Maverick, multi-tasking Mona Pavilions mixes a serene riverside setting with ultra-contemporary pavilions, original art, a winery, lip-smacking restaurant and alternative festivals – and comes up trumps. With an ambitious private museum also on site, this is one for culture vultures, gourmets, gadget heads and style fiends.
Get this when you book through us:
A hosted Cellar Door tasting and a bottle of Muse series wine, priority access to the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), a Moorilla Winery Tour and Moo Brew beer tasting
11am, but flexible for Smith members (or for the 'flirtatious', as MONA's cheeky in-room compendium suggests). Check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £304.11 (AU$600), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include cooked breakfast in the Source restaurant or continental breakfast in-room, and a bottle of Muse Series wine.
Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art, is Australia's largest private museum and the brainchild of Mona Pavilions' owner David Walsh. Carved into the cliffside alongside the accommodation, this sexily lit temple showcases a 'subversive Disneyland' of modern art and rare global antiquities worth over AU$100 million, including works by Brit artists Damien Hirst and Chris Ofili, US sloganeer Jenny Holzer and Australian icon Sidney Nolan. You can even stream highlights of the collection into your room via your TV screen for a more personal viewing.
At the hotel
Winery, gym, sauna. In rooms: free WiFi, TVs in bedrooms, living areas and some bathrooms, integrated CD/DVD players, iPod dock, Bang & Olufsen phone, original art, minibar, temperature-controlled wine storage, kitchen, Aesop amenities.
Our favourite rooms
Mona's eight bold pavilions are all unique. The original four, celebrating Australian artists Sidney (Nolan), Brett (Whiteley), Arthur (Boyd) and Charles (Blackman), each boast a painting by their namesakes, as well as ancient artefacts. Intimate and modernist, they cantilever dramatically over the river, with Zen-chic rooms and serene water views from outdoor decks. We like spacious two-floor, two-bedroom Brett, but cosier one-bedroom Sidney has a great bathroom. The four newer pavilions, named after architects Robin (Boyd), Esmond (Dorney), Walter (Burley Griffin) and Roy (Grounds), are set back from the river; three-storey, two-bedroom faceted-metal penthouse Roy is the most spectacular, spacious and private (ideal for families), with a spa bath on the deck for bathing alfresco.
Low-lying and intimate, the heated infinity lap pool nestles beside Roy pavilion, with angled floor-to-ceiling windows so you can gaze out to the tree-fringed river while you swim. Work out at the gym alongside, then wind down at the sauna.
Swimsuit, gym and yoga kit if you're the sporty type. Forget bag-clogging books, though – each pavilion comes with a stack of art and architecture tomes, novels and mags, all personally recommended by Mona staff.
The adjacent MONA gallery, and its café and bars, are closed on Tuesdays, but pavilion guests can enjoy an exclusive museum tour at 3.45pm. The Source restaurant will still be open to guests for breakfast and alternative dinner arrangements can be made.
MONA Pavilions has a sophisticated adult vibe, but kids are welcome and the private, two-bedroom pavilions make cool family cocoons. The hotel can supply baby cots (AU$20 a night), roll-out beds for older kids (AU$50 a night) and babysitters.
Mona Pavilions draws on locally sourced, seasonal and organic food at its restaurant, recycles water and is committed to a comprehensive environmental policy at its on-site vineyard.
Request a table by the window overlooking the river – or venture out onto the terrace in warm weather to soak up fresh air, sunshine and aquatic horizons.
Go minimal and modern to match the mood; stylish sartorial statements for admiring the art, architecture and gourmet offerings, plus lower key threads for lounging in your private pavilion.
On the first floor of Mona's sharp-suited, ultra-contemporary reception building the Ether, you'll find destination restaurant the Source, a cool confection of minimal white tables and crisp glass walls which make the most of killer rustic views. Charming manager Joseph Burton will guide you through chef Philippe Leban's delicious French-influenced Mod Oz dishes, which embrace the mantra 'think globally, but act locally' with great oysters, scallops, lobster and trevalla on offer, as well as delicious desserts, and own-label wine and beer produced on the premises.
The glass-walled, airy Source restaurant also boasts a sleek bar, but it only stays open late on Friday and Saturday evenings. You won't go thirsty, though, as free tastings of Moorilla vineyard's cool-climate Huon and Tamar Valley wines are yours for the sipping from 10am-5pm daily, adjacent to Source at the stylish Cellar Door bar. Marvel at the vibrant John Olsen artwork on the ceiling, while you savour world-class wines or limited-release Moo Brew beers from the bespoke microbrewery also housed here. Brewery Nights take place Fridays from 5pm, for quaffing the cool stuff on the terrace, or pop to the Mona museum Wine Bar out near the lawn for tempting drops and cheese platters.
The Source is open for breakfast daily, for lunch Wednesday–Monday, and for dinner Wednesday through to Saturday, from 6pm to 8.30pm. Bartenders mirror the same hours.
A la carte room service is available from 6pm to 8pm; the selection changes daily. Continental breakfast can be ordered to your room between 7.30am and 10.30am.
Mona Pavilions is perched on a private peninsula above the serene Derwent River, 12 kilometres north of Tasmanian capital Hobart, a 15-minute drive from town.
Fly into Hobart International Airport (www.hobartairport.com.au), which handles regular domestic flights from major cities on the Australian mainland with Qantas (www.qantas.com.au), Jetstar (www.jetstar.com) and Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) – although no international flights. From there, it's a 25-minute, 20-kilometre drive to MONA.
A taxi from the airport to Hobart city centre costs around AU$36.
We recommend arriving by boat to capture the full drama of Mona Pavilions' riverside setting. Hop aboard sleek catamaran MV Excella, at the Navigators terminal at Brooke Street Pier on Hobart's waterfront, for the scenic 30- to 45-minute trip with chatty commentary (www.navigators.net.au). The boat cruises to the Upper Harbour twice a day, at 11.30am and 2pm, and will drop you off at Mona's private pier en route (more frequent cruises are planned when the museum opens in 2011). A one-way adult fare costs AU$20, returns AU$32, with trips back to town at 12.45pm and 3.15pm daily. The service runs May–October, or contact [email protected] for options out of season. Journeys by speedier taxi take just 15 minutes, or the hotel can arrange private boat charters or helicopter transfers.
Worth getting out of bed for
There's no need to leave entertainment one-stop shop Mona Pavilions, so lap up the remote riverside feel away from inner-city Hobart. Check out the free Cellar Door tastings (try some Moo Brew), hit the heated swimming pool and sauna, or order a soothing massage in the privacy of your apartment-style room (there isn't a spa here, but you won't miss one). Mona also hosts regular workshops, embracing beer and tapas, cheese and wine, beer and dessert and even songwriting, although you'll need to register in advance and pay extra for these. Other events in the pipeline include Mona Quiz Night and Urban Farm (a chance to sample and buy fresh regional produce from local farmers' markets).
Save a day to visit the adjacent Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), carved out of a dramatic cliffside site beside the Ether reception building (you can beat the queues by booking your entry ticket online). Offering a secular temple to Australian and global art through the ages, it's home to a controversial, high-impact collection, including digital mummies and real Egyptian ones, as well as 'Cloaca Professional', a jaw-dropping machine that replicates the human digestive system. Designed by Melbourne firm Fender Katsalidis Architects (who also created the hotel's four residential pavilions), it's on a par with the scale of Adelaide's Art Gallery of South Australia and Brisbane's Gallery of Modern Art, and has become a major draw-card for Hobart. Interactive iPod O guides explain the works on show and allow you to save your museum tour to your email account, so you can download visual highlights at home. Refuel while you get your art fix at the airy Café by the entrance and shop, downstairs at the Void Bar or in the nearby Wine Bar above ground. Don't miss the concrete Casket back at the hotel, a quirky wunderkammer display pod offering a microcosmic taste of the art and ancient artifacts on show in the Mona museum. We love the way it opens seductively as you approach. On Fridays, you can visit a Moorilla winery or Moo Brew microbrewery.
Staff and concierge services can pretty much make anything happen for you here, as the tongue-in-cheek room compendium suggests. 'Please see reception if you're planning a pool party or ritualistic orgy', jokes the blurb. And when it comes to travel experiences, it jests, 'We can arrange pretty much anything legal. Jusk ask.'
If you're staying over a Saturday, it's worth checking out the Salamanca Market on Salamanca Place in Hobart's historic quarter, where over 300 stalls sell local produce, delicious snacks, crafts and flea market treasures. For a scenic journey, take Mona's boat there and back along the river (you can book tickets in advance for the 30-minute ride).
With gorgeous hotel restaurant the Source on your doorstep, and the sexy synergy here between food, art and own-label wine and beer, you may not want to venture further afield to dine. We recommend taking advantage of your in-room fully kitted-out kitchen and Moorilla wine stash too (you can order in any condiments you need if you want to cook for yourself), as private dining in your lounge or breakfasting out on the deck with river views is a real treat.
In you fancy getting out into town, though, MONA recommends sleekly modern Smolt and Chinese restaurant Me Wah. For a parade of prime Tasmanian produce, Dier Makr's AU$85 a head tasting menu will show you the works – they have top local wine pairings, too.
If you're staying over on a Friday, take advantage of the Moo Brew microbrewery tours at 2pm. Brewery Night kicks in afterwards from 5pm, so you can savour the flavours out on the terrace at adjacent Source restaurant. There are four regular beers and two special releases on tap and in bottles. No preservatives, no additives, but loads of attitude.
As an acronym, Mona has the ring of a suburban hausfrau about it. The reality is distinctly more glamorous. Mona – Hobart’s showcase Museum of Old and New Art, the elegantly appointed Source restaurant, and individual pavilions, named after Australian artists and architects, for overnight guests – is entertainment, education and relaxation in one potent package. Wrapped in its signature colours of black and pink, it is irreverent, very stylish, and a little dangerous.
Sprawling on a giant, gold beanbag with Mr Smith on the balcony of the Robin pavilion (a homage to the architect Robin Boyd), gazing at boats gliding past on the glassy Derwent River while sipping from a glass of free bubbles, I imagine myself cut adrift from life as I know it for a moment. The peace is deafening. Do my eyes deceive me or is that a cottontailed bunny hopping by? Yes, indeed, and he’s brought his pals. Rabbits may be the environmental scourge of Tasmania, but I delude myself they have been shipped in to complete the halcyon picture that is Mona. Ripening on the hillside, burgeoning vineyards promise an abundant crop. Everything, it seems, is in a state of growth.
The Museum of Old and New Art was conceived by its art-collecting owner, gambling entrepreneur David Walsh, as an adventure in Wonderland for adult Alices. It’s part of his Moorilla estate, also comprising a cellar door and microbrewery, just minutes by car or fast catamaran from Hobart. The museum is a heady mix of art and sex (maybe that’s why there are rabbits everywhere), served up with a good splash of wine. Already, its impact has been compared to the effect Frank Gehry’s radical Guggenheim Museum had on the small Spanish town of Bilbao. Mona has made Hobart sexy, perhaps for the first time. Let’s face it, that’s why we’re here.
Mr Smith and I queue up with hundreds of people, young and old, to see the museum, and we’re not disappointed. It is a striking and important collection. While reflective of a singular passion, there is definitely something for everyone: major international artists sit alongside emerging local talent, Victorian curiosities and Egyptian antiquities, all housed in an underground stone cavern accessed by a spiral staircase.
Descending into the museum, we leave reality behind momentarily to enter a tomblike space. It’s overwhelming, breathtaking. I love the witty curating, from the absurd grass tennis court that doubles as forecourt, through to the bold choice to abandon didactic panels in favour of customised, personal iPods that offer information, musings and thought-provoking statements as you wander the labyrinthine galleries. You choose what to look at and how much or little you want to know. This is not a preachy museum, but fun, egalitarian, interactive, addictive, and pleasingly weird.
What’s more, it pays to stay at Mona Pavilions because the museum bears repeat visits. We feel wildly decadent wandering between the museum and our pavilion and back again all day. This weekend Mona is all ours and it’s a cultural banquet we can’t help but return to feast upon.
Not completely sated, however, we dine that evening at in-house restaurant the Source. The food is just as creative: smart, not arch, an intelligent combination of flavours and, of course, so pretty I take iPhone photos of it. My ethically sourced and prepared fish is marvellous. Breakfast the next morning is similarly experimental yet hearty, starring bespoke sausages and punchy coffee. We follow our meal with a work-out in the sleekly spare gymnasium and a swim in the pool, both for the exclusive use of pavilion guests, though we are completely alone. The gym is heavy on the mirrors so one can admire one’s form, or someone else’s. Yet more bunnies bound by the window: maybe we have actually passed through the looking glass?
MONA is an island upon an island. Somewhere across the water is Hobart but while you’re here you could be anywhere. The entire endeavour is one man’s vision – complex, indulgent and intoxicating – and to stay at Mona Pavilions is to temporarily become part of it.
Each of the eight pavilions is decorated with original art and bespoke furniture from Tasmanian designers. The beds are vast and comfortable, the bedrooms hung with black curtains that muffle sound and light. All the pavilions have a kitchen and, more importantly, a fridge that leaves the average minibar for dead, stocked with wine that may as well be marked ‘drink me’.
Refreshed by the work-out, we crack open a bottle (well, it is almost lunch, which we enjoy later in the form of tapas at Moorilla’s wine bar) and ponder the eclectic selection of art books, cookbooks, philosophy texts and literature arranged on the bookshelf. No trashy magazines here. I opt to watch the art videos that are programmed into the entertainment system. This merging of art and entertainment is Mona's greatest success. Art seeps into everything, whether you notice it or not. It’s art by stealth.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Mona Pavilions’s Guestbook below.
The way the apartments were so well-appointed, and how attentive members of staff were to our needs and wants.
Orthodoxy at the museum. You will want to take an open mind with you.
Stayed on 2 Jan 2019
The Esmond apartment was spacious and well appointed and the fridge and wine bar stocked with tempting choices. The Moo brew and winery tours are worth attending.
Stayed on 21 Nov 2018
We completely loved staying at Esmond and the experience at MONA. The staff are all so involved and seem genuine in their caring enthusiasm. We happened to meet one of your Mr and Mrs Smith people at a lunch off site and he was delightful also. I would, in fact have already recommended MONA to others. We had a brilliant lunch at Source sharing four entrees and a side - it was four star. We can also recommend the Glass House restaurant in Hobart.
Stayed on 24 Jul 2018
Beautiful accommodation with luxe extras. Great location and so convenient for everything MONA! Excellent wine fridge. You don't need to get the Posh Pit on the MONA ferry – the ordinary ticket is sufficient. Make sure you get to Agrarian kitchen. The source restaurant inside is fab. Get to the museum when it's not busy!