Living on an island comes with plenty of difficulties, and while the isolation and the need for resourcefulness can make life challenging, it can also provide benefits when it comes to the quality of local food. Look at Tasmania, for example: located just south of the mainland, Australia’s smallest state is characterized by locally grown delicacies, attracting the attention of serious chefs, and fueling the growth of new boutique restaurants, craft distilleries and artisan cheeses.
There’s more to the Apple Isle than, well, apples. And while those in the Australian food industry are becoming more aware of Tasmania’s culinary prowess – Tasmanian wines are now even offered on Qantas flights – it isn’t garnering attention among international, food-obsessed travelers in the way that classic gastronomical destinations do, despite a major surge in tourism over the last few years.
As a small island, ‘Tassie’ has traditionally relied on self-sustenance to survive, which means the state is filled with small-production farms and locally sourced perishables. “Farm-to-table,” “artisanal” and “small-batch” have all become glorified marketing term these days, as producers and destinations vie to brand themselves as sustainable hand-crafters – but in Tasmania, such terms accurately depict the way things have always been done. And because the island is not densely populated, the water, air and soil are free from the kind of pollutants found around larger cities, so clean food doesn’t have to travel far from where it’s raised to where it’s eaten.
Because it’s largely cost effective for Tasmanian producers to stick with making small batches for local restaurants and businesses, much of it will never find its way off the island. If experiencing Tasmanian food is the goal, then it’s time to schedule a trip straight to the source.
With so many unique microclimates, the list of what’s cooking is long, but here is a rough guide to sampling some of the best of what Tassie has to offer:
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
According to Good Food, “the value of David Walsh’s world-class and world-beating art gallery-cum-labour-of-love to Tasmania’s contemporary appeal cannot be understated,” and even this statement on understatement is understated. Hop aboard a camouflaged catamaran in Hobart to visit this spectacular place, and if The Cloaca exhibit hasn’t politely done away with your appetite, stop by The Source Restaurant to try fresh, seasonal cuisine and one of 10,000 bottles of wine they’ve stocked up on.
Sullivan’s Cove Distillery and Southern Wild Distillery
Schedule a distillery tour of Sullivan’s Cove near Hobart and try American Oak, which was recently dubbed the world’s best single malt whisky by the World Whiskies Awards. Tours and tastings cost $40 AUD, and should be booked in advance. Gin fans will want to head to Southern Wild Distillery in Devonport to sample this beautifully-bottled booze.
A great way to experience the range of Tasmanian cuisine is to head to the restaurants that sell it, rather than finding each item at its source around the state (though if you’re inclined to do this, go for it). Stillwater Cafe is an upscale eatery that defines itself as “Contemporary Tasmanian cuisine,” skipping past the more general Australian category altogether. Seasonal menus feature items like oysters and abalone, wallaby, wasabi, cheeses, and all the other foods for which Tasmania is known. It’s also the perfect place to look through the many beverages brewed in Tasmania, including wine, gin, whisky, soda and even locally made sparkling water.
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm
Halfway between Launceston and Cradle Mountain is the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, a delightfully bustling farm-slash-restaurant that incorporates raspberries into its meals almost to the point of just serving up whole plates of the local fruit. Among the variety of other delicious produce found on Tasmania, raspberries stand out with their juiciness, rich flavor, and beautifully bold color. Christmas Hills exists almost in homage to raspberries, so there’s no better place to go to sample them. Pro tip: buy a healthy amount of the raspberry jam to take back home.
Leatherwood is endemic to Tasmania, meaning it grows nowhere else, and when bees turn the plant’s nectar into honey, you get a smooth, aromatic product stocked with a buttery-yet-balsamic flavor and a whole lot of antioxidants.Leatherwood honey can be found on menus throughout Tasmania, and although there are several brands to choose from, it can also be bought directly from a honey processing factory in Mole Creek.
The Taste of Tasmania food festival
If you’re short on time but still want to sample everything, head to this year’s 30th annual Taste of Tasmania, a food festival that takes place around New Year’s Eve in Hobart. Here local farmers offer samples of leatherwood honey, black truffles (which were discovered less than 20 years ago), a plethora of cheeses, the juiciest berries on the planet, wine for days, and award-winning spirits, among so many other offerings local to Tasmania.
Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail
Options for Tasmania’s food and wine are too numerous to pick from, though this tasting trail may be the best way to sample as much of it as possible. Between olives and coffee, vineyards and restaurants, there is no end to what Tasmania has to offer the human palate. No matter what you select, Tasmania’s food and wine culture will come through in full force, and securely cement itself as a paradise for food lovers.