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Graham Freeman
Photograph: Graham FreemanFriendly Beaches - Freycinet Experience Walk

Tasmania's hidden gems

Discover the secret headlands, islands, pockets, artworks and beaches that make Tasmania beautiful

Written by
Ruth Dawkins
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Many of Tasmania’s attractions are already well known throughout Australia. Visitor numbers at the Port Arthur Historic Site, Cradle Mountain and Wineglass Bay remain high whatever the weather (and in Tassie the weather can be challenging.) But many of the most interesting things to see and do on the island are kept a little quieter. You won’t find any of these places on a picture postcard, but every one of them is worth going out of your way to find, and when you get there it will almost certainly be quiet enough to enjoy.

Our guide to secret Tasmania

Located opposite St David’s Park (near Hobart’s waterfront) and set back from the street down a hidden alley, you have to work hard to track down Hobart’s newest cocktail bar, Mary Mary. The late-night spot is set behind 1800s-era sandstone walls in Hobart’s old Lands and Survey department – the vault-like side doors lead to sister venue and hot new Italian eatery, Peppina. A short but serious cocktail menu is inspired by time and place – the French Arrival, a local take on a martini, is made with native vodka and garnished with a caper berry. Plenty of the building’s original features have been retained, plus the addition of some swanky russet-coloured leather sofas and four (four!) roaring fireplaces.

You need to arrive at sunrise or sunset to see James Turrell’s Amarna in full glory. It’s a large-scale art installation that creates a light show to complement the natural conditions at the start and end of each day, described by the Mona team as “kind of like what God would do if he decided to build a gazebo.” In winter, sunset coincides with the museum’s closing time (hot tip, the seats underneath don’t just offer the best vantage point, they’re heated, too). In summer months the only way to access the work while it’s live is via a dinner booking at on-site restaurant, Faro. If you need further incentive, a Faro booking also grants exclusive access to two additional Turrell works, Unseen Seen and The Weight of Darkness.

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Vintage shopping
Re-Loved Vintage Market

3. Vintage shopping

Tasmania’s op shops are The Bizness. Rule of thumb, the further they are from metro centres, the better the bargains – think old school knits made from actual wool and all the kitsch homewares you can handle. If you’re heading to Maria Island, don’t miss the East Coast Anglican Op-Shop in Triabunna, which is cash only and not far from the ferry terminal. Hobart has some great vintage/consignment stores, too, including Goodbyes on Argyle Street and co-op The Finders on Harrington. If the stars align, catch the Re-Loved Market, which pops up in the K&D carpark on Melville Street once a month. Keep an eye on their socials for dates. 

South Bruny
Photograph: Andrew Wilson

4. South Bruny

Many visitors to Bruny either head for the beach at Adventure Bay or choose to stay on the north end of the island, where there is plenty of local produce to be enjoyed at the Get Shucked Oyster Farm and the Bruny Island Cheese Company. If you’re prepared to brave the gravel roads, then it’s worth and heading down to the south end of the island. There’s excellent seafood at the Hotel Bruny in Alonnah, and a contender for the world’s best cherry cheesecake at Bruny Island Premium Wines in Lunawanna. If you have the time, plan ahead to camp overnight at The Neck and watch fairy penguins come home to roost after dusk

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One of the best little beaches in Tasmania is just 10 minutes’ drive from Wynyard, but outside of peak summer season you can easily find that you’re the only person there. There are pristine white sands and sparkling clear water, with plenty of rock pools for exploring. The small community that has built up around the quiet bay is friendly and welcoming, and the relaxed vibe at Seekers Bar and Cafe at the surf club makes it a great place for calamari and chips and a cold beer at the end of the day. During summer months there’s live music every Sunday from 5pm.

Anchored in the middle of the Bass Strait between Victoria and the northwest coast of Tasmania, King Island is just 64km long and 27km wide. The green pastures make the island a source of excellent dairy products, which you can sample at King Island Dairy, and the surrounding waters provide both great seafood and great surf. You can fly direct from Melbourne, or from airports across Tasmania. There are plenty of cabins and beach houses for rent, but newcomer Kittawa Lodge offers the only luxury eco accommodation on the island. Check-in for panoramic views, French fireplaces, and oversized concrete baths. All this plus a surprisingly wide choice of dining opportunities (for an island with only 1500 residents) mean that KI is the perfect place to escape from it all.

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Track down some tasty Hobart street food
Photograph: Kathryn Leahy

7. Track down some tasty Hobart street food

The Hobart restaurant scene is a vibrant and exciting one, but some of the best food in can be found outside of the traditional establishments. On Sunday mornings, head to the Farm Gate Market on Bathurst Street for Grub Hub, a collection of rotating stalls offering some of the city’s best brunch dishes. It’s a tie between egg hoppers from Lucky’s Sri Lankan Kitchen or the wallaby burrito from Pacha Mama (yep, Tasmanians love to eat wallabies!) If you’re hungry and thirsty, head to Hobart Brewing Co near the waterfront, which shares a large open-air square with a collection of food trucks including Taco Taco, Folksticks (Huo Shao baked buns; Chongqing spicy noodles) and meat between buns at Loaded Dog.

Aurora chasing
Photograph: Paul Fleming

8. Aurora chasing

Tasmania’s clean air and geographical location mean that it has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best places in the world to see the aurora australis, or southern lights. While it’s down to sheer luck whether or not the geomagnetic conditions will lead to a spectacular aurora show during your time here, you can maximise your chances of spotting one by joining the Aurora Australis Tasmania group on Facebook where 100,000+ members share tips on everything from the best secret locations with a clear view of the night sky, to the best settings on your camera to ensure that perfect shot.

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The world's highest commercial abseil at the Gordon Dam
Rob Burnett

9. The world's highest commercial abseil at the Gordon Dam

The Gordon Dam at Strathgordon, about two-and-a-half hour’s drive from Hobart, is your chance to tackle the world’s highest commercial abseil of 140 metres, several metres higher than the Sydney Bridge. It’s an all-day experience in the beautiful surroundings of Tasmania’s south-west wilderness, and while no previous experience is necessary, it’s worth remembering that once you’ve abseiled down, you have to climb back up. Operators Aardvark Adventures also offer a number of white-water rafting opportunities around the state.

Huon Valley
Photograph: Nick Osbourne

10. Huon Valley

Full of fruit orchards, rolling farmland, and roadside produce stalls with honesty boxes, the Huon Valley offers some of Tasmania’s most beautiful scenery. The town of Huonville sits right on the banks of the Huon River and is a treasure trove of antique and bric-a- brac shops. Further on, between the river and the D’Entrecastaux channel lies Cygnet, small town full of artists, musicians and mellow old hippies, many of whom participate in the annual Folk Festival. A much-loved local café, the Red Velvet Lounge provides warm, friendly hospitality. Other good food experiences can be found at the Old Bank Cafe in Cygent and Willie Smith’s Apple Shed at Grove, a refurbished barn serving award-winning cider.

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Maria Island is a truly unique place, with no vehicles, no shops, and no stress. Just off the East Coast of Tasmania, it can be reached by ferry from Triabunna, and once you’re there you can enjoy walking, cycling, snorkelling and wombat spotting. The latter are so plentiful, your Instagram will be overloaded with cuteness. A day trip is possible, but if you want to explore the island more fully you can either camp or stay in basic bunkhouse style accommodation at the Old Penitentiary. If you only do one walk on Maria Island, make it the Painted Cliffs: patterned sandstone rock formations created by the movement of mineral-rich water though the rock, and by the later eroding action of wind and wave. They are astonishing and beautiful.

12. Power paddle through Launceston

Ever wanted to paddle a kayak down the Tamar but felt a bit... well, lazy? Worry no more, because Launceston Kayak Tours has got your back. They run fully guided tours of the Launceston waterfront and kanamaluka / Tamar River on pedal-powered kayaks. Explore the meeting point of three rivers, the Tamar, the North Esk and the beautiful cliff grounds of the South Esk, as a single or a double (there are change rooms available, too, on the off chance that you end up in the swim.)

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Friendly Beaches
Photograph: Graham Freeman

13. Friendly Beaches

Despite the fact that they lie right at the entrance to the Freycinet National Park, the Friendly Beaches only attract a tiny fraction of park visitors. Most people drive straight past the sign and keep going to the more famous Wineglass Bay and beyond. Their loss is your gain, because at the end of a 10-metre walking track you’ll find enough quiet, sandy white beaches to walk on for hours. Beaches are unpatrolled, but fishing and surfing are both popular, and there is camping available in the northern corner of the beach near Isaacs Point. Friendly Beaches are beautiful, remote, wild… and with a name like that, how could you not?

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