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, plus priority access to the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona)
11am, but flexible for Smith members (or for the 'flirtatious', as MONA's cheeky in-room compendium suggests). Check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £340.42 (AU$650), 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, original art, minibar, temperature-controlled wine storage, kitchen.
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 only open Friday to Monday. The Source restaurant will still be open to guests for breakfast and alternative dinner arrangements can be made when the restaurant is closed.
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.
Kids of any age will enjoy the spacious, private pavilions; older children will get a kick out of the art and pool.
The original two-floor, two-bedroom pavilions, Brett and Charles, are spacious yet intimate, but opt for one of the two-bedroom newer pavilions if you want even more acreage. All rooms boast kitchens and laundry rooms, so work well for families.
Arrive at MONA by boat and you'll already have the kids eating out of the palm of your hand. The winery and gourmet restaurants may not be the most child-friendly distractions, but there's a cool pool on site, and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has a curious mix of Egyptian mummies, ethnic artifacts, antiquities, digital works and modern art that should appeal to older kids.
The heated indoor pool is just for pavilion guests to use (secure entry with your room key), and is not too deep for the smalls. It's more suited to laps than aqua play.
MONA's restaurant the Source can cater for children, and offers high chairs for wee folk. Rooms also come with state-of-the-art kitchens, fridges and microwaves. Continental breakfast can be provided in your room, or you can enjoy cooked breakfasts up at the Source.
Given three days' notice, MONA can arrange babysitting with reputable local child minders.
No need to pack
Baby cots, high chairs, entertainment (pavilions come with satellite TV and lots of amusing gadgets).
There's a buggy on hand to ferry you to your room if you're loaded down with kids and luggage.
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. The menu consists of French-influenced Mod Oz dishes, which embrace the mantra 'think globally, but act locally' with great oysters, mussels, escabeche and pan roasted fish on offer, as well as delicious desserts, and own-label wine and beer produced on the premises.
Pop to the Mona museum Wine Bar out near the lawn for tempting drops and cheese platters.
The Source is open for lunch Friday–Monday from noon to 4pm.
Continental breakfast can be pre-arranged to arrive at your room between 7.30am and 10am.
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 (be sure to prebook), 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).
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. 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 Mona 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 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.
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 Faro 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 too, as private dining in your lounge or breakfasting out on the deck with river views is a real treat.
If you're staying over the weekend, take advantage of Void where live music and martinis abound.
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.