Tasmania's MACq01 and Saffire: Double the luxury

In Tasmania, MACq01 and Saffire are the ultimate bywords for luxury. One hotel sits regally astride Hobart's docks, while the other commands the finest view of the Hazards mountains, staked like pickets across Freycinet Peninsula.

Connecting the pair this morning are a seaplane and an indulgent package named Double the Luxury. I've spent a night at MACq01 and I'm now heading to Saffire in the most spectacular way possible.

In the early morning, we're flying towards the sun as it climbs sluggishly above the horizon. Tasmania's east coast rolls out below in a series of white beaches, and the distinctive stingray-shaped figure of Saffire seems to swim towards us.

Double the Luxury packages are individually tailored, but guests stay in a premium suite at each property, with the option of this seaplane transfer between the pair, and a prestige hire car – a Jaguar E-pace D180, in my case – for the drive back to Hobart.

At MACq01, where I've begun, the views from the premium suite are almost as good as those from the seaplane. The finest and flashest of MACq01's rooms, these large suites are ranged across the hotel's top floor and feature long lounges, private butlers, stone bathtubs reached through walk-in robes, and mini bars that were named the best in the country at last year's Gourmet Traveller Australian Hotel Awards.

The suites' best features, however, are their expansive balconies, notched into the hotel's roof and looking over the yacht-filled docks, the city and Mount Wellington. It's the classic Hobart view, with the added advantage of elevation.

MACq01 bills itself as a storytelling hotel, with every design feature relating to some Tasmanian tale - some obvious and some deeply nuanced. Complementing the story theme is a trio of guest tours that are rich in stories.

In the afternoon I join the 114 Doors tour, wandering the hotel's corridors with storyteller Colette. Each of MACq01's 114 rooms is named after a Tasmanian character, be they famous, infamous or quirky.

On the tour, we stop outside seemingly random doors, where extraordinary stories are recounted, from the convict who briefly ruled Iceland, to prominent Indigenous figures, to one of the world's first TV fitness stars.

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MACq01's oldest story, however, is prehistoric. Beside the lobby lounge, with its stylised kelp ceiling, is Evolve Spirits Bar, which is both the newest and oldest bar in the hotel.

With 500 spirits racked behind the bar, from local whiskies to the Swedish gin that's twice been named the world's best, it's an encyclopaedic watering hole, but its most eye-catching feature is its array of fossils from a private collection.

I enter the bar past the nose horn from a triceratops and a full cave-bear skeleton that towers above me. Elsewhere, my drinking companions include a 550-million-year-old trilobite, a mineralised mammoth tusk, and a dinosaur egg.

"It's the world's oldest soccer ball," barman Alistair jokes.

In the morning it's a two-minute stroll from MACq01 to the wharf that's home to Hobart's new seaplane operator, Above and Beyond. As the workday begins in the city, I'm sat beside pilot Henry Ellis, motoring out onto the Derwent River beneath the windows of MACq01 and then up and over Tasman Bridge as we take off from the water.

Within a few minutes, the faint shadow of Freycinet Peninsula is drawing us forwards, out over Great Oyster Bay and spiralling down to a soft landing in the sea in front of Saffire. I take off my shoes and socks, roll up my trousers and wade ashore. It's the first time I've entered a luxury hotel barefoot.

Saffire has an intense sense of place, with almost everything here orientated towards the Hazards. The central Sanctuary building has a glass-walled view of the mountains throughout, and the hotel's 20 suites, lined below the Sanctuary, are arranged like boxes at the opera before these pinkish granite peaks. It's a mountain skyline that quickly becomes as familiar as a tattoo.

Meals in the Palate restaurant indulge in the big-screen view of the Hazards, with tables lined along the windows, looking out over the suites with their angled roofs designed to resemble waves breaking onto the shore.

Double the Luxury guests can join any of the hotel's multitude of guest experiences, but even in a setting as gloriously self-contained as Saffire there are experiences and adventures that beckon beyond.

After staring so long and luxuriously at the Hazards, and with my Jaguar already on hand, I set out in the morning to explore the mountains on foot. The hotel has arranged a national park pass and supplied a backpack with snacks, water and first-aid kit.

From the shores of the peninsula I climb across the balding granite slopes of the Hazards, effectively walking through my own suite view. As I stand among a jumble of boulders atop one of the peaks, peering into the mouth of Wineglass Bay, a seal plunges in and out of the sea far below me, playfully disturbing cormorants.

I take it as a sign to turn back, for I have my own private plunge pool – a heated piece of post-hike therapy – awaiting back at my suite.

In the afternoon I join Saffire's newest guest experience, slipping into a beekeeping suit and heading to nearby hives with apiarist Rob Barker. As his bees swirl around us, Rob explains the processes of beekeeping, before leading us through a tasting of Tasmania's various honeys on a table set up beside the windows of Saffire's Tasmanian devil enclosure.

Saffire's most famous table, however, is the one covered in a starched white tablecloth in the waters of the Swan River estuary at Freycinet Marine Farm, where Giles and Julia Fisher produce about 3 million oysters each year.

A visit to the oyster farm is Saffire's signature experience, the one that adorns most of the hotel's imagery, and on the banks of the river I suit up again, donning a pair of waders and strolling through the shallows to the half-submerged table.

Here, guides Paul and Bianca shuck oysters as quickly as we can slurp them down. When the oysters run out, Bianca wades a few steps to the Marine Farm's racks and returns with a pile more.

"You'd just about have to eat them underwater to get oysters any fresher," Paul says.

Across the water, the Hazards bubble up over the horizon once again. Pelicans drift past overhead, and bream swim around our legs – nature's luxuries mingling with Tasmania's most luxurious hotel experience. It's truly double the luxury.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/tasmania

discovertasmania.com.au

FLY

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart.

STAY

Double the Luxury packages are individually tailored, with premium suites at Saffire starting at $2200, and costing between $550 and $1400 at MACq01. Seaplane transfer is $2900. Car hire rates range from $185 for a Mini Cooper S to $520 for a Porsche Boxter 981. See saffire-freycinet.com.au macq01.com.au aboveandbeyond.flights overdrivecarhire.com.au

FIVE MORE LUXURY TASMANIA STAYS

1. ISLINGTON HOTEL

Historic Hobart hotel with a private art collection second only to MONA.

2. PUMPHOUSE POINT

Sleep in a converted hydroelectricity pumphouse atop Lake St Clair.

3. SATELLITE ISLAND

Go Robinson Crusoe on a private island parked offshore from Bruny Island – kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and wild oysters come included.

4. STILLWATER SEVEN

Launceston's newest luxury digs share space with one of Tasmania's finest restaurants, Stillwater, inside an 1830s flour mill by the mouth of Cataract Gorge.

5. AVALON COASTAL RETREAT

Remote retreat peering across the sea to Freycinet Peninsula from beside the Tasman Highway's most spectacular section.

Andrew Bain travelled courtesy of MACq01 and Saffire.

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