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Take a day trip to MONA

or take a few days to see it all.

Staircase at MONA during the Theatre of the World exhibition.

The staircase inside MONA during the Theatre of the World exhibition.

You may have heard of MONA – David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art. It is everything that people say it is and more.

Here you’ll find contemporary art jockeying for position next to astonishing antiquities, iconic works next to works from emerging Tasmanian artists. And the beauty of it all is that there are no wall labels to tell you what’s what, instead you are issued with an “O”, an ipod device that has everything you want to know, and some things that may be you don’t. Not only does MONA house amazing artworks but the building itself is an extraordinary architectural feat, burrowed under the vineyards and carved into a sandstone cliff on the Moorilla Estate on the shores of the Derwent River at Berridale.

Getting to MONA is relatively easy – you can catch the funky ferry complete with artworks from Sullivan’s Cove and approach MONA from the water where it appears like a bunker rising from the water. Or catch the MONA ROMA shuttle bus from town. Or for a truly unique experience you can arrive by seaplane and view the whole estate from the air. Either way when you hit dry land you’ll need to traverse the tennis court to find the entrance!

It is easy to spend a day at MONA. As well as owning the most extraordinary art collection in the southern hemisphere, David Walsh also has a winery – home of the Moorilla label  and a microbrewery that produces Moo Brew. There are plenty of bars and cafes if you need a recharge or just need to steady your nerves during the day, there is the sumptuous underground Void Bar. If you need to come up for sunlight there is good coffee in the café in the museum entrance. The Wine Bar is a short walk from the museum and looks in to the barrel and production rooms. It offers indoor and outdoor dining options or, in case you need a snooze in the sun, you can enjoy a glass of wine sitting in a beanbag on the lawns . But if you are looking for something a cut above the rest then The Source restaurant with its contemporary, French-inspired cuisine and stunning views is the one. It’s open for breakfast and lunch Wednesday to Monday and for dinner Wednesday to Saturday.

In the summer months, MONA adds a Saturday market – MoMa – where Tasmanian designers offer a range of exquisite works alongside scrumptious food and drinks from boutique makers.

But wait, there’s more to MONA. There is CineMONA – a cinema showing films you won’t see at any other cinema in town including live broadcasts of shows from the National Theatre in London and big name bands that play on the outdoor stage. If, after all of that, if you need a good lie down then you can stay on site in the MONA Pavilions which offer a luxurious retreat with sweeping views of the Derwent and a well-stocked wine fridge.

Note: MONA is open seven days a week during January but closes on Tuesdays for the rest of the year. Admission is free if you are Tasmanian or under 18 – for everyone else it is $25 for adults, $20 for concession. And on the back of the free printed museum guide there is a map showing you how to avoid the explicit and possibly confronting artworks with works appropriate for those under 15 highlighted. See, they’ve thought of everything.

Article published: 11 December 2014