Home Hill Winery, Ranelagh, Tasmania
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 Mount Wellington and suddenly the valley opens up wide and green before you. 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 Franklin
Take the scenic way out of Hobart, driving over the shoulder of Mount Wellington on Huon Road to meet the Huon Highway at the neighbourhood of Sandfly. 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 provides tastings of handcrafted ciders. Five minutes drive away is the stylish cellar door for the award-winning Home Hill Winery.
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, drive back to Huonville and through Cygnet to find your accommodation in a luxurious cabin constructed from salvaged Tasmanian timbers at Woodbridge Hill Hideaway. The view over the D'Entrecasteaux Channel from the cabins is superb, especially at sunrise. Take dinner at the channel's edge at popular Peppermint Bay, a 10 minute drive from the Hideaway. The menu's emphasis is very much on local produce, as well as Tasmanian beer and wine.
Day 2: Franklin to Dover
Start the day at Grandvewe Cheeses, just a few minutes drive from Woodbridge Hill. 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. The drive south from here heads back through Franklin, where it's worth stopping at the Wooden Boat Centre to see wooden 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 entering 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, in the town's former post office,. Stay on a private peninsula in glorious 19th century farmhouse accommodation at The Peninsula.
Day 3: Cockle Creek to Hobart
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 a fairly constant 9° Celsius (48° 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° Celsius (82° Fahrenheit). 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 Southport, 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. If you fancy more walking, spend 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. Otherwise, follow the road around the bay to the 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.
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