In many ways, Tasmania is the perfect post-pandemic destination: if stunning landscapes, endless beaches, incredible night skies and world-class food and drink aren’t enough, it’s also remote enough to scratch that ‘once in a lifetime’ itch. While it’s no secret to locals, Australia’s smallest state (and 26th largest island in the world) flies under the radar for most of the rest of us. Locals may implore you not to spoil the secret, but honestly it’s simply too good not to. So while it’s not like you need an excuse to go, structuring a trip around one of the many unique festivals in Tasmania will give your visit even more purpose.
And with many of these events returning after Covid-19, we’ve helped parse some of the best of them, spread across both the year and the island’s two biggest cities, Hobart in the south and Launceston in the north.
Launceston’s City Park is frequently ranked among the country’s best, and 2023 sees the longstanding celebration of food, drink and music return to this iconic venue. Having run for over 30 years, Festivale takes place across three days in the height of the summer and attracts close to 30,000 visitors. As well as comedy shows and over 60 food stalls featuring top-notch Tasmanian produce, music is a highlight, with this edition’s lineup featuring the likes of Sneaky Soundsystem, folk-rock from the Waifs and Aussie rock act The Living End. It’s also a family-friendly event, with a special day for kids on the Sunday.
Opens from 3 to 5 February 2023
2. Taste of Summer
If you’re looking for festivals in Tasmania centred around food, Taste of Summer brings together more than 80 of the island’s top food and drink vendors along Hobart’s Princess Wharf waterfront. Recently renewed for a further five years, expect the very best in local seafood, farm produce and more. It’s a ticketed event, other than Family Day on 31 December when there’s free entry until 4pm, ahead of a big New Year’s Eve celebration featuring Aussie musical icon Daryl Braithwaite.
Opens from 27 December 2022 to 2 January 2023
3. Mona Foma
The summer edition of Dark Mofo (see below), Mona Foma goes big on music (and the Faux Mo afterparties are the stuff of legend). This time round, Pavement, Peaches, Bon Iver and Angel Olsen are on their way to the Mona lawns in Hobart, while the Chills, Kae Tempest and Pertubator will be appearing in the ‘reunion district’ of Launceston. Keep an eye out for additions to the lineup in November.
Opens from 17 to 19 February 2023 (Launceston), 24 to 26 February 2023 (Hobart)
4. Ten Days on the Island
This biennial, statewide festival of creativity returns next year showcasing work from Tasmania’s finest artists and arts companies. After growing in scope over its 20-year history, the team behind Ten Days on the Island has in recent years renewed their focus on promoting local talent. The event has a real grassroots feel to it, with art and events popping up across the island everywhere from museums and theatres to barns, sheds and even stately homes.
Opens from 8 to 19 March 2023
5. Tasmanian Wine Festival
Although they still account for only 1% of Australia’s national production, Tassie wines have quickly acquired an outsized reputation. From 20 producers in the early ’90s to something like 250 today, the world has cottoned on to the magic of the cool terroir here. To take just one example, the Financial Times recently highlighted Tolpuddle, from the island’s Coal River Valley in the south, as one of the world’s best new wines of the last decade. The winter edition of Tasmanian Wine Festival takes place in Hobart’s Goods Shed, embracing big bold Tasmanian reds, alongside live entertainment and open firepits to save off that southerly cold. There are also Masterclasses from the likes of Joseph Burton, the island’s first certified Sommelier.
Opens from 20 to 21 August 2023
Held in unusual and unexpected venues all across Launceston in the first week of spring, Junction is a celebration of Tasmanian art, music and performance. It feels refreshingly homegrown too, with a marked absence of PR gloss. With a focus on interactive, participatory work and site-specific installations – everywhere from a deconsecrated church to a hotel room – it’s a powerfully evocative event that taps into the unique (and often unpleasant and challenging) history and remoteness of this part of the world.
Opens September 2023
7. Antarctic Festival
Although the next edition of the biennial Antarctic Festival event doesn’t take place until winter 2024, there’s nothing quite like it for bringing home the close connection between Hobart and the Icy Continent. As far back as the 1770s and James Cook’s voyages, Hobart has acted as a gateway for Antarctic exploration and later played a pivotal role in the historic voyages of Douglas Mawson, Roald Amundsen and many others. The Festival shines a light on the challenges faced by those early pioneers, while also delving into the work of modern-day scientists, conservationists and others working in such a unique environment through photo exhibitions, film shows and lectures.
Where to Stay
It’s the waterfront that has defined Hobart throughout its history and today it’s a great base from which to experience festivals in Tasmania. Singaporean brand Ascott’s city property here has an unbeatable location, right over the water. Housed in a converted 1930s harbour building, Somerset on the Pier’s duplex serviced apartments (one-bedroom or family-sized) are just steps away from the ferries to Mona and the outlying suburbs, as well as the historic Salamanca Place. Wake up early for incredible sunrise views across the harbour.
How to Get There
Singapore Airlines flies 3-4 times daily to Melbourne, with onward flights to Tasmania operated by codeshare partner Virgin Australia.