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World first storytelling hotel opens in Tasmania

Hobart has unveiled the world’s first storytelling hotel, featuring 114 tales so strange, they’re almost unbelievable.

By Georgia Rickard
Published: 06 June, 2017

The world’s first storytelling hotel, MACq 01 has been unveiled in Tasmania’s trendy capital city, Hobart. But what is a storytelling hotel? You’re not the first to ask. The hotel has been the subject of much discussion among Australians, as some serious talent has been working on it for a long time now.

The people behind MACq 01 have a track record of creating innovative stays. Take a look at the super-luxury lodge, Saffire Freycinet (named the world’s best boutique hotel at the 2015 World Boutique Hotel Awards), or the Henry Jones Art Hotel (the first art hotel in Australia), and you’ll see what we mean. No wonder Australians have been looking forward to the opening: MACq 01 was always going to be special. 

So what is a storytelling hotel?

Bedroom, MACq 01, Hobart, Tasmania

Good question. To answer it, you need to appreciate Tasmania’s unusual history. This tiny island was once considered the world’s last frontier. Home to Australia’s Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years, it was here – at the bottom of the earth – that Britain began sending its hardened criminals as punishment in the 1800s. Over time, the pioneer town of Hobart would develop its own isolated society, attracting all manner of ratbags, rascals, charlatans and scallywags, and their outrageous stories to match. The city is now known as one of Australia’s coolest, quirkiest, most culturally innovative hotspots (it’s home to one of the world’s most significant museums, Mona, as well as a globally acclaimed dining and produce scene). But if it weren’t for those unusual characters who forged a home in this wild place, Tasmania would be very different. What better way to introduce Tasmania to visitors than through the stories of its people?

True fairytales

Waterfront view, MACq 01, Hobart, Tasmania

Step inside, and you’ll immediately see that this is a Tasmanian hotel. The circular lounge around a fireplace in the lobby was designed in consultation with local Aboriginal people, who traditionally gather in such a fashion. They weren’t the only locals who participated in the hotel’s development – from the architects who mapped out each floor to the artisans responsible for the custom-made minibar cocktails, a Tasmanian cast of thousands brought the property to life. Wave hello to the staff storytellers (there are four, who host free hotel tours) and prepare to meet the character with whom you’ll be sharing your room. Each of the 114 suites is dedicated to the tale of a Tasmanian, their story emblazoned on the door of their suite. Despite what you might think as you read them, all these stories are true. 

The plot thickens

One Hundred and Fourteen Doors, MACq 01, Hobart, Tasmania

Who will you meet at the door of your room? Will it be Thomas Dewhurst Jennings (the biggest man in Australia, in room 228)? Or Mrs Delaney, the respectable lady who stopped a train crash using her bloomers, in room 130? Maybe English-born criminal Ikey Solomon, who inspired a character in Oliver Twist, in room 301? Or possibly Saroo Brierley, the Indian-born Tasmanian adoptee whose story was recently told in the Oscar-winning movie, Lion, in room 207? Whichever story you end up with, you’ll get to see it, hear it and touch it, as well as read about it, as there are artefacts and objets d’art installed in the walls of each suite, along with custom-made bedheads and furniture inspired by each character’s personality traits. The hotel has even published a book of all 114 stories, titled One Hundred and Fourteen Doors, and left a copy in every suite. True story.

Great stories, better food

Living area, MACq 01, Hobart, Tasmania

The best stories are told over a great meal, so if you can tear yourself away from your minibar – itself a Tassie experience, stocked with local honey drops, beef jerky flavoured with local bush pepper, award-winning local whisky and some excellent Tasmanian wines, cider and beers – you should spoil yourself at the on-site Old Wharf Restaurant. Having overseen the dining at Saffire Freycinet since its inception, acclaimed chef Hugh Whitehouse knows a thing or two about plating local produce. Expect to be spoiled by seasonal stars such as silky abalone, Pacific oysters plucked fresh from salty rocks, rich winter black truffles and reverently produced local cheeses, served with a front-row view of the Derwent River… and a glass or three of your favourite Tasmanian wine, perhaps. 

The twist in the tale

Bedroom, MACq 01, Hobart, Tasmania

MACq 01 is a complex name with a straightforward explanation – it comes from the hotel’s location on Macquarie Wharf. On what was previously the site of a shipping shed called Macquarie 1, the hotel was fashioned after its predecessor, from its overall shape and structure to details such as its white cypress pine exterior. As you might have guessed, Macquarie Wharf sits on the water, lending MACq 01 its fabulous views of the city and harbour. But that’s just the beginning. Such a convenient location means you can wander to virtually any fabulous restaurant, museum or gallery in the city centre – allowing you to write your own story while you’re here, in other words. After all, a storytelling hotel is merely the beginning of your Tasmanian tale.