Pure perfection, Tassie style
IT’S been a few years since I headed down to the Apple Isle. Worse luck for me! After only three nights in Tassie, I was panting for more.
While the fond memories of stunning scenery and finest produce were fresh in my mind from previous visits, what I didn’t expect was a level of sophistication, elegance and charm permeating every town and city.
With only a long weekend to explore, I flew direct from Brisbane to Launceston and found the “little sister” city has certainly blossomed into a full beauty.
“Lonnie”, as the locals call it, is gateway to some of the country’s most wonderful wilderness, but the city which was once known only for the impressive Cataract Gorge running like a seam through its heart, is also bursting these days with fabulous restaurants and galleries, including the incredibly impressive Design Centre of Tasmania.
This world-class collection features wood design, placing Tassie’s thriving craft industry firmly on the global stage. Under the guiding hand of curator Dr Astrid Wootton, the design centre takes visitors on a sensual journey of discovery and artistic challenge.
On the outskirts of Lonnie, my lavish bed for the night was awaiting at the Launceston Country Club, one of the most enduring and still one of the most elegant “lodge” style hotels in the country.
As one of the nation’s first casinos, the country club has always been a popular choice for visitors wanting a world class golf course, great facilities and the ability to have a flutter. But it took me a minute to even realise the casino was still in action.
“We’re very conscious of minimising the impact of the gaming facilities,” said Federal Hotel’s Michael Bailey. “We don’t advertise it in the rooms, and people don’t have to walk through it to get anywhere.”
With this responsible attitude to gambling, the hotel had already picked up brownie points with me, but they really clinched the deal with dinner at the Terrace Restaurant. Freshest seafood, choicest cuts, delectable sweets – all topped off with an incredibly impressive wine cellar list.
Reluctantly, after an hour session to sharpen up my non-existent golfing technique, I took my nine iron and headed off next morning for a final drive through the stunning Tamar Valley and on to the coast road heading for the famed Freycinet Lodge, a destination high on my “must do” list.
Passing through charming seaside villages, we stopped for lunch at Sip at Seaview, in the picture perfect town of Bicheno.
Owners Helen Bain and Subi Mead, having run a highly successful café in Hobart, made the sea-change to Bicheno and are in the process of converting an old church camp into a funky motel-style guest house.
“We’re getting there,” said Helen, as she plonked a delectable lemon cupcake in front of me to devour. “The views are great, the food is fresh and modern and people are coming back to stay here time and again, so it looks like we’re on the right track.”
No argument here – and if I didn’t have a date with nature at Freycinet, I could happily have set up camp for a couple of nights.
Freycinet National Park sits on a peninsula affording some of the most stunning scenery imaginable.
The lodge, an eco-sensitive affair perched on a pristine beach with the pink granite Hazard Mountain Range to the rear, and bushland coves to the front overlooking the sea, is everything I’d imagined – cosy log fires, cute cabins with private decks, great dining experiences and a rustic charm that puts roses in your cheeks.
I was there to specifically conquer the Wineglass to Wine Glass walk, Freycinet Lodge’s signature experience, a trek over the mountain down to Wineglass Bay. Our guide was experienced and considerate – my legs were working overtime as I traipsed up the mountain track, which was incredibly well maintained, but still tough enough to get the heart seriously pumping.
With frequent stops along the way, ostensibly to examine some leaf or flower, but really to let me get my breath so I didn’t have a coronary, our kindly guide finally got us to the point where I could see what all the fuss was about – the amazing reveal where Wineglass Bay comes into view, all crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches.
It was all downhill from here – but not metaphorically speaking.
Our descent through the banskia forest to the beach was rewarded with morning tea, giving me the strength to trek on down the pristine sands of Wineglass, named as one of the world’s top 10 beaches.
From here, we trekked through some seriously muddy forest (they did need the rain, so I didn’t whinge too much) before being led into a secret cove where, presto, there appeared a full-on silver service dining room, set on a platform overlooking the beach.
Waiters appeared with the freshest seafood feast I’ve ever eaten, a range of great Tassie wines and a selection of scrumptious Tasmanian cheeses.
Please! This is just the living end – not only do you get to feel intrepid having scaled a mountain, braved a bog and witnessed some of nature’s greatest gifts, but now you get to feast like royalty in the middle of nowhere before being whisked back to the lodge by private yacht. For $365 per person, it’s worth every cent.
Day three, it must be Hobart Town calling…if only they could turn up the thermostat to tropical levels, I’d be living there in a flash.
This place is funky, cool and fabulous. The historic dockside buildings frame a city that cares about heritage, gardens, liveability, art and produce. All too good and, with a population shy of 210,000, it’s a pleasure to walk around the city or, here’s a good one, drive your car into town and park!
Hobart perches on the banks of the glorious Derwent River, with the imposing Mt Wellington overlooking all proceedings. On a Saturday, Salamanca Place, the historic cobblestone street with its sandstone buildings and intricate laneways, is home to one of Australia’s best street markets.
Now, the other end of the historic dock area is also coming alive, thanks to the emerging artistic scene since the restoration of the IXL buildings – in particular, the brilliant adaptive reuse of the old jam factory to become the Henry Jones Art Hotel.
Not only is this place one of Australia’s most celebrated hotels, thanks to its unique architecture, sensitivity to place and cultural commitment to the city, it has forged new life into one of the country’s important historic areas.
Now being run by Federal Hotels, Henry Jones epitomises all that’s great about this fascinating state – it’s all about food, lifestyle, culture and a celebration of the past combined with an excitement for the future.
■ For more on any of the hotels mentioned, go to www.puretasmania.com.au or call 1800 420 155
■ For the Tasmanian Design Centre, go to www.designcentre.com.au.
■ For Sip go to www.seaviewatbicheno.com.au.