Tasmania’s East Coast

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Many of the locals in the north-east, around St Helens, Falmouth and Scamander and Weldborough, St Marys and Derby have seen enough rain for this year. In fact they’re still waiting for summer. While the word is it might not be coming along any time soon those same locals will tell you that this part of the east coast of Tasmania offers much more than fine beaches. And that there isn’t any logical reason not to clock-off from work one Thursday and make a three day weekend of it in the north-east. Summer or no summer.

Below are just some of the places to consider visiting during a north-east long weekend.

St Helens
Contrary to what it could be easy to assume, St Helens hasn’t been washed away and neither have any of the restaurants or hotels nor the town’s appeal. Eric Bennett owns the Tidal Waters Resort right by Georges Bay. “A lot of people like St Helens [at this time of year] because it’s not quite as busy,” he says.

The Tidal Waters Resort has 60 guest rooms. The King Spa rooms overlook Georges Bay while the restaurant at Tidal Waters has an open fire. Bennet is running a two-night special that includes dining at this winter hot spot. The package includes two nights in a room with a bay view, two breakfasts and dinner one night in the restaurant. It costs $498 per couple for the two nights (a single night package costs $278).

www.tidalwaters.com.au and (03) 6376 1999.

Pyengana Dairy Company, St Columba Falls and the Pub
Pyengana is about a 20-minute drive from St Helens and this trifecta is within a few kilometres of each other. One local suggests visitors time their run to arrive in Pyengana mid morning. This will allow for a leisurely coffee and cheese tasting stop at the Holy Cow Cafe at the Pyengana Dairy Company, on St Columba Falls Rd. There’ll also be the opportunity for a visit to the 90-metre St Columba Falls. The run to the Pyengana pub can be completed in time for lunch.

Kristine Millwood and partner Alan Barber took over operating the Pub in the Paddock in April, just before Easter. They’ll be keeping busy stoking the open fires in the bar and the dining room and serving roasts of the day every day through winter. Millwood’s a local girl and St Columba Falls is her favourite part of the north-east. For someone who grew up in the area it’s a significant endorsement of the falls. Millwood advises that the viewing platform at St Columba was damaged in the flooding but visitors can still see take in the best of the fall’s experience.
The Pub in the Paddock also has accommodation (single rooms cost $55. Family rooms that sleep four people cost $115: (03) 6373 6121).

The Pyengana Dairy Company is open every day from 10am to 4pm through winter. Like the nearby pub it also has an open fire. It will no doubt be sought after by those who choose to watch the cows that provide the milk for the cheese in the robotic dairy. Even for non-farm types it’ll prove surprisingly fascinating. Phone: (03) 6373 6157.

Shop in the Bush
Margaret and Allan Woodberry run the Shop in the Bush, inland from St Helens on the road to Scottsdale.

The Woodberry’s believe this is the largest bric-a-brac shop in Tasmania. There are thousands of items in stock. There are classic pre-loved books, semi-precious jewellery, works of art, and antiques. Call in and it would be easy to spend a few hours browsing here. The shop is open from 9am to 5pm seven days a week (it is however closed from 8 July until 22 August).

www.southcom.com.au/~shopinthebush and (03) 6376 1735.

Derby and Trail of Tin Dragon.
The Trail of the Tin Dragon weaves through St Helens via Weldborough to Derby and Scottsdale. Its name is based in part on the Chinese miners who came to Tasmania in the late nineteenth century to mine tin. The interpretative centre at Derby is the home of the Trail.
For a time Derby’s Briseis Mine was the centre of the world’s tin. The mine was named for the winner of the 1876 Melbourne Cup and was something of a winner itself. For a time some 10 per cent of the world’s tin came from the mine according to Jodie Terry, the co-ordinator of the centre.

For Terry, an 18-minute multi-media presentation on a huge screen is the star of the interpretative centre’s show. “I love the way it connects the dots of the history of Derby,” she says. There is room for some 20 people inside the mini-cinema. This means there is also plenty of room for friends and family. Terry advises it is fine to bring them along too.

The centre is next door to the Derby Museum. Chinese artefacts, tin and gem stone displays and a social history of Derby are on show there. The interpretive centre is open every day through winter from 10am to 4pm. Entry costs $12 for adults ($9 concession). Family tickets cost $30.

www.trailofthetindragon.com and (03) 6354 1062.

Weldborough Warmth
The Weldborough pub is at the top of the Weldborough pass in the Blue Tier. Marty and Sue run the pub and recently won the Tourism Initiative of the Year Award at the Tasmanian Hospitality Association Awards for Excellence. Aside from the couple’s verve, the award has a lot to do with the range of Tasmanian craft brews now available — from ciders and beers to soft drinks — at the pub.

Linger over a cider in a coveted position by the fire in the dining area or bar and it could be the precursor to being coaxed into staying the night. The Weldborough has rooms from $65. The pub is open from midday during the week and from 10.30am on weekends. Lunches are served seven days a week. Dinners are available from Thursday to Monday (evening meals are available on Tuesday and Wednesday for those who book in advance).

www.weldborough.com.au and (03) 6354 2223.
Marty and Sue also run a terrific facebook page where people can find out what is going on at the pub and around Weldborough and the Blue Tier.

Eureka Farm
“We’ve had four floods this year, more water than the sun,” says Denis Buchanan who along with his wife, Ann, own the farm near Scamander. Yet the Buchanans still managed to coax fruit from their trees and bushes. Experience no doubt helped in this regard. The Buchanans have been growing fruits and berries for 18 years and have dealt with fires and floods while cultivating their good food place. Stone fruits, berries, nuts and vegetables are grown on a fine piece of real estate with sea views.
Jams, chutneys, sauces and fruity desserts including are made on the farm following the various harvest times. Traditional country recipes have been trialled and modified until the chief tasters, the Buchanans, believe they have come up with the flavours to do justice to the Eureka Farm label. And there are plenty of people who share the Buchanans penchant for good tastes. Eureka Farms is a serial-award winning brand.
Many of the fruits come off the trees in summer and autumn but winter shouldn’t deter anyone from calling for a coffee or soup and perhaps picking up some jars of jams and chutneys while there. “Even in winter it [the farm] is a bit of a haven. Call us first to get treated with some special attention,” advises Denis.

www.eurekafarm.net and (03) 6372 5500.

St Marys
A team of 300 convicts reportedly hived the pass from the coast to St Marys. That’s a lot of digging but perhaps they could have dug a little more. For the St Marys Pass road is again being taken to with shovels and excavators and is temporarily closed. But there is access to St Marys from the east coast via Elephant Pass.

Mount Elephant Pancakes, on the Elephant Pass between St Mary and the East Coast, and the Purple Possum Cafe in St Marys are old favourites of Discover Tasmania. Visitors to both fine food places need exert themselves with nothing more than an appetite.

Hearty soups and the joie de vivre of the cafe’s owner Elaine Sullivan will be simmering away at the Purple Possum through winter. The breadth of the mix of sweet and savoury European style pancake menu at Mt Elephant should prove a surprise to those who haven’t visited for a while. A fine winter novelty could be to consider a two course travelling lunch: one course at each place.

The Purple Possum Cafe is open from 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 2pm on Saturday.
www.purplepossum.com.au and (03) 6372 2655.

Mount Elephant Pancakes is open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm (but may shut down for a two week period over winter). The pancakes are 8km from St Marys.
www.mountelephantpancakes.com.au and (03) 6372 2263.

White Sands Estate
Michael Briggs, head brewer of the Iron House brewery at the White Sands Estate near Falmouth launched a stout for winter at the end of May. Paddys Head Stout is named after a local landmark. Stout’s a fine drink. The Kids Stay Free concept flowing from White Sands will go down just as well with families this winter.

For if the stout doesn’t warm up mum and dad the package’s essentials will: for each paying adult staying a White Sands a child can stay and eat for free at either the White Sands’ cafe or restaurant. The Brew Haus Cafe and Bar has an indoor children’s playground near to it and a dedicated children’s menu. Le Blanc is the resort’s fine-dining home and while there is no children’s menu at the restaurant, dining there is included in the kids-free deal.

Entry to the on-site cinema at White Sands is also free. “Once families come on site all our facilities are free,” says general manager Lisieux Afeaki rousingly. This no-reach-for-the- wallet policy also includes pitch and putt golf and lake fishing at White Sands. “We’re very family friendly,” adds Afeaki.

The two-night package in a two-bedroom Deluxe Room costs $200 per night (the deal is for minimum two-night stays and is valid until the end of September). Keep an eye out for details on another of Afeaki’s plans: Winters Longest Lunch will involve wines from east coast vineyards, fine food and the White Sands resort.
www.white-sands.com.au and www.ironhouse.com.au

Additional Information –
Mount Elephant Pass
The east coast and St Marys are connected by two roads, the Elephant Pass road and the St Marys Pass road. The St Marys Pass is expected to be closed until the end of June while flood damage to the road is repaired. Elephant Pass, accessed via the Chain of Lagoons (north of Bicheno and south of Falmouth) is still open. The St Marys Pass Road is expected to re-open at the end of this month (JUNE).

The helpful and friendly staff at the St Helens Visitor Information Centre will be able to tell you more – about the Pass as well as suggest more ideas for winter.

The Visitor Centre is at 61 Cecilia St: (03) 6376-1744.

Tidal Waters Resort St Helens

Magnificient St Columba Falls near Pyengana

White Sands Estate

Exotic and genuine cheeses

This article was published in the Sunday Tasmanian 5th June 2011.

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