Valley of Slower Pace
There are no luxury resorts in the Huon Valley. No branches of McDonald’s or KFC. Not even a set of traffic lights. But what you will discover is perhaps Tasmania’s best-kept gourmet secret, with rivers, orchards, friendly locals and hearty food.
TrueBlue Magazine - Aug/Sept 2019
Words: Winsor Dobbin
Head south of Hobart to enjoy the wild beauty of a twin-tailed valley that is rapidly building a reputation for its cool-climate wines, artisan ciders and gourmet seafood. Huon Valley is known for its small villages, hidden beaches, and arts and crafts trails. The hamlets of Cygnet, Franklin and Geeveston are among the region’s most popular destinations.
Here you can pick berries fresh from roadside hedgerows, pull mussels and oysters straight from the water, fish for river trout or buy ciders from the same shed in which the apples were processed.
In the 1950s apples were sea-freighted from here to Britain, and the Huon was the biggest producer on the Apple Isle. Today, seafood from Huon Aqua is keeping the region’s name alive on the global food stage.
This region has something for everyone, be they walkers, fishermen or wine lovers.
Home Hill Winery is regarded as one of the country’s leading producers of premium pinot noir, and is a popular lunch venue with a restaurant overlooking the vines.
Also check out Elsewhere Vineyard, Kate Hill Wines and Two Bud Spur Vineyard cellar doors and Willie Smith’s Apple Shed – an organic cider pioneer – Frank’s Cider and Pagan Cider, all of which welcome visitors.
Try also to seek out wines from small producers such as Sailor Seeks Horse, Mewstone and Hartzview Vineyard, and be sure to sample the cherry cider at Pagan.
When it comes to places to stay, choices range from rustic campsites to luxury guesthouses River’s Edge Wilderness Camping, on the banks of the Russell River at Lonnavale, is remote and rustic, and hugely popular with trout fishermen.
In Cygnet check out the Old Bank – a chic little Bed & Breakfast with its own café – while just out of town you’ll find luxury accommodation at COAST HOUSE Tasmania and Frenchman’s River cottages, both places where you can kick back in style and enjoy a day or two of peace and quiet.
Huon Bush Retreats at Ranelagh, and Driftwood Cottages and Ashdowns of Dover in the south of the Huon, are other popular and affordable accommodation options.
When it comes to eating, choose from lunching at Home Hill or Willie Smith’s, the gourmet burgers at the Ranelagh General Store, or several waterfront cafes in Franklin.
The Old Bank, vegetarian hangout Red Velvet Lounge and newcomer Ilha are all found in Cygnet. All three showcase locally farmed produce, while Ilha is the first restaurant venture for former MasterChef contestant Sarah Clare, a local whose potter father designed all her crockery.
Just outside town, on the road to Nicholls Rivulet, is an unlikely find: Ashcraig Farm, which offers authentic Thai food to eat in or take away.
Although it begins just a 30-minute drive south of Hobart, the rural idyll that is the Huon has very few city conceits. It moves at its own pace, and, in season, you can pick up fresh apples, berries, cherries, stone fruits and purple garlic from roadside stalls and simply leave your money in an honesty box.
Make sure to sample local cheeses, vegetables and mushrooms and even saffron.
It was to Cygnet, the liveliest hamlet in the region, that Sydney chef and restaurant critic turned Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans moved, and filmed several series of his hugely successful SBS TV show. He offers Friday lunches, cooking classes and foraging experiences at his Fat Pig Farm at Glaziers Bay, and his caravan is a regular at local festivals including the Huon Show, A Taste of the Huon and the Huon Valley Mid-winter Fest.
Cygnet also attracts thousands of visitors with its Folk Festival every January, while sushi master Masaaki Koyama, who used to be based in a tiny hole-in-the-wall eatery, will soon reopen in a former church building in Geeveston.
Port Cygnet Cannery, just outside town, will be home to a wood-fired oven, café and the Sailor Seeks Horse cellar door, when it opens towards the end of the year.
Both Geeveston and Franklin have a good selection of eateries from which to choose, but this is the country and most options close early.
Unless you live locally, you probably haven’t heard of any of the local wine producers. The biggest are Home Hill and Panorama, now owned by Steve and Monique Lubiana.
Tucked away on hillsides and riverbanks there are many more small producers. Jim Chatto, renowned winemaker at Pepper Tree in the Hunter Valley, has planted his own Isle Vineyard with pinot noir at Glaziers Bay. Chatto, who has a passion for Burgundy, says: “This part of the world has the potential to be among the most exciting sites for pinot noir anywhere in Australia.”
Huon Aquaculture was started in 1988 (Huon was founded in 1986) by local couple Peter and Frances Bender. It now employs more than 500 people (Huon employs close to 700 people) and was Tasmanian exporter of the year in 2012.
“It’s all about getting the basics right – and attention to detail,” says Frances, who praises the stress-free and pristine Huon environment in which the business’s sashimi-grade salmon are raised.
“We are very proud of this region,” she says. “It is a clean, beautiful place with a real sense of community, and we wanted our product linked with the area – hence the name. We think it is great that the story of the Huon is now being told all over Asia. And it is great we can be champions for this remarkable place.”
Visits to Huon Aqua’s main farm at picturesque Hideaway Bay, outside Dover, are available by appointment. (People can visit our farm shop Monday to Friday 9:30am-4pm, no appointment necessary. Please note that we do not offer farm tours nor can people explore the property for OHS and biosecurity reasons.)
Huon Valley is the southernmost municipality in Australia. Locals like to joke that the next stop south is Antarctica.
The area has bounced back after bushfires earlier this year, but the Tahune Airwalk, one of the region’s major attractions, remains closed indefinitely.
Family, Footy, Fishing
We catch up with NRL legend and fishing fanatic Andrew Ettingshausen to talk sport, life, work, and avoiding that nasty little thing called stress.
A Mini Revolution
The tiny house movement is gaining momentum in Australia. So what’s the deal?
Wildlife Encounters 2019
Up close and personal experiences where you can learn how conservation sanctuaries work to save endangered native and exotic animals, while teaching visitors about their plight.