The darkness is upon us. The chill is palpable. Late in the night things are happening ... there's a man buried under a main street and a lady is sipping craft beer in a full piece leopard getup. Someone is self tattooing while metres away a man is having his hair cut blind folded. This can only mean one thing. Dark Mofo has begun.
Start with Matthew Schreiberart's Leviathan at Dark Park. Get your trance on. Walk through his red beams with a child's curiousness. In fact, don't be surprised if a mini human is moving at speed through the light. No matter which way you look at Leviathan it'll have you transfixed.
Don't worry, heating is supplied at Dark Park.
Who doesn't like a good alpine ski bar? Black Diamond Ski Manor Bar has you sorted. Moo Brew and Moorilla flow freely here.
The wine glasses are pretty fancy with their red cross but it's the 'stubby holders' that are causing chatter. Only the Mona team would concoct the idea of 'Dark Muffs.' Nuff said.
If you dare, the Submissive Salon is open for all manner of services. The Avant Gardge Hair Upstyle? This basically means for 150 bucks you get to submit your hair as art. You'll need the complimentary liquor considering these chops are done blind folded. Oh, and they offer massages complete with hot stones and they'll vibrate your head ... whatever that means.
On the wander over to Winter Feast, stop and meet a fellow through a window at the Art School. He's got his phone number sticky taped to the glass ... ring him and have a natter. He's up for anything so the note says.
This is where the hungry come to feast by candlelight. Pull up a pew if you can find one. Get cosy. It's winter time.
Vince Trim, Mona's Executive Chef has been very busy with fire pit master Sao Paulo from Brazil. It's taken some 20 hours to cook an entire Scottish Highland cow, ethically farmed by Big River Highland Beef. The line up is well worth it.
It's time to put those crackling fire pits to good use, toasting marshmallows of course. Scott will sort you with s'mores from his Krumbies outfit down the far end. Fun fact, he's also an acroyoga gun. What's acroyoga? Ask him.
There is so much to see, so much to do, so much to absorb. There's Night Mass, that refreshing nude swim, the burning of a giant spider, and at Domain House people feel like they've taken flight. The program is long and its bold. If you're a Tasmanian, you probably forgot to book stuff. If you did, be sure to pull on a puffer and get out to Dark Park and the feast.
Dark Mofo continues to re-invent and thousands have flocked in 2018 - drawn to the bitter cold not really knowing what they're moving towards on mass. The unknown doesn't matter though. It's what this festival is all about. So keep your mind and Narryna eyes open.
Words & images: Alice Hansen
Quiet cruising in UNESCO Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Some may say the Gordon River is a spiritual place. I’m with them on this. So it’s fitting Gordon River Cruise’s new vessel is named Spirit of the Wild. When RACT invited me to join a photo shoot on the new boat ahead of the public launch June 16, I replied with a spirited yes! We hopped on a little Par Avion plane beneath the stars Monday night and were on our way.
The Gordon River has the power to move. Through its stillness, majesty and silence. For some, it’s that mind-shifting moment when reflections confuse up from down. For me, it is gliding nose-close past a 500-year-old Huon pine. Across 23 cruising kilometres there are moments where this ancient river pulls time to a standstill.
Come June 16, trips will depart 8.30am for 6 hours of cruising, set to deliver a new level of luxe to the region. The boat is a beauty. It’s slick and oozes with style. Like a small child I head straight for the Premier Upper Deck. The plush wide leather seats line either side, angled with anticipation of what’s to come. It whispers of first class airliner comfort but with the tannin-stained waters of Tasmania’s wild west coast in place of clouds.
The boat itself is a diesel and electric powered wonder – a first of its kind in Australia for this specific engine designed by German company MTU. When I draw myself away from the ‘top shelf’ with its Hydrowood communal centre tables (the timber reclaimed from the depths of Lake Pieman) I ponder the international chats that will occur over this Myrtle. After all, the West Coast draws strangers from the world over, some becoming new friends....Don't let me mislead you - the main deck is gorgeous too.
Ours isn’t your typical cruise. It is shoot day and the crew busily set about capturing all manner of still, video and drone footage as we leave the Strahan docks behind. In days to come, guests instead will be charmed with what hospitality consultant David Quon describes as a “cocktail party in the wilderness.”
When Skipper Paul Brown enters the Gordon River’s calm, petite cups of pink eye potato and leek soup topped with parmesan crumbs shall emerge. The seasonal menu is all about fresh, wholesome, local fare. The steamed local ocean trout is straight from the harbour and served with lemon myrtle butter sauce.
As we glide up the river, silence overcomes all. The majesty commands us so. We’re enveloped by a world largely unchanged for millennia. Dark waters meet a shoreline crowded with impenetrable green. Not just any green but species not found elsewhere on the planet. Huon pine, my all-time fave and one of the oldest living organisms on earth, humbly appears on a bend. It’s been hanging out there some 500 years according to a guide whose enthusiasm is contagious. Its close neighbours include everything from Sassafras, Leatherwood, Celery top and Southern Beech myrtle.
About 11 kilometres up the river we come to Heritage Landing. Here, we walk through the temperate rainforest, breathing in air that deserves bottling. It’s cool, crisp and pure. I’m stopped by fungi clinging vibrantly to a mossy trunk. It’s tiny. Perfectly formed. Strikingly beautiful. It’s another moment of pause.
Heading back to the boat, wafts of that fresh ocean trout call. It is look don’t touch for us though, as photographers swarm to the delicately-presented plates. Mixed grain and char-roasted vegetable salad, smoked Macquarie Harbour salmon and a rustic tart gather with freshly poured Tasmanian reds and whites. Afternoon sun streams in as we motor near-silently across to Sarah Island.
The island has its fair share of harsh convict tales. Speaking of, the cat of nine tales was an enhanced version known as the Macquarie Harbour Cat, complete with lead beads. What’s more, each windowless solitary jail cell had the same dimensions as a grave. Intentionally. Let’s just say it was nice to walk off the island rather than swim like an early, desperate escapee. It seems at odds with the idyllic beauty of this tiny patch.
Next stop, Hell’s Gates. A place of grief for so many sea captains, the name dates back to early convicts who saw the narrow 80 metre stretch as the ‘entrance to hell.’ Today in its relative calmness it’s hard to imagine the many lost lives as we start on a cheese board.
After an about-turn we sink into our lush leather comfort and head for Strahan. It’s a time for quiet reflection, just as the river gave us earlier. This is a place where beauty and tragedy collide; where charm and harshness drift side by side. Today the weather is golden. Tomorrow it will be in another mood. Unpredictable like yesterday. It’s the wildness and rawness that captivates me.
The sun begins to sink on our rare blue sky day, as I chat to the captain. It is only now he speaks of his connection to place. He talks of his love of Huon pine. I nod in agreement at our shared awe. Only thing is, I don’t have a son named Huon after the species. We laugh that one day he may just be the mayor.
Hop aboard Spirit of the Wild today. FIND OUT MORE
Upper Deck: $265
Main Deck: $135 ($165 for window recliner)
Words & images: Alice Hansen
Come through the latest doors to open across our island.
As if you need a reason to visit Tassie! We’ve given you 15 and hope to see you this year during the wintery goodness that is Dark Mofo. Stay warm and take a peek at the latest happenings we’ve handpicked. Some haven’t even opened but aren’t far away!
Petite in size but big in heart. At Sweet Sassafras the menu changes with the seasonal goodness of the small producers and local farmers they support. It’s a cosy little coffee shop with real Tassie flavour from Mt Roland Hazelnuts to Amber Harvest Honey and crusty bread from Pigeon Whole Bakers. Drop in for a bite and board game. Lay a linen napkin on your lap and sip through a stainless steel straw – less waste – happy planet.
Visit Sweet Sassafras at 279 Elizabeth St, Hobart
Ti Ama might just have the coolest pizza oven on the island. Head there for rustic Italian and sourdough wood fired pizza along with great cocktails and house-made pasta. Anyone for a share plate of chargrilled Pirate’s Bay octopus, potato, parsley and smoked aioli?
Visit Ti Ama at 13 Castray Esplanade, Battery Point
Faro is Mona’s new bar and restaurant in the Pharos Wing. Faro … pharos … are you pronouncing correctly? ‘Faro’ means ‘lighthouse’ in Spanish and is the English word for ‘pharos.’ This aside, Executive Chef Vince Trim is at the helm of a place designed for sharing. Signature sangria comes by the glass (or litre) and there’s share plates aplenty beneath towering 13 metre ceilings.
Visit Faro at 655 Main Rd, Berriedale
SILENT READING PARTY
Have you been silent reading lately? Gather with other Hobartians on the first Wednesday of every month and …. Drink. Read. Eat. Repeat. Hosted by Island Magazine and Transportation Press, keep an eye out for next month’s venue here. Also, if you’re a writer looking for some silent writing time, the Island Magazine office also turns into a writing cave for 3 hours every Tuesday in the old Mercury Building at 91-93 Macquarie Street, Hobart.
To find out more here.
Great coffee, smooth New Orleans tunes, cheery baristas and a vibrant space have just added serious colour to the Murray Street strip. Try to walk in and not feel brighter! Narrow in stature but big on personality, Shotgun is the latest ‘meeting place’ in Hobart.
Visit Shotgun at 49-51 Murray Street, Hobart
IMAGO BAKERY AND PATISSERIE
Delectable bakery treats in Hobart’s CBD! Flaky almond croissants, champagne loaves, wintry pies and more. Keep an eye out for Imago at this year’s Dark Mofo. They’ll be teaming with The Glass House and Chef David Ball at the winter feast.
Visit Imago at 114 Elizabeth Street
Get ready. Come August 2018 Ben Milbourne’s first restaurant will open in Providore Place, Devonport. Milbourne, of Ben’s Menu notoriety (Channel 10) will swing open the doors to a restaurant unlike any other the North West Coast has seen. He’s busy filming more TV shows right now so stay tuned.
Visit Ben Milbourne
About half an hour out of Hobart, 7K was dreamt up by Tyler Clark who downed tools on his former work to follow his distillery mission. Pushing boundaries with native produce with new craft spirits, the Aqua Vitae Modern Gin is a must try. In old Latin, Aqua Vita means ‘water for life.’ Make contact for a distillery visit.
Visit: 7K Distillery
GRAIN OF THE SILOS
Opening in June, Grain of the Silos is about venturing across Tasmania’s landscape to source our very best local produce for the Grain menu. From the port to the wilds, community is key for Head chef Peter Twitchett who has worked in kitchens worldwide. Expect sustainable and delicious in stylish surrounds come June 2.
Visit: Grain of the Silos at 89/91 Lindsay St, Launceston
Get your Canadian fix in Hobart. After spending time in Canada, the owners became captivated by Canadian cuisine, ranging from the game influence of Ontario to the French inspired pastries of Quebec. That’s right, Bellerive Tasmania just got a little bit Canadian.
Visit Gastown East at 5/16 Cambridge Rd, Bellerive
SUMINATO JAPANESE RESTAURANT
Tucked away in King Street, Suminato brings fresh Japanese flavours to Sandy Bay. Think Tassie fresh oysters with six special sauces or a sashimi chef selection. They also have a ‘no raw’ menu for those who prefer their Japanese all cooked.
Visit Suminato at 48 King Street, Sandy Bay
PABLO’S COCKTAILS AND DREAMS
With its Speak Easy feel, how do cocktails by the fire sound? Tucked down a laneway, this 1920s style bar is well suited to those who like to rest back on Chesterfield lounges and tap away to some live jazz.
Find Pablo's at 101 Harrington Street, Hobart
Right in the heart of Hobart’s CBD you’ll find REV. Pop in for an all day brekkie or a long lunch. They bake delish muffins every day and serve up great coffee. They also do a very handy beef burger made with prime grass fed beef, bacon and topped with their in-house mayo.
Find REV at 119 Liverpool St Hobart
GORMANSTON FOOD STORE
Had Afghani food lately? In Moonah there’s authentic Afghani cooked to order every day. There’s naan straight from the tandoor and always a welcoming smile. Take a traditional seat on the floor cushions or park yourself at a table. Don’t forget to order a freshly squeezed juice.
Visit GFS at 35 Gormanston Road, Moonah, Tasmania
SOUTH ON HAMPDEN
Under the watch of restaurateur Ian South, South on Hampden is a great go-to for brunch in Battery Point. It’s also open for dinner and warmer days invite craft ales or cocktails in the courtyard. Be sure to take a peek at the petite bar tucked away out back!
Visit South on Hampden at 45 Hampden Road, Battery Point
FIND CHEF STEVE CUMPER AT THE FERN TREE TAVERN
If you loved his food at Red Velvet Lounge you’ll be excited that Chef Steve Cumper is now at the Fern Tree Tavern whipping up a storm in the higher altitudes, en route to Mount Wellington’s pinnacle. Stop in for a drink by the open fire and a hearty meal this winter. Relaxed atmosphere and generous serves come standard.
Visit Fern Tree Tavern at 680 Huon Rd, Fern Tree
Last month Bobby Alu was beamed into 1.7 billion homes, strumming the ukulele to his own song amidst 200 beach-going dancers, at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. This Thursday (May 9), he’ll be bringing his cruisy Polynesian vibes to Willie Smith's Apple Shed and The Homestead on Friday.
If you like the idea of ‘finding your flow’ and going about your days to ‘the rhythm of your own making,’ you’ll enjoy this drummer and uke strummer live. The Byron Bay singer is coming as part of a huge 2018 Australian and New Zealand tour with his latest single Move. Listen here.
For the last five years, Alu has been touring as Xavier Rudd’s drummer. It’s been quite a ride since the day Xavier asked for a quick jam and then suggested they play a gig. After 20 minutes of rehearsal, Alu found himself performing in front of 10,000 at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest. He’s looking forward to a couple of relaxed days in Tassie, after a schedule that included 35 shows in 34 days across 10 different countries.
“I’d been so busy with Xavier that it feels great to be back writing songs again. Move was fun to make. This is the start of a new album, the first taste of it. It feels amazing to create something, record it and now take it on the road,” says Alu.
This isn’t Alu’s first time to Tasmania. He has performed on Bruny Island, busked at Salamanca Market (getting very sunburnt despite the cold weather) and has travelled up to the Bay of Fires and around the north. He also came at 13, as captain of the Queensland Athletics Team. The aspiring sprinter has fond memories of how good the Hobart tap water tasted in the 90s.
As a young boy he hoped to run in an Olympic or Commonwealth Games. Although he didn’t make it to the Commonwealth Games as a sprinter, he made it as a strummer. His family and friends cheered him on in the Gold Coast crowd. His smooth harmonies and rhythm are inspired by a strong family lineage of Polynesian performance. Alu uses Samoan log drums and instruments handed down through generations.
“My mum is from Samoa,” he says, “She taught me to play the ukulele when I was young and her brothers taught me to play the drums. Dad left Australia on a scuba diving trip in the Pacific, saw mum dancing and not long after I arrived! Mum works in Aged Care, takes her ukulele every day and sings to them.”
When Alu does local shows he’ll often get his Mum up to dance. In the 80s, she flew the flag, a pro dancer in a Polynesian dance group. During performances, young Alu would often drift off to sleep beneath the drums. No surprise why Polynesian rhythm runs deep in his blood.
“I did six months of an engineering degree and hated it,” smiles Alu. “Music took over. It’s amazing to think the ukulele and Samoan log drums have taken me around the world.”
Don’t miss Bobby Alu at Willie Smiths in Grove on the 10th of May and The Homestead in Hobart on the 11th of May. What will you enjoy live? According to his website: Expect a fresh, simple sound with tastes of Polynesian ukulele, Pacific beats, catchy songs, tasty harmony and powerful log drumming on a bed of slick style.
Sounds good to us!
He’s even prepared a cruisy Tassie playlist for us here.
“His chilled out Pacific tunes have a long-lasting feel good effect and his finely crafted songs have instant appeal.”
ABC Radio Australia
“Smooth hammock music genius.”
The AU Review
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Words Alice Hansen
Images: Monica Buscarino
Heard of Yoga Cucina? The Sydney-based outfit is an unrivalled blend of yoga and food. To use their own words, it’s a “hot-lipped love child of our two great passions – body rocking movement and seriously good food.”
I was fortunate enough to enjoy an overnight visit to their four-day Tasmanian retreat at one of my faves, Ratho Farm. Yoga Cucina’s country-wide escapes are more adventure than retreat, Ratho the ideal playground for the bliss to unfold.
Yoga Cucina is the creation of an eclectic bunch. The Yogis include Claire Blackwood, Aly Clarke and Rebecca Lockyer (BodyMindLife, Flow Athletic, Power Living). The Chefs are Marco Gobbo and Luca Faccin (Catalina, Icebergs Dining Room, Apollo). Clearly, good yoga and good food a certainty for these epic moveable feasts of movement and local fare.
The crew honed their skills in Sydney’s finest restaurants and studios. They believe that through shared experience, a higher state of consciousness can be realised. They serve up a delectable degustation and a dynamic flow class with equal passion. They love that “both have the power to bring people together, hands in the air or wrapped around a glass of wine.”
I arrive just in time for a pre-dinner yoga session. Although clearly the most inept yoga-goer on a mat, the team immediately make me feel comfortable. Hidden at the back, a gentle hand of assistance is never far away.
The team are right. Yoga is followed by the most delightful feast of local produce, spread down a jovial long table in Ratho’s atrium. Tasmanian wine flows as does the chatter while Marco and Luca busy themselves in the historic homestead’s kitchen. It’s a place where many high-end chefs have worked their craft including Gourmet Farmer’s Matthew Evans as part of his SBS television series.
With full tummies we all retreat to comfy convict-built, thoughtfully restored quarters. The following day, early risers can revisit their mats for a morning session. Naturally, this is followed by a breakfast banquet, bursting with fresh fruits and all manner of healthful options.
Although my time is short with Yoga Cucina, the team travelled far and wide. From their Ratho base, the crew visited vineyards, got sand between their toes and met local makers. They dropped into the subversive adult Disneyland that is Mona and were welcome to swing a club on Australia’s latest 18-hole golf course back at Ratho. During their downtime, the natural beauty, clear light and crisp Tasmanian air was theirs to enjoy.
Why do the team love Ratho?
Ratho Farm has a colourful history. Home to Australia's oldest golf course and chook shed, it's a working sheep and cattle farm, and a base for fly-fishing expeditions. Established in the highland wilderness by Scottish settlers Alexander and Mary Reid and a band of convict workers in 1822, the farm has been ransacked by bushrangers, housed exiled Irish nationalists, produced Melbourne Cup winners and golfing royalty. The old farm buildings including the bakery, verandah, stables and tack room have been lovingly restored into boutique rooms with original masonry and carpentry but modern features.
If you think this type of escape is for you, join their next adventure in the New South Wales Southern Highlands this September.
For more information visit: www.yogacucina.com
Images: Leeroy Te Hira (unless otherwise stated) Words: Alice Hansen
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David and Ea are the duo behind the Yukon. They found her sunken just out of Copenhagen and bought the traditional Danish sailing ketch for a carton of beer. Locals quipped they paid too much. The following seven years were dedicated to restoring her. They then sailed out to Australia where they now reside in Franklin offering Huon River Day Sails, Bruny Island Cruises, a Port Davey Cruise and more.
Before we share the four days we spent on the Yukon, we have an exclusive offer. If you go on a Calm Water Cruise, just mention Tailored Tasmania when booking and you’ll get 4 tickets for the price of 3 for the 90-minute cruise, departing Franklin at 10.30 am. Offer goes from today until the end of Beanie Season, August 31.
Day 1 – Dover to Recherche Bay
I joined the Yukon voyage partway through the trip. Arriving by bus into Dover, I soon find out from the service station-come-hardware store that the jetty is quite a way from the bus drop off. I look down at my two oversized bags and wonder how I’ll get down there. Next, a man pops his head up behind the hammer section and says, “I’m headin’ down there now. I’ll take ya.”
Next minute I’m climbing into Smudge’s truck. It’s not something I’d typically do. I find out on our short commute that Smudge processes crays, lots and lots of crays. He doesn’t just take me to the jetty, he drives right along the jetty, up to the Yukon. I leave money on his passenger chair. It’s not every day you get a lift in a town where there’s no taxis.
I arrive to a flurry of on-deck activity. I shake hands with the eight I’ll be spending the next four days with, as ropes are pulled and instructions bellowed around me. Soon we are ready to set sail. Our destination is Recherche Bay under perfect blue skies. This is where we’ll spend our first night. We leave the islands of Hope, Faith and Charity in our wake at Dover. I learn that the first licensed hotel was on Hope and the splitters and whalers were known to swim across from Stringers Creek, clutching dry wattle branches, to get to the pub.
At Recherche Bay we are invited to head ashore by tender to explore the former whaling region before settling in for our first dinner together onboard. It isn’t long before the Yukon’s gentle rock has its way and I’m fast asleep.
Day 2 - Recherche Bay to Port Davey
This is the biggest sailing day. It’s a mission likely to take around 13 hours. It begins at 3.30am, my eyes opening sharply to the rumble of an anchor being pulled. Apparently we’re on our way. I stay cosy in my bunk, the photographer fellow directly above me tossing a few times. Despite broken sleep, Kevin climbs down a few hours later in time for sunrise. With weary eyes, I follow. It’s well worth it. We are now in open water, next stop to our left is Antarctica. A gentle glow of red lights the cliffs of Tasmania’s south coast in glorious fashion.
The sails billow as we pass De Witt, an island where a lady once spent nearly a year on her own. I remind myself to find out more about her. Apparently Jane of Victoria wanted to “get away from it all and find myself.” It looks isolated and forlorn. There’s others like Flat Witch nearby.
We pass Maatsuyker where I wish I could yell loudly enough to say hello to the resident keepers at Australia’s southernmost lighthouse. Hours pass and a flurry of playful seals and soaring albatross keep us company as we forge ahead.
Rounding South West Cape, the island’s southern-most tip is something to behold. It’s gloriously rugged. The waves slam against it even though today’s conditions are tame. It is at this point we turn right and head into Port Davey past Big Caroline. I do wonder who Caroline was back in the day, and if she’s happy to have a ‘big rock’ named after her.
Dropping anchor at Bond Bay in Port Davey, it is one of the Sydney-siders who says it perfectly. He breathes deeply as I stand beside him. “The quiet,” he begins. “It almost shouts at you.” He’s right and for a long moment we stand in the silence and remoteness of our locale.
We chatter late into the evening up on deck over Weber-seared chicken.
Day 3 – Port Davey
Early on day three those familiar legs appear from the top bunk - that dedicated photographer keen not to miss a sunrise. Shortly after, Ea brings freshly baked bread out of the oven. We’re soon drawn together up on the deck for a Danish style alfresco brekkie with cheese and salami.
Our morning mission is a trip up the Davey River in the tender. None of the group including the skipper has ventured up there. We rug up and climb down into the little vessel, scooting along just centimeters from the inky black tannin-rich waters. It’s not until we get part way up that this group of explorers has to turn back due to a sand bar making small waves right across the width of the river. I was excited to see the likes of Razerback Point and Gunfight Creek but alas, it wasn’t to be. We head back to the warmth of the saloon for Plan B, an early departure for Bathurst River past the Breaksea Islands.
Arriving into Bramble Cove, we set off on a remarkably scenic walk up Mount Milner. Every step brings elevation and a larger glimpse at the untouched landscape. White sand coves, rocky outcrops and foreboding seas sprawl out in the distance. Down below, the Yukon becomes a tiny dot in the grandness that is Tasmania’s wild South West.
Without doubt a highlight of the four day journey comes next. The sunny afternoon invites more than one of us to take a plunge beneath the cove’s surface. I come up to breathe in some of the world’s freshest air. Invigoratingly cool, this is the type of swim one never forgets. The tea-coloured shallows deliver flashes of small darting fish as I scurry ashore realising I have no towel.
Tonight’s menu features kebabs up on deck, followed by a night cap of sailor’s rum and that feeling a very special voyage is nearing its end. Thank goodness the stars put on such a spectacular display that we each forget it’s the final eve.
Day 4 – To Bathurst Harbour
Yes, another sunrise awakening. This time it’s shrouded in moody cloud. It so happens that the dull morning can only be lightened by three playful dolphins as we leave the bay. I’ve never seen a dolphin swimming upside down, but one is having so much fun ducking and weaving that his white belly shines just beneath the dark surface. They play long enough for us to miss every photo opportunity, then swim gleefully north.
Up the Bathurst Narrows we venture, beside large mountains capped with misty cloud. We’re fueled on pancakes served with avocado, bacon, Nutella and all manner of European-inspired flavours. It wasn’t until I hopped on the Yukon that I realised a whole country of people are quite happy to chop up chocolate and put it on their fruit salad. This trip is as much a Danish lesson as it is in experiencing ‘Hygge’ which surely includes sitting by candlelight up on deck beneath the stars.
It doesn’t take long before Bathurst Harbour opens up before us, some three times the size of Sydney Harbour. Mount Rugby reveals itself in sunshine as if on cue. We spend a little time, mouths open at the mountain ranges and sparkling waters before we are ferried to the landing strip. Less than an hour later we are back in Hobart….the golden silence of Tasmania’s south west still ringing in our ears.
Words and images: Alice Hansen (unless otherwise stated)
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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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It’s called the Look Out. And of course you can take the role of being on watch. But the beauty of staying at Cod Rock Point isn’t just the stunning views from the bed overlooking Red Bill Beach and Cod Rock Point. There’s little eyes in the front garden.
It doesn’t take long upon arrival to realise that Cod Rock Point accommodation is about 20 paces from the sea. Arrive come evening and you'll have company. Sweet Little Penguins call the front garden home.
Take a red glowing torch (courtesy of nail polish of the owner’s wife) and you can mingle with the locals. They’re not at all territorial or crabby you’ve arrived on their turf, in fact they’re as curious as you are. Give them space. After all, they were here long before you. Their little inquisitive eyes and gorgeous nature will encourage you to pay them respect. They’ve come in from the sea to give their young a good feed – don’t interrupt. They’ve got work to do!
Sitting on the rocks with a wine watching these mates come in from sea isn’t all that’s on offer at Cod Rock Point. You can keep an eye on the tide, then wander across to Diamond Island off to the left for an explore. Time it correctly, and the island is all yours.
Then there’s Douglas Apsley National Park. A quick one hour climb through dry Eucalypt forest and you don’t just have the waterhole at the base, where many take a dip, but a gorge with multitudes of secret dipping holes. Take the first, the third or gather for a picnic around your own private number five water hole. Sink into the pure mountain waters on a warm day in complete privacy, wrapped by the steep gorge walls.
Back at the Look Out there’s fish and chips to be had. Head to The Gulch and the menu is a changing feast of the latest catch. Trevalla, Flat Head, Boar Fish or awfully tender Calamari is cooked up in ten minutes of ordering. Served with crunchy chips, your best bet is to head along to the Blow Hole and watch nature at work. There’s a picnic table on the rocks where you can grab front row seats to 'the show'.
Come morning, rise early. Don’t shut the curtains. Let the Tasman Sea be your alarm. As the sun gently rises, the bird life get a touch excited. It's quite the chorus. As I write this, it’s 5.48am. The birds are thrilled that dawn is breaking. The swell is gentle. Cod Rock sits silently, as it’s always done. Clouds rest on the horizon. A warm pink glow hangs above. The day is coming, Bicheno style. Could it get any better?
P.S. Need coffee in town? Don't we all. Best place to go is The Farm Shed. If you behave, you'll come out with coffee rather than a bottle of Splendid gin, a new designer light and a basket made from seaweed.
There’s so much ‘new’ this summer it’s difficult to know where to start. Do you raise your glass with a new gin mixer, fly across Freycinet waters, swing a club for a trip to America or hover high over western wilderness? Perhaps don’t try all at once, but here’s our picks for all the latest fun to be had this summer.
1. GET DOWN TO THE DEN
New to Salamanca Place, The Den gives a gracious nod to Tasmania’s elements. They believe it’s their duty to honour the island’s fine natural conditions through Tasmanian tastes and cocktails. You can too by opting for The Apple Isle cocktail, featuring Granny Smith infused vodka and some Bruny Island oysters with yuzu, pickled ginger and micro wasabi. Served in a seriously stylish fit-out.
Visit: The Den
2. SWING A CLUB AND WIN
There’s lots happening at Ratho Farm, just outside Hobart. Play a round of golf on Australia’s oldest course and you could be heading off on a golfer’s dream getaway to America’s mighty Midwest. The winner gets to play at recent US Open, PGA and Ryder Cup venues from Chicago to Wisconsin. There’s also a round of golf with David Boon up for grabs, in support of Common Ground Social Housing. Those less inclined to swing a club will love the summer Birdies, BBQ & Beers - playing at Australia's newest 18 hole course followed by a BBQ and the option to purchase or bring your own bevvies.
Visit: Ratho Farm
3. KICK OFF THE NEW YEAR WITH GIN-UARY
Ready to sample over 30 different gins in a gin inspired garden? We thought so. Gin-uary is happening in The Goods Shed. There’ll be tunes, cocktail demonstrations, master distillers to meet, gins to sample, Lady Hester gin and plum doughnuts and plenty more at this zero waste event. Don’t miss sampling 'The Splendid Gin Summer Cup', a fancy new mixer from Tassie’s east coast and the first of its kind from an Australian distiller. Could just be your new summer drink.
Visit: Splendid Gin and Gin-uary
4. RETREAT THIS SUMMER
Sink into a generous outdoor tub, hugged by World Heritage wilderness. The Retreat is Pumphouse Point’s brand new offering on the edge of Lake St. Clair. It’s exclusive, it’s all inclusive and it even has a ‘Midnight Snack’ button by the bed that lights your way to the fridge. Everything has been afforded careful thought …. Your only job is to choose the indoor or outdoor bath, to plan your wilderness walking and what local spirit takes your fancy from the indulgent larder.
Visit: Pumphouse Point
5. WESTERN WANDERING
There’s plenty happening out west including a new Heli Steam Experience, combining the wonder of Strahan Helicopters and the West Coast Wilderness Railway. You can also combine your train trip with a rafting journey (King River Rafting) if you like to mix rail travel with wetsuits. Come nightfall, catch a classic movie in the 1930s Art Deco Paragon Theatre. They’ll even serve you up a wine and decadent dessert once you’ve settled in to your comfy seating. Movies start at 8.15. Oh, and Captain’s Rest is one special place to stay in Strahan.
6. FLY IN TASMANIA
With 780 horses propelling you along, the brand new Freycinet Flyer jet boat is built for thrills. Expect spins, jumps, fleeting cliff views and maybe even a dolphin visit or two on this Freycinet National Park adventure. The 10 metre-long vessel is fully enclosed, meaning up to 12 passengers stay cosy and dry year round. So get flying from Coles Bay with Tim.
Visit: Freycinet Flyer
7. YES YOU CAN AT THE HOBART BREWING CO.
Cans are in this summer! Think of them as mini-kegs, ensuring your ale is fresh as can be. These handsome new beer vessels hold more than a bottle at 375ml (yay) and are lighter to pack on your camping trips. Oh, and better on the recycling front. Brewed and canned right here in Hobart Town, pick up yours from the taproom for takeaway or enjoy at Macquarie Point with your mates.
Visit: Hobart Brewing Co.
8. WUKALINA WALK
This new Aboriginal owned and operated walk takes its first guests in January 2018. The guided three-night experience in the Bay of Fires region includes two nights in palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) domed huts and the final night in a Lighthouse Keepers Cottage. Packed with culture and stunning North East surrounds, find yourself listening close to creation stories carried through generations and joining in cultural practices around the night fire.
Visit: Wukalina Walk
9. COD ROCK POINT
Like your accommodation waterfront? Like the possibility of Little Penguins calling your front garden home? At Cod Rock Point in Bicheno on Tasmania’s East Coast, the water is just beyond the doorstep. There’s special torches at the ready to enjoy the Little Penguins, but be respectful, after all it was their home first! Redbill Beach is just five minutes wander and with so much to do on the East Coast make sure you don’t just stay one night.
Visit: Cod Rock Point
10. OCEAN BLUE SAFARIS
Coming in February, prepare for an ocean adventure taking you straight to the famed Wineglass Bay beach. More news to come on this so stay tuned!
Visit: Ocean Blue Safaris
11. McHENRY DISTILLERY GIN PAVILION
There’s a fancy new Gin Pavilion high on the hill at McHenry Distillery near Port Arthur. If you like the sound of becoming your own distiller for the day, sign up to a four-hour workshop at one of Gourmet Traveller’s favourite gin distilleries. Created by Kim Dudson (Bespoke Tasmania www.bespoketasmania.com) and Master Distiller William McHenry, the workshop includes a gin-matched lunch and 500mls of your very own gin label.
12. EDGE OF THE WORLD TOURS
So, you’ve arrived at the Edge of the World. If you’re unfamiliar with this part of the planet, why not go with pro and let them guide you? Edge of the World Tours is a new way to explore rare and remote locales. If you want to explore the West Coast, Freycinet or Bruny Island, these guys have you sorted!
Visit: Edge of the World Tours
13. VAN DIEMENS LAND CREAMERY PUNT
What goes well with summer? Artisan ice cream and gelato of course. Not only can you find Van Diemens Land Creamery near Elizabeth Town in the North West, but also now at the Hobart waterfront. Roll up to their Constitution Dock punt for the most delicious gelato and ice cream, established by a dairy farming fam and all handmade. Yum!
Visit: VDL Creamery
I rarely invite others on writing assignments but this was too good. My mother’s response to suggestion of her first helicopter flight? “No way.” So we gave her the front seat.
Osborne Heli Tours are into their second season of operation from their Port Arthur base (opposite the Port Arthur Lavender Farm) and I was absurdly excited about taking flight. So excited, I bundled my father into the fold as well. Off we ventured down the Tasman Peninsula beneath brooding low clouds and a weather report that whispered of thunderstorms. I was certain it would clear while Mum was no doubt secretly delighted.
The grey skies allowed us to go slow en route to our flight. We dropped in to Cubed Espresso at Pirate’s Bay Lookout for a delectable orange hot chocolate and morsel of raspberry infused brownie that was so delish it was hard to savour and inhale at the same time.
On arrival for our 30 minute flight, Two Capes and Tasman, only one young lady was in the office. Cheery and bright, she held hope the clouds may part. As she began talking radars and weather patterns, it didn’t take long for us to ascertain that the 22-year-old was not only our reception welcome but also the pilot.
With a flick of the pony tail we were told there would be no lift off. Lucy didn’t want to take us if we wouldn’t be able to see the magic she knew awaited. My shoulders dropped but a promise of improved morning conditions meant we just had more time to enjoy on the peninsula and after all, this region is no day trip. Many a tourist has fallen for a Port Arthur visit of hours, later realising the ancient rock formations, distilleries, walks and eco-cruise are deserving of far more time.
Next morning we front up eagerly and again have to wait on a weather break. Our pseudo Qantas Lounge (aka the Port Arthur Lavender Farm) welcomes us once more with savoury scones and tall coffees. The suspense has raised Mum’s nerves, but I insist that my first chopper flight over World Heritage Wilderness on Tasmania’s west coast remains one of my treasured memories and indeed the sensation is like nothing she’s experienced.
A quick text from Lucy confirms it is lift off time. We arrive two minutes later. After a safety briefing, Mum is fitted with her waste-belt life jacket and directed to co-pilot position, much to the grins of my father and I. For a moment I feel waves of ‘mean daughter,’ with flash backs to the time I invited her canyoning up Cradle Mountain, where she leapt off 9 metre precipices in thick neoprene like a good mid-sixty aged sport. I was about to test her comfort limits once more. “Sorry Mum,” was all I could manage but the emerging smile conveyed a silent delight.
As the rotors warmed above us with a noisy whir, I gave a knowing backseat nod to Dad. A second later came the customary and thrilling vertical rise, followed by a swooping over the treetops before we barely realise we’re airborne. Through the headsets come an excited shriek from the front-seat passenger. Mission accomplished – Mum is settling into her bird-like role with delight.
In what feels like seconds, we are suddenly peering over Port Arthur Historic Site and careering out toward the ancient coastline. Lucy points out the sweeping white curve of Crescent Bay and the famed Remarkable Cave down below.
Casually, she navigates the low level cloud with the finesse of someone who has been in the air with her Dad since the age of 12. We are doing the tour in reverse order, Tasman Island typically first. In safe hands, the avid surfer points out Shipstern’s Bluff and arcs around dramatic Cape Raoul. From above, the sheer dolerite columns plummet into the sea. Incidentally, the cape was used as target practice by the British Navy during World War 1, missing some of its towering ‘fingers’ as a result.
We swoop around, next destination, Tasman Island. Mum can be heard chirping away about the Three Capes Track down below, hugging the cliff edge. It’s a walk we’ve all enjoyed, entirely anew in its perspective when hovering above. Her words drift off, replaced with gasps of wonder. There is Cape Pillar and Tasman Island. Tiny dots of humans can be seen taking in the view from Pillar. Known as ‘The Blade,’ it remains one of my favourite places to perch for lunch.
We arc around Tasman Island, the lighthouse and cottages in clear view. Its flat green top looks prime for a golf swing, sitting 300 metres above sea level at the highest point. No sooner are we hovering on the world’s edge, next stop Antarctica, Lucy lays us safely back down to earth. We each shake our heads. Words cannot be found. Was that spectacular, momentary bird-embodiment a fleeting dream? Mum climbs out, dizzy with wonder. The giddy smile says at all.
With flights starting at $145 for 15 minutes (Sea Cliffs and Convicts) whether you want to impress a first date or simply push your mother to the edge, book some time with Osborne. Lucy has flown around the world from Canada to northern Australia and considers it the finest flying territory she’s found. For around the cost of filling a mundane supermarket shopping basket, a lifetime memory can be forged in one of the most spectacular locations on the planet.
This summer, add something lofty to your must-do list.
Words & images: Alice Hansen (unless otherwise captioned)
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