If I said you could find a picklery and platypus, learn how to cook pasta from scratch, carve a spoon, buy milk on tap, walk among the treetops, explore a World Heritage wilderness area, sip cider (often) and drive to the bottom of Australia, you’d probably think you need weeks away.
What if I added cave exploring, visiting a town where they still build wooden boats, more cider and boutique retail therapy? Five days in Tasmania’s Huon Valley offers all that – and more.
Take the Southern Edge drive out of Hobart and you’re heading in the right direction. In 10 minutes you’re surrounded by forests, green fields and orchards popping with bright red apples. The drive winds through quaint villages with picture-perfect cottages, alongside rivers and endless sailboats, past flocks of black-faced sheep and fat cows grazing in lush pastures and lots of farm gate stalls. And it ends in Cockle Creek – the southernmost point you can drive to in Australia.
Here’s all the cool stuff to see along the way.
Twenty-five minutes from Hobart – on the outskirts of the main town of Huonville – is Willie Smith’s Apple Shed and your first taste of the apple cider phenomenon Tassie is famous for. Willie was the first person to plant apples in the Huon Valley back in 1888. Four generations later, Andrew Smith has seen that apple-growing dynasty expand into Australia’s first organic cidery, a distillery and one of the most popular places to visit in the valley. Take a short detour to Glen Huon Dairy, the organic farm that supplies milk for Bruny Island Cheese just across D’Entrecasteaux Channel. Here you can take a tour to see the dairy in action, the pigs who come running to meet you and bees loving the surrounding organic goodness. And the fresh creamy milk’s on tap. Fill your own bottle like the one you used to get at school when you were a kid (at least if you’re my age).
Cygnet is a creative hub and an artist in the town is causing quite a stir – carving spoons out of “rescued” wood. You can visit Dave Rauenbusch’s Phoenix Creations studio and buy a spoon (they start at $60). But if you want to try your hand at making one, Dave also runs workshops that will show you how to turn an ordinary log into a practical work of art. Just up the hill from Cygnet in Wattle Grove is a taste of Tassie hospitality you won’t want to miss at the Farmhouse Kitchen. Here Giuliana White teaches guests how to cook Italian recipes that date back hundreds of years. It’s all about fresh ingredients, maximum flavour and keeping it simple. And the best part is you get to eat what you make.
The township of Franklin’s rich maritime history reaches back to the 1860s when it was a shipping and boatbuilding centre. Think sailboats reflected on still waters and you start to get the picture of what it looks like now. It’s home to the Wooden Boat Centre where you can learn how to build a wooden dinghy or something more elaborate – or simply watch others doing the hard work. Just across the road, in the old St John’s Church Sunday school building, is Frank’s Ciderhouse and Cafe. Drop in for lunch, a cider tasting and to soak up some of Franklin’s agricultural history lovingly gathered and put on show by Frank’s granddaughter Naomie Clark-Port.
Geeveston is about the halfway point of the drive and where chances are good to spot platypus at the local Heritage Park. Plus, there are shops … lots of shops. Don’t miss The Wall of Lollies, Arte-Zans (cakes), Aurora Fae (art studio), The Dusty Mermaid (collectibles) and the Town Hall Visitor Centre which doubles as a gallery, wood-turning and lino-printing exhibition centre. Also ask about the Platypus Walk. Then spend a few hours at Harvest and Light. This picklery is the brainchild of photographer-cum-scientist Cassy Faux. Why pickles? There is so much fresh produce in the valley and Cassy could not bear to see any of it go to waste, so she preserves it. Hundreds of jars of pickles and preserves are for sale, or to sample on a Pickle Platter after browsing the photographic gallery which is also part of the space. Tahune Adventures, a half-hour drive west of Geeveston, is where you can walk (or wheel if not so mobile) among the treetops, 50m above the forest floor. At the end of the Airwalk, you can see where the Picton and Huon rivers meet and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area begins. There are also swing bridges, hang gliding and kayaking.
The Southern Edge drive continues south through Dover towards Southport. Take the detour to Hastings Cave and Thermal Springs. Underneath the dense forest and up and down a lot of stairs are massive, 40-million-year-old chambers with elaborate dolomite formations. From Hastings, there’s 26km to drive around Recherche Bay to Cockle Creek and the end of the road. What’s at Cockle Creek? Lots of camp sites, a Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife interpretative station, information about the flora and fauna, the Lyluequonny Aboriginal people, French explorer Bruni D’Entrecasteaux, and sad tales about the whaling industry. It’s also the start of the five-hour, 15.4km South Cape Bay walk and entry point to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. At the very end, a statue of a southern right whale calf points to the open waters and the next stop – Antarctica.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Tasmania.
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This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com