Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


MONA, Museum of Old & New Art – Hobart, Tasmania, Dec 2014

“Oooh, you must visit MONA – you’ll love it!”

‘Really? How do you know that?’ I thought to myself, fighting down a childish impulse to resolve not to go – or if I end up going (dragged, kicking and screaming – metaphorically, of course) to not like it, simply to prove them wrong.

Unsubstantiated claims get my back up.

But on this occasion, they turned out to be correct.

I started to think there might be something there worth seeing after reading this post from Jules, who was visiting with her family (also from Melbourne).

If, at the end of this, you think you might also want to visit, then my first tip is: if it’s peak season (i.e. school holidays) don’t queue up at Constitution Dock to catch the Mona Roma MR-1 (catamaran) 15min before it’s due to depart and hope to get onboard. You may be lucky, but you are more likely to be disappointed. Purchase your tickets in advance – at the ticket booth or online.

Lining up to buy Posh Pit tickets for the MONA ROMA MR-1 at the booth at Constitution Dock - Hobart, Tasmania

Lining up to buy tickets for the MONA ROMA MR-1 at the booth at Constitution Dock.

MONA Roma bus was available to take people who couldn't fit aboard the MR-1

MONA Roma bus was available to take people who couldn’t fit aboard the MR-1

Tip two: Buy tickets for the Posh Pit if you can!

No, they’re not cheap, but it was very nice. Also, Posh Pit ticket holders “enjoy a complimentary, half-hour private introduction to Moorilla with a tasting of [their] Pinot noir in our Barrel Room, 12.30pm Wednesday-Monday.” Unfortunately we were visiting on a Tuesday, otherwise we would have liked to have done this tasting. (If this is something that interests you, please confirm prior to booking that this offer is still available to avoid disappointment.) 

Serenaded with background music striking just the right tone and volume, a few glasses of bubbly and a shared plate of truly delicious morsels later, we arrived in just 30min at David Walsh’s dungeon known as the Museum of Old and New Art (or ‘MONA’ to everyone) to explore the diverse collection, and attempt to use the artwork as life-sized images from a 3D View-Master to peer into David’s mind.

Disembarking from the MR-1, passengers are confronted with the 99 steps leading up to the mirrored entrance. I would have liked to have taken a little more time to appreciate the atheistic of this section (and that was before I read about the amount of consideration that went into their design!), but it started to rain again so we hurried along with everyone else.

We already knew that the museum starts at the bottom, but the main entrance (and lockers for backpacks and umbrellas) are on the top (‘ground’) level with a shop and cafe that enjoys very good views across Berriedale Bay to Mt Wellington to the south, and along the Derwent River to the east.

Having presented our MONA tickets (purchased with our return ferry rides on the MR-1), we descended the spiral staircase in the middle of the building.

Descending into the depths of MONA around the glass elevator shaft

Descending into the depths of MONA around the glass elevator shaft

You probably know by now; I love rocks.

I’ve mentioned it before, usually as justification to post photos of forests full of huge granite boulders.

Well, have I also mentioned that it’s not just outdoor rock, but indoor stone that I love?

They didn’t intend the building to be an attraction, but Stephen and I agree it’s probably the ‘installation’ most worth viewing. Built on a tight budget, the architectural style is ‘industrial’. Some people may be turned off by the concrete floors and pillars, the exposed concrete waffle slab ceilings; but I liked seeing the bones of the building. And I’m not turned off by brutalist styles, which might help. If not thought through properly this style might look unfinished and poorly constructed… but here, they’ve made it work.

And there’s no way – no way – they could ever have allowed that huge and stunningly gorgeous Jurassic sandstone to be disguised. Perfectly illuminated, it brings warmth, life and colour to what might otherwise be perceived as a stark and artificial subterranean environment.

Having queued and received our iPods and instructions on using the The O app, which provides various explanations of the artworks, we gave the Void Bar a miss (having indulged on the ferry, more alcohol was hardly required at this point) and entered the first exhibition on the lowest level, ‘River of Fundament‘.

My very first impression was ‘how much time are we going to spend looking at The O instead of at the artwork? Fortunately, you can save and email your tour to yourself (and share it with others), so you don’t have to spend your whole day reading all about the pieces and the artist – that can wait until later. The perfect utilisation of modern technology.

But it does mean you see a lot of this:

The O works thanks to lots of Real Time Location Services (RTLS) devices on the ceilings. Which also means your smartphone works, even though you’re three storeys down and under a lot of concrete. Nice work guys!

In contrast to the hidden, mood lighting outside this gallery, the exposed rows of fluorescent tubes lighting the cavernous spaces in the ‘River of Fundament’ exhibition created a warehouse basement feeling to the space as we wandered between groups of people loosely clustered around each art object. I found myself reflecting on the right of individual collectors to own ancient relics. Sure, these objects are (currently) on public display, but was it right to take them from tombs (not everything is from someone’s tomb) in the first place?

Not everything in the collection was originally from ancient Egypt; some of the art has been created to tie in to that theme, but it usually wasn’t until I read the description of the art on The O that I understood how. (Read more about them here.)


On the whole I was happy to emerge from the gallery, especially since were back at the sandstone wall again. This small space is just exquisite with water seeping at the top of the wall making such vivid contrasting colours on the rock.

As we made our way up the levels there were a few artworks that I found interesting (no, I’m not going to describe the whole place!):

Untitled (White Library)
To me this is room of blank paper is about knowledge, learning, ideas, history and the future.

Like something out of the Matrix, there are short sequences of binary code on blackened walls, lit only by wells of super-bright LED’s from the edges of the floor. There is a secret message to find, and a surprise, too.


I like colours, and in a building with no windows any colour is good. At first the 46m long mural may look like it’s all the one picture repeated over and over, just coloured differently, but you should take a closer look.

Inconspicuous and unobtrusive were the staff watching over every piece of artwork.  There was plenty to see even with a couple of spaces closed pending new exhibitions. We didn’t even see everything; my head needed a break after 2 hours of plumbing the depths of MONA.

Outside, across the tennis court (because – why not?) and up the steps is Moorilla winery. On the lawn on the opposite side of the winery, preparations for New Year celebrations were being made with a stage and outdoor food and drink serving facilities being set up.

In addition to The Source restaurant, there is the Wine Bar where visitors can pick up a light (or filling), quick meal. We enjoyed a shared vegetarian antipasto platter with a glass of one of the ‘house’ whites each. (I apologise for the poor description – I didn’t order lunch or the wine and I don’t remember which label – probably Muse – or grape variety it was – possibly riesling.) It was a lovely, relaxed lunch – but it was very busy in the Wine Bar; we were lucky to spot a couple of stools to commandeer along the wall near where the chef was deftly putting lunch orders together.

The weather had improved for the ride back on the ferry so I stood out on the front deck and admired the scenery. Unfortunately missing out on the sweet treats served to Posh Pits guests. When I popped in to see if they’d been handed out, all I found was an empty plate! At least Stephen enjoyed them.

Departing from Constitution Dock at 9:30am and arriving back at 2:15pm (catching the 1:45pm ferry from MONA), we had plenty of time to look at everything we wanted and enjoyed an unhurried lunch. Taking the first ferry for the day also meant we had time to do other things in town when we got back.

I am very pleased we made time to go and see MONA.

: )


Tassie Summer Holiday 2014-15

It’s all just memories now… But damn fine ones, I might add!

After an absence of way too long (just under 2 years) we were BACK! And Hobart over Christmas/New Year is THE place to be when you’re in Tassie – even if you’re not a ‘foodie’, even if you’re not into sailing, even if you ‘don’t get’ art, and even if nature gives you a rash… there will still be something here for you to do and enjoy.

Having made no reservations in advance (except passage aboard the Spirit of Tasmania and our accommodation), our itinerary was very flexible. It turned out as follows:

Friday – Depart Port Melbourne for Devonport aboard the Spirit of Tasmania

Saturday – Drive to Hobart, Salamanca Markets, Hobart bookshops

Sunday – The Taste of Tasmania, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (TMAG)

Monday – Mt Field National Park, The Taste of Tasmania

View of Lake Fenton from Mt Field East Circuit on a stormy day

View of Lake Fenton from Mt Field East Circuit on a stormy day

Tuesday – Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), TMAG, The Taste of Tasmania

Wednesday – Hike Mt Wellington, The Taste of Tasmania’s New Years Eve Party

The view from the top of Mt Wellington was especially good after the walk up

The view from the top of Mt Wellington was especially good after the walk up

Thursday – Drive to Sheffield in northern Tasmania via the Midland Highway

Friday – Hike Mt Roland, near Sheffield

Descending Mt Roland, the peaks of Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park closer than expected

Descending Mt Roland, the peaks of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park closer than expected

Saturday – Visit Launceston, the Cherry Shed at Latrobe, depart Devonport for Port Melbourne aboard the Spirit of Tasmania

Our base for five nights in South Hobart was the Fireman’s Loft, a small apartment for a couple decorated with firemen-themed paraphernalia to pay homage to the buildings’ history. The Fireman’s Loft is either a 20min walk or a 5min drive/bus ride into town.

In Sheffield we stayed for two nights at the Kentish Hills Retreat (motel) which was clean, comfortable and an easy 5min walk to town.

We would have liked to spend longer in Hobart. There was so much that we were hoping to do this trip that we just didn’t have time to squeeze in. Trips to Port Arthur and Bruny Island spring to mind, exploring the Huon Valley (south of Hobart), visiting the Maritime Museum, finish looking at everything in TMAG (because even after two visits we still didn’t see everything!), restaurants, wineries – not to mention revisiting places we’ve previously been, such as the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (which are lovely and definitely worth a visit).

But we were lucky to get five nights between two other bookings at the Fireman’s Loft – and I made my booking 11 months in advance! As I have previously said, if you want to visit during the summer holiday period, you have to book well in advance!

You know, when people ask me what I like most about Tasmania and I reply “Everything,” I really do mean everything!

: )

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Launceston & Ben Lomond NP – January 2012

As with all our Tassie holidays, this one started aboard one of two passenger and vehicle ferries that share the name the Spirit of Tasmania. The ferries run daily between Port Melbourne and Devonport.

If you want to see what you’ve been missing by flying to Tassie, have a look at my How to get to Tasmania page.

THURSDAY (Australia Day)

After a relaxing night onboard, we were up early and on our way. Breakfast was at ETC (Elizabeth Town Cafe) a traditional stop for many travellers heading towards Launceston or Hobart from Devonport. If there’s one thing you can count on in Tassie it’s a decent breakfast.

It’s not far from Devonport to Launceston – only 100km along the Bass Highway. Our plan was to then drive up the west side of the Tamar River, cross Batman Bridge (no, not the Caped Crusader – this Batman) and explore the eastern Tamar Valley.

There are vineyards all around this region and you’ll pass many if you take a drive. Mind you we were passing before 10am – way too early to stop – and we had a wine tour booked in a couple of days time anyway. We did buy some pretty good cherries from a road side stall (actually just a ute with some big esky’s) – the bonus of driving around in summer time! I LOVE summer fruit!!

We came to Bridport and it looked so good we decided to stop. We’re not beach-goers. Quite the opposite, actually. Yes, there are beaches in Victoria; some not that far from home. But I haven’t forgotten that I am from Queensland, and every now and then – like on that gorgeous Australia Day at the beach in Bridport – I just had to feel the sand between my toes and the water around my ankles. Who could resist this?

Having squeaked across the dry and padded across the damp sand, wet our feet in the clear Tasman Sea and clambered among the rocks to our satisfaction (almost) and haven taken plenty of photos, we washed and brushed off the sand as best we could and continued on our way.

We turned south to Scottsdale to see if we could find where Rhubru is made – no luck – but we saw plenty of rhubarb in the fields, and a number of fields of poppies, ready for harvesting, protected by their electric fences.

Next stop was Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Their website says the best time to see the lavender in flower is December – January. Right-o, we were at the tail end of January but there was still almost a week before the end of the month… we were hoping to get some fantastic photos like the head photo on their website.

It’s an interesting fact that you can’t actually see the lavender fields from the main road, or from the driveway – in fact, not until you’ve paid the entrance fee and get to the car park. We felt somewhat cheated to discover that the majority of the lavender had already been harvested. There were just a couple of rows left that we didn’t exactly have to queue up to photograph… but almost. We did the best we could. The other two things worth seeing (if you’re there anyway) are the old oak trees that were planted in 1881. Over 130 years old! Their shade is quite welcome on a warm summer’s day.

We ate at the cafe (a Lavender spiced sausage roll and a bottle of Rhubru went down quite well) then bought some lavender products in the shop (for our mums mainly, and some cooking lavender for us) then headed back to Launceston to check in at The Sebel Launceston.

Our dinner reservation was at Black Cow Bistro, an old art deco building that used to be a butchers shop, just a short walk from The Sebel. We’d been wanting to try the Black Cow for a while and I’m pleased to report that it didn’t disappoint.

It was still reasonably light after dinner so we took a walk. There are plenty of interesting buildings to look at around the CBD.

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See more on my page Launceston & Surrounds.


Ben Lomond National Park is not just a pleasant, but a fun drive about 1hr southeast of Launceston. Despite its convenience, its also the least visited NP in Tas, with most people visiting during the winter months to ski.

As with much of Tasmania, the ancient plateau is dolorite and to the casual observer does give the impression of being dry and pretty barren. Nothing could be further from the truth though. The bare ground squelches underfoot where it’s not running with water.

We were following a track from Legges Tor to the Ben Lomond summit, then back via the road, as described in Day Walks Around Tasmania book by J & M Chapman. Someone from Tasmania’s Parks Service has at some point gone to a lot of trouble to create a path through the boulder field below Legges Tor! We certainly appreciated their efforts!

There are a couple of private huts of decent size at the top – one at the summit was even for sale!

A cairn marks the summit (incase there’s any doubt?). I can’t say the view is particularly spectacular. There’s a lot of plateau in every direction before you see other mountains in the distance. But we felt a sense of achievement nonetheless.

We checked out one of the ski runs – looks a bit rocky in the summer – then headed down to the road to head back to the car.

The most notable feature of the walk is Jacob’s Ladder. A series of steep switchbacks up the mountainside. So glad we were walking down, not up this part. Definitely scenic viewing! Also a place many cars have trouble traversing in winter! Given the number of potholes, we were glad we’d left the Mini behind at the earlier carpark!

It wasn’t a hard walk back to the car but it felt long enough. It was a good day’s hike.

Dinner was at Stillwater that night, the top class restaurant on the ground level of the Old Mill at the mouth of Cataract Gorge, just next to Kings Bridge. We have dined here (breakfast and dinner) a number of times before and it was as good as ever. It’s also a pleasant walk along the water front from The Sebel to get there.


Today we tried something we’d never done before… a wine tour. Does that surprise you? Yes, we’ve stopped at a couple of wineries in the past, but one of us (ie Stephen) has always been the driver, so it’s not really the same.

We were picked up from The Sebel – I wasn’t going to book a tour that couldn’t pick up & drop is back at our hotel – by Marcia from Valleybrook Wine Tours. The Tamar Valley wine region can be broken down into smaller areas – east, west, south – and due to the number of wineries in each area tour will usually visit cellar doors in just one of these areas. We visited wineries in the West Tamar Valley area.

Marcia was a great host and we all really enjoyed our day visiting the following cellar doors/wineries:

Velo Wines
Pipers Brook Vineyard & Ninth Island cellar door (part of the Kreglinger Wine Estates group)
Elmslie Wines – where we also stopped for a very good lunch
Grey Sands (by appointment only)
Holm Oak Vineyard
Goaty Hill Wines

By the end of the day we were well and truly done – and didn’t miss not having dinner that night. Next time we feel so inclined, we will only book a half day tour. Marcia was a great host and I think the whole group had an enjoyable day. The original plan was just to visit 5 clear doors, but a late request (by us) got Grey Sands included. We really appreciated going to Grey Sands, but it did unfortunately mean that by the time we got to Goaty Hill we were not in much shape to really appreciate the wines as we had at the start of the day.

Moral of the story? Don’t chose a wine tour by how many stops you do, but by where those stops are.


After checking out, it was back on the road. We had a few favourite stops to make.

Breakfast at Stillwater, olive oil at Evandale, jam and sauces at the Tamanian Gourmet Sauce Co just outside of Evandale on the way to  the Cherry Shed at Latrobe where were had a pretty good cheery ice-cream and bought 5kg of fresh cherries, then finally Ashgrove Cheese at Elizabeth Town (see also my pages Midlands and North Coast Towns). Phew!

After a wonderful long weekend, we were back on the Spirit of Tasmania for the overnight ride home. I had a fresh change of work clothes for the next day so Stephen would drop me off at Melbourne Uni to catch a tram to work then he would take the gear home and unload the car before going to work himself. Not a bad arrangement, really.

: )