When compared to Hobart, Devonport has long been Tasmania’s less glamorous port city.
However, as tourism in the North West continues to gain momentum, Devonport is quickly becoming a bustling cultural hub enticing visitors to spend time exploring its many offerings.
Most people know Devonport as the industrial city where the Spirit of Tasmania docks. But now, with Rex flying in daily, and the city going through the largest urban renewal project in regional Australia, there is a lot of buzz about Devonport as the gateway to Tassie’s fabulously food-driven North West. You could easily spend a week in this part of Tasmania, but even if you only have a weekend or a few days, you can pack a lot in.
Half an hour down the road to the west is the city of Burnie, and another hour’s drive has you at the charming town of Stanley – famous for the huge landmark mountain jutting into the sea called The Nut. Just over an hour’s drive will have you in Launceston, but if you want to stay closer to Devonport, the beautiful golden beaches and undulating countryside of Port Sorell is less than twenty minutes away.
The produce, people and stunning landscapes of this region is what makes it so special. Wild winds and plenty of rain have created rugged coastlines that plunge into pebble-strewn beaches, and the countryside and thriving farmlands on volcanic soil look like neat patchwork quilts of alternating verdant greens. It’s an artist’s dream location and a gourmand’s idea of heaven.
Downtown dining and drinks scene
Since the mid to late 1800s, Devonport has been a hub of activity, with timber milling, coal, shipping and transport being the main industries propelling population growth.
In 1882, the Marine Board building was constructed and it remains one of the oldest standing buildings in Devonport. In 1889, the Mercy Bluff lighthouse was completed, and it is still one of the major landmarks and tourist destinations. Today it has a sprawling caravan park on the flat lands beneath, right next to the beach with views of the harbour and Bass Strait beyond.
The Port of Devonport is where the town’s revitalisation is in full swing. Its LIVING CITY project – hailed as a once-in-a-generation set of urban development initiatives – has been designed to propel the region into the future. The $55 million LIVING CITY has included three phases to date: the Southern Rooke Street revitalisation, Paranaple centre precinct development, and the recent Waterfront Park and hotel projects. The entire foreshore is being transformed into parklands and sculpturally led entertainment areas, with a $40 million Novotel Devonport development, which includes an enormous wooden boardwalk jutting out into the harbour.
Inside the hotel on the ground floor, you’ll find Mr Good Guy Asian restaurant, which became so popular after its opening in 2017 in Hobart that it’s now the place to be in Devonport. The restaurant offers a modern twist on South East Asian dishes, and it’s also one of the prime places in town to watch the harbour and cruise ships come and go.
Make sure you try a range of dishes, with their most popular being chicken bao buns, laksas and curries. The Nyonya style Kapitan chicken and potato curry is also standout. There’s a great range of wines and beers, and the staff make delicious cocktails to suit the spicy, zesty flavours, such as the lychee martini.
The arts, dining and bar scene around Paranaple Arts Centre (straight across the road from the Novotel) is where more of the action is, with a large market area at its centre complete with a huge screen and seating for events and entertainment. Clustered around the gallery – which has a Theatre Bar, Upper Gallery and a Little Gallery – are a string of new places to have a drink and a meal.
In Market Square Pavilion you’ll find three beauties that bring food and booze together.
Frankie J’s is a fun, retro-style wine and cocktail bar that dishes up traditional Italian wood-fired pizzas and pastas. Their signature drink is the Frankie J’s Fluffy Duck. They also have small plates and platters, and the focus is on fresh local Tassie produce and the very best Italian cheeses, meats and small goods. Live music and DJs get the precinct buzzing on Friday and Saturday nights.
Beer lovers can rejoice as Island State Brewing has moved in. This cool company also has a large brewery and bar in Ulverstone (a 15-minute drive from Devonport) and Penguin Beer Co. in the quaint tourist town of Penguin, which is only a half hour drive and home to one of Australia’s big things – a penguin, of course. There’s an impressive row of beers on tap, and they have regular trivia nights. Guests can order in pizza from Frankie J’s and make a night of it.
Southern Wild Distillery (from the makers of well-known Dasher + Fisher Tasmanian gin) is right next door, where you can taste and buy some gin made by distiller George Burgess, who says of his gins: “I wanted to create spirits that had a spirit. That surprised the palette, that embodied a place and time, that celebrated small local growers, that embraced the seasons and all their beautiful imperfections. It makes gin more delicious and life far more interesting.”
He has local growers for all of the flavours in the gins, such as wakame seaweed, Tasmanian pepperberry, lavender, strawberries, sloe berries, raspberries and the many herbs that go into the delightful mixes. You can embark on a tasting flight of six Dasher + Fisher gins, do a gin-making tour, or simply hang out at the Southern Wild Bar and enjoy a gin of your choice.
Out of town
For whiskey lovers, you can’t come to this region without visits Hellyers Road in the nearby city of Burnie. Atop a hill overlooking Burnie, the farmlands and undulating countryside, there is a restaurant on-site with incredible views, and you can do a comprehensive whiskey tour where you can sample the goods and see where it’s made and stored in the impressive rows of barrels. There is a great whiskey store (which is like a candy store for adults), and recently, Hellyers perfected its cream liqueurs. Alongside the coffee and hazelnut variety, there is also a lip-smackingly good salted caramel offering.
For breakfast and those after a cheeky brunch with some fizz, head down to Drift Café on Bluff Beach – a few minutes’ drive from downtown Devonport. With sprawling green lawns that meet the impressively pebbled beach, it’s a picture-perfect location and the food is as fresh and as local as it comes. With hanging plants and floor-to-ceiling glass windows allowing the sun to stream in, you’ll want to linger longer. They also do great coffee and ice-creams, which you can grab from the servery that opens up onto the lawn. If fish and chips is more your thing, you can sit in the park and watch the world drift by while tucking into the good stuff. They are open every day from 6.30am until 4pm, so you can also head down for a late lunch of tacos or tasty burgers.
Upstairs is the swanky Mrs Jones bar and restaurant, with amazing views across Bluff Beach and out to the wild waters of Bass Strait. Beneath the wooden, church-like ceilings, enjoy a fine dining experience in a retreat-like space that is warm, welcoming and utterly sophisticated. The restaurant prides itself on locally sourced premium produce and creating vibrant, contemporary dishes.
For a vineyard dining experience with a cellar door tasting, head out of Devonport towards beautiful Port Sorrell, where you’ll find Ghost Rock Wines, which scored 5 Red Stars by James Halliday Wine. They’re serious about their gorgeous wines here, which are only matched in brilliance by the wonderful views across the vineyards thriving on rich volcanic soil, to the rolling green hills and the sea beyond. Sit on the outdoor deck and enjoy a three-course meal paired with wines, with the sun on your face and a sea breeze in your hair.
The menu changes with the seasons and the produce available, but think delicate dishes for an entrée, such as Southern rock lobster soft tacos with avocado pico de gallo, pinto bean hummus and chipotle in a lobster broth, and more hearty options such as the melt-in-your-mouth, delicious charred Cape Grim flat iron steak (the best meat in Tasmania) with local mushrooms, shallots, sweet potato and truffle butter.
On February 25, 2023, the vineyard hosts Concert in the Vines, which is consider Northwest Tasmania’s iconic music event. This year music legends Jon Stevens and Pete Murray will be belting out hit after hit, and playing their own well known songs.
From Cradle to Coast
The Tasting Trail from the Cradle to the Coast is a food and drink trail designed to guide visitors through the North West on a discovery tour of the finest local produce on offer. Whether you’re into sweet treats, fresh produce, fine wines or other delicious delights the easy-to-use website will guide you to award-winning produce, cellar doors, restaurants, cafés, distilleries, breweries, farm stalls and more. Each business has a sign out the front with a QR code that directs you to the next hot spot.
Want more to explore in Devonport? Check out our list of top things to see and do.