Reflecting on the Huon
It feels like a long way from anywhere, but the Huon Valley is just over half an hour’s drive from Hobart.
From the deep, still waters of the Huon River emerge mirror image reflections of a clear sky and distant sailing boats.
Regarded as one of Tasmania’s best drives – a high accolade in this picturesque state – the Huon Valley Highway heads south-west from Hobart behind the Wellington Range to meet up with the river at the appropriately-named Huonville.
For 20 scenic kilometres, the road kisses the river bank as it travels south to Port Huon and Geeveston. This gourmet epicentre attracts day trippers from Hobart who browse the roadside stalls, dine on fresh local produce and revel in the country ambience.
Give your heart rate a boost with an exhilarating ride up the Huon River. John Allport of Huon River Jet Boats will show you sharp turns and gravity defying spins along with a history lesson as you travel the 12 navigable upstream kilometres on the 35-minute trip. It’s also a chance to see rare Huon pines on the riverbank and spot sea eagles.
When you are ready for lunch, pick out a table near the window at Home Hill Vineyard and Winery Restaurant at Ranelagh for a relaxing vineyard view. The rammed earth buildings house an award-winning winery and kitchen renowned for its use of local Cygnet mushrooms and stonefruit from nearby orchards.
There are more Huon pines to discover at the Tahune Forest Airwalk. Peering down from the 50-metre-high cantilever section that dangles over the confluence of the Huon and Picton rivers is a rare treat. The elevated walkway circuit takes around 50 minutes to complete but you might be tempted by views over the Harz Mountains and linger longer.
Finish off with a bit of personal fly action and a session in the cable hang glider, drifting smoothly 50 metres over the Huon River.
Rather than returning to Hobart, extend your stay with a night at the charming seaside town of Dover and explore more of Tasmania’s far south. It’s easy to relax in the hot tub on the deck of Driftwood Cottages with a glass of fine local wine and watch the sun set over D’Entrecastreaux Channel and Port Esperance Bay.
With another day to explore the area, drive to Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs for a 45-minute ranger guided tour of the 40-million-year-old Newdegate Cave. The Hastings Visitor Centre is located next to a thermal spring swimming pool which, even in Tasmania’s chilly winter months, is a pleasant 28 degrees Celsius.
There are two essential stops as you head back to Hobart. Masaaki Koyoma’s handmade sushi and tasting platters are almost too pretty to eat, but that didn’t stop Rick Stein from recommending them as some of the best he has tasted. Designed around the freshest local produce available on the day, Masaaki’s Sushi has developed a cult following which draws eager day trippers to the sleepy township of Geeveston.
Just a little further down the road, the Franklin Wooden Boat Centre is where you’ll step back in time with the warm aroma of wood shavings and history of boat building.
Back in Hobart with a day or so to spare, check into self-contained boutique apartment accommodation at Salamanca Wharf Hotel. Just a short stroll from the café and restaurant-filled Salamanca strip, it is also a handy to the famed Salamanca markets held every Saturday. Set amidst mellow sandstone warehouses and tall plane trees, the markets fill two street blocks with vegetable delights, bold ceramics, vintage toys, scallop pies and warm porridge. Stock up on local whisky and cold climate clothes.
Explore the city’s backstreets and alleyways with a Hobart Café Culture tour lead by Robyn Everist. Robyn shares her passion for Hobart’s colonial past with multiple doses of excellent coffee from the city’s finest baristas, accompanied by freshly-baked artisan pastries and local chocolates on a progressive morning tea.
If you have room for lunch, take a seat and enjoy the 280-degree view at The Glass House which sits suspended over Sullivan’s Cove on the waterfront.
Try some of their salt-cured, grass-fed wallaby, tender Cape Grim beef, local Pitt Water Pacific oysters or Huon salmon. Finish with a substantial wedge of clothbound Bay of Fires cheddar matched to their Tasmanian-centred wine list.
What Tasmania lacks in size, it more than makes up with the depth and authenticity of its experiences.
The writer travelled with the assistance of Tourism Tasmania.