When to go?
In summer, the quiet time is just before Christmas. Go to Cradle Mountain and Queenstown and all that before the rest of the crowds start piling in from Boxing Day onward.
If you insist on going to Cradle Mountain with the rest of humanity on the day after Boxing Day or similar, park at the visitor centre, be prepared to queue for a shuttle bus for 30 minutes or longer, and head for Dove Lake (the last stop) or the stop before if you want a longer walk. Get back on the bus at Dove Lake. In fact, you don’t really have a choice. If you don’t join the queue at Dove Lake for the return shuttle, you won’t get back to the visitor centre, because every bus back from Dove Lake will be full.
Queenstown has a cute little Christmas eve parade along the main street around 6pm. Enjoyable even if you don’t have kids. Also definitely book in on the Mount Lyell underground mine tour* (unless you’re claustrophobic), because how often do you get to go down into a real, working mine with a guide who’s a former employee? Maybe I’m just a heavy industry tragic, but I thought it was a highlight.
*The tour details aren’t on the internet, but ring the tourist info centre and they will have them.
If you can stand to return to civilisation, the 28th is a good day to be in Hobart so you can brag that you saw the winner of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race cross the line. Short Beach is a good place to watch from, if it’s not raining, and while you’re waiting for the boats you can watch other people’s dogs exercising (and maybe score a pat or two).
The Taste festival will be on at this time, too. Go for an afternoon and get it out of your system. If you can stand the gawpers constantly violating your personal space (honestly, we’re you people raised in a barn?) and then the lack of comfortable/clean/available seating and the overpriced, user-unfriendly stall food, good on you. But why not pop down to Vermey’s Quality Meats on Sandy Bay Road and buy some wallaby burgers to BBQ yourself at the beach (other BBQ supplies available at Coles or Woolies, also on Sandy Bay Road a mere paper plate’s throw away)? Or get fresh, properly handled seafood on a real plate from Blue Eye, across the street just outside the festival itself? Or pop into Wursthouse for some schmancy picnic supplies (French camembert, the real deal)?
New Year’s Eve: Picking a fireworks viewing point was tricky, but for future reference you want to be looking north out over Sullivan’s Cove. If you’re on the south or west side of the Elizabeth St Wharf your view could be completely obscured. Go early and get a good pozzie near the big yachts if you can. Avoid the Taste festival, which only has a view from the side of the warehouse that faces the cove, and at any rate charges for tickets that night.
Salamanca markets: Better than your usual tourist markets. Out of all the wood stalls I liked the wood guy in the barrow at the far eastern end. Also in the good find category, Henk Berg leather bags. Expensive, but I’d say worth it. If you like a style but the colour you want isn’t available, you can place an order at the stall and get free shipping anywhere in Australia. (Related: I bought a handbag!)
Hellyers Road in Burnie is the nicest to visit, and you can purchase various size bottles of the different varieties. Also not as expensive as Lark in Hobart. Lark has a good list of domestic and Scotch whiskies, but at tourist prices. Nant need to work on their visitor strategy. And their website. (Seriously, who still has a Flash entry page with no option to skip?) We didn’t get to taste their product, and their stall at Salamanca markets (one cask, two bottles, a thin stack of brochures and a pull-up banner) didn’t inspire confidence. By all means, you should go to Bothwell, where Nant are located. The architecture in Bothwell is classic colonial sandstone and you can get a lovely lunch at Elm Corner Cafe seven days a week (a welcome find on new year’s day!). While you’re lunching, ring ahead to Nant to check they’re open. If you drive up the road to check, you won’t find out they’re closed until you’ve driven all the way down the dirt road to the entrance to the visitor’s carpark.
Heavy Industry Spotters Guide
The Norsk Skog newsprint mill in Boyer, a little bit up the Derwent from Hobart.
The Nyrstar zinc smelter in Hobart (gawk at it from the MONA ferry).
Cascade Brewery is apparently classified as a micro-brewery, but enthusiasts of 70s architecture (the barley silos), giant vats and beer will appreciate the tour. Go on a Monday through Thursday to see the brewery in action at its busiest – it’s operational from 7 to 3, five days a week.
Telecoms buffs, try Mount Nelson in Hobart (the old semaphore station) and Mount Wellington, also in Hobart (a traditional steel frame tower and a concrete monolith of unspecified purpose – pictured above).
Cheese and wine
Take a cooler bag to Yondover goat cheesery north of Launceston. It’s a good place to stop for lunch or a snack, too (goat milk lemon curd tart, anyone?)
Janz do free shipping anywhere in Australia for six or more bottles purchased from their cellar door, and their cellar door price is $20 a bottle for the NV curvee. Budget accordingly, and have your dear friends’ and relatives’ address details handy.
The triumvirate of the cheese, berry and chocolate places between Launceston and Devonport are in cahoots, and I don’t especially recommend them. They’re not bad (although what was that awful smell at the cheese place?) but they’re not remarkable either.
When you never want to leave
But Prue, you say, I don’t want to go on holiday, I want to buy a b&b and pretend every day is a holiday. Well, my delusional workaholic friend, you’re in luck! The Ross Bakery Inn is for sale, and if baking isn’t your thing, so is the Mole Creek Guest House and restaurant (listing here).
The more mercenary investors among you should purchase three or four (not two) bedroom houses in Queenstown and let them out to moderately cashed-up mining families so you can travel back every year to inspect your investment property and more of beautiful Tasmania.