Jul
01
2011
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Imagine, just for a moment, that you were planning a voyage around Australia. First, it could be easy to imagine you might need some boating skills. You’d probably also need to counter a long list of potential hazards. Would getting hit in the head by flying fish make it into your plan . . . ?

A Tasmanian expedition led by Rob Pennicott is circumnavigating Australia in two dinghies. Pennicott and his crew are cruising for funds for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. A month into their philanthropic quest they’re somewhere around Darwin, travelling west.

The trip across the Gulf of Carpentaria involved a sleepless 24 hours. The south-easterly winds and lumpy seas were even more challenging than sandwiches consisting of tinned tuna, cheese and fruit bread.
In fact Pennicott, an experienced salty – he’s former rock lobster fisherman now cruise boat operator – reckons the gulf crossing was one of his most taxing days at sea. And it wouldn’t have been helped by those blows to the head . . . during the night . . . from flying fish.

Now Tasmania can be a wild circus. Rare birds, platypus, the confounding Tasmanian devil and even walking fish can be spotted in the wild. Pennicott is a commendably passionate wildlife nut (or devotee), knows about the tramping fish, and Mother Nature’s always surprising ways. But even he was gobsmacked at encountering flyers with gills.

Still, those fishy moments are, like chewing on fruit loaf and tuna, ultimately going to be worth it. Almost $80,000 has so far been raised by Rob for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.
At follow.theyellowboatroad.com you can donate to the campaign and follow Rob’s circumnavigation. He’s only about a third of the way through the voyage. More donations will be gratefully received.

website screen shot

'Follow The Yellow Boat Road' website

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Jun
30
2011
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Christmas is still a way off but there is a way you can taste some of its sweetest flavours. Hints of plum pudding or Christmas cake are found in Bill Lark’s single malt whisky.
The whisky developed by Bill and his wife, Lyn, took a decade to nurture. Its old-world flavours are such that even the Scots, whisky connoisseurs from around the world, and perhaps even Santa Claus, are interested in Lark’s Tasmanian whiskies.
Bill is of the opinion that the clean and fresh produce available on the island not only helps attract visitors but also helps craft whiskies of distinction. Tasmania grows some of the world’s best brewing barley and it helps nurture the plum pudding flavours.

“The great thing about what is happening here in Tasmania is we are buying our malt from Cascade Brewery and they are using a brewing malt which is how whisky used to be made years ago in Scotland – many whisky makers even in Scotland tend to use a distilling barley specifically developed to give a high yield of alcohol but the rich malts [and flavours] have been sacrificed,” Bill says.

For those who might shy away from a dram of single malt Bill has a suggestion. “Try it with some ice in it. As the ice melts it dilutes the whisky down and takes the bite off. It opens up lots of flavours. People get a very enjoyable experience without spoiling the whisky. A lot of people get quite interested in the different characters of whisky just from that experience. In our whisky when you taste it up front you get this delicious note of plum pudding or Christmas cake.”

Lark’s cellar door, their whisky bar, is near the Hobart waterfront. But there are other ways to get a shot of warmth or even a hint of Christmas cheer during winter.
www.larkdistillery.com.au

Hellyers Road Distillery
The Hellyers Road Distillery in Burnie, on the north-west coast, is the largest single malt whisky distillery in Australia. The Original Pure Australian Single Malt Whisky is their flagship product. It’s distilled from Tasmanian grown malted barley, Roaring Forties rainwater and yeast and does not have any artificial colouring. Visitors can learn about the distilling process on a guided tour ($12.50 for adults). There is also a tasting counter and gift shop at the distillery.
www.hellyersroaddistillery.com.au

Nant Distillery
The Nant Estate, near Bothwell, was first settled circa 1821. The distillery, including a water-driven wheel which drives stones that grind barely to grist, is part of a fantastic restoration of a colonial-era property.

In the Tasting Room is extraordinary bespoke wallpaper featuring Arcadian scenes. The wallpaper, crafted by Tasmanian artist Milan Milojevic, is alone worth the trip to Nant. Never mind the whisky or the extraordinarily memorable refurbishment that has taken place here.

Nant is open for tours from Thursday to Monday from 10am to 4pm. The tour costs $12 per person. A whisky tasting costs $10 and includes tasting notes. Visitors can visit Nant to taste the whisky and not do a tour. Lunches are available by appointment.
www.nant.com.au and 03 62595790.

Bill Lark attending to casks

Bill Lark attending to casks

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Jun
23
2011
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It’s day 23 of Rob Pennicott’s circumnavigation of Australia to raise funds for polio eradication. He and his crew and their two yellow dinghies have crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Tassie tourism operator won’t ever be much further north on this voyage. That’s a long way from his home waters around Bruny Island south of Hobart: more than 4,000 kilometres (2235miles) from Hobart, in fact.

Almost $70,000 has so far been raised by Rob for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. That’s enough for around 100,000 polio vaccinations. Very roughly that works out to about 25 polio vaccinations for every kilometre Rob is currently from Tassie.

Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the remaining four countries in the world where polio has not been eradicated. But polio is a little like Darth Vader in that it’s not about to be killed off easily. Unless it, that’s polio, is wiped out it could come back in enormous quantities. More donations will be gratefully received. By Rob’s calculations he has only got three more corners to turn before he returns to Tasmania.

Progress of the Yellow Boats into the Gulf

At follow.theyellowboatroad.com you can donate to Rob’s campaign and follow his circumnavigation.

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Jun
20
2011
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We thought we had misread the headline to the article. This is a ‘ruin site’ – a place where history emerges from what was built in the past, and yet the ‘Henry Hunter Triennial Prize for Architecture’ was awarded on Saturday night 16 June, to project architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer for their work on Stage One of the conservation of the Separate Prison.

This is not the first time that work on the Separate Prison has been recognised.

The Henry Hunter Triennial Prize is presented for architecture that involves the recycling or conservation of existing buildings. Aha, so that explains the tribute to not only the present day practitioners but also the original architect Henry Hunter (1832-1892).

The separate prison is one of the ‘must sees’ at the Port Arthur historic site. It is possible to reflect on man’s inhumanity to man as the system of the day forced solitude and discipline on the inmates.

Port Arthur's Separate Prison

The Separate Prison where solitary confinement and being locked up for 23 hours per day was usual - Image: Port Arthur Historic Site

More information about the Port Arthur Historic site.

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Jun
17
2011
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Tasmania. It is home to a wild circus of Tasmanian devils, quolls, wombats and platypus, rare birds and a World Heritage Area that claims a whopping 20 per cent of the island.

Much of the wildlife including platypuses and quolls are not easily encountered on mainland Australia. But they can be found, in many cases without too much effort, in Tasmania. It shouldn’t be surprising then that stories about Tasmania’s wildlife are being featured on the website of one of the world’s great wildlife magazines.

BBC Discover Wildlife

You can read more about Tasmanian wildlife at BBC Wildlife Magazine’s website.

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Jun
09
2011
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Tassie tourism operator Rob Pennicott is closing in on Yapoon, in Queensland, on his three-month circumnavigation of Australia. Pennicott is out to raise millions of dollars for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.
It’s day nine of the voyage. At the time of writing $53,701 has been donated to the cause. That’s enough for some 80,000 polio vaccinations. Money for a lot more yet is going to be raised. Rob is after millions of $10 donations. The public can also bid for seats on his dinghies and already some of the winning bidders have been cruising with him.

Rob's journey so far

The bidding is already keen for many of the Tasmanian legs (4-11 August). The current bid for the King Island to Strahan leg is $500. The bid for the Strahan to Hobart leg is $1550; Hobart to St Helens has $615 on it and St Helens to Flinders Island has so far commanded $200. A $2600 bid for a leg along the Western Australian coast is the highest bid so far.

The Tassie legs though will come with a whole lot of inside information. Rob is a former crayfisherman and knows the Tasmanian coast well. Cruising with Rob in Tassie is bound to give any passengers, at least those who aren’t fishermen, a whole new and interesting perspective of the island(s).
Remember, any contributions above $10 are eligible to be entered in the draw for two people to travel on the final leg from to Sydney. This will include flights from anywhere in the world, along with two nights’ accommodation and a five-day holiday in Tasmania.

For more on Rob’s incredible journey follow.theyellowboatroad.com

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Jun
06
2011
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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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May
31
2011
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What do Bill Gates and a former crayfish boat skipper from Tasmania have in common?

Robert Pennicott is an ex-fisherman turned cruise boat skipper and is one of Tasmania’s most successful tourism operators. He’s not quite worth $50 billion dollars but this hasn’t stopped him from embracing the sorts of numbers that may be part of daily life for Gates.

On May 31 Pennicott and some of his staff were scheduled leave Sydney in two dinghies on a three-month circumnavigation of Australia. Due to bad weather they’ll now depart on June 2. But they’ve already started cruising for funds for Polio eradication. Pennicott is aiming to raise $39 million, and to channel some of the Gates’ billions to Rotary International in the process. If the $39 million is raised Gates will donate another $155 million (his foundation has already donated $200 million) to Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign.

For the past 25 years Rotary International has been raising funds for the worldwide eradication of polio – poliomyelitis, or infantile paralysis, is a viral infection. To date Rotary has raised $161 million. If Rotary can raise $200 million by June 2012 Gates will, via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, add hundreds of millions of dollars to the Rotary efforts.

According to Pennicott the Rotary quest has run into a wall and he is going to help raise the missing $39million, or at least a chunk of it. “I want to be the catalyst to reinvigorate the whole End Polio Now campaign,” Pennicott says. “Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the remaining four countries in the world where polio has not been eradicated. We (the world) are so close to wiping out. But unless it is wiped out it could come back in enormous quantities,” Pennicott says.

According to Rotary polio infected more than 350,000 children annually before they began their eradication efforts. In 2009, fewer than 1,700 cases were reported worldwide. But the polio cases represented by this final challenge are, not least due to wars and geographic isolation, the most difficult and expensive to prevent.

Pennicott knows he’s probably not going to raise all the funds in three months. But that is not going to stop him trying. National Geographic has embraced his vision and his quest and are a major sponsor of his trip. They will tell their readers about the adventure and, perhaps more importantly, how to donate to the cause via their 6 million facebook friends.

And an adventure this certainly will be. Pennicott’s cruises around Tasmania’s Bruny Island and the Tasman Peninsula feature sea cliffs, caves and marine life and are wildly popular. Pennicott and his crews take some 60,000 passengers a year – into these spectacular coastal environments.

The circumnavigation might well be a three-month replica of the cruise which Travel + Leisure has described as one of the world’s 100 Greatest Trips. And the public are being offered the opportunity to take part in the circumnavigation. There will be 77 stages to the three-month trip. People will be able to bid for seats on 48 of the stages when two seats on board each boat will be auctioned to the highest bidder.

This isn’t Pennicott’s first effort at philanthropy. He currently gives 25 per cent of his net profits away. “I’d like it to be 90 per cent. My family’s wants aren’t to get really rich. It’s actually to be comfortable. And to put a lot of money back into the world.”

Pennicott’s passion for the environment drives him to donate a substantial part of his business profits towards conservation. In 2007 he founded the Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund together with Wildcare. Their first effort helped to eradicate a feral cat population on Tasman Island.

While the circumnavigation fundraiser may bring further currency and cachet to Tasmania and may even indirectly boost the numbers of passengers on Pennicott’s thrilling cruises he says this has nothing to do with his rationale.
Pennicott is on a philanthropic quest and this is the first of other fund raising adventures he has planned, regardless of how much money he raises for the End Polio Now cause. For the way Pennicott sees the world he’s not going to fail even if he raises only $50,000. The figure will fund some 80,000 polio vaccinations after all.

Follow the journey, encourage or donate at follow.theyellowboatroad.com.

Rob Pennicott doing harbour trials for his Yellow Boat Road circum-navigation

Harbour trials for Rob Pennicott's Yellow Boat Road vessel

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May
30
2011
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The Sydney Morning Herald’s weekend Traveller magazine of 28 May has captured the essence (and more) of a revolution happening in Hobart’s art and food scene.
Quoting the introduction – we would have to agree …
Hobart’s urban renewal is driven by the controversial MONA museum, boutique lodgings and chic dining.
Known to some as Slowbart, the island capital has never been a city noted for its urban cool. But in a virtual blink, Hobart’s cultural landscape has been transformed, with art, wine, fine food and stylish accommodation becoming integral features of the city. A weekend in Australia’s southernmost city can now be as sophisticated as any in Sydney or Melbourne.

Read the full article.

Article Header

Article Header from Sydney Morning Herald

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May
27
2011
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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

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