It’s about an hour from Hobart but a different world. Mysteriously silent, as if forgotten by humankind. It has stood in its Jurassic-like dress, virtually unchanged for millennia. I’ve touched down in South West Tasmania several times over, but each time it touches me in a new way. Overnighting in Par Avion's wilderness camp is no different. It’s the first time I’ve rested my head at this distant outpost and the young pilot is right when he says, “there’s nothing like waking up here.”
Our trip down to ‘Melaleuca International’ tracks south to Australia’s southern-most tip before following the coastline through to South West National Park – 4500 square kilometres of wild. Peering down at lonely islands, windswept and rugged, is a taster of isolation to come. My commentary of continuous ‘wows’ is fortunately un-heard through our headsets. Thick forest gives way to button grass plains and the imposing Ironbound Range as we near the airstrip.
Without wings, boat or hardy bushwalking boots, there is no access to our destination. No roads lead to Melaleuca. Deny King carved out a life here though. Legendary and quietly romantic, this man lived self-sufficiently here for 50 years. We're here just two days - a condensed version of the three-day experience.
Upon landing, we peek in the windows of his home, where his daughter Janet still frequents and hear stories of this rugged pioneer. We then tuck into King Island cheese in the hope a rare and endangered Orange Bellied Parrot will join us for morning tea at the bird observatory, but no such luck. Little do we know within minutes of departing the region, one will politely swoop past to bid farewell.
From here, we are transported by boat to our private camp, veiled in rainforest on the shores of Bathurst Harbour. It’s glamping at its finest; five tents appointed with crisp linen and an outdoor kitchen where chairs are pulled in around Tasmanian fare and warm conversation.
We are taken by boat across to the Celery Top Islands, stepping ashore onto a white-quartz beach lapped by tannin-stained waters. Nature is kind to us, delivering a mirror-perfect double of Mount Rugby as we sip morning coffee on an island cut off since the end of the last ice age. It’s quite the café view across Bathurst Harbour, some three times the size of Sydney Harbour.
The skill of Celery Top Island’s barista (who doubles as our Par Avion pilot, boat skipper, guide and cook) is only rivalled by our next mission – climbing to the peak of Mount Beattie for uninterrupted views down the Bathurst Narrows with a sprinkling of wild flowers for good measure. Button Grass flowers for about one week annually. It’s our lucky week.
The downhill descent is hastened by the promise of dinner back at camp. As tender lamb cooks, we flick through South West words including Christobel Mattingley’s biography of Deny, King of the Wilderness. She shares a vivid account of the love he felt for the woman he lured to Melaleuca, describing the manner Deny drew her rainwater bath.
Mattingley writes, ‘as she relaxed she had no idea what labour and love it involved. Deny had to carry the water inside and heat it in kerosene tins over the fire- a fire for which every single piece of wood had to be cut and rowed eleven kilometres by dinghy.’
The following morning we rise to baked eggs and a boat journey through the Bathurst Narrows with towering 800 metre mountains rising beside us. The weather, in polite terms, is moody. But as misty rain blankets our intimate group (Par Avion takes no more than 10) it cannot wash the smiles off our faces. We climb to the top of Mount Milner for a hot drink served with a sprinkling of Port Davey raindrops and return to camp for warming chicken soup.
That’s the beauty of spirited South West Tasmania. She’s as untamed and wild as nature gets. One minute sunlight dances poetically across Mount Rugby, delivering tan-worthy conditions. The next, a mountain-top tea party dissolves into sheets of rain and soggy shortbread.
These elemental forces might prove uncomfortable but they also afford respect for place and those who walked this land before us, including the original Needwonnee inhabitants. As we huddle close together on the boat, it’s a fitting pause that we’re shown an ancient aboriginal ochre cave. And as we motor away I look back at Schooner Cove, imagining it glowing warm on a day like today.
For us though, it’s time to return to current-day-life. Not before our skipper-come-pilot has a final treat in store. As we’re swept high above the World Heritage Wilderness he quips that we may feel a bump or two but it’ll be worth it. Next thing, we’re flying over glacially-carved Lake Oberon, eyes wide with wonder. Again, I’m left without words. But I may have said ‘wow.’
Until next time South West Tasmania.
Words and images: Alice Hansen
Par Avion is the only operator to fly into Melaleuca. If you have the chance, do this once in your life. And once you’ve done it once, do it again. Go for the day and stay three if you can. Special day trips start at $350pp.
Visit: Par Avion to book.
GOURMANIA – BREAKFAST TOUR
Breakfast is all about breaking the fast but with Mary McNeill from Gourmania it’s far more than just feasting. It’s about discovering a waterside city with every sense engaged – our day begins beside a humming city street where wafts of single origin drift between morning chatter.
Today is about winding our way to Hobart’s finest morning eateries, following the footsteps of a sixth-generation Tasmanian. Mary’s own street-cred extends to studying Classic Pastry Arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York and working in local kitchens such as award-winning Smolt. We’re in good hands.
Criterion Street is where locals head for coffee, a fitting place to perch ourselves outside Ecru where we learn from Luke about beans that hail from across the globe and how we can order a ‘pour over’ at Villino up the way. Owner Richard Schramm pops by to say hello. We wish him well on a 200+ kilometre cycle for men’s health as part of Movember with other locals. He cares about the community he works in and has a two metre large moustache made from succulents in his café to prove it.
PROPERTY: OF PILGRIM
Next stop is Pilgrim, founded by the unstoppable force of young Will Priestley who has since opened doors to The Standard burger joint, Property of: Pilgrim, Bright Eyes, is partnering in gorgeous new Aloft Restaurant and is in the process of re-inventing the former Crumb Street Kitchen space. We settle in for slow eggs served with locally-sourced kassler of delicious thickness, crisp spring beans, and further morning conversation as strangers morph into new friends.
THE TASMANIAN JUICE PRESS
Cold pressed juice has never tasted so good – straight from the juicer poured by the bubbliest juice lady in town, owner Chloe Proud. Chloe, like Will and Richard, is a young passionate Hobartian with an eye for this city’s potential as Australia’s premier foodie destination. She talks of the local apples like children, blending them with a touch of mint and ginger as we admire the vessels we’re each holding, the work of local ceramist Lindsey Wherrett. Chloe’s enthusiasm is contagious as she pours generously across our cosy group of seven. Mary’s groups are never more than eight, allowing all personal attention.
PIGEON WHOLE BAKERS
Our next stop is directly behind the juice press on Argyle Street. Through a square window we peer into the workings of Pigeon Whole Bakery where some of the island’s best Sourdough is created with patience over 48 hours. There’s a whole lot of love in these loaves but many of our group opt for a sweet bakery treat this morning, ranging from fluffy light donuts to delicately crispy pastries.
Too early for a breakfast whisky? Mary thinks not. Our next perch is one at the bar of famous Bill Lark, who many years ago on a highlands fishing trip decided that Tasmania was the best place to produce whisky. Little did he know back then, that in 2015 he’d be inducted into the Whisky Hall of Fame in London and other such graces! We hear about days when Hobart was a town where there was a pub for every 12 houses….a watering hole never far away.
The final stop is in Hobart’s floating Brooke Street Pier for a delectable canelé – a deliciously rich custard-like treat enclosed in a caramelised shell. Over 300 years, bakers have been refining this French classic and today it’s a fitting finish to a morning rich in history and flavour. These near perfect examples are baked by local chef Cameron Perry. From here, we’re welcome to hop on the 11am ferry to MONA or continue exploring the city.
Mary sits and happily chats to us all, even though the clock has ticked well-past tour conclusion. It’s another hint that Mary very much loves what she does and eagerly shares this with her Gourmania friends.
So, if you’re stuck on where to go from breakkie in Hobart, let Mary guide you on a progressive breakfast of sorts. Trust us, it’ll be the best six-course breakfast in the city.
TIME: 9.15 – 10.45 AM, Tuesdays & Wednesdays.
WHERE TO MEET: Ecru, 18 Criterion Street, Hobart.
TICKET PRICE: $75 all inclusive
VISIT: Gourmania or find Mary on Facebook
Words and images: Alice Hansen
Doors are swinging open this weekend - private doors – some having never been open to the public. It’s the stuff of sticky beak heaven, peering into rooms and climbing stair cases usually reserved for close friends and family. With more than 40 buildings open over two architecture-filled days make sure your schedule is open and your eyes wide. From synagogues to a hidden tennis court to a zoo where Tasmanian tigers once roamed and art centres, this is Hobart like you’ve not had access to.
We’ve included some photos below to whet your appetite, but don’t blame us if you’re day is filled with hopping from one open door to the next. When else can you peek about the bowels of Salamanca Arts Centre in warehouses where some of our finest creative minds hunch over fine-crafted works. When else can you run your hand of Colonial Mutual Life building tiles that have decorated the city skyline in a way that should be celebrated more often. Trust us, you’ll tilt your head skyward every time you pass once you’ve been up there.
Take a little preview below then prepare your own architectural menu. Say hi to those on the door, most will be volunteers who love their home patch. Be sure also to head up to Domain House where we attended the launch party – and walk the boards of this former University campus. While you’re in the neighbourhood pop into Wombat One at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, the aforementioned zoo, and Government House with its nearby grazing cows.
Day 1 | 38 buildings in Hobart city and suburbs, including the Hobart Synagogue, Colonial Mutual Life, Real Tennis Club, Sustainability Learning Centre, Salamanca Arts Centre and Moonah Arts
Day 2 | Make a day of it on the Domain where five buildings are open to the public, including Government House, Domain House, Beaumaris Zoo, Queen Victoria Gunpowder Magazine and Wombat One at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens.
The oldest synagogue building in Australia also happens to be a trapezium. We don’t know what that means, but we’re going to find out. You should too….
Head up the Tas Ports Tower – a ‘donut in the sky’ with some stellar views as expected!
Head for the zoo, close your eyes and imagine the last Thylacine in captivity, snow leopards, elephants, and of course polar bears in Hobart.
Hadley’s Orient Hotel is well known to most, but who knew it used to be home to a roller rink?
Shipping Container House – this is a building site at Mount Nelson – the first container prototype on a 10 hectare lot. There will be a total of 17 containers once complete.
Want to peek in the Bell Tower of St. David’s Cathedral? Well this weekend you can. Just don’t ring the bell as much as you’re tempted.
That stuff in our taps has to come from somewhere. Find out where on this somewhat intriguing tour of the Hill St Reservoir.
We know Mount Nelson, but who’s familiar with Fort Nelson? This is the hippest sunken lounge and communal fireplace we’ve come across.
You’ve seen the Town Hall, now it’s time to head for the underbelly. Go underground.
The Barn is the coolest – young architects have turned this 1829 Georgian barn into an ultra-stylish accommodation offering.
A former fish and chip shop....now an award winning home.
Find out what’s coming to Collins Street. It’ll give you new reason to explore Hobart’s laneways.
Now every city has a pod on top of a building. We’ve had the joy of dining in this lofty omni-pod. It’s incredibly special.
It’s the stuff of car commercials – sweeping bends beside azure seas. No wonder it’s recently been named the Great Eastern Drive. It’s so great it took me seven hours from Hobart to the Bay of Fires – a destination Lonely Planet named the hottest on the planet in 2013. There were spikey bridges to capture and lookouts that left me standing, motionless, for longer than planned. Here are 20 reasons you should explore this coastline.
1. COAL VALLEY VINEYARDS
Start your trip with a little detour to Richmond. Along the Coal River Valley there’s Frogmore Creek Vineyard with its upstairs gallery, Coal River Farm for handcrafted cheese and chocolate supplies, Puddleduck with its fancy new space (fitting for the growing flock of Bubbleduck champagne lovers) and elegant Pooley’s up on the hill who just won Tassie's best Riesling after double golds at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. Wine lovers are spoilt for choice in these parts.
2. SPIKEY BRIDGE
Built by convict hands back in 1843, Spikey Bridge has prickled the intrigue of many. Rumour has it the field stones were placed upright to save cattle from toppling over the bridge’s edge. Who knows – what we do know is Olde Spikey Bridge Peanut Butter is available at Salamanca Market and its delicious!
3. GULCH FISH & CHIPS
At Bicheno drop into The Gulch for the tastiest fish and chips – best enjoyed at Bicheno blow hole further along the road. Park yourself at a picnic table on the rocks for a front row view at nature’s cinema.
4. BICHENO POST OFFICE
Where else in the country can you pop a letter in the post and pick up a pair of shoes made from seaweed? The Bicheno Post Art and Design is brimming with handmade Tasmanian wares, from Duncan Meerding’s famous cracked log lamps to Huon pine picnic planks perfect for tucking under your arm with local cheeses and heading straight to the waterhole at Douglas Apsley National Park. And stay tuned for exciting changes for the post office...
5. FRIENDLY BEACHES
Friendly Beaches is a local favourite. Long sweeping beaches that are usually all yours to mark with fresh foot prints. My welcome was particularly friendly and I trust the wallaby welcome party is not unusual.
6. SEA KAYAKING
Ever thought to experience Freycinet National Park from the seat of a kayak? With Freycinet Adventures, the Ultimate Weekend is the best two days 295 dollars can buy. Departing from Coles Bay and heading south, this is the ultimate way to explore the sparkling waters and pink granite peaks of Freycinet.
7. WINEGLASS BAY CRUISES
If you’re after a touch of luxury, head for the Sky Lounge of Wineglass Bay Cruises. Over four hours prepare for sea caves, hidden coves, impromptu dolphin appearances and a hearty Ploughman’s lunch. While you’re there give Irene and Duncan a hug – no doubt they miss their dolphin-spotting dog Rastus.
8. WINEGLASS BAY ON FOOT
You simply can’t visit Tasmania’s east coast and not see Wineglass Bay. There’s good reason it’s been named among the world’s best beaches many times over. If you have time, go beyond the lookout. Walk down and get that squeaky white sand between your toes or climb Mount Amos. It’s worth the hike.
9. WINEGLASS BAY SAIL WALK
On the Wineglass Bay Sail Walk we were taken to an incredible wetlands that few people visit. Just along from the Wineglass Bay Beach entrance you’ll find it –head in the direction of the frog chorus. These guys also serve the best beach dinner in the whole wide world.
10. KISS A FISH COOKERY SCHOOL
Kissed a fish recently? At Roz MacAllen’s private home in Binalong Bay you can do just that, if you so wish. The Kiss A Fish Cookery School offers day and evening classes that vary depending on the latest catch. You might visit Lease 65 Oyster Farm, forage for sea asparagus, peel open a sea urchin or prepare a whole Salmon in the wood-fired oven. Most times the menu is sourced almost a line-cast beyond the deck.
11. DEVIL’S CORNER
Something is happening at Devil’s Corner. Something big and something tall. Just beyond the Great Oyster Bay lookout you’ll notice what will soon become a viewing platform and all kinds of other wonderful. Stay tuned as we shared more about this vineyard’s new happenings.
12. COSY CORNER
Cosy Corner and the Bay of Fires. There are no words to describe it – just go and if you have the time – take a tent with you. Trust me, you won’t want to leave. If you’ve got a spare four days, explore with Bay of Fires Lodge Walk or hop on the newly launched, family-run Bay of Fires eco-cruise.
13. SPECIAL STAYS
If you’re looking for somewhere special to stay there’s plenty on offer. Take a look at the Storekeeper’s Boutique Accommodation in Buckland (Twamley Farm nearby is opening soon), or choose from Avalon Retreat, Malibu on the Beach, Thalia Haven , The Ocean Retreat, Freycinet Lodge, Bay of Fires Arthouse or gorgeous Saffire Freycinet. Alternately, those who like their east coast experience served with gourmet Spanish fare, head for 10,000 private acres at Brockley Estate.
14. MARIA ISLAND
Maria Island is a must visit. Whether you go for days (do it in style with The Maria Island Walk) or circumnavigate with East Coast Cruises and venture into its sea caves, this Noah’s Ark of sorts will reward with wombats, Cape Barren Geese, rich history and perhaps even Tassie devil sightings.
15. PENGUINS AND DEVILS
The penguins of Bicheno are particularly friendly. So friendly they might nip your toes. Come dusk is when some of the east coast’s best wildlife viewing takes place from Bicheno Penguin Tours to the Devils in the Dark experience at Natureworld.
16. BEER & WINE
From Ironhouse Brewery at White Sands Estate (complete with ocean-view swimming pool) to Priory Ridge at St Helens there’s plenty of reason to fill a glass along the Great Eastern Drive. Drop into eclectic Gala Estate, Devils Corner, Freycinet Vineyard, Milton Vineyard and Springvale Wines. If this sounds overwhelming just come for the Bicheno Food and Wine Festival (Nov 21, 2015).
17. EAST COAST DINING
Settle in for dinner at Mohr & Smith. Follow gnocchi and Pyengana meatballs up with a visit to Pyengana Dairy Company where they’ve been perfecting the art of cheese making for some four generations.
18. FLINDERS ISLAND
Don’t forget about Flinders Island – the place to go hunting for diamonds of the Killiecrankie kind. There’s a place there known as The Docks that if you find, you may never want to depart.
19. OYSTERS BY HELICOPTER
Want to see the east coast movie-star style? Arrive at the Freycinet Marine Farm by helicopter for Tassie wine, oysters, mussels and abalone before being whisked back to the capital of Hobart. Par Avion also can deliver you to the front door of Saffire Freycinet.
20. JUST STOP
Just Stop. Do exactly what the marketers tell you. Don’t hurry the east coast – take seven hours like I did. This is a coastline to be savoured and sipped slowly. Enjoy.
As usual there’s too much goodness to share- next on our list is Sail Freycinet, and there’s word of a hovercraft jetting from Swansea to Freycinet National Park, with a retired 747 captain at the helm.
Words and images: Alice Hansen (except Freycinet Adventures image)
Click to book your East Coast adventure direct with Tailored Tasmania.
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