We check in to Australia’s first storytelling hotel

When you think of hotel groups, names like Hilton, Accor, and Mantra probably spring to mind. Ask me to name one of my favourites, though, and there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it.

My love of The Federal Group’s properties started at Saffire on Tasmania’s beautiful East Coast. Which, to be fair, isn’t a hard place to fall in love with. Think all-inclusive gourmet food and beverages, ‘Best Boutique Hotel in the World’ award wins, and stunning natural views of Freycinet. Not to mention unique activities, like visiting an oyster farm to don waders and enjoy an oyster feast with sparkling wine at a table in the water, complete with a white tablecloth. As you do!

Lucky hubby liked it as much as I did, because we ended up getting married there last year.

I think they had him at “drinks included”? 😉

More recently, we stayed at the Group’s Henry Jones Art Hotel. Still in Tassie, but this time in Hobart. As the name suggests, the property is all about art and culture, and features around 500 original artworks. Located in the old IXL Jam Factory building – which dates back to 1825 – it’s fun, yet polished, and has a fab bar, great staff, and an awesome location. What’s not to love?

So with the bar set high, I was excited to check out the latest addition to the family – MACq 01, Australia’s first storytelling hotel. Set on the Hobart waterfront, the four-storey building is perfectly positioned to make the most of everything Tassie’s capital has to offer.

After an early morning flight from Sydney, we arrive to free valet parking and our room already available. We’re off to a good start.

Now, your inner sceptic might assume a theme like “storytelling” is going to be a gimmick. But I can put your fears at ease. MACq 01 is truly committed to showcasing Tasmania’s unique history, culture, and stories. At every touchpoint, the hotel brings them to life in genuinely engaging and intriguing ways. It starts with the timber entry stairs – featuring a quirky message emblazoned across them.

So why would they create a storytelling hotel anyway? I’m glad you asked. The concept came about when Tourism Tasmania’s research discovered that one of the main reason travellers return to the Apple Isle is the people. MACq 01’s 114 rooms all represent and tell the stories about different Tasmanian characters. Some – like Ricky Ponting – are household names, but many are lesser-known residents, some going back to convict times. And not all the stories are pretty!

Rooms are divided into five categories, depending on the character. We’re in a ‘Colourful and Quirky’ suite–our room is an ode to Bill Thompson, a young shoemaker convicted of burglary and transported to Hobart for life in 1841. I won’t spoil it for you in case you get to stay in room 111 too, but he definitely lived a colourful life!

The first thing to love about the room is the space. It’s huge! If I could transport the walk-in wardrobe to Sydney, I would.

The bathroom is equally generous, complete with a deep bath, double basin, and a rainwater shower, all complemented with polished finishes and mood lighting.

But the suite’s crowning glory is its balcony with water views. Come the annual Sydney to Hobart race, these will be in mint position but really, it’s a gorgeous view all year round.

More things to love include: an old-school viewfinder with pics from Hobart’s early history; the super comfy bed; the eye-catching artwork; all-inclusive movies; and a fun mini-bar with games (hello, Jenga and Barrel of Monkeys), and local Tasmanian spirits and chocolates. When in Hobart!

While staying in our room is pretty tempting, there’s more discovering to do.

Guests have access to three different storytelling tours that operate daily ($20 for the general public). We opt for the 10am ‘Waterfront Winners and Sinners’ option and are treated to a walking tour of Hobart with resident Storyteller Justin (just quietly, what an awesome job title). Justin expertly guides us through the streets of Hobart to Salamanca, entertaining us with fascinating stories about noteworthy Hobart people and places along the way. I’ve been to Hobart five times, but still learn so much!

We continue the learning back at MACq 01’s Story Bar, because what’s a weekend adventure without a little alcohol? MACq 01 runs a gin masterclass ($75 per person), where gin guru Dougie teaches us all about the magical art of gin-making. It’s informative, delicious, and a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

It would be rude not to sample the bar menu and settle in with another beverage. The trout dips with rye bread get my tick of approval.

I have just enough time for a luxurious pre-dinner bath (one of the perks of your restaurant for the night being a quick Uber ride away). Then, tummy rumbling, we go to the Old Wharf Restaurant.

With ex-Saffire Chef Simon Pockran at the helm, I know we’re in safe hands. Featuring fresh local produce (naturally), the daily seafood specials don’t disappoint. However, it’s hard to go past the richer dishes that showcase Simon’s fine-dining flair. The pork belly with squid is a delicious surprise that Mr Redfern declares the ‘best pork belly ever’. And he’s a hard marker. I can’t argue, though. It’s the dish of the night, with complex flavours that match perfectly with our bottle of 2009 Derwent Estate Wines Pinot Noir.

Of course, no hotel stay is complete without a buffet breakfast. After an early morning run around Hobart (the hotel gym is also great if that’s more your thing), we’re back at the Old Wharf Restaurant for the most important meal of the day (although I’d argue that EVERY meal is important in a foodie hot spot like Hobart).

They have me at pastries, but the house-made granola and scrambled eggs really seal the deal.

I have to admit though, the deal was sealed way before breakfast. If you’re looking for a unique Hobart stay, look no further than MACq 01. While the luxe design, storytelling quirk, and great food-and-wine experiences make staying here a no-brainer, it’s the amazing team that make MACq 01 a real winner. The honest chats about the food-and-wine scene, local tips on what to see and do, and warm, friendly greetings will make you feel like you’re with long-lost friends. Tourism Tasmania were right about Tassie people – they’re a special bunch!

Book the MACq 01 hotel
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