An Earth-lover’s paradise – and a gourmet tour, indeed!
Winning the ‘Gourmet Traveller/Tourism Tasmania’ promotion was an unexpected delight. In early March, we flew into Hobart, out of the sticky humidity of Brisbane, into a comfortable 21 degrees. Relief!
We collected our hire car, courtesy of AVIS, and drove to Salamanca where we stopped for a bite to eat at the quirky Tricycle Café & Bar, tucked neatly behind Salamanca Place. The coffee was great and the organic cauliflower salad delicious. With our bellies full and our drive up the coast ahead of us, it was time to leave. Map in hand, we navigated our way up through Sorrell, and then east, climbing the picturesque coastal highway, past some of the places we would later visit during our stay.
In the late afternoon, we arrived at White Sands Estate at Ironhouse Point, poised on the shore of a turquoise sea. White Sands has been recently revamped and now sports two dining options housed in an architecturally designed building, with floor to ceiling windows affording a spectacular view of the ocean. We relaxed in the BrewHaus Café, and enjoyed a simple meal of fish and salad with a glass of crisp white, and watched the sky turn from blue to pink to inky black. The ocean villas, dotted about the grounds, were clean and spacious with generous decks, encouraging a leisurely sunbathe, or, in our case, a spot of star gazing before bed.
The next morning we were booked in for a sea paddle with Freycinet Adventures. Up at the crack of dawn, we arrived at Coles Bay excited and a little apprehensive, not having ever kayaked in the sea. Our concerns were unfounded, and, after mastering the art of paddling (and switching positions – it turns out I am the captain!) we relished in the beauty of the coastline. Gliding through deep green water, we explored remote coves, listened to our guides’ stories about the history of the peninsula and its pink granite rocks, and spotted a white sea eagle in its nest, before racing the looming clouds back to land. Having worked up an appetite, we lunched-feasted-at the nearby Freycinet Marine Farm. Treated to a mixed platter of fresh seafood, just-shucked oysters and an icy beer, we sat in the courtyard and counted our lucky stars. That night, back at White Sands, we sampled the fare at LeBlanc Fine Dining, seated in the white-themed dining room, again in front of that magnificent view. Our host was attentive and informative, intent on giving us a pleasurable evening, and chef Glen Cordwell served up an impressive menu, focused on regional Tasmanian produce. After such an eventful day, it was time to retire.
In the morning, again up with the birds, we packed our things and made our way down the coast, pausing for a scrumptious breakfast at the bakery in seaside Bicheno, to Coles Bay for our next adventure – a cruise with Wineglass Bay Cruises. Unfortunately, the inclement conditions forced a cancellation, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for better weather the next morning. With a free day ahead, we consulted a wine map and decided to drive west to Launceston to explore the area and, already familiar with their elegant wines, lunch at Joseph Chromy vineyard in Relbia, to celebrate my partner’s fiftieth birthday in style. After a leisurely drive around the area, we headed south-east to Swansea, where we were to stay for the next two nights at Meredith House.
To say our time at Meredith House was ‘lovely’ is an understatement. It wasn’t just the accommodation – a traditional B&B plus mews-style apartments surrounded by roses and just up the road from the beach – Noel and Neal are committed to hospitality in the true sense of the word and their gourmet breakfast spread is to die for. In the late afternoon, we walked the white shores of Swansea before taking a bubble bath in our apartment and heading out to The Banc restaurant, a short walk away. Chef John T Bailey showcases the best of regional produce and local wines, rightly proud of the delicacies Tasmania yields. The crayfish was delicious.
The next morning, we were happily informed our cruise would sail. Back at Coles Bay, we climbed on board and powered off around magical Wineglass Bay, in the expert hands of skipper Duncan Sinclair, who gave an interesting commentary on the geography, history and wildlife of the peninsula. The natural beauty of the Freycinet Peninsula is astounding: the colours and patterns of the granite cliffs, the luminous water, and pristine beaches. Albatross circled, sea birds hunted for fish by the boat, and, at one point, dolphins – both bottle-nosed and common – swam alongside us, leaping out of the water, playing. Oysters (thanks again to Freycinet Marine Farm), shucked on board by Duncan, and local Spring Vale sparkling were served to all and we toasted the untouchable splendour around us.
That night we dined at Piermont restaurant in Swansea, the final dining experience as part of our prize, and what a finish! Piermont has won some prestigious awards, and it is easy to see why. The restaurant overlooks the magnificent Great Oyster Bay, the blues of sea and sky changing and deepening at dusk, setting the scene for a very special evening. We were invited to choose a bottle of wine from the wine room, stocked with some of the best wines available on the island. The menu, designed by head chef Dwayne Bourke, focuses on seasonal, local, quality produce, some freshly harvested from the organic garden he has cultivated on the grounds. The food is thoughtful, made with integrity and simply delicious. Perhaps the highlight was the poached oysters with saffron, cucumber and salmon roe, or perhaps it was the fish. Either way, Piermont was a memorable and delectable experience. Yum!
Having extended our stay in Tasmania, we drove south to Lymington, five minutes drive from Cygnet in the Huon Valley, where we had rented a cottage. Blueberry Bay Cottage sits on the remote bushy shore of the bay, looking out to glassy waters and thin, straight eucalypts. Swan glide and feed during the day, possums and other marsupials visit at dawn and dusk and, even though it was early autumn, we nightly lit the fire and snuggled in the cosy cottage.
After our decadent time on the east coast of Tasmania, we were keen to ‘eat in’ and source the produce of Tasmania’s food bowl. We were in luck. The cottage is just up the road from an organic blueberry farm and oysters grow on the rocks lining the shore – we shucked them there on the beach and ate them dripping with salt water. After exploring the area and asking lots of questions, we found an organic grocery outlet on the highway near Oyster Cove (being mid week, we missed the weekend markets) and bought up on supplies. We cooked up a storm, barbecued on the grill outside and even made a blueberry chocolate cake! Then, after three days exploring, walking, fishing, eating, sleeping and enjoying the peaceful view, we drove back to Hobart and flew home, uplifted by our wonderful holiday.
Thank you, Gourmet Traveller and Tourism Tasmania. Tasmania is, indeed, a feast for the eyes, the stomach and the soul. We felt like gourmet travellers and we loved every minute.
Photo Credits and text – Christine Sharp