Spectacular coastal scenery and fine Tasmanian wine

Enjoy one of the most beautiful drives in Australia

By Kerry Scambler
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Darlington Vineyard, Orford, Tasmania

Darlington Vineyard, Orford, Tasmania

Gala Estate
Cellar door at Gala Estate
Binalong Bay, north-east Tasmania
Cellar door at Freycinet Vineyard on the east coast of Tasmania

 

Winding your way along Tasmania's East Coast, taking in the beautiful views, breathing in the fresh sea air and leaving your footsteps on white sandy beaches is one of the most relaxing and therapeutic journeys you can take.

Add in tasting some world class cool climate wines at an eclectic mix of cellar doors and many of us feel we're in paradise.

Whatever the season, the East Coast always holds a great attraction for locals and visitors alike. The diverse range of landscapes – granite peaks of The Hazards, long, white beaches with their sleepy bays and cool coastal bushland – change to reflect the seasons, each offering a different outlook and experience.

In Summer the beaches with their squeaky sand and rolling surf call while the sparkling waters offer fishing and diving adventures aplenty. On warmer days, the bush with rivers and creeks can offer a cooler option.

Spring and Autumn are perfect times for visiting the national parks and walking through the bush and forests with their cool, clear air and busy wildlife.

Come Winter and the air is clear, crisp making beach walks that little bit more invigorating and the café and gallery stops a warm welcome.

And of course, just lazing about in any seaside town at any time of year is downright enjoyable! Add in a craft brewery along the way and life is just about perfect.

But, then there are the wines... any time, any season, great cool climate wines...

Not only do these vineyards have superb cool climate wines in common, most properties have a long local history with the original families still at the helm of farms now vastly different from those of their ancestors. This aspect certainly adds character to the cellar doors and the friendly folk you find within.

So, we'll start this wine drive heading north from Hobart but you can easily meander around the East Coast to work in with other activities:

 

Darlington Vineyard – Orford

Just over an hour from Hobart and it's time for your first stop as you hit the East Coast at Orford.

As you can see from one of the photos at top right, Darlington has an enviable view from across to Maria Island and in fact takes its name from the historic settlement on the island, once used to house convicts and also once a vineyard experiment started in 1885 and forsaken ten years later.

A boutique vineyard of 2 ha, Darlington has an annual yield of between seven and ten tonnes with each and every vine receiving the personal attention of owners Paul and Louise Stranan. This hard work results in the production of some fine pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay and their very popular TGR Riesling.

 

Kelvedon Estate – Swansea (south)

Just past the spectacular Mayfield cliffs, Kelvedon lies with views across to Schouten Island. This property has been owned and managed by the Cotton family since 1829, with a long tradition as a fine wool property. In 1998 the family diversified into viticulture and now has 9ha under production.

The bulk of their fruit goes to Bay of Fires to be made into the famed Arras and Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, with the remainder being made into Kelvedon's own label sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and their (deliciously smooth) pinot noir.

Kelvedon doesn't have a cellar door but you will see their wines on the winelist in cafés and restaurants, in good bottleshops along the coast and in fine wine outlets around Tasmania. 

 

Milton – Swansea (north)

Your next stop just minutes north of the Swansea township is Milton Vineyard. Perched on a hill overlooking a dam and the vineyard is the cellar door with a great gum tree for shade and the odd old farm implement laying around for character.

It's a tranquil spot and very easy to stay for a friendly chat, a sip or more of their lovely wines and to check out the interesting artwork and displays around the room. In fact, walking into the cellar door for me is like catching up with an old friend and I find it a great place to stock up for stays in Swansea and to take home.

Milton was first farmed in 1826 and, like Kelvedon, well known for fine wool but now shining with its range of wines including pinot noir, superb riesling, lively rosé, gewurztraminer, pinot gris and a complex and distinguished sparkling pinot noir chardonnay.  

 

Spring Vale Wines – Cranbrook

 Like its neighbour down the road, Spring Vale was also settled in 1826 and remains in the Lyne family today.

The first vines were planted in 1986 and in 2007 they purchased the neighbouring Melrose property with its established vineyard and expanded their viticultural pursuits further. Today Spring Vale has a well earned reputation for their fine wines sold around Australia.

The cellar door is a favourite too, being a stable built by convicts in 1842 and largely preserved intact (both the homestead and cellar door are heritage listed). It's got a lovely, rustic feel and the temperature is always right for the wine! There is always a great range of wines to taste including their beautiful pinot and a gewurztraminer said to be amongst the country's best. The 'stickies' (sweet botrytised dessert wines) are highly recommended as well.

Between Milton and Spring Vale, my wine purchases have historically built up and we've been turning back to our Swansea accommodation but now there's another vineyard, just one more minute up the road....

 

Gala Estate – Cranbrook

One of the first land grants on the East Coast in 1821, Gala Estate is under the stewardship of the 6th, 7th and 8th generations of the Amos family.  It's now a property of ,4000ha with five private forest reserves, four rivers and a wide range of soils and land types and, since 2007, home to a boutique vineyard,

The range of hand-crafted wines includes pinot gris, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and pinot rosé with a sparkling due out next year (2014).

This is another cellar door with history aplenty, once being the Cranbook post office and general store, locally known as Ted's place after one of its interesting residents. But be warned, it's easily be missed as you hit the town limits of Cranbrook so make sure you keep watch for the quirky green weatherboard cottage. Don't miss out either on their local olives or ploughmans lunch, matching perfectly with the wine tasting. 

 

The Hazards Vineyard – Bicheno (south)

Just over the hill from Cranbrook and past the must-stop lookout, Brown Brothers is now the proud owner of the large vineyard that spreads across the hills below and with spectacular views across to the Hazards on the Freycinet Peninsula.

The Hazard's Vineyard is the new home for the Devil's Corner range with the newly opened site office is currently doubling as a cellar door with tastings and sales. 

The opening coincides with the release of a new look for the wines with bottles now graced with the breathtaking artwork of Rebecca Birrell, more of which is currently on display at the cellar door.

 

Freycinet Vineyard – Bicheno (south)

Set in a natural amphitheatre, Freycinet Vineyard was first planted in 1979 and became the first commercial winery on the East Coast.

In November 2012, Freycinet acquired the neighbouring Coombend property which, along with a mature vineyard, comes with established olive groves and the original Coombend tasting room with its highway frontage.

Awards, as well as wine, flow at Freycinet, with the 2001 Radenti Sparkling (named after their personable winemaker, Claudio Radenti) judged as 97/100 in James Halliday's Best of the Best in The Australian Wine Companion 2013 and similarly their 2010 Freycinet Pinot Noir scoring 96/100 in the Best of the Best.

Then there's the Wine of Provenance Award from the 2013 Age and Sydney Morning Herald's wine guides for Freycinet Pinot, recognising it as an iconic Tasmanian wine.

The cellar door is at the end of the driveway and offers a warm welcome along with the great wines.

 

Ironhouse Brewery at White Sands Estate – Bicheno (north)

Set in an absolutely stunning position beachside and looking out across the Tasman Sea, the deck at White Sands is just made for sitting back and enjoying an Ironhouse beer which incidentally is brewed just metres from where you're sitting! The usual range includes a lager, wheat, pilsener, stout. porter and pale ale whilst there are specialty beers brewed from time to time.

 

Priory Ridge – near St Helens

In the small settlement of Priory Ridge just three kilometres from St Helens close to the fabulous Bay of Fires is Priory Ridge, a boutique vineyard specialising in pinot noir and sauvignon blanc wines. This is the northernmost vineyard on the Great Eastern Drive and like many, has a long history from early settlement with interesting stories to tell. The views over the valley and Blue Tier are spectacular from the cellar door.

 

We also recommend:

Stay: life on the east coast is definitely at a slower pace so make the time to stop at each cellar door, enjoy a chat with the friendly staff and savour the wines. We recommend you spend at least one night to make this an experience to remember.

There's a range of accommodation for all budgets from the luxurious Saffire at Coles Bay to the many hospitable and often historic B&Bs dotted along the coast, and everything in between.
 

Food: fresh seafood, need we say more? Available up and down the coast, even straight from the sparkling waters at Freycinet Marine Farm! Then there are the berries and ice creams at Kate's Berry Farms, so luscious, with the bonus of great views across Great Oyster Bay as well.

If you're self-catering, there's a great range of the coast's produce and local meat products at Sir Loin Breier’s Bicheno Butchery (hopefully they'll have their delicious crayfish paté in stock when you call in!). Just inland from St Helens it's cheese heaven at Pyengana's Dairy Company, perfect for picking up some picnic supplies too.
 

Dining: cafés, pubs and restaurants of all styles and budgets are yours for the choosing, with local produce usually the star. 
 

Adventure and outdoors: kayaking, cruising, climbing a mountain, sea and estuary fishing, bike riding, swimming, diving, snorkelling, stroll along a beach or through the bush, build a sandcastle, follow the penguins and discover Tassie's other wildlife – there's much to choose from for all ages and fitness levels.

Or you can simply pull up a chair on a beach, pull on the sunglasses and a hat, prop the book in front of you and simply let your mind drift...

 

If you're looking for an excuse to come to Tasmania, I'd say the above would be a pretty tempting itinerary, one that's hard to beat in any other part of Australia.

If you're already lucky enough to live in this state, then jump in the car and head to the East Coast for your next short break.  At the time of writing, business could do with a boost after the January 2013 bushfires [which left this region almost totally unaffected, so you needn't be concerned about driving past miles of burnt ourt scenery], so show your support, and have a relaxing and fun break at the same time!

 

Regions

  • East Coast (TAS)
  • East Coast and Tasman Peninsula (TAS)

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February 04th, 2013
 
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