What’s so special about a Tasmanian winter? Plenty, as you’re about to find out.
Lutruwita Aboriginal land belongs to the Palawa people – the original custodians of the place we now call Tasmania. Visiting their country 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.
Perhaps it’s the French black truffles that take shape in winter like fragrant diamonds, or the annual pagan festival with rituals that may make you blush. Whatever the reason, this list will convince you that a winter trip to Tasmania is officially a no-brainer.
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).
Venture to south Tasmania’s stargazing haven, McHenry Distillery, for the best seat in the house. Located in Port Arthur, this modern Scandi-style accommodation (and brand new observatory) produces an alfresco atmosphere with very little light pollution, granting a great vantage point to witnessing the magic of the Southern Lights.
Though they’re available all year round, you’ll find that different varieties peak at different times of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cider, paganism, indigenous history and a little bit of costume attire – what more could you want out of winter?
Ever dreamt on 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 a 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.
Speaking of whisky, Tasmania’s love of malt liquor manifests in a seven-day long festival in August known as Tasmanian Whisky Week.
The event showcases the states 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Festival of Voices has been bringing joy to Tasmanian winters since 2004. The state’s original marquee event has become known as Australia’s premiere celebration of the voice, attracting audiences of 30,000 people to Hobart over two glorious weeks.
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.
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.
13. Join a Cooking School
Tasmania’s reputation for true source growing makes it an ideal place to find small scale artisans ready to skill share.
Fat Pig Farm is home to gourmet producer 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.
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.