Welcome to Where To Next?—a column by our intrepid globetrotting travel writer, Natasha Bazika. Her insatiable curiosity takes her to lesser-known destinations, away from tourist hotspots, and into the heart of diverse cultures and communities. She invites you to be a virtual companion on an exhilarating expedition, venturing beyond the beaten path. Follow along as she traverses the far corners of the globe, unearthing hidden gems, captivating stories, and delectable culinary delights.
Each instalment of this column will transport you to stunning locales that defy expectations. You’ll witness firsthand the profound beauty of untouched landscapes, the rich tapestry of local traditions, and the soul-stirring connections forged with fascinating people along the way.
I’ve never felt the pangs of envy for someone’s place of origin. During my time in New York, I loved the city and felt embraced by its greatness, just as any ambitious soul who arrives there with a single suitcase and grand dreams would. But the thought of wishing I had grown up there never crossed my mind. Such notions never arose during my adventures abroad, except for one destination—a small island that lies just a 90-minute flight from my childhood home.
Tasmania, the subject of ridicule among northerners, is the place I yearn to call my childhood home. My twelve-year-old self would be astonished by this confession, and even now, I grapple with the idea that amidst all the places I’ve explored and the people I’ve encountered, Tasmania has stolen my heart. And yet, here I am, hopelessly enamoured with an island.
Growing up, uttering the words “Tasmania” would inevitably be followed by a derisive remark about two heads or some other nonsensical taunt whispered under one’s breath. Sydneysiders, Melburnians, Territorians—practically every state in Australia—would turn up their noses at this forsaken state and pay it no heed. Watch TikTok comedian Jimmy Reese’s comical videos, and you’ll readily discern that Tasmania is the youngest sibling, left behind and subject to ridicule. As the youngest in my family, I can relate. However, over the past five years, Tasmania has begun to make its way into conversations on the mainland. It is no longer the punchline.
In the aftermath of the unmentionable year, Tasmania experienced an influx of mainland visitors. While the island had already been steadily growing as a tourism destination over the past few decades, the floodgates opened wide, thrusting this oft-forgotten state into the limelight as Australia’s most sought-after locale. “Come Down for Air” became the rallying cry of Tourism Tasmania designed to entice visitors, a task that proved far from arduous. People arrived by boat and plane, yearning for fresh air, only to discover a haven of gastronomy, viniculture, and untamed landscapes. Some may attribute the tourism boom to David Walsh’s mind-bending MONA, an acid trip of a museum that opened its doors in 2011. Others may credit the marketing campaigns or journalists like myself, extolling the state’s hidden treasures in print and digital. However, I argue that it is the people—the hospitality they radiate, whispered across the globe—that deserve the credit.
My initial sojourn to Tasmania was a monumental one. I spent a week traversing the region, sampling the finest distilleries, eateries, and wineries strewn between Hobart and Launceston. At The Agrarian Kitchen just outside Hobart, I indulged in a farm-to-table feast. In the one-street town of Oatlands, I swirled drams from Callington Mill Distillery, home to the oldest functioning mill of its kind in the southern hemisphere. In Launceston, I kayaked the Cataract River Gorge, sat down for a meal at the legendary Stillwater, and meandered through the markets, procuring artisanal delights to take back home and show off to my dinner guests. At every juncture, I encountered locals or transplants who had relocated here after experiencing the Tasmanian magic for the first time—such is the allure of Tasmania. It captivates you with a glass of fine wine and an extraordinary meal and once ensnared, it refuses to release its grip. But that’s what good hospitality is. That is the essence of Tasmanian hospitality. It instils within you inexplicable envy for cheesemakers and distillers who have had free reign of the island from birth.
Today, I find myself back in Hobart, partaking in more delectable fare and relishing the company of the city. I have the pleasure of meeting Danika Porter, Head of Brand and Marketing—Tourism Portfolio at Federal Group, in the MACq 01, where I’m gratefully being hosted. We find ourselves seated by an open fireplace, nestled on a sumptuous, curved lounge, toasting with glasses of Arras sparkling, poised for a joyful clink. We imbibe, and we converse. Porter is originally from Tasmania. She left at 18 when Colorado called. Since then, Porter has spent her years abroad, in London, and eventually came back to Australia for a stint in Sydney before returning to her home, Tasmania. She waffles on about growing up here. It is during my fifth sip that I inadvertently confess to myself, “Never before have I been so envious of a person’s connection to a place.”
Tasmania is a place where one seeks solace and warmth. Now, if you know anything about Tasmania, you would know that warmth is not a common characteristic during the winter months. Snow blankets the land. And yet, even in the frigid temperatures, the warmth emitted by the people envelops me like a snug blanket. Whether engaging in spirited discussions with vintners at wineries, witnessing their enthusiasm as they pour one bottle after another, purely for my appreciation of their craft, or instantly connecting with a milliner at the Salamanca Markets, who assists me in overcoming my hat-wearing insecurities (which I now proudly embrace), the inhabitants of Tasmania are among the friendliest souls on Earth. I would wager my career on that claim. Perhaps it’s the air or some intangible quality in the water, but in this corner of the world, excellence permeates all aspects of life, from culinary delights to vinicultural wonders and unparalleled hospitality. And it does so with an unassuming grace.
The depth of my affection for Tasmania rivals that of Lake St Clair itself; its echoes resonate through the labyrinthine Gorges and resound from the precipitous jaggedness of Gardiner’s Point—an austere vantage point perched at the literal brink of our world. I admit to never having escorted my fiancé to this insular sanctuary nestled so closely to my heart. Maybe this reluctance stems from my desire to savour this clandestine liaison for a while longer, or perhaps it comes from a profound possessiveness over the manifold experiences we already share—I yearn for Tasmania to be mine and mine alone. Yet, in the journey of self-discovery, I have realised that jealousy is an unwelcome companion. So while planning our perfect romantic trip to the southern island, I thought I would disclose my preferred haunts for wining, dining, and revelry within the twin urban tapestries of Tasmania: Hobart and Launceston—for you.
For breakfast/pastries: Pigeon Hole Cafe
For doughnuts: Lady Hester or Salamanca Doughnuts (on Saturdays at Salamanca Markets)
For pie: Smith’s Specialty Pies (Get the scallop pie, it’s a must)
For pasta: Fico
For a fancy dinner: Landscape Restaurant and Grill
For a romantic dinner: Peacock and Jones
Best hotel breakfast: The Tasman
For art/: MONA
Best tour: Storytelling Tour Macq01
For whisky: Lark Distillery
For gin: Forty Spotted Gin Bar (tip: Salamanca Market is a great place to sample local gins for free)
Best bars: Mary Mary, IXl Long Bar, Void Bar, and Sonny
Outside and In Between
For wine: Mewstone Wines (home to the most beautiful cellar door I’ve seen), Frogmore Creek, and Stefano Lubiana Wines
For something different: Grandvewe (One word: Sheep’s Whey Vodka)
For whisky: Callington Mill Distillery
For foraging: Sirocco South Foraging Tours (book the six-course lunch in the forest, it’s magical)
For history: Cascades Female Factory (Made me cry and is a must-visit)
For a memorable dinner: Stillwater Restaurant
Best market: Harvest Launceston Market
For adventure: Kayak down the Tamar River with Launceston Kayak Tours
For lunch with a view: Josef Chromy Wines
For art: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
For a low-key farm-to-table dinner: Timbre
Best Bars: Geronimo, Saint John Craft Beer Bar, and Bar Two
Best cafes: Bread & Butter Cafe, Cafe Mondello, and Mad Apple Cafe