Tasmania – Huon Valley – a well-kept secret
Stay overnight, or enjoy an easy day trip from Hobart
By Winsor Dobbin
The Huon Valley, just a 40-minute drive south of Hobart, is one of Tasmania’s best-kept secrets. The Huon is nonetheless building a reputation for its fine wines and artisan food producers, as well as its many artists, sculptors, glass blowers and woodworkers.
The Huon Trail, which covers both banks of the Huon River and extends to the Channel, has its own arts and food and wine trails – and it was the many orchards here that gave Tasmania its “apple isle” nickname. Apples, pears and cherries still abound and visitors relish the chance to sample local cheeses, preserves and mushrooms.
The region is home to several popular cellar doors, including Home Hill at Ranelagh, Panorama outside Cradoc and Hartzview at Nicholls Rivulet. Jim Chatto, winemaker at Pepper Tree in the Hunter Valley recently planted his own vineyard overlooking the Huon River.
Stop 1 – A stroll around Cygnet and brunch
The lovely village of Cygnet, population around 800, was recently the focus of the SBS TV show Gourmet Farmer featuring former food critic Matthew Evans. It’s home to several cafés and art galleries so art lovers can enjoy the Whispering Tree Gallery, Stanley’s Fine Arts and Crafts, the Doepel Gallery, the Ginger Nutt Gallery, Lovett Gallery, the soon-to-open Cobweb Designs and the hand-crafted woodwork at Phoenix Creations, all in and around town. Pop in for a late breakfast or lunch at the BYO Lotus Eaters Café on Mary Street which serves hearty dishes using fresh local ingredients and is immensely popular.
Open: Thursday to Monday for breakfast and lunch. From 9am-4pm.
10 Mary Street, Cygnet
Phone (03) 6295 1996
Stop 2 – Wine tasting at Panorama Vineyard
The Vishacki family produce top-class pinots, along with cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Their main cellar door is alongside the vines on the eastern bank of the Huon River at Cradoc, between Huonville and Cygnet. A second cellar door facility is at the Apple Valley Teahouse on the Huon Highway at Grove.
You must taste: The excellent 2007 Estate Pinot Noir ($39).
Open: Daily except Tuesdays.
Cygnet Coast Road, Cradoc
Phone (03) 6266 3409
Stop 3 – Wine tasting and lunch at Home Hill
Home Hill Winery and Restaurant at Ranelagh, outside Huonville, overlooks several hectares of vines and is a hugely popular lunch venue. It produces pinot noir, chardonnay and sylvaner, along with sparkling wines and a late harvest sticky. Dishes on offer may include seared Huon salmon with warm greens, capers and citrus dressing, or rabbit stuffed with pinenuts, red rice and apricot, with warm pinkeye potatoes. Local ingredients are used when possible.
You must taste: The multi award-winning 2008 Pinot Noir.
Open: Daily for lunch. Dinner on Friday and Saturday.
38 Nairn Street, Ranelagh
Phone (03) 6264 1200
Stop 4 – Wine tasting at Hartzview
The Hartzview Wine Centre, high in the hills above the hamlet of Nicholls Rivulet, features tastings and sales of a wide range of preservative-free wines, ports and liqueurs – including a range of fortified fruit wines and mead, as well as pinot noir and chardonnay. The on-site cafe is open 10am-5pm and visitors are invited to stroll around the old fruit pickers’ huts that dot the property.
Open: Daily 10am-5pm
70 Dillons Road, Gardners Bay
Phone (03) 6295 1623
Stop 5 – Cheese tasting at Grandvewe
Tasmania’s only sheep milk cheesery offers tastings and sales of up to 15 different cheeses and allows visitors to enjoy the process of cheese making and maturing. Sheep milking demonstrations are held daily at 4.30pm from September-March.
Open: Seven days September-June. Otherwise closed on Tuesdays.
59 Devlyns Road, Birchs Bay
Phone (03) 6257 4099
Stop 6 - Dinner at the Red Velvet Lounge
This cosy restaurant serves excellent breakfasts and lunches seven days and on Friday and Saturday nights it is transformed into an upmarket eatery with chef Steve Cumper (a disciple of Maggie Beer) serving dishes like local rabbit, hazelnut and butter puff pie with parsnip mash and mustard sauce, or house-made gnocchi with blue cheese, figs and nuts. All of the mains cost under $30 and there is a Tasmanian wine list with several good choices like Frogmore Creek Riesling available by the glass.
Open: Daily for breakfast and lunch. Fridays and Saturdays for dinner. Bookings recommended.
24 Mary Street, Cygnet
Phone (03) 6295 0466
Stop 7 – Overnight stay at the Old Bank
The Old Bank is a luxury guesthouse with just three newly-refurbished queen-sized bedrooms, each with their own private bathrooms. The homestead was built in 1909 and has been tastefully restored with rooms offering AustarTV, laptops and free wi-fi connection. The tariff includes a hearty home-made breakfast with eggs from the owners’ hens and locally-cured bacon. For guests who fancy an afternoon or evening tipple, the Old Bank is licensed and there are several tempting options from small producers like d’Meure and Kate Hill on the wine list.
20 Mary Street, Cygnet
Phone (03) 6295 0769
- The ferry ride from Kettering over to Bruny Island
- A glass or two of Cascade at the Commercial Hotel in Cygnet
- A visit to the Apple Heritage Museum in Huonville
- A walk around the lovely riverside hamlet of Franklin
- Visit the annual Cygnet Folk Music Festival
- A high-octane jet boat ride on the Huon Jet (based at Huonville)
- Bruny Island (TAS)
- Huon and Channel (TAS)
- Southern Tasmania (TAS)
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