If you can't decide between an island getaway, mountain stay or city break, don't worry — in Tasmania, you can have them all within a few hours' drive, discovers Dani Wright
If you've ever toured mainland Australia, you'll know the boredom of driving long (very long) stretches of road without a change of scenery. Head to Tasmania though, and you can get a holiday with the lot — gorgeous white sand beaches, mountain retreats, city shopping and art, with plenty of fabulous food and wine around every corner.
Wine and dine in Launceston
Slicing the "Apple Isle" down the middle, I'm touring with my children (Henry, 11 and Georgie, 8) from Launceston in the north to Hobart in the south, via Cradle Mountain and Bruny Island. First stop is Josef Chromy's cellar door on the outskirts of Launceston, where every wine is a standout and oil-painting views of vines on rolling hills are welcome relief after the bumpy flight.
With every new drop of wine, we're told of Josef's story — one of incredible hardship, perseverance and ambition following a shrewd escape from his war-torn Czech village — which had become a Nazi headquarters — and his eventual arrival in Tasmania in 1950.
A master butcher, Josef built a smallgoods business which, 30 years later, was floated on the stock exchange for $75 million.
Like any self-respecting, newly-coined millionaire should, he swiftly went into the wine business with just as much success.
Over a platter of nuts, fruit, lavosh and the most decadent local cheeses, we build up much respect for Josef's hard work.
In the city, more good food and wine are in order at Geronimo Aperitivo Bar and Restaurant, with its dim lighting and stylish décor.
There's a relaxed ambience here, and the waiters look the part in striped shirts, bow-ties and jeans, as the eclectic mix of clientele helps keep the feel of the restaurant special, not stuffy, with a paddock to plate concept menu full of flavour.
It's a special place, lovingly curated by owner Jeremy Kode, in a town where great food and wine are matched with historic architecture and hiking in Cataract Gorge less than 2km from the CBD. It all adds up to a memorable city break without the crowds.
Digital detox at Cradle Mountain
My first taste of digital detox comes early when my phone runs out of power an hour before arrival at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. Earlier, I had smugly told the Avis car hire lady, "No, no, I won't need a GPS, I've got Google Maps!"
After locals point us on our way, we arrive at the alpine-style lodge — to be greeted by a Tasmanian devil fossicking around outside reception. In our cabin, a gas fireplace is burning bright and we pull out board games, forgetting completely about the earlier stress.
Later, we walk on wooden tracks through thick bush to the lodge for hearty soup and games of pool. Other lodge guests huddle around hotspots trying in vain to find a Wi-Fi connection.
"You could always just unplug and smile," says the waiter, who knows better than I that unplugging will become a huge part of the pleasure of the visit. For now, though, Henry is wondering (a bit too loudly) why on earth they wouldn't just put a huge television right where the giant mirror sits over the fireplace.
We're up early the next morning for a walk around the romantically-named Dove Lake in the world-heritage listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, stopping at times to be swallowed up by the quiet and beauty surrounding us.
We walk up and down steps, under and over tree roots and branches in areas with trees covered in green moss — looking as an enchanted forest might look, water lapping its edges and a distant waterfall gushing. It's everything we hope it will be.
A taste of Bruny Island
The ferry to Bruny Island is under an hour's drive from Hobart, then it's a short trip across the water and you're on your way to another Tassie taste sensation.
Start with a taster plate of oysters from Get Shucked, overlooking the oyster beds.
Next along the road is The Bruny Island Cheese Company for artisan cheeses, beer from the onsite brewery and sourdough bread from the bakery. On a cheese tasting flight, the standouts are the Raw Milk C2, which keeps tingling in your mouth long after it's eaten, and Owen, a strong cheese washed in pinot noir before being wrapped in vine leaves to mature. If you like stinky, complex cheeses, you will be in heaven.
More delights are on offer all around the island from locally-made honey to whisky, wine and even apple juice from a "bootique" - basically the boot of a car attached to a shed.
We make quick stops but head onwards to the windswept lighthouse at Cape Bruny, perched high on the hill overlooking incredible coastal scenery and an authentic keeper's cottage. If you collect all your foodie finds along the route, it's the perfect spot for an island picnic to end your day-trip.
Our last port of call is Sullivans Cove Apartments in Hunter St, the birthplace of Hobart. The building was once considered the finest in the colony, back in the day when the docks hosted ships unloading tea from China and spices from the East Indies. It's a stunning view each morning watching the harbour city awake.
A short walk from the apartment, past Constitution Dock, home of the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race is the famous Saturday's market on Salamanca Place, with about 170 stallholders selling goods from hand-knitted tea cosies to locally-distilled gin.
Afterwards, we take Kelly's Steps on Salamanca Place to Battery Point, one of the oldest suburbs in Hobart. Its winding roads, colonial architecture and house-proud residents make it a delightful detour. Stay awhile in Arthur's Circus, a little playground set in the middle of a circle of quaint houses, and watch the neighbourhood amble by.
After a week touring Tasmania, my only question is why I never came to the island state earlier. I think I was put off in the past by its bad weather reputation.
But, as a local shopkeeper tells me when she's asked why people should visit Tassie: "It's nice and quiet, everything's close and you can always put on another jumper if you're cold. You can't keep taking clothes off in the heat they get in some other states!"
To learn more, visit discovertasmania.com.au/air.
Please check the latest border restrictions in each state and territory before travelling, for more information visit australia.com