Let's start at the bottom

The southerly state comprises more than its most popular attractions. Winsor Dobbin reports on some of the island's undiscovered gems.

TASMANIA has become a tourism magnet with attractions such as Hobart's new $175 million MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), the spectacular Saffire resort at Coles Bay and two world-class golf courses at Barnbougle Dunes. Hobart, with its historic waterfront, bustling Salamanca Market and five-star hostelries such as the Henry Jones Art Hotel and Islington, is a year-round drawcard, as are natural attractions such as the Maria Island Walk and Cradle Mountain and festivals including Taste, Festivale and Ten Days on the Island.

Here are some of the lesser-known and newer attractions.

Hobart hot spots

Gourmets in the capital were devastated when chef Iain Todd closed the doors of his Battery Point fine diner, Piccalilly, but Todd has rebounded with two new eateries; the upmarket Battery Point Steakhouse in the former Piccalilly premises and Ethos Eat Drink, down an old laneway at 100 Elizabeth Street. The funky Ethos (ethoseatdrink .com) focuses on tapas plates and interesting wines by the glass, with several specials each night, along with a long and interesting list of wines. Think exotic dishes such as stinging nettle soup or fried pig's ear with chorizo salt; or more mainstream offerings such as charred octopus with paprika, lemon and parsley or braised ox tongue with horseradish.

Other impressive newcomers include the superb Garagistes (garagistes.com.au), where former Sydney chef Luke Burgess is creating a menu that changes on a daily basis and offers a long list of "natural" wines. The menu features dishes such as marinated mussels with caramelised onion and croutons or marinated kingfish with cucumber, miso and Japanese turnip.

Nick Haddow, of Bruny Island cheese fame, has teamed up with the Gourmet Farmer himself, Matthew Evans, to open a deli at Salamanca called A Common Ground, selling cheeses, Evans's rillettes and other gourmet goodies.

Sleep in style

An increasing selection of luxury retreats and hideaways dots the map of Tasmania. Some of the newest arrivals include The Ocean Retreat Tasmania on the east coast, the Deck House at Port Huon, Bruny Shore on Bruny Island and Eagle Peaks at Coles Bay.

The Ocean Retreat (selectretreats .com) is a four-bedroom self-contained getaway with its own heated plunge pool, outdoor log fireplace and spectacular ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows, while the architect-designed Deck House (deckhouse.net.au) is set on 12 rolling hectares in the Huon Valley with a deck for taking in the views.

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Bruny Shore (brunyshore .com.au) is an environmentally friendly house built from recycled timber and perched 70 metres above Bruny Island's Timber Beach. With great views of the sea and bush, it is an excellent choice for nature lovers.

Eagle Peaks (eaglepeaks.com.au), down the road from Saffire, has two ocean-view studios.

City lodgings

Josef Chromy is something of a legend in Tasmania; a penniless Czech migrant who made millions through smallgoods and then started several of the state's leading wineries, including the one that bears his name.

His latest venture, opened last year, is the Hotel Charles (hotelcharles.com.au) in Launceston, on the fringe of the city centre in the former general hospital. The building has an art deco exterior with modern, well-equipped rooms and apartments at sensible prices.

Restaurant Esca specialises in using seasonal local produce whenever possible - think dishes such as Cape Grim rib fillet, wilted Swiss chard, spinach and hand-cut chips.

Religious experiences

In the foothills of Mount Arthur at Lalla, outside Launceston, Leaning Church Vineyard (leaningchurch.com.au) is a newcomer to the flourishing Pipers River wine region, offering wine, whisky, weddings, food, art and tourism experiences - including cool-climate Tasmanian wines that are grown on site, matched with local produce in a natural amphitheatre.

The cellar door is a 98-year-old former church overlooking landscaped gardens, three water-lily covered lakes and rows of vines. Platters are available every day with cook-your-own barbecue steaks a weekend drawcard. It is open from Thursday to Monday (weekends only in June, July and August).

In the small town of Perth, on the other side of Launceston, on the way to Hobart, is another converted church that offers a sublime food experience - the Ut Si Cafe (utsicafe.blogspot.com), where Colette Barnes and her team serve fresh local and organic produce, bake their own breads and serve city-quality coffee.

Enjoy a kitchen-table experience with dishes such as pumpkin soup with crispy Mount Gnomon bacon, free-range pasture-fed Sassafras beef or risotto with roasted walnuts and sage.

The cakes here are legendary, making it a great stopoff for anyone travelling between Tasmania's two main cities, and there are growers' markets on Saturdays in warmer months.

Relax in style

Heriots Point (heriotspoint.com) at Castle Forbes Bay on the Huon River has been farmed for 180 years by three families: the Heriots, Walkers and now the Rolleys. Original plantings of apples were replaced with cattle grazing and now cool-climate grape growing has become the focus.

It is now also the starting point for relaxed Huon River cruises on board the Rolley family's classic vintage wooden cruising boat, La Drone. Meals are available and cruises visit the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin before ending with a wine tasting. A vineyard cottage is perfect for couples.

Distilled pleasures

Bothwell, just under an hour's drive north of Hobart, is off the beaten track but is a magnet for hunters and fishermen. Visitors are also drawn to the Nant Whisky Distillery, while golfers come to play historic Ratho, the oldest course in the country. Bothwell is also home to the Priory Lodge (thepriorycountrylodge.com.au), one of the state's premier boutique bed-and-breakfast establishments. Built in 1848 and beautifully refurbished, the lodge has four bedrooms with en suite marble bathrooms, a formal lounge, drawing room, library, hunt room, sitting room and a fabulous country kitchen. Host Greg Peacock is a terrific cook and country breakfasts and dinner are included in the tariffs. There are two pavilions behind the main home with more modern accommodation.

Fishy frivolity

Visitors to 41 Degrees South Aquaculture at Mole Creek (41southtasmania.com), outside Deloraine, can choose between a leisurely gourmet food-tasting or a nature walk through wetlands teeming with birdlife.

The family-owned and built salmon and ginseng farm in the Meander Valley offers a self-guided tour that combines viewing the fish farm and flora and fauna as well as learning how the farm interacts with the ecosystem and the opportunity to either feed the salmon or eat them.

Walk to a waterfall on the property to build up an appetite before enjoying free samples of hot-smoked salmon, rillettes and ginseng products.

Very small bar

Burnie is home to what is believed to be Tasmania's smallest licensed premises - and the tiny Quaff and Gobble wine bar (03 6431 3551) is only open for six hours a week. Run as a hobby by accountant Neale Gillett, the Quaff and Gobble caters for less than 20 patrons at a time and is open from 5-8pm on Thursdays and Fridays, serving a range of unusual wines and featuring 1970s music. The owner says his bar is a good way to share his passion for wine and enjoy other people's company.

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