Valley of plenty

The Huon Valley is the southernmost outpost in Australia. Travel editor Winsor Dobbin likes this quiet spot in Tasmania so much that he bought a house there.

The Huon Valley is a special place. The deep south of Tasmania is home to beautiful countryside, superb produce, thrilling cool-climate wines and ciders, and the freshest of air.

Head south of Hobart, past Huonville, to enjoy the wild beauty of this twin-tailed valley that is home to small villages, quiet beaches, and arts and crafts trails.

The hamlets of Cygnet, Franklin and Geeveston are among the most popular destinations, and it is in this region that former Hunter Valley winemaker Jim Chatto and his family, and former Sydney food critic and Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans now make their homes.

Here you can pick berries fresh from roadside hedgerows, pull mussels and oysters straight from the water, fish for flathead trout or buy artisan ciders from the same shed in which the apples were processed.

Cygnet is home to renowned gourmet destinations The Old Bank, The Red Velvet Lounge and Little Lush Cakerie; Franklin is home to Osteria at Petty Sessions restaurant and Turkish café Cinnamon and Cherry, while Geeveston also has an Old Bank, superb Japanese cuisine from Masaaki,  and an old-school sweet shop known as The Wall of Lollies.

In the far south, visitors can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking in the Hartz Mountains, the Tahune Airwalk and the Hastings Caves. The road ends at Cockle Creek and from there you have nothing but wilderness.

Here are a few of the current stars in the Huon Valley.

Shop and sip
Harvest & Light (top image) is a unique space that offers a true taste of Tasmania. The brainchild of microbiologist and research scientist Cassy Faux, Harvest & Light is a small batch-pickle and condiment producer, a wine bar, a snack spot, and a photographic gallery all in one. 

It is home to a major collection of local wines and spirits, offers cheese platters and gourmet treats for lunchtime enjoyment, hosts wine tastings and is a Friday night hotspot for locals. It has a very relaxed vibe, lovely light and there is the option of imbibing indoors, on a veranda, or in an enclosed garden.

Re-opened four months ago after a break, Harvest & Light is open Thursday through Sunday and visitors are welcome to simply browse Faux’s stunning photographs, enjoy a cheese platter or sip some wine from an all-female winemaker by-the-glass list. 

Think names like Stargazer, locals Wines by Aunt Alice, Kate Hill, as well as Sinapius and Bellebonne among over 100 Tasmanian wines, spirits and artisan beers on offer. 

The curious can enjoy a paddle of five Women in Wine selections for $20. 

The constantly changing menu may feature cheeseboards with a selection of home-made pickles and preserves created on-site (various prices) and a selection of small dishes, some with the imprint of local resident and former Masterchef star Sarah Clare.

Think dishes like labneh with charred eggplant and zucchini, onion jam and chilli jam, or a heritage tomato caprese with locally grown tomatoes, cheese, and herbs.

Other options might include lamb skewers with roast carrot hummus, cucumber, and wild fennel pickle; and white anchovies with fennel and herbed salsa. 

A blackboard lists the local farms where all the fruits and vegetables are sourced – and the array of condiments on sale includes pickled gherkins, peach mustard, berry jams and home-made cordials that can be mixed into cocktails. 

Harvest & Light is at 6 Church St, Geeveston, TAS 7116.

Stay in Style

It is hard to imagine a more idyllic location for a country retreat than that enjoyed by Laid Back Manor.

Surrounded by forests and bordered by a rivulet occupied by platypuses, this couples cabin is located in the Pelverata Valley, which is so off the beaten track that many Tasmanians would struggle to place it on a map. Laid Back Manor can be found between the hamlets of Pelverata and Kaoota (neither of which has so much as a village store) on the border of the Huon Valley and Kingborough.

The sounds here are those of wild birds, the sights of wild country – and a range of local wildlife, including possums, pademelons and spotted quolls.

Laid Back Manor was created by a couple of born and bred Tasmanians – hands-on duo Kylie Quilliam and Adam Marthick – and is much more than just a place to chill out for a night or two.

As well as being close enough to Hobart to be a base for exploring the capital of the Apple Isle, the property is also home to a pitch-and-putt course, a weddings and venues site and, soon, a massage and yoga centre.

Within a short drive you can find wineries, cider producers, art trails and spectacular waterfalls.

The pleasures here are simple ones; a luxurious bed (one of the most comfortable I have tried) dominates a well-equipped cabin with excellent kitchen facilities and a well-thought-out bathroom with excellent shower.

There are enough kitchen gadgets to keep the fussiest cook happy; from nutribullets to a convection microwave.

Inclusions feature wifi with unlimited data (although it was a little temperamental when I stayed), that glorious bed, electric blankets, hot water bottle, reverse-cycle air-conditioning and an outdoor swinging couch with cushions, heated blanket and overhead heating – perfect for summer slumbers, or night-time wildlife spotting.

The kitchenette has a hot plate, that convection microwave oven, air fryer, toaster and kettle, as well as an espresso machine and coffee pod machine.

Chopping boards, all cutlery and crockery, glasses and pots and pans are provided, along with umbrellas for rainy days and other necessities of life like cooking oil, salt and pepper, tea bags, sugar sachets and an emergency jar of chocolates.

There is even a golf buggy that the less mobile can use to explore the golf course and creek bank.

Walkers will find plenty of rugged native bushland through which to trek, while bird watchers have a wide range of species to spot.

There is firepit right on your doorstep should you fancy dining al fresco, and while there is no TV or sound system, the changing light reflecting on the trees at night proves mesmerising. Bring a book. 

The pitch-and-putt course is essentially a very small golf course with no fairways, so every shot is either a pitch, chip or putt. Picturesque Kellaway’s Creek – with resident platypus -passes through the course and is in play on multiple holes.

Adjoining the golf course (clubs and balls are provided, along with scorecards) there is a sculpture garden with some of the artworks lit up at night – and there is also an in-ground trampoline for more active visitors, as well as a pet duck that is happy to be hand fed.

For details see

A Taste of Thailand

A small orange cabin several kilometres from the nearest shop is the unlikely venue where you can discover some of the most authentic Thai food in Tasmania.

Ashcraig Farm at Nicholls Rivulet, outside Cygnet, is an organic fruit and vegetable farm that sells produce to several of Tasmania’s top eateries, but it is also home to a Thai restaurant that draws in locals and those in the know.

With a chef from Isaan (known for its spicy chili-accented food), Ashcraig serves up dishes like tom kha soup, Massa man beef, basil chili and tom yum stir fries, and a range of curries. My personal favourite is the stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts (above, ask for extra spicy if you like a bit of heat) and the green curries.

The food re-heats very well, so anyone staying in a B&B can pick some up on arrival and then enjoy at night as the Huon Valley is a short of evening dining destinations, particularly early in the week.   

Eat in or takeaway from Thursdays to Sundays. BYO. Call (03) 6295 0901.

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