In Tasmania's Huon Valley, the simple pleasures of life – eating, walking, drinking – come easily.
By Andrew Bain
What to expect
- Sip cider fresh from the orchard in Tasmania's premier apple growing region
- Hike to Australia's wild southernmost tip at South Cape
- Explore a fantasy world of stalactites and stalagmites in Hastings Caves
- Time: 3 days
- Distance: 400 kilometres (250 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Hobart
- Price: $$
At the edge of Tasmania's capital city, Hobart, you'll find the Huon Valley, which mixes gourmet food production with natural beauty. Head south from Hobart across the foothills of kunanyi (Mount Wellington) and suddenly the valley opens up wide and green before you. The mountains are sometimes snow capped and the Huon River and D'Entrecasteaux Channel flow towards the Southern Ocean. It's a place of fine food, wine and cider production among forests, peaks and coastline, all in a narrow band of country. Be enticed and stay a few days.
Day 1: Hobart to Huonville
Take the scenic way out of Hobart, driving down the coast to Channel Highway via Kingston, Margate and Kettering. Take lunch at the channel's edge at popular Peppermint Bay, where you’ll enjoy the menu's emphasis on local produce and Tasmanian beer and wine. For a true farm-to-table experience, stop off at Grandvewe Cheeses. This working sheep farm and café produces a wonderful range of sheep cheeses – from blues to haloumi – plus some unexpected gourmet products such as sheep whey vodka.
Continue via Cygnet to meet the Huon Highway at Huonville. The Huon Valley produces 80 per cent of Tasmania's apples, which are so well regarded that Australians sometimes refer to Tasmania as "the Apple Isle." The apples are the raw ingredients for a booming cider industry, so it's well worth making a stop at Willie Smith's Apple Shed, where a museum provides a glimpse into the Huon Valley's apple heritage, and a cider house offers tastings of handcrafted ciders. Just a five-minute drive away is the stylish cellar door for the award-winning Home Hill Winery.
Stay overnight at a Huonville bed and breakfast, or sleep surrounded by wildlife and native forest at Huon Bush Retreats.
Day 2: Huonville to Dover
On a still day the Huon River at Franklin can be mirrored bliss. Board the Yukon, a restored sailing ship, for a gentle 90-minute cruise along the river. Help hoist the sails, or simply sit back and soak up the Huon beauty. When you disembark, spend some time in Franklin, where it's worth stopping at the Wooden Boat Centre to see boats still being made by hand.
If it's Friday or Saturday, head to Geeveston for lunch at Masaaki's. The restaurant's simple appearance belies its reputation for producing Tasmania's finest sushi – it's even been called the best in Australia. The fresh Tasmanian wasabi is a bonus.
Turn west from Geeveston and head 30 kilometres (19 miles) inland to the Tahune Airwalk. This 620-metre (678 yard) long elevated walkway climbs into the canopy – up to 50 metres (168 feet) above the ground – of one of Tasmania's tall forests, looking down at a wilder slice of the Huon River than you will have seen so far. Continue the outdoors theme by turning right as you head back towards Geeveston and enter Hartz Mountains National Park. The car park at the road's end marks the start of two of Tasmania's 60 Great Short Walks: a 90-minute stroll out to Lake Esperance, pooled beneath alpine mountains, or a more challenging four-hour climb to Hartz Peak, with views that reveal the full drama of the Tasmanian wilderness.
Head for Dover and a fine dinner at Post Office 6985, located in the town's former post office. After a hearty meal, stay on your own private paradise in glorious 19th century farmhouse accommodation at The Peninsula.
Day 3: Far South
Start the day with more natural splendour. Just past Southport, turn inland for a short detour to Hastings Caves State Reserve's caves and thermal springs. Take a guided tour into Newdegate Cave, the largest dolerite cave in Australia, to see stalactites, stalagmites, glow worms and other subterranean features. The temperature inside the cave is consistently around 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit), making a dip in the thermal pool behind the reserve's visitor centre all the more welcome when you return to the fresh air. The pool is fed by a natural thermal spring, with the water a lovely 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit). Next, head to Australia's southernmost settlement, the town of Southport, for lunch at the Southport Hotel and the chance to boast that you ate at Australia's southernmost pub.
Past Ida Bay, the road turns to gravel, and you'll follow a beautiful, forest-cloaked approach to Recherche Bay and finally Cockle Creek. You're at the southernmost point of road in Australia. Follow the road around the bay to a whale sculpture and a view of Tasmania's abstractly shaped southern mountains.
From here it's about a two-hour drive back to Hobart. As you enter Kingston on the approach into Hobart, veer away to the rejuvenated Kingston Beach and celebrate your trip's end at beachside Robbie Brown's, which was named Tasmania's bar of the year in 2016. Grab a craft beer or a Tasmanian wine and watch ocean life (you may even see a whale) from the footpath tables.
Alternatively, spend an extra night in the Far South so that you have time to enjoy the afternoon hiking to South Cape Bay along the start of the famed South Coast Track. Few wilder sections of coastline exist in the world. Ida Bay Railway and Buttongrass Retreat are the southernmost accommodation cabins in all of Australia. This will also give you time to take the scenic way back into Hobart, driving over the shoulder of kunanyi (Mount Wellington) on Huon Road. Better still, take a detour to experience the spectacular summit viewpoint over Hobart. To include kunanyi (Mount Wellington) in your road trip, turn left off the Huon Highway at Longley. The road winds its way up the southern slopes of the mountain to the village of Ferntree. Turn left onto Pinnacle Road and climb the 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) to the summit car park. After enjoying the view, return to Ferntree and descend the eastern slopes of the mountain to Hobart.
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