you feel at home, whether you are walking into downtown shops or in the beautiful countryside. The produce in Tasmania is fantastic and there are lots of restaurants and cafes serving tasty local cuisine.
Tasmania’s capital city Hobart has a charming downtown with a small central area around the pier, where the shops, cafes, restaurants and fresh fish shops are. There is a nice neighbourhood feel to the whole area – it is not overly touristy or bustling, yet it has a lively energy.
There are a number of walking trails in Wellington Park (www. wellingtonpark.org.au) that take any time from 20 minutes to seven hours to complete to and fro. One can hike to the top of Mount Wellington or drive up Pinnacle Road to the lookout point at the summit for views over the city and river when the weather is right.
A 20-minute drive from central Hobart is Mona – Museum of Old and New Art (mona.net.au), an architecturally striking structure surrounded by green hills and vineyards on the banks of the Derwent River.
It houses an impressive private collection of antiques, modern and contemporary art, and is a great museum for passionate art lovers as well as people like me with a short attention span for museums.
The layout is user-friendly, interactive and not too big, and there are interesting collections covering a broad range of topics and time periods.
Mona also has a few terrific restaurants and cafes, including The Source, where guests can dine on beautifully presented locally sourced seasonal food accompanied by local wines, while looking out over the green museum grounds through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Templo (www.templo.com.au) is a small, independent and reasonably priced restaurant in Hobart manned only by a very talented chef and a very friendly waiter.
There are no direct flights between Singapore and Tasmania.
Fly from Singapore to Melbourne – there are at least six direct flights a day – and connect with one of at least 10 daily flights between Melbourne and Hobart or Launceston.
• Tasmania is rather large and one can easily spend a week exploring the East Coast. I recommend arriving at Hobart and departing from Launceston. You will need two to three weeks to do justice to the whole island.
• Most people visit during the summer months of December, January and February, which is the peak season in Tasmania and there is a wider range of festivals and outdoor adventures to try. The autumn months of March, April and May are quieter, which means that there are better deals on accommodation and activities. I prefer March, which is just after the peak season, but the weather is still pleasant and cool.
• While Tasmania is known as a land of great produce, it is not that easy to find things on one’s own. We were glad we stumbled on a few good fishmongers, Leslie Turner with his home garden farm and some random shops along the way.
• Do some research beforehand. Go to www.discovertasmania.com.au to learn more about Tasmania, its local farms and products, and where to find them.
The cooking is simple, yet superbly executed, with innovative touches. The dishes change all the time, but I had an exquisitely cooked Blue Eye Trevalla (a local fish) and delicious gnocchi. It was the best restaurant meal of our trip. A meal there costs about A$50 (S$52) a person, including a glass of wine.
I was introduced to Leslie and Glenda Turner, a retired couple living in Cranbrook along the east coast of Tasmania, by a local cafe owner when I inquired about organic produce.
Leslie became a small-scale farmer in his retirement, converting the backyard of his home into a River Cottage-esque farm with makeshift greenhouses, vegetable patches and a duck pond. (River Cottage is a brand by English celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that includes a television series and restaurants.)
Leslie grows a wide variety of produce including broccolini, arugula, capsicum, chilli and kale, Asian leaves such as coriander and laksa leaf, and whatever else is in season that he is keen to experiment with. He grows for himself as well as local cafes and hotels.
We were the first tourists to visit and got to know the couple well after a few visits. Though the farm is not technically open to the public, you can send Leslie a message on Facebook (http://bit.ly/2BMTJ6d) should you wish to buy produce from him.
Taste of Tasmania (www.thetasteoftasmania.com.au) is an annual food festival which takes place in Hobart’s waterfront area in December. The free week-long event features 70 stallholders selling food and a range of locally made jam, cheese, fresh fruit, seafood, wines, ciders and beers. There are also more than 100 performances.
Festivale (www.festivale.com.au), another annual celebration of local food and wine, takes place in the city of Launceston over the first weekend of February. Held over three days in Launceston City Park, it showcases the best of Tasmanian produce, which visitors can sample while enjoying live music, stand-up comedy, kids’ entertainment, roving street performances, cooking demonstrations, wine and beer pairings, and tasting masterclasses.
Tasmania is home to some extraordinary hikes. I recommend taking a walk around Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park (http://bit.ly/2BMLEyf), which offers short, medium and long walks that take less than two hours to five to eight hours to complete to and fro.
We found some really great seafood (raw and live) at Kyeema Seafoods (www.kyeemaseafoods.com.au) in Launceston, where we stayed at a self-catering lodge close to the airport. We bought a huge local lobster for dinner one night as well as a large Alfonsino fish for dinner the next day. They were probably the best lobster and Alfonsino I have ever had.
The Tasmanian Mountain Pepper, also known as Tasmanian Pepperberry, is a bush food native to Tasmania and the mountainous regions of south-eastern Australia.
The small tree produces black-purple berries that look and taste a little bit like black pepper, but are more floral and spicy.
Tasmanian Pepperberry can be found in a lot of shops and supermarkets. The prices vary – about A$7 for a 15g jar.
You might also want to pick up some of Tasmania’s famous wild abalone.
It is special because the island is surrounded by some of the most pristine oceans in the world. The clean, cold waters provide the perfect environment for the healthy growth of abalone.
You can buy them fresh, frozen or in a can at Tas Live Abalone (tasliveabalone.com.au) in Hobart. It also offers private tours of the packing factory for groups, starting at A$25 a group for up to five adults (extra adults pay A$5 each).
My favourite hotel in Tasmania is the Saffire Freycinet (www.saffire-freycinet.com.au) for its excellent hospitality, stunning location in Freycinet National Park, delicious food and wines, and the variety of activities it offers, such as mountain biking, cooking classes, yoga sessions and nature walks.
We particularly enjoyed our visit to a nearby oyster farm, where we tasted freshly shucked oysters and sparkling wine in waist-high sea water where a table was set.
I also recommend Thalia Haven (www.thaliahaven.com.au), located in an exclusive and private property on a 52ha peninsula with spectacular views of Great Oyster Bay. The living room, bedroom and kitchen open directly to the outdoors with panoramic sea views.
The self-catering accommodation has enough tools and crockery to cook for 20 people, a professional gas stove and oven, a fireplace to cook over wood and a barbecue outside.
You can also get herbs such as thyme and rosemary growing in the wild and seaweed along the pebble beach.
When I was there, I cooked a leg of pasture-raised Tasmanian lamb over glowing wood embers and assorted locally caught fish over freshly foraged kelp.
In Hobart, we stayed at the lovely Islington Hotel (www.islingtonhotel.com), conveniently located in a residential area near the centre of town.
In northern Tasmania, located in the wine region just a 10-minute drive from Launceston Airport and the central business district, is the beautiful lakeside Relbia Lodge (relbialodge.com.au/#welcome).
The unassuming self-catering four-bedroom, four-bathroom house can be divided into self-contained apartments.
WHO: MR YUAN OEIJ, 48, chairman of food and beverage company The Prive Group.
He and his wife, Ms Tracy Goh, a marketing manager in her 30s, have a five-year-old son, Tyler.
Favourite destination: Tasmania, Australia.