During the late afternoon, we arrive in Deloraine and check into a 200-acre former ranch, Calstock Country Retreat. The six-suite bed-and-breakfast is run by Ginette and Remi Bancal, and we're unprepared for the extravagance of food and wine that we find there. Remi, a chef with a pedigree that traces back to Sydney's Banc restaurant and the Ritz in Paris, serves up French-meets-Tasmanian fare—Bruny Island scallops, saffron ice cream—much of it sourced from the estate's own organic garden as well as local producers. The next morning, we're sent on our way, with Remi's food and drink recommendations in hand, to the Tamar wine region. The most important stop is the Daniel Alps restaurant at Strathlynn, a vineyard framed by 100-year-old oak trees and owned by Pipers Brook, Tasmania's most famous winery. Daniel Alps is rumored to be the best place to have lunch in the state, and we're not disappointed; the highlight of the meal is ven- ison served with Swiss brown mushrooms and shaved Parmesan, the earthy flavors complemented by a glass of Pipers Brook Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir. After tasting an abbreviated flight of wines, we reluctantly continue our 21/2-hour trek to Freycinet National Park.
It's a long day of driving from Deloraine to Freycinet, about 90 miles, but we finally make it to Freycinet Lodge. We've booked one of the spa cabins, tucked away in the bush and linked to the main lodge by timber walkways. The luxury here is all about easy access; the lodge's 14 acres lie within the boundaries of the park, overlooking the beaches and granite coastline of Great Oyster Bay, where kayak expeditions set out. On the other side of the isthmus is the much photographed white-sand crescent of Wineglass Bay, Cape Tour-ville Lighthouse to its north. This lookout is the best place to catch the sunrise, and we struggle out of bed before dawn the next morning to do it. Alone at the lighthouse, 500 feet above the crashing waves, we watch the sun pop up like a strobe over the sea.
On our last full day, as we cruise down the Tasman Highway to the capital city of Hobart, we stop for a morning dessert—raspberry ice cream at Kate's Berry Farm. The main attraction here is a small shop and café situated high on a hilltop above the shore town of Swansea. We know the detour is worthwhile when we see locals filing in for their daily fix of tea, hot scones, and blackberry jam.
Late that afternoon, we check into the newly opened Henry Jones Art Hotel—the latest of Flora de Kantzow's creations, located in an old jam factory along the Hobart waterfront. As she did at Hatherley House, de Kantzow takes advantage of historic detail—antique machinery, an original grand staircase—and works in ultra-modern design, such as an all-glass atrium. Our suite is huge, with exposed-wood beams, and the bathroom is an opaque green glass cube with an open shower that takes up half the room. But the Henry Jones was also created to showcase art. Students and staff at the Tasmanian School of Art designed furniture, installations, and prints for the hotel. More than 250 works by these and other Tasmanian artists are on display in the atrium, restaurants, and guest rooms. With its long history, the old factory space seems a fitting place to find such an assemblage of local voices exploring what it means to live here now.
People tend to describe Tasmania in terms of other places. "All the cows and farms remind me of England," or "It's so wild, like New Zealand," or "That bushland looks just like the Serengeti." The locals complain good-naturedly about this, but I see it differently. If Tasmania's lot in life is to be forever compared to something else, that's the sign of a wonderfully elusive quality, one befitting an island culture that shows both a skillful 21st-century design sense and an eco-conscious awareness of its rare natural treasures.
BONNIE TSUI, a former associate editor at Travel + Leisure, writes frequently for the New York Times.