Things get wild in the Tasmanian winter. While chill dials up the beauty of the natural world, festivals of dark arts, fire and feasting send sparks flying. Dark Mofo, the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest and Tasmanian Whisky Week are back in 2022 – so here’s what you can’t miss at each festival, what else to do around town and the best spots to eat and stay.
When: 8-22 June, 2022
The annual solstice celebration of art, music and subversion is back and again commands you to shake off your inhibitions and scream “yes”. Taking over streets and sights of Hobart for two weeks, this year’s Dark Mofo program features gigs from Grammy-nominated The Kid Laroi (11 June, MyState Bank Arena), Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon (18 June, Odeon Theatre) and Spiritualized (17 June, Mac 02).
As per unusual, art installations, which will pop up all around town, defy most description. Suffice to say you can slip through time, memory and space at the Newer experience (9-20 June) created by contemporary artist Doug Aitken or see life-sized sculptural beings gather in a wasteland bathed in orange light in a work called Anthropoid (9-20 June). Ever wondered what an 18th century machine for “human pollination” might look like? See Celestial Bed (9-20 June) and find out!
Mofo icons such as the Night Mass rave (17 and 18 June) and Winter Feast (15-19 June) will be resurrected. Write down your fears and bury them in a giant sculpture to be torched at The Burning (19 June). Dress up and let your alter ego loose at the Blue Rose Ball (12 June). Then, come the final morning of the festival, feel cleansed of your sins by charging into the freezing River Derwent for the infamous Nude Solstice Swim (22 June). Surrender to the strange and cram in as much as you can!
What else to do around town: Most things Dark Mofo happen after dark. To clear your buzzing brain in big nature, hike tracks that lead up to the scenic peak of kunanyi / Mount Wellington, less than a 30-minute drive from the city centre. The two-kilometre Myrtle Gully trail passes peaceful waterfalls and only takes around 30 to 45 minutes to walk each way.
What to eat: Reserve time and a table to indulge in a nine-course menu of local, sustainably sourced produce at Fico. Cross your fingers you get the risotto cacio e pepe with Tasmanian pepper berries, or polenta with sea urchin and leek. At talked-about trattoria Peppina, get started with freshly shucked oysters before diving into delicate pastas and hearty mains like oven-roasted pork belly. Next door, Mary Mary cocktail bar mixes bespoke cocktails until midnight.
Where to stay: Waterfront hotel MACq 01 puts you within walking distance of most Mofo action. Recharge in your superior waterfront room’s deep bath or by the fireplace in the hotel’s buzzy lounge. Read 15 of the Most Luxe Stays in Hobart now.
Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest
Where: Grove, Huon Valley
When: 15-17 July, 2022
On one weekend in the dead of winter, the fields around Willie Smith’s Apple Shed cidery south of Hobart come to fiery life. At the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest, revellers invoke the tradition of scaring off evil spirits from the frosty orchards and bringing on good crops. If you dare, join people painted like pagans and sing into the sky as a 15-metre-tall burning man called Big Willie is set ablaze and a piano belches flames. Or reel to live folk music and foot-stomping blues, warming yourself with mulled cider. Things go late so book a local stay.
What else to do around town: At lavender, olive and saffron farm Campo de Flori in Glen Huon, artist Lisa Britzman runs four-hour workshops in which she teaches the art of decorating pots using the Japanese raku technique. Huddle around for s’mores and pizzas pulled from the fire, too. If you want to get your hands dirty, ceramicist Bronwyn Clarke will let you get behind the wheel at her pottery studio in Deep Bay.
Up for an adventure? Sled Dog Adventures Tasmania will take you on a thrilling ride around the gumtree-lined tracks of Lonnavale – pulled by a pack of eight well-loved Siberian huskies.
What to eat: Head to Port Cygnet Cannery to pull up a seat around a blazing fire pit and order woodfired pizzas, roast meats and vegetarian morsels, most made with ingredients sourced from the owners’ nearby farm. Osteria at Petty Sessions is an Italian-influenced restaurant where you can watch the Huon River while feasting on wild-caught Tasmanian seafood. To kickstart a morning, hit The Local in Huonville – this relaxed, family-friendly cafe is serious about its coffee.
Where to stay: A 15-minute drive from the restaurants and galleries of Cygnet, Villa Talia is a private holiday house set on a three-hectare property on the Huon River. Views of the Hartz Mountains, an outdoor firepit and stone bathtub on the deck are included. If a hotel with a downstairs pub is more your speed, Port Huon’s Kermandie has charming heritage rooms suitable for couples and families.
Tasmanian Whisky Week
Where: Distilleries around Tasmania
When: 8-14 August, 2022
Tasmania is Australia’s whisky capital and every August the island celebrates. During Tasmanian Whisky Week, more than 30 distilleries across the Apple Isle open their doors for meet-the-maker sessions, masterclasses and tasting tours.
Sample whisky (and gin) at Lawrenny Estate’s “paddock to bottle” distillery in the Central Highlands, one of only a few places in the world where barley is grown, fermented and distilled all in the same spot. Or see a working cooperage at Lark Distillery in Pontville, 30 minutes north of Hobart, where single malt is created in buildings that date back to the 1800s.
And because Tasmanian distilling does not shy away from the experimental, on King Island Distillery you can even taste Tiger Tonic Spirit, Australia’s first garlic liquor. Founder and distiller Heidi Weitjens will show you how it can be used for cooking or as an antibiotic when you’re not sipping it with soda and a squeeze of lime.
What else to do on your trip: The Whisky Trails of Tasmania are dotted with great finds. In Bothwell, a 30-minute drive from Lawrenny Estate and an hour’s drive north-west of Hobart, tee off at Ratho Farm, Australia’s oldest golf course. Built in 1822 and now beautifully restored on the atmospheric farm grounds, the course offers 18 holes of links-style play. The farm can also arrange fishing trips to the Clyde River with some advance notice.
On King Island, you’ll want to take the time to taste the famous produce. At Neptune’s Garden, roll up your sleeves and make treats like crayfish-filled cappellacci in a private pasta-making class held in a colourful boathouse in Currie overlooking the ocean.
What to eat: On the Marlborough Highway between the Central Highlands and Launceston, stop for pub food at Great Lake Hotel. Order chef Paul Foreman’s peppered goat’s cheese spaghetti, highland venison or mushroom pot pie.
On King Island, have dinner with a view of Bass Strait. At Wild Harvest, artful plates of poached scallops, quail and duck breast are best finished off with a selection of local cheeses.
Where to stay: Ratho Farm is a great place to pull up stumps in the highlands. Its old farm buildings have been reworked into boutique rooms for couples, families or larger groups.
On King Island, stay at Takari Lodge, which is set on 14 hectares of land. Take walks on the property’s private beach or unwind in the outdoor red cedar hot tub, which like your accommodation, has jaw-dropping views of the ocean.