Violent Femmes’ guide to spending a weekend in Tasmania 

Travelling Well | Megan Whitfield | Photos: Tourism Tasmania and supplied | Posted on 25 November 2020

Bassist, festival curator and Hobart local Brian Ritchie's guide to a weekend in Tasmania.

When Violent Femmes bass player and now Mona Foma arts curator Brian Ritchie first visited Tasmania on tour with the band in 1989, he knew he’d stumbled across somewhere pretty special. 

From being warned no one would come to their shows to selling out said gigs, Brian found himself returning to the peaceful island state again and again, before taking the plunge and moving to Hobart with his wife, Varuni, more than 10 years ago.

Now, as arts curator of the critically acclaimed music and arts festival, he spends his free time revelling in Tasmania’s thriving cultural scene (which he believes can rival New York’s), its quality local food and wine, and strong sense of community.  

Ahead of Mona Foma, which is currently scheduled to kick off on 15 January in Launceston (and 22 January in Hobart), we asked Brian to share his favourite Tassie spots.

Slides: Cataract Gorge, image: Jarrad Seng; Goat's Beach, image: Samuel Shelley; South Cape Bay, image: Geoffrey Lea; Fico, images: Osborne Images; Faro at Mona, image supplied.

Where Brian Ritchie goes in Tasmania...

For a great cup of coffee…

Sweetbrew, in Launceston. They do their own cold brew, which is my usual order, and it’s run by wonderful people.

For a long lunch…

I’m biased, but you can’t beat Faro at MONA (Hobart’s world-renowned Museum of Old and New Art). The menu is changing all the time, but currently they do this incredible grilled octopus [with almond cream, sherry caramel and green olive], and also fantastic miso-glazed lamb ribs with smoked whisky and soy-roasted eggplant. Although you really can’t go wrong whatever you pick. The restaurant looks out across the Derwent River as well, so you get a beautiful view with your meal.

*Note: MONA is currently closed but is reopening on 26 December (read owner David Walsh's statement here); however, Faro is open for lunch (Friday to Monday) and dinner (Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights).

For a drink...

There’s a booming whisky industry in Tassie. Heartwood, an independent bottler based in North Hobart, makes a magnificent malt whisky that sells out so quickly online as soon as it’s released. Fortunately, I’ve got an insider connection who can help me get a bottle or two…

Lawrenny Estate is another great local business, and an up-and-comer in the gin industry.

To get back to nature…

I head south from Hobart to Cockle Creek. It’s this ethereal place, at the southernmost tip you can drive to in the state. It’s fairly remote, you can’t get through the whole region, and is just this place of absolute beauty.

Launceston, too, is really beautiful with the Cataract Gorge running through town. Residents can just wander through this wild gorge – there’s not many places you can do that. Tasmania really does have uncanny natural beauty. 

Getting around

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Man standing on coastal rock pile formation in Tasmania with beach in background

Clifton Beach. Image: Graham Freeman.

Man with long hair wearing yellow blazer and black shirt standing in lush garden

Mona Foma curator and Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie

Family walking on boardwalk through lush rainforest with towering trees

South Cape Bay Track. Image: Geoffrey Lea.

For a culture hit…

I really admire the work Moonah Arts Centre does (not to be confused with MONA, as many taxi drivers do), in greater Hobart. They mix their artistic endeavours with social justice and community, providing a space to make arts accessible for everyone. It’s a performance space and art gallery as well as a community centre, so there’s always something good going on.

For a special gift…

There are some fantastic jewellers and craftspeople around Tasmania. I recently ordered a custom piece for my wife from Metal Urges Fine Jewellery, a boutique Hobart business. The piece was made specially from a Tasmanian-sourced jewel, a super-rare blue topaz, in a particularly beautiful setting.

For a special occasion…

There’s a restaurant here in Hobart, Fico. One of the head chefs, Federica Andrisani, is from Italy, where she met her husband, and they cook such great Italian food. I knew them before the restaurant opened, and their cooking has really come into [its] own with Fico. The pigeon is pretty incredible; I order that, when it’s on the menu.

To treat myself...

I like to go surfing when I can, over to Clifton or South Arm beach. My wife and I have a house in Opossum Bay so it’s within striking distance. I have zero skill, I started surfing when I was over 50 years old, but it’s just so much fun – and I love the freezing water. I don’t wear a wetsuit, which can limit the duration of my surf, but when I’m finished I feel like a king. Goat Bluff is my favourite spot. I gather periwinkles off the rocks after my surf and make a meal from them. 

While you're there: Access these great member benefits in Tasmania

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