Do You Know About This Mediterranean Island in Australia?

Until recently, my awareness of Tasmania was limited to the Hollywood movie – Lion. I envisioned it to be a cold, remote wet and dark place, with rough seas and bare mountains, leading on to Antarctica.

But I was absolutely wrong!

Tasmania feels a lot like the Mediterranean, because of its climate, scenery and produce.

Light lunch made with local ingredients at Prospect House

Located 150 miles south of mainland Australia, the state of Tasmania is similar in size to Ireland or Sri Lanka, and there are countless offshore islands. It’s true that Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

At first glance, Hobart looks like a smaller version of Auckland, New Zealand. There are Victorian houses, English cottages with wrought iron balconies, a downtown with modern buildings overlooking the harbor, neat looking shops and restaurants along brick roads.

View of Hobart from my room at MACq01

There are lots of unique places to stay in Hobart. In the historic Hobart waterfront, MACq01 is a luxury hotel that looks like a shipyard from the outside, and a museum on the inside. Throughout the halls and across the walls of the hotel you’ll find engaging pieces of history, tales and fables that make up the remarkable history of Tasmania.

The Maylands Lodge is a 12-room heritage home located in the suburbs of Hobart, converted into an upscale hotel, with large suites overlooking a stunning garden. If you want the feeling of staying at an aristocratic home, where you can sit by the fireplace in a gorgeous living room, play a game of chess, or have a glass of whiskey after dinner, book yourself at Maylands.

View from my cabin at Freycinet Lodge

Freycinet Lodge was one of the most unique places I have stayed at. My wood cabin located inside the National Park, had amazing views of Richardson’s Beach, forest and wildlife. With all glass on the sides and roof, indoor fireplace, outdoor tub, it felt like a private and upscale log cabin. On a clear night, you can see some of the best starry skies in the world, right from Freycinet Lodge.

The food scene in Hobart is trendy. Because there’s a big university, you will find students packed in bakeries, ramen, kebab and dessert shops. Even the hotels serve excellent quality farm-fresh food. Tasmania is a small island, yet everyone has a backyard garden or a farm producing their own olives, fruits, nuts, wines and more. The waters are abundant in seafood, and Tasmanian wines and gins are rated some of the finest in the world.

Tasmanian Wild Seafood Adventures

I had quite a few unique experiences in Tasmania, one of which was a half-day tour on a catamaran to catch my own seafood. It was just me and two guys from Tasmanian Wild Seafood Adventures who dove in the ocean to catch mussels, oysters, periwinkles and more. They cooked a feast for me onboard!

Par Avion: Wineglass and Wildlife tour

Another adventure was flying on a 6-seater air plane over the breathtaking Freycinet Peninsula, Wineglass Bay, the seal colony of Ile Des Phoques, to Maria Island, where we landed among wild kangaroos and wombats. There was wine and seafood picnic spread in the national park, as well as free time to walk around and explore.

Lorraine and I taking a break at Pooley Wines

I also visited a couple of wineries and drove past a dozen of them in Tasmania. There are regular wine tours and tastings at Moorilla Estate, adjacent to

Outdoor art at MONA

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), one of the oldest vineyards on the island. I also made a stop at Pooley Wines to taste their light and refreshing Riesling and Chardonnay.

Lunch at The Agrarian Kitchen

One of the best meals I had in Tasmania was at The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery. The chef, who was teaching cooking classes from his home until recently, sources ingredients from a community of local growers, farmers and fishermen, as well as grows himself.

Fall colors in April

In April, leaves were turning colors and daytime temperature was in the 60Fs. Tasmania looked a lot like Tuscany in the Fall time.

How To Rock a Baby Wombat

If you have read some of my earlier posts, you would know that I am a huge proponent of wildlife conservation. So when I had a chance to see kangaroos, wombats and Tasmanian devils up close, I was more excited than a kid!

The famous Tasmanian devil makes loud and disturbing screeching sounds

The island of Tasmania is located southeast of mainland Australia and the last landmass before Antarctica. Only half a million people live on the island, but there are a decent amount of visitors. The island is, however, abundant in wildlife. Tasmania is home to an incredible variety of animals, including four marsupial species that are now found nowhere else in the world. These are the Tasmanian devil, the eastern quoll, the Tasmanian pademelon and the shy Tasmanian bettong. There are also 12 endemic bird species in the state, some of which are among the most endangered in the world.

Located only a few minutes outside the city of Hobart is Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately run and Tasmania’s largest 24/7 Wildlife Rescue Service and sanctuary where you can view many endangered native wildlife and take guided educational tours. Bonorong is not a zoo, as their animals are generally rescued, rehabilitated and released back in the wild. They also built Tasmania’s first Wildlife Hospital in 2018.

You never know what you will see at Bonorong. These are rescued animals, so most of them are not permanent visitors. Wombats, devils, quolls, native birds, koalas, lizards, snakes, kangaroos and emus – are some of the animals you are likely to encounter.

Only a professional like Randall knows how to handle a spiky echidna

During my recent visit, knowledge keeper, Randall, took me on a personal tour to meet Tasmanian devils, a wombat, and echidna. He fed the animals and told me their names and rescue stories – how a female devil was blind, an echidna who had a rare disease and the 18-month old wombat was separated from her mom. This was the only place in Australia I got to see the famous Tasmanian devils, so it was really special!

Isn’t this wombat the cutest thing you have seen?

I had seen wombats in the wild before, but here I cuddled a young female called Millie. She even went belly-up like a puppy right next to me!

The kangaroos are not afraid and will eat off your hands!

Families could walk around among kangaroos, and take as many pictures as they liked.

Bonorong offers public and private tours where you can learn about the animals, feed them, and walk around for up to 3 hours. The night tours are really interesting as many of the animals are nocturnal. All of the money raised through tickets and experiences goes towards maintaining the sanctuary.

Individuals and groups interested in wildlife rescue, animal husbandry, or manual tasks are also welcome to volunteer at Bonorong.

Do You Picture Sydney as a Culinary Destination?

What comes to mind when you think of Australian cuisine? Steaks, meat pies, kangaroos and backyard barbies? Sure, Australians love grilled meats, but there’s a new trend emerging in the Australian dining scene that may surprise you.

According to The Australian, the local population is diverting their income from expensive housing to somewhat affordable dining. People are going out to eat more often, as popularity of celebrity chefs and cooking shows increase. From formal white tablecloth restaurants, to casual cafes, and hole-in-the-wall take-outs, Sydney offers a delicious range of choices to match any budget.

seafood1Sydney is home to many immigrants, which explains the heavy cultural influence on the local food scene. Chefs are well trained in international cuisines. Many have gone on to attain celebrity status. Within the city, you can find some of the best Japanese sushi, Chinese dim sum, homemade Italian pizza and pasta, French patisseries, Indian curry houses, and more. The food is as cosmopolitan as any big city in the world.

But Aussies are not just consumed with eating. The residents of Sydney are health conscious too. You can see people running, walking, biking, and playing sports throughout the day at neighborhood parks and beaches. They like to eat well, exercise, and look good. Recently, there’s been a strong emphasis on eating local and fresh. Most restaurants offer seasonal menus using ingredients sourced from New South Wales. Even the wines and beer are produced in the surrounding areas.

Sydney Fish MarketPhoto courtesy Sydney Fish Market

As prices of meat go up, seafood is becoming the preferred source of protein. Instead of importing fish, Australia has turned to farm raising barramundi, cod, trout, and Australian salmon. The Sydney Seafood School, established in 1989, is the largest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the third largest seafood market in terms of variety in the world. The curriculum includes classes in how to safely handle and prepare seafood. Over 12,000 students come through The Sydney Seafood School each year. Behind-the-scenes tours (held on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) offer a chance to witness seafood tradition on the auction floor and learn about the operations of fisheries.

From fisherman baskets to sushi, here are the top places to enjoy the best catch in Sydney:

seafood2Photo by Sucheta Rawal

• Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters are sourced from the best growers on the New South Wales coast at Catalina Rose Bay
• Chilled in-the-shell succulent Moreton Bay Bug (slipper lobster) at Cafe Sydney in Circular Quay
• Crab Gazpacho with Bloody Mary vinaigrette and salmon caviar at The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room
• Cuttlefish cooked with garlic and chilies at The Fish Shop
• Cone Bay Barramundi with tamarind, coconut, and mint at Flying Fish
• Beer Battered Fish and Chips at North Bondi Fish
• Snapper Pie with Smoked Tomato and Mashed Potato at The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay
• Maine or Connecticut Style Lobster Rolls at Waterman’s Lobster Co.
• Blue Swimmer Crab Lasagna at Manta Restaurant
• Sizzling Garlic Prawns at Sydney Cove Oyster Bar

Sydney Fish MarketPhoto courtesy Sydney Fish Market

What Do To If You Have Only 48 Hours In Sydney

Whether you have a long layover in Sydney, or are planning a weekend getaway, this urban capital of New South Wales is full of exciting choices for food, drinks, sightseeing and adventures. Here are some highly recommended things to do in Sydney based on my recent visit. sydney harbour

Travel like a celebrity. From the airport, ride in style with Astra Limousines. The fleet of luxury cars include Ferrari, Maserati, BMW and Mercedes, driven by friendly chauffers.

Check in at Pier One Sydney Harbour, a contemporary hotel nestled alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and centrally located in the heart of The Rocks, so you can walk to most attractions. The lobby looks like an upscale cabin, and the rooms are spacious with modern amenities. Breakfast is served in a homely setting at The Gantry, where you can grab yogurt and juice from the refrigerator, eggs and farm dishes from the kitchen counter, and fresh baked breads and homemade jellies off the buffet table.
Book your stay at Pier One through TripAdvisor

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Acquaint yourself with the city through an aerial tour with Sydney Seaplanes. Taking off from Australia’s first international airport at Rose Bay, this 15-minute ride will give you breathtaking views of the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, Sydney skyline, million dollar mansions, world famous Bondi Beach, and stunning sandstone cliffs rising abruptly from the sea.

catalina restaurant sydneyA Sky/Fly package will include lunch at neighboring, Catalina Rose Bay Restaurant, where you can continue to watch seaplanes take off throughout your meal. This iconic family-run establishment is known for serving the highest quality of locally sourced meat, seafood and wines. Enjoy house specialties like oysters on the shell, sushi, snapper and caramelized figs with salted caramel. Taste the light and dry Australian rieslings as you bask in the crisp Sydney sun.

After lunch, take a stroll at Bondi Beach, the city’s only in-town beach where residents flock to. At any time of the day, you can find people surfing the waves, walking their dogs, and exercising. Though the beach is not very long (a 10 minutes walk from end to end), it is a spot to catch the action in the summer.

Head over to see some of the touristy spots of the city – Royal Botanic Gardens, Circular Quay and The Rocks. Guided tours are offered at the Sydney Opera House, and the outdoors cafes are a great place to take a break as you watch the sunset.

sydney opera house

Visit the neighborhood of Potts Point, home to some of the trendiest cafes, restaurants and boutiques that are comparable to those in New York City or Paris. Don’t be surprised if you run into a superstar or two, as many of them live in this area. Grab a cocktail at MONOPOLE, a swank bar featuring over 500 rare and boutique wines.

Dinner at Missy French is a must. The classic French dishes are cooked using local ingredients, with a slight modern twist imparted by local celebrity chef, Josephine Perry. Try the flavorful grilled garlic prawns, goat cheese salad, and tender trout. All of the desserts, including the luscious creme brûlée are to die for.

After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, start the day with a thrilling adventure at the Sydney Tower Eye. Experience bird’s eyes views of the city from the observatory, or go outside for the Skywalk. You will be tied to a harness as you feel the Pacific winds in your hair, walking 268 metres above. Sunset is perhaps the busiest and the loveliest time to be here.

It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best lunch spots downtown is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. CHISWICK at The Gallery boasts a contemporary dining room, casual bar area with a large communal table, and views overlooking Woolloomooloo and Sydney Harbour. Menu includes an extensive wine and cocktail list, small plates and few mains.

CHISWICK at The GalleryExplore the souvenir shops at Darling Harbour and Circular Quay Eastern Pontoon, from there you can catch a whale watching excursion. The Fantasea Adventure Cruising takes you on an unbelievable adventure to spot hump back whales. Note, the waters can be quite rough at times and sea sickness is not uncommon.

The CBD area is a good place to people watch as they hustle through crowds after work. On George St, you can see a mix of British and Romanesque Revival architecture, as well as old colonial buildings and glass skyscrapers. If you’re interested in staying in the CBD area, be warned, it can be a little pricey if you don’t book early. So make sure to check out these qantas hotel deals sydney cbd, and you could save yourself a pretty penny!

sydney downtown

While there are many cool restaurants in Sydney, an unusual dinner experience can be had at the Sydney Seafood School. Located at the Sydney Fish Market, which is the second busiest seafood market second to Tokyo, beginner to advanced classes are offer daily. After a hands-on class taught by some of Australia’s celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and restauranteurs, you will be able to enjoy your meal with newly made friends. If you come early in the morning, you can also see the seafood market and trading in action.

There is so much more to do in and around Sydney, and this brief narrative no way serves to summarize a complete list of attractions. If you have anything else to add to this brief Sydney travel guide, please leave a comment below for our readers.