These Tasmanians Share Their Off Season Secrets
Things go a little wild during Tasmania’s Off Season, when chilly weather, unique festivals and incredible food all help to add an extra layer of thrill to an already fascinating place. Don’t believe us? We asked five locals to share their favourite places during winter.
What’s special about pinmatik / Rocky Cape National Park
As a proud Tasmanian Aboriginal man, Caleb Nichols-Mansell creates artworks that reflect his personal experiences and his connection with the countless generations who came before him.
“Whenever I travel and come back to lutruwita / Tasmania, that first breath I take as I come off the plane is so invigorating. When I need some time out on Country I go to pinmatik / Rocky Cape National Park, a 45-minute drive past Burnie as you head north-west. The intricate linework in my art echoes the mesmerising patterns that have been etched into the rocks by the elements over thousands of years. Going here in the Off Season sometimes feels like I’m the only person in the world. It’s pretty remote, though there are two eco lodges right on the edge of the coastline at Rocky Cape Retreat.
“If you head further west to Stanley you can taste Tasmania’s freshest scallops, crayfish and oysters at Hursey Seafoods before climbing up the ancient volcanic plug, known as The Nut, for big views up and down the coast. On the way back to Burnie there’s a lighthouse at Table Cape where we’re putting on a show called tunapri, which will run for five weekends this winter. The immersive audiovisual lightshow will include projections onto the lighthouse of 60 artworks I created as a response to the landscape and the Tommeginer people who once called it home. As an Aboriginal man, the stories and narratives embedded in my artwork represent and connect with thousands and thousands of years of my people.
“The show is part of the larger Permission to Trespass festival that invites visitors into businesses and farms they wouldn’t normally have access to. I really like the provocation that poses, particularly from a First Nations perspective, because fences and gated-off properties weren’t part of our cultural or traditional practices; our land was open and it was free.”
Why Tasmania’s east coast is like a fairyland
Singer Ange Boxall honed her mix of folk, country and pop in Melbourne, London and Nashville but says her music “is more wild and raw when I’m in Tasmania – it has more gusto”.
“The light on the east coast is more beautiful than anywhere else in Tassie. It’s a place where you can actually stop time a little bit. I live in an old Georgian flour-mill property near Swansea, two hours north of Hobart, and I wake up to the sounds of the birds every morning. The natural landscape here really fuels my creativity, especially in winter when you get incredibly blue skies and the days are really still and calm. That’s when I like to visit a lovely spot just south of town called Spiky Beach. You can see across the waves to the Freycinet Peninsula and there are beautiful rock formations that make it feel like a magical fairyland.
“As the day draws to a close, there’s nothing better than sitting under the stars with a bottle of east coast Tasmanian pinot. We’re spoiled for choice with wineries like Devil’s Corner, which has an incredible vista over lagoons and The Hazards mountain range. The Waterloo in Swansea is a really cute place to eat; the food has a contemporary flair but it’s still very hearty. And it’s in an old motel that feels like something out of Schitt’s Creek, which really adds to the charm.”
What to do in and around Launceston
Soaring peaks and untamed rivers are the backdrop to poet and storyteller Bert Spinks’ bushwalking treks but he also finds plenty to fuel his creativity in this fascinating northern city.
“Having such distinct seasons is one of the great gifts of living at this latitude. Each one has something different to offer and winter is ripe for reflection and contemplation. It’s the perfect season for me to dream up my next set of stories.
“I grew up in northern Tasmania and one of the really special things about Launceston is that nature is never far away. You can start the Duck Reach Power Station walk from anywhere in town and as soon as you enter Cataract Gorge, you leave all sounds of traffic behind. The gorge narrows above the basin so you’re walking right on the edge of it and, after rain, the sound of the South Esk River rushing below you is all-encompassing.
“Or head further into Trevallyn Reserve and you can escape into the hush of the bush. It’s very atmospheric on cool winter mornings, when the steamy, smoky smell of the soil mixes with the fresh scent of gum trees and wallabies and pademelons thump through the fog. Because it’s located right at the mouth of the gorge, you can walk along the river the whole way back to Stillwater, where there are seven beautiful rooms in a 180-year-old-flour mill. At Du Cane Brewing you can use the giant bushwalking map painted on the wall to plan your next hike while you pore over a pun-filled menu of woodfired pizzas, like the fiery In Tents laden with sopressa, ’nduja, chilli and basil. Then kick back by the fire with a toasty stout that matches the darkness of a Tasmanian winter evening.”
How to experience Tasmania’s spectacular west coast
Even on an island of untamed, unmapped places, the west coast is a land apart. For café owner Zara Trihey, that brooding intensity reaches a peak in the atmospheric ghost town of Linda.
“When a blanket descends over the landscape in winter and everything is covered in a thin veil of mist, we call that ‘Tassie noir.’ The west coast pushes you out of your comfort zone and the way the scarred industrial landscape around Queenstown fades into the pristine rainforest is surreal. It’s a four-hour drive from Hobart and the last hour is along really windy roads where every turn reveals rich rainforest and spectacular hills peeking out of the fog.
“Then the first thing you see when you come out of that are the haunting ruins of the Royal Hotel Linda, which rise eerily out of the mist. Not long after I moved here it came up for sale so I’ve got a five-year plan to restore the building to its former glory. We run the Linda Café beside it, offering real food and great coffee.
“Linda is a literal ghost town but I call it the gateway to the west because it’s just 10 minutes from Queenstown. The locals are very proud of their mining heritage and the beautiful scenery also attracts a lot of artists. In between the galleries there’s a cosy new wine bar called Moonscape that has a great selection of Tasmanian craft beer and wine as well as lovely soups and tapas. The best views in town are at Penghana Bed & Breakfast. It’s run by hosts who really know the meaning of hospitality so you can start the day eating a beautiful breakfast with polished silver service and end it watching the whole town light up as the snowy top of Mt Owen glows in the last rays of the setting sun.”
Why you should visit Tasmania’s north-west coast in winter
Growing up on the shoreline of taypalaka / Green Point taught artist Zoe Grey that nature isn’t something to be admired from afar; it’s a physical force to be experienced viscerally.
“Being on Tasmania’s north-west coast in winter really forces you to be present. Even if you’re in a sheltered bay, you can see the giant swells rolling in and taste the salt on your lips because it’s all happening around you. My hometown of Marrawah is as far as you can drive from Hobart and still be in Tasmania so it’s quite an isolated place and the weather is notoriously wild. On a big wintry day you might look out over Ann Bay and see six-metre-high columns of white water rising between jagged rocks covered in orange lichen and a purple sky filled with sheets of sideways rain.
“It’s not a static landscape; it’s changing constantly and I feel forever inspired by those scenes. It’s dynamic and it’s physical and my art is an attempt to capture that feeling. When you’re on the edge of the Southern Ocean, you’re breathing in some of the purest air in the world and the north-west is known for having amazing seafood and beef.
“But my favourite dish from the Siento Fuego food truck is the charred cauliflower tacos – they use a lot of local ingredients so they’re always fresh and full of flavour. Eating them outside by Sisters Beach with Rocky Cape National Park on either side is pretty special. You won’t want to hurry home so settle in at Marrawah Beach Houses, a couple of cute little family-run cottages that have an easygoing modern beach shack vibe.”
SEE ALSO: How to Explore Tasmania’s Enchanted Takayna / Tarkine Forest
Image credit: Emilie Ristevski (Giant Tree Expedition), Shantanu Starick (East coast), Brooke Jones (West coast), Rosie Hastie (North-west coast)