Pristine Apple Isle stuns
MISTAKE number one for ‘the Mainlanders’, as we are called, is to think we can whip round the entire tiny island called Tasmania in just a couple of days. You won’t do it justice, so if you’ve got limited time, hone your travel to take in some highlights. There is so much to enjoy in this heavenly part of the world, and you won’t want to rush.
Here is the lowdown on some options in the north, south and east.
In the east
Freycinet National Park
ON a crystal clear February day, we were drinking in the view of Tasmania’s famed Wineglass Bay when tour guide Dan offered a more sinister explanation of how this naturally beautiful wonder got its name. Yes, it is roughly shaped like a glass to hold the fruit of the vine. But if we had been standing here back in about 1825, the scene below could have been very different.
For a brutal 20 years or so, the area was a whaling hub. After the whales were harpooned and killed, the carcasses were towed back to shore for the gruesome, bloody task of chopping up the beasts, and boiling down the blubber to extract oil. It is said that the white sands and blue waters turned blood red in the putrid process, hence the title Wineglass. It’s not a tale you’ll find recorded on tourist brochures, but it is another example of the paradox of Tasmania – pristine, peaceful, beautiful, yet with a history that was often violent, tragic and confronting.
Thankfully those times are long past, but they add an extra dimension to many experiences in our southernmost state. That tale unfolded while we were enjoying what has to be one of Tasmania’s most wonderful experiences – Freycinet Lodge’s Wineglass to Wine Glass tour.
Guide Dan has been our wonderful source of facts and historical tales, punctuated by rest, tea and bikkies, since we left Freycinet Lodge about 9am. After seeing the famed bay view from both the lookout and the beach, we cross the isthmus to Hazards Beach and trek the sand for about 30 minutes. The entire stretch is lined with Aboriginal middens two metres high, which stretch backwards for about half a kilometre. These campfire remnants built up over thousands of years, at the site where the Great Oyster Bay people camped out each winter and feasted on those abundant natural oysters.
Now it’s our turn for a bounty, and we head up into the bushland for a gourmet lunch prepared for us in the middle of the national park by chef Jacob, ably assisted by the affable Ben. And what a lunch it is.
Here in the bush we find silver cutlery and wine glasses, friendly staff, cold ales and wines and a procession of the best food Tasmania has to offer. There are cheeses, dips and nibbles, a tasting plate of scallops, mussels and abalone, followed by a further seafood bonanza with a centrepiece of prime Tasmanian crayfish. Moving on, we make room for Cape Grim beef, the best steak we have ever eaten, as well as delicate serves of cinnamon quail. All is washed down with glasses of Tasmanian chardonnay and pinot noir. Total indulgence and pure heaven.
A few hours later we return to the spectacular Freycinet Lodge by launch across the bay. All in all a perfect day, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And it is made exceptional by the totally professional, friendly service we encountered from all the staff we met. For details go to www.puretasmania.com.au/wineglass
In the north
Launceston and the Tamar Valley
FOR some, the thought of going on a wine tour conjures up impressions of swishing, spitting and pointless pontificating. Well enter Shane Holloway to blow all your pre-conceived ideas out of the water. Shane is the winemaker at Delamere Vineyards, an older family owned and operated estate in the Tamar Valley north of Launceston. While Delamere might lacks the glitz of some of the larger wineries, Shane makes up for it with genuineness, rustic charm and a dog named Chilli. Take a look at their website and you’ll get a bit of an idea. www.delamerevineyards.com.au
We discovered Delamere on an escorted wine tour, and this is definitely the way to get around the Tamar Valley as well as brush up on your wine knowledge. Marcia, our guide and the owner of Valleybrook Wine Tours, decided to launch a dedicated wine tour for one very good reason – she loves wine. She knows the vineyards and their operators well, and if you tell her your preferences; reds or whites, fortified or sparkling, she will plan a tour to suit your palate. We were picked up at our hotel in Marcia’s minibus and covered five cellar doors. Cheese platters in vineyard gardens and lunch at one of the cellar doors is all part of your day. Find out more at www.valleybrook.com.au
To the south
The owner of Bruny Island Cruises, Rob Pennicott, has a simple business philosophy – the staff have to have fun while they are at work. It works a treat because the tourists get to join the party. The Bruny Island trip has just claimed another national tourism award, and it really is an absolute must if you are anywhere in the vicinity. We were picked up in Hobart by mini bus for the trip to Kettering, where we catch the ferry across to the island.
Then it’s all aboard the yellow boats, and into our bright orange head-to-toe mackintoshes for a three hour trip along the rugged coastline. Soaring dolerite cliffs, crops of bull kelp, ‘breathing’ sea caves, and outcrops populated by Australian fur seals are all explained by the wonderful crew on our boat, Chris and Steve, who know everything about their region and the resident wildlife. We roar through the gap between the coast and The Monument (pictured) and cruise down to the point where the Tasman Sea meets the mighty Southern Ocean. It’s an awe inspiring trip; breathtakingly beautiful, and these operators make you feel safe, comfortable and cared for at all times. When we get back to the island we tuck in to lunch and wine, all included in your ticket price.
Get the sneak preview at www.brunycruises.com.au