Tasmania in winter is pure magic. If heading to Tassie isn’t on your bucket list, it definitely will be after this.
Visiting Tasmania at any time of the year is a sight to behold, but there’s something about winter that stimulates the senses on a whole other level. Tassie has a special feel about it that truly takes hold in winter. The air is crisp, and falling snow dusts the mountains and eucalyptus trees. Festivals celebrate apple cider, chocolate, singing and the winter solstice. Clear nights are ideal for stargazing and seeing the southern lights of the Aurora Australis. It’s also the perfect season for a sip of Tasmanian whisky by a cosy open fire.
Whatever it is that entices you to a winter trip in Tasmania, there are so many extra surprises that will keep you coming back for more.
1. Experience the Southern Lights
Did you know Australia has its very own natural phenomenon that rivals the Northern Lights? Tasmania’s Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, happens when the sun releases a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields into space, also known as CME (coronal mass ejections).
The best seat in the house is at McHenry Distillery in Port Arthur, where you’ll not only get to see the Southern Lights, but you’ll be living it up in modern Scandi-style accommodation (with a brand new observatory) that produces an alfresco atmosphere with very little light pollution, granting a great vantage point to witnessing the magic of the Southern Lights.
Head down to Tassie to see the Aurora Australis. (Image: Dietmar Kahles)
2. Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival
In wintertime, the Huon Valley, which lies 40 minutes south-west of Hobart, is cold, dark and foggy, and its agricultural community is prone to a little sleepiness. In an attempt to wake up winter, the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival was born.
Time your visit to the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Fest. (Image: Lusy Productions)
Held in July at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed – a cider house, cafe, museum and live music venue housed in a rustic barn on the outskirts of Huonville – the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is a pagan-inspired celebration of the region’s apple-growing history.
The festival is held in July at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed. (Image: Lusy Productions)
Cider, paganism, indigenous history and a little bit of costume attire – what more could you want out of winter?
The Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival is a pagan-inspired celebration. (Image: Lusy Productions)
3. Tasmanian Whisky Week
Tasmania is the whisky destination of Australia, and for one week, every year, the dedicated locals can get together and share their stories and passion for whisky and spirits with people from around the world.
The seven-day long festival in August is known as Tasmanian Whisky Week. Even if you are not a whisky aficionado (yet), there’s plenty to entice you along the way with fascinating stories, sublime flavours, and those pristine Tasmanian landscapes.
The event showcases the state’s colourful cast of craft distillers who are turning grass seed into gold in locales that range from tin sheds to historic stables, convict-built mill houses to unassuming warehouses in Hobart’s industrial estate.
Tasmanian Whisky Week runs annually in August. (Image: Lusy Productions)
4. Strip off at Dark Mofo
Dark Mofo defines itself by just how different it is from every other mainstream festival in Australia.
Hosted by the equally peculiar and fascinating MONA, the festival celebrates darkness in all its literal and metaphorical incarnations through grand-scale, multi-discipline public art performances, such as crossbreed music, theatre and film events. Held over seven days around June’s Winter Solstice, most (mainly night-time) performances happen in pop-up spaces around Hobart.
Get lost in the crowd at Dark Mofo. (Image: Lusy Productions)
The winter feast is a foodie must-do, while the annual nude solstice swim is an option for the fearless. You may not like or even understand everything that you see, but you’ll certainly be talking about it afterwards.
The Winter Feast is the food component of Hobart’s annual Dark Mofo winter festival. (Image: Adam Gibson)
5. Go truffle hunting
Dwelling in the secret darkness of Tasmania’s fertile soil, French black truffles take shape in winter like fragrant diamonds. June 1 marks the official start of truffle season, and a trip to Tasmania grants you access to the pick of the season.
In 1999, Tim Terry harvested Australia’s first black truffle from the rich soil of his Deloraine farm. Since then his business, Tasmanian Truffles, has become the country’s premium producer. Visit the spot to join the fun, and to meet Doug – the ever-faithful, truffle-obsessed golden Labrador – chief forager and hunter.
Indulge in the finest Tasmanian black truffles. (Image: Jamie Roberts)
6. Get Shucked on Bruny Island
When Joe Bennett took a punt on an oyster farm on Tasmania’s Bruny Island he couldn’t have predicted how his pristine product would take off; Get Shucked Oysters has been a real Bruny success story.
Get Shucked Oysters has been a real Bruny Island success story.
Though they’re available all year round, you’ll find that different varieties peak at different times of the year. If you’re visiting in winter, Pacific varieties are at their best, being in season between April and September.
Buy oysters at the stunning Bruny Island location fresh, shucked or unshucked. Try an oyster Bloody Mary at the Oyster Bar and experience the wonder of what may be Australia’s first and only oyster drive-thru.
The beautiful Bruny Island is the home of Get Shucked. (Image: Jess-Bonde)
7. Meet the ghosts of Port Arthur
Port Arthur by day is an alarmingly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. It’s an outdoor museum without any sense of fakeness, featuring 30 original convict-constructed buildings including prison wards, sentry boxes and guards’ homes.
By night, the strange and intriguing convict era is illuminated. Port Arthur’s role in all this was particularly dark – the penitentiary was built by the 12,500 inmates it eventually housed. Every corner of the moody, historic site has a story to tell – and they’re never very pleasant. Inmates here had to stay silent at all times and wear head masks while exercising.
The incredible Port Arthur Ghost Tour is a lantern-lit 90-minute tour that takes place Thursday to Saturday evenings at 5:30pm and 7:30pm. You’ll be regaled by tales of paranormal activity as you’re guided through Port Arthur’s more infamous buildings. Prepare to be spooked and even walk away with your own ghost story to tell.
As the sun sets, come out to the dark grounds of the Port Arthur Historic Site for your 90-minute, lantern-lit Ghost Tour. (Image: Alastair Bett)
8. Snowshoe the Overland Track
During winter months, the high peaks and valleys receive a generous dusting of snow, transforming the Overland – and surrounding Cradle Mountain National Park – into a glorious winter wonderland. The trail is much quieter, lakes are frozen and your experienced guide will help bring the track to life and teach first-time snowshoers the finer points of this popular style of alpine travel.
AT’s Deputy Editor Imogen Eveson mused that “walking the Overland Track through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park covered in snow was physically challenging but pure magic, and a chance to see this remarkable landscape in a way that very few people do.”
Get a taste of The Overland Track in winter.
9. Spend a night on Satellite Island
Ever dreamt of staying on your very own private oasis? If your answer is yes, now is the time to head to Tasmania’s delightfully isolated and luxurious Satellite Island.
Once home to a reclusive poet and writer, it is now on offer as a dreamy coastal-luxe waterside retreat that sleeps up to eight guests.
Adventure seekers can take on the 1.5-hour walk along Satellite Island’s ancient Rock Shelf, immersing themselves in the location’s rugged landscape. Then, light a fire on the pebble beach, enjoy the sunset with a dram of whisky and watch the wild seals play.
Spend a night on Satellite Island. (Image: Adam Gibson)
10. Do the Enchanted Walk
Visit Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and follow the Enchanted Walk through a rainforest bejewelled with frost. This is an easy 20-minute 1.1-kilometre circuit. A walk to suit all age groups, it will take you through buttongrass moorland before entering cool temperate rainforest along the edges of Pencil Pine Creek.
Along the track are three interpretive tunnels that kids and kids at heart will find fun to crawl through. Along the western bank of the Pencil Pine Creek you will come across several wombat burrows just on the edge of the track. You are most likely to spot wombats around dusk and dawn.
Find a cascading river, wombat burrows and magical old-growth rainforest along the Enchanted Walk inside Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. (Image: Paul Fleming)
11. Take a tour of Sarah Island
Gordon River Cruises will give you a front-row seat to the action of Sarah Island, detailing the tales of fear and dread on this dimly lit, blustery atoll with a dark convict history.
Known to Aboriginal people as Langerrareroune, but called ‘Sarah Island’ by the British who operated a penal colony on the site back in the early 1800s, the island is a remote and isolated playground ready and waiting to be explored.
Take a tour of Sarah Island with Gordon River Cruises. (Image: courtesy of RACT Destinations)
12. Join the Festival of Voices
Festival of Voices has been bringing joy to Tasmanian winters since 2004. The state’s original marquee event has become known as Australia’s premier celebration of the voice, attracting audiences of 30,000 people to Hobart over two glorious weeks.
Join the Festival of Voices held at various locations. (Image: Lusy Productions)
The program focuses on the power of song, offering concerts, workshops and choir packages that all unite vocalists and choristers together. The event culminates in a closing bonfire, where thousands of people sit and partake in a group singalong – all abilities are encouraged to participate.
The Big Sing Bonfire at Festival of Voices. (Image: Lusy Productions)
13. Try some local wines at the Bottle Tops Festival
Returning for its sixth instalment, the charming Bottle Tops Festival in Hobart is a winter delight.
With some of Australia’s most thought-provoking small producers of wine, beer and spirits, along with leading importers of artisan wines into the country, Bottletops is also welcoming its first “international” visitors with a small contingent from New Zealand heading over this year!
Peter Cooksley and his team will again be providing the food for the day, and even better yet, the ticket price includes tasting for the afternoon (200 + on display), coupled with snacks. Um yes, please!
With music, an on-site bottleshop to take home anything that caught your eye (or tastebuds), and the after-party all included in the ticket, Bottle Tops is a must-attend for your winter trip.
14. Join a Cooking School
Tasmania’s reputation for true source growing makes it an ideal place to find small scale artisans ready to skillshare.
Fat Pig Farm is home to gourmet producers Matthew Evans and Sadie Chrestman. Together, they operate their 70-acre family farm in the Huon Valley, south of Hobart. Since 2011, the one-time apple orchard has been serving as a farmhouse table, cookery school and lunch venue. Browse the calendar of special events and see what you can come up with.
Visit Fat Pig Farm, Huon Valley. (Image: Chris Phelps)
Venture a little further afield to Flinders Island, where the gourmet retreat at Cooma House Cooking School will have your kitchen skills finessed by the time you can say Tasmania. Make pasta from scratch or curries-not-from-a-jar. Make jams or relishes from seasonal surplus garden produce.
15. Get cosy by the fire
Wherever it is you’ve decided to go on your Tasmanian winter adventure, the only thing that could make it even better is a luxurious, cosy stay to return to after the excitement of the day. Cuddle up next to a roaring fire or watch the sky ablaze with stars. Here are some of our favourites.
Pumphouse Point is a hotel inside an abandoned electrical station, on top of a lake, in the middle of a World Heritage-listed wilderness. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Experience a stay at Pumphouse Point. (Image: Adam Gibson)
If you’re the kind of traveller who likes to say “I’ve been there” way before anyone else, book the weekend at this Art Deco former hydro sub-station; built in the ‘40s and decommissioned in the ‘90s.
There are 12 suites inside the Pumphouse, six in the Shorehouse and The Retreat on the water’s edge. Many of Pumphouse Point’s rooms sport floor-to-ceiling water views – thanks to its position 250 metres out on the lake – so you can make the executive decision to stay in and stare or head out on a nature walk around Lake St Clair. Inevitably you’ll probably end up cosying up around the flickering fire and deep seats of the Pumphouse Lounge anyway.
In the middle of Tasmania, on the southern hemisphere’s deepest lake, awaits a wilderness experience: Pumphouse Point. (Image: Emilie Ristevski)
The Saffire Freycinet lodge is located in pretty native bushland adjacent to Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s east coast, a 2.5-hour drive from Hobart. With panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, a curved cathedral ceiling that creates a dramatic sense of space, and the lodge’s impressive fireplace ablaze, there is little reason to budge from one of the window-facing armchairs, where you can relax and watch the weather come in.
Saffire Freycinet rises from its surroundings as a premium boutique property that is truly in touch with the beauty and depth of nature. (Image: Supplied Courtesy of Saffire Freycinet)