AT’s Sofia Strandberg escapes the hustle and bustle of Sydney to find a moment’s valuable peace in Tasmania – an experience we should all consider more often.

A Long Weekend of peace in Tasmania 

Sofia Strandberg escapes the hustle and bustle of Sydney to find a moment’s valuable peace in Tasmania – an experience we should all consider more often. 

A bright blue sky and a cold breeze greet us as we step off the plane. Once again I’m struck by Australia’s great diversity: it’s only a two-hour plane ride from Sydney to Hobart, yet I get the feeling we’re in a different country altogether.

The air is fresh and so sharp it’s lightly pinching our cheeks. There are four of us, three girls and one guy, all first-time visitors to Tasmania in search of relaxation – and a change from our mundane city lives. The sun’s not so generous with its heat here but at least it’s present, which is a great change from Sydney’s seemingly endless rainy weeks.

As we cross the Hobart Bridge, the Wrest Point Hotel stands prominently on its distant headland. The tall cylinder is definitely not Australia’s greatest architectural achievement. Nevertheless, it’s the home of the nation’s oldest casino, with great views of both the harbour and looming Mt Wellington. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, even if the interior design seems like an ongoing tribute to the ‘80s.

As we arrive, it becomes clear that we’re in for some high-end treatment without the stuffy intimidation, as friendly staff quickly whisk away our bags and greet us with a “how yous going?”

Our first stop for the day is the Cascade Brewery, a 15-minute drive further up the hills surrounding Hobart. The beautiful sandstone building, set among three acres of Heritage Gardens, is a fully operational worksite, so we’re prompted to wear flat, enclosed shoes and long pants. The tour is $18 per person, which includes three precious tokens that entitle you to the equivalent amount of beer samplers at the end.

Dressed in fluoro vests and safety glasses, we follow the lead of an energetic young guide delivering a well-rehearsed spiel about Cascade’s long history and the complex and delicate process of beer making. Although interesting, the girls are soon yawning and fidgeting. My companions are obviously more interested in sampling the fresh brew than learning about it. When our class is finally dismissed, we rush to the bar only to discover that the size of the sampler is smaller than we expected; rather than a pint glass it looks more like a large shot glass. On reflection, having such high expectations was a bit naive of us.

On Saturday we head to Salamanca markets, famous for their local food produce, jewellery, clothes and woodcarvings, all tucked in among the old sandstone buildings that line the harbour.

We buy some Leatherwood honey, locally produced goat’s cheese and homemade chocolates, later to be devoured in front of the telly at the hotel.

For Sunday brekkie we pick a restaurant smack in the heart of it all down at Salamanca Place.

It’s called Zum Salamanca, and I’m a little fearful that it might be a tourist trap, but we take the chance. Its sandstone walls, combined with beige, white and chocolate colours, form a soft and inviting interior, brightened up with the odd maroon detail.

Out back there’s a small sun-drenched courtyard. The waiter’s perhaps not the cheeriest of chaps but he makes up for it by being quick and professional. The food’s nice and the coffee okay, so as far as traps go, I get the impression even a local wouldn’t mind being lured in here.

Next we cram into our hire car and head to Bruny Island, a small wildlife haven 40km southeast of Hobart, with long white beaches and endless views of the ocean.

A vehicular ferry departing from Kettering runs several times a day and takes you over in just half an hour. We follow a winding, varyingly sealed and unsealed road along open grass fields scattered with eucalypts.

On the road towards Adventure Bay we stop at the Hot House Café, a secluded, modest-looking eatery on a hill overlooking the island. We plonk ourselves by a table in the lush garden and enjoy some great home cooking. A place like this in Sydney would attract a great deal of pushing and shoving in the hunt for a table – but in Tasmania we’re more than happy to enjoy the serenity without the crowds.

On our way back there’s not enough room on the ferry, so several cars (including ours) are left stranded for an hour and half until the ferry returns.

To pass the time, we watch the sun set over layers of soft, rolling hills far in the distance. As the world falls still, the temperature drops. In an instant the air is sharp again, leaving us with red noses and rosy cheeks. Tall eucalypts along the shoreline form jet-black silhouettes against a deep orange sky. The only light comes from the jetty, where locals have gathered to fish off the pier. Here, waiting is a joy for all senses.

On our last day we head northwest past New Norfolk, a tiny town about 30 minutes’ drive from Hobart. Following the Derwent River, the road winds up and down the hillsides, past open grass plains scattered with clusters of trees dressed in soft autumn colours. In the distance a light fog enfolds densely tree-clad hilltops.

As the river narrows we arrive in the small community of Westerway. We stop at The Possum Shed, a small café among a few houses on an otherwise empty stretch of road.

Clinging to the riverbank, the café’s the perfect place to spot the local platypus. We’re told he was up on the bank just this morning, scratching and rolling in the mud. Expectantly we peer out over the water, but there’s no sign of him. Instead, a lonely water bird strides determinedly across the bank.

When our food arrives, the missing platypus is quickly forgotten. Homemade, hearty pumpkin soup, followed by a warm apple, macadamia, and ginger crumble with ice-cream. It’s the perfect finish to our long weekend.

On our way back to the airport, the landscape’s bathed in warm evening light. Grazing cattle cast long shadows over the fields and black crows fly hastily across the sky. Thoughts of having to work the next morning are pushed aside; at least for a few more hours we can pretend we’re somewhere far, far away.

When we land in Sydney, the rain’s drizzling down and the air’s heavy with humidity, making our sundrenched long weekend seem surreal. The noise from the constant traffic hum, the neon lights and the towering buildings, all parts of the familiar and everyday backdrop of the city, now suddenly seem so intrusive, so demanding.

But I guess that’s one of the reasons why we travel, to put things in perspective, one way or the other. 

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