The Taste of the Tamar is a celebration of Tasmania’s Tamar Valley region and this year, the food and wine festival will be held over two weekends – one in Hobart and one in Launceston – to give more people a chance to experience it.

Tamar Valley wine

Coming up on July 23rd and 24th, the Hobart event will be held in the Hotel Grand Chancellor, promoting the handiwork of more than 20 winemakers and ten food producers.

Now in its third year, Taste of the Tamar is an opportunity for visitors to experience the premium cool climate wines of Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

Tasting and purchasing these delicious local products is a wonderful way to spend a weekend but there will also be opportunities to meet the producers.

Participants in 2011 will include Jansz, Goaty Hill, Josef Chromy, Delamere, Grey Sands, Moores Hill, Brook Eden, Providence, Bay of Fires, Tamar Ridge and Humbug Reach.

On the food side there will be delectable offerings from Yondover Farm House Cheese, Watson’s Fine Food, Coronea Olive Groves, Tasmanian Gourmet Sauces, Rocky Gardens, Delicacy and many more.

This year the events are again running a series of masterclasses to showcase the Tamar Valley’s beautiful wines and focus on wine education.

A Plumm glass masterclass will reveal the effect different glasses have on wine (you’ll get a special set of Plumm glasses to take home with this one).

Watch out for the Launceston event coming up on August 27th and 28th, also held at the city’s Hotel Grand Chancellor.

The festival is designed around a tour along the Tamar Valley Wine Route, so you can travel from cellar door to local producer while staying under the same roof.

Entry to each event costs $15 for one day or $25 for a two-day pass, including a souvenir glass and tasting booklet.

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If you are planning a trip to the beautiful Tasmanian East Coast, there’s no better place to stay than in a seaside hotel.

One option to consider is The Ocean Retreat, which is run by Select Retreats. The facility is located in Falmouth on the east coast, midway between the Bay of Fires and the Freycinet Peninsular.

It is a luxurious self-catering property with four en-suite king and twin bedrooms, a designer kitchen, a heated plunge pool and incredible views.

Offering a superb outdoor living area with a BBQ and outside open fire, you can also arrange catering if you can’t be bothered to cook or experience one of the many eateries scattered along the coast.

Between two and ten guests can stay at this hideaway, with the house available to hire as a whole or per suite.

Watch dolphins or whales swimming by or get active and embark on one of the region’s many coastal or bush walks.

Explore the Freycinet peninsula and walk over the hill to Wineglass Bay, regularly chosen as one of the top ten beaches in the world.

The Bay of Fires offers a different experience – here, you can have kilometres of beach to yourself.

There are also world-class golf courses on the doorstep, including the new Lost Farm, fishing and just admiring the exquisite white sand beaches.

View interior and seascape

Ocean Retreat View. Photo Credit StayzTasmania

Visit Ocean Retreat’s listing on DiscoverTasmania.

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A newly-developed lodge accommodation at the Huon Valley’s popular Tahune AirWalk could be the perfect place for visitors to experience the awesomely tall trees of Tasmania’s southern forests.

The 25-bed lodge offers an overnight stay in what is becoming a very popular tourism destination and is suitable for all types of visitors including families, school groups and backpackers.

The Tahune AirWalk extends for 597 metres and explorers can walk through the three-storey high canopy of a Tasmanian wet forest – home to amazing flora, including the world’s tallest flowering plant Eucalyptus regnans.

It is a gentle way to experience some of Tasmania’s spectacular natural environment and takes you on a tour through the different stages of the forest’s lifecycle.

As well as the tall eucalypts, other tree species on show include celery top, King Billy pine, blackwood, sassafras, beech, myrtle, flowering leatherwood and the gigantic Huon pines which date back to over a thousand years.

Views out over the confluence of the Picton and Huon Rivers from the cantilevered viewing platform near the end of the walk will take your breath away.

The lodge consists of three bunk rooms, two family rooms, two triple rooms and one room wheelchair accessible double room. These are all set around a central hub that has a fireplace, dining area and a fully equipped kitchen.

View of Tahune Lodge interior

Tahune Lodge Interior

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Hobart comedy festival laughsWhen it started in 2002 it was billed as “the world’s smallest cultural event” but the Hobart Comedy Festival is now a dynamic occasion that visitors always fall in love with and is often described as the comedy world’s favourite boutique event.

Now in its ninth year, it features the cream of Australia’s comedy artists and considers itself the perfect winter warmer, combining world-class laughs with Tasmania’s famous food and wine.

The event showcases a wide variety of comedic styles and experiences, with an array of famous and up-and-coming Australian and international comedians.

Performers only appear by invitation and the programmers seek to create combinations of artists that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Among the performances already confirmed for the festival is a one night only appearance from Jeff Green.

As he did last year to popular acclaim, the award-winning British comedian will no doubt confirm his (adopted) national treasure status with an evening of sharp comedy.

The festival is always a good chance to see comedy performers on their way up. A selection of rising stars from overseas flock to Hobart each year – in the past the festival has been credited with discovering then-unknowns such as Josh Earl, the Bedroom Philosopher and Hannah Gadsby.

Another former unknown was DeAnne Smith of the United States who was in Hobart last year and went on to be nominated for the Melbourne Comedy Festival’s prestigious Barry Award.

Over 20,000 people have enjoyed this festival’s unique brand of entertainment since its creation in 2001 and it now enjoys real popularity among established comics.

The venue is Hobart’s iconic Theatre Royal. Australia’s oldest working theatre opened in 1837 and remains one of its most beautiful treasures.

The Hobart Comedy Festival 2011 will run from Monday July 18th to Saturday July 30th.

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The organisers of the Longford Revival Festival are looking forward to 2012 after a highly successful inaugural event this year.

The reopening of Longford and the Flying Mile – one of Australia’s earliest grand prix racing tracks – after 42 years has put Tasmania on the world motor racing map.

It has also made for a wonderful new tourist attraction and an even bigger and better 2012 festival is already being planned.

Longford was one of the world’s great race tracks in the 1950s and ‘60s, and saw drivers such as Hill, Surtees, McLaren and Brabham compete on its 4.5 mile track at events including the 1959 and 1965 Australian Grand Prix.

One of the few sections to survive since the track close in 1968 is the famous Flying Mile, where cars today would reach over 180mph.

The revival festival is a celebration of the track’s heyday, a step back in time to the ‘60s and also a chance for modern day motoring legends to “fly the mile”.

Another highlight is the greatest automotive collection ever put together in the state, with over 100 machines brought from Australia and overseas.

Fashion and live music from the 1960s, as well as Tasmania’s world class food and wine from the Tamar Valley complete the package.

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Tasmanian athletes have returned covered in glory from participating in the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

The team won six gold, two silver and three bronze medals, a worthy part of the 131-strong Australian team that won 46 gold, 43 silver and 32 bronze medals overall in the competition.

Minister for human services Cassy O’Connor warmly congratulated the athletes and the dedicated coaching staff who had participated in this major sporting event.

“The Tasmanian athletes have proudly represented their country and we honour their enthusiasm, athleticism and achievements,” Ms O’Connor said.

She also paid tribute to the families, carers and supporters who also contributed to the success of the games team.

Tasmania sent ten competitors to what is the biggest sporting event in the world in 2011, with approximately 7,500 athletes competing from 185 countries.

Double gold medallist tennis player Kelly Binns told the ABC it was an experience she will never forget.

“Memorable, just great, just meeting everyone from the other countries, it’s huge. It’s very nerve-wracking sometimes, it’s right up there.”

Ms O’Casey encouraged Tasmanians to watch the performances online – via YouTube, Facebook links or on the official Special Olympics website.

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Eco-conscious travellers now have an opportunity to be green in Tasmania thanks to an initiative from the state's parks and wildlife services.

The Green Guardians program provides an opportunity to participate in a conservation project as part of a special guided tour in Tasmania's national parks and nature reserves.

The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service rangers have specially chosen the projects to allow visitors to make a tangible difference to conservation work.

One project on the beautiful Maria Island national park involves helping out with a fauna survey for Birds Australia, the national organisation that works for the protection of birds and their habitats.

Projects are also available within the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair national park and the Bay of Fires conservation area.

The project work itself will only be a small part of the tour, perhaps a few hours out of a four-day trip.

This is a joint venture run along with Tourism Tasmania and a number of tourism operators. Participating companies include Cradle Mountain Huts, Tarkine Trails and Corinna, which offers wilderness experiences.

The 'voluntourism' idea is to allow visitors to make nature a priority when planning their holiday and to expose people to unique experiences.

Sign at entrance to Corinna. Tarkine

Posted by Kathy H Ellerman

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DNA testing and wild release on mainland Australia could offer new hope to the Tasmanian devil, which is at risk of extinction.

A facial tumour disease is killing the wild population in Tasmania and the low genetic diversity of the animal has been blamed for its inability to combat the disease.

However, scientists at Pennsylvania State University in the United States have been sequencing the genome of two Tasmanian devils and professor Stephan Schuster believes it is possible to boost genetic diversity.

He has developed a simple blood test to show genetic diversity and allow devils with different genes to be bred.

He decided to look for genetic diversity in the Tasmanian devils to stop them from having the same fate as the Tasmanian tiger. After mapping the genome of the two devils he realised the animals have enough genetic diversity to stave off extinction.

"I think there is absolutely no reason why the Tasmanian devil should be wiped off the face of the planet because it genetically still is fit enough to live," he told the ABC.

And at the University of Tasmania, Dr Menna Jones believes it is also critically important to have healthy devils living in the wild.

She has suggested establishing wild mainland populations rather than captive breeding programs is the best strategy for safeguarding the carnivorous marsupial's future.

"They're living as wild animals, they're retaining their natural behaviours and those animals are going to be the most suitable for repopulating the Tasmanian devil population," she explained.

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A winter edition of Hobart’s popular Tasmanian Farm Gate market is coming up this weekend, offering a wonderful day out tasting some world class food and enjoying the warm atmosphere.

From the time the farm bell rings at 09:00 until pack up time at 13:00, this is an opportunity to experience the best of Tasmania’s fresh produce and artisan products.

Operating in the heart of Hobart, the weekly farmers’ market features goods for sale so fresh they are picked the night before and delivered straight to the market each Sunday morning.

The aim of the market is to showcase fresh Tasmanian produce and organisers are very strict about only allowing the people that grow, raise, produce or harvest the goods for sale to trade at the market.

Organiser Madi Peattie insists on making this a real farmers market – items must be grown or made in Tasmania and the person who grew or made them must be onsite.

If it makes people think about environmental sustainability (low food miles) and celebrating local economies then the initiative can benefit everyone.

You’ll find everything from specialty beverages to locally roasted coffee beans, herbal teas, and much more. If you’re shopping for produce at this time of year, look out for Tasmania’s famous apples, beetroot and walnuts, as well as Jerusalem artichokes.

On the artisanal food stalls you’ll find cheese, fresh oysters, possum steaks and corned wallaby from Bruny Island, as well as premium goat meat products from Cradoc.

The Companion Bakery and Woodbridge Smokehouse are regular stallholders and there are also stalls selling preserves, honey, olive products, plants and coffee.

Have breakfast or a mid-morning bite at the onsite cafe where you can relax and soak up the atmosphere. Of course all ingredients are supplied by producers attending the market and the menu changes in line with the seasons.

The venue is the Melville St Outdoor Car Park and the Tasmanian Farm Gate market operates every Sunday whatever the weather.

Finest fresh fruit and vegetables - grown near, grown here.

Finest fresh fruit and vegetables - grown near, grown here.

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The new owners of Tasmania's historic Quamby Estate intend to enhance the boutique guesthouse's reputation as one of the state's finest accommodation options.

Quamby is located at Hagley in north-eastern Tasmania, close to Launceston and the beautiful Tamar Valley.

Virgin Blue Airlines co-founders Rob Sherrard and Brett Godfrey recently purchased the property.

"We are excited to take Quamby into the next phase of its life," Mr Sherrard said.

"I moved to Tasmania several years ago and have delighted in seeing this state grow into a fantastic tourism destination.

He noted the accessibility of the Tamar Valley Wine Trail and nearby gourmet farm door outlets as providing an "opportunity to continue to grow tourism in this region".

The homestead was built in the 1830s as the home of Sir Richard Dry, the state’s first Tasmanian-born premier and was sometimes referred to as "Parliament House of the North".

The Anglo-Indian architecture of the main house is complemented by heritage-listed buildings such as the old manager’s residence and office, a blacksmith's workshop, stables, granary and the shearing shed.

Quamby, which is currently closed for the winter, will undergo a refurbishment over the coming months and will reopen in late September 2011.

"We plan to use the winter season to both review and renew the product to expand its appeal to leisure travellers and corporates alike, with a view to having the estate re-opening as a year-round destination," Mr Godfrey said. 

Posted by Kathy H Ellerman

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