It’s a bush retreat. That’s not the type of place one would expect to find restaurant-quality fare. No less, it’s served with colourful, natural flair in the middle of nature. But as I find, the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat is full of surprise.
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For someone who loves camping, the idea of glamping sounded a fitting experience. The great outdoors minus the hassle. No tent pegs to bang in, no camp cutlery to forget and no dehydrated fodder to pretend is delish by firelight.
I arrive at the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat just 10 minutes outside Binalong Bay in Tasmania’s stunning north east corner to a warm handshake. The petite bell tents are scattered neatly in front of me, seemingly at random, with names like Cosy begging me to peek inside.
“This is you. Make yourselves at home,” he quips as he opens our canvas door to reveal a scene more befitting of a hotel room. But there’s some subtle, delightful differences. In front of the super-comfy mattress topped with high-end linen, is a little jar of marshmallows. It hints of good conversation over the fire pit late into the evening. There’s a heater that promises warmth on cooler Tassie evenings. And there’s the best of all – just a canvas roof separating you from a cosy bed and the east coast’s grand outdoors. It means the wildlife calls are clear, the rain will fall close and the bright stars are only a quick zip away.
As dusk settles in at the retreat, owner’s Tom Dicker and Anna Hoffmann take to the stage in a way near equal to the bush setting surrounds. Those who have opted for dinner (an absolute must) are invited to large timber tables come meal time. Tom and Anna have a humble and quiet manner, much like the trees that wrap their retreat. They’re not showy as hands deliver board after board of exquisitely cooked pork and crackling served alongside roasted cauliflower. They just smile and walk away.
“This is like pulling a chair up in a fine dining restaurant,” murmurs one excited backpacker to her partner loud enough for us all to hear and nod in unison. It isn’t your standard bush grub, it’s enough for even the chattiest to fall silent in respect for the level of fare. Those in the know understand why it’s so good. Tom, former head chef at celebrated Angasi Restaurant at Binalong (now Lichen Restaurant and Cafe) and Drift Café in Devonport is well known for his talent in the kitchen. It’s served up with a casual honesty bar that invites guests to choose from a Tasmanian-strong line up of Moo Brew through to warming coastal Pinots.
Some retreat to the fire pit for warm chatter on a summer evening at the fully-occupied bush retreat. Word of mouth has spread quickly, ensuring most bell tents are full through the summer months. Others take a gentle wander with young children through the short walks on the property. Others again set up board games. It’s about time out and letting nature have its way over you.
Come morning there’s no surprises when the breakfast is delivered. It’s once again brimming with Tasmanian produce that seemingly magically appears at this remote outpost. Nectarines fresh from the tree, in a gorgeous fruit and muesli duo served on petite-plates made by a local ceramicist. Then there’s the eggs and bacon (the bacon hailing from Deloraine) served on a crispy potato rotti. For someone who usually doesn’t line up for a big brekkie, I couldn’t stop eating. It was simply too good.
One night is all we have and well-fuelled by Tom we’re set for a day that spells adventure. There’s an eco-cruise to experience with enthusiastic Alesha whose father built the boat (Bay of Fires Eco Tours) with his bare hands and there’s long-stretching beaches to wander. Drop into The Old and New Trading Co. in St Helens and it's close neighbour Oyster Buoy too - both are WELL worth some time. Oysters are fresh as fresh, and the store is packed full with vintage finds through to underwater scenes from Submerged Images.
The day is ours but as we roll away from the bush retreat I wish we could linger a little longer at this surprising ‘fine restaurant tucked in the bush.’ But that’s Tasmania. Full of characters and surprises and adventure for those who seek it. Like French folk flying high over Peron Dunes!
Words & images: Alice Hansen (unless otherwise stated)
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