Tasting Tassie, a road trip with food and wine.

Nov 15th, 2016, 12:48 PM
  #1  
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Tasting Tassie, a road trip with food and wine.

We're a mid to late fifties Australian couple. We like natural beauty, interesting architecture, art, history, talking to all sorts of people, enjoying a drink and eating local food.

This was our first trip to Tasmania. We spent 12 nights on the Apple Isle, arriving in Hobart 31/10/2016 by air and departing from Devonport 12/11/2016 by sea. Apart from those transits and the first three nights in Hobart nothing was booked, allowing some flexibility.

The trip became:
4 nights Hobart
1 night Bruny Island
2 nights Bicheno
1 night St Helens
1 night Bridport
2 nights Launceston
1 night Devonport

Hampden court boutique apartments ($179 per night for a one bedroom apartment) was our base for our time in Hobart. It's in Battery Point, and a 10 minute downhill walk to the waterfront at Salamanca Place, or the CBD, or Sandy Bay. It was perfect for us, clean, modern and had all amenities we look for. We arrived about 17.00, and walked around the area stopping for a meal and a beer at the Prince of Wales hotel. I wouldn't recommend the food there, but the locals were chatty and very engaging.

Tuesday 1 November saw us walking into the city through St Davids park, an easy walk through beautiful gardens. The city is compact and filled with many architecturally interesting buildings. Heritage is very important here, it was fascinating to see a facade being preserved with no building behind it. They were readying for a new hotel to be built. There is a lack of accommodation in Hobart with local council rejecting many development applications due to heritage issues, and the cost of preserving the heritage making feasibility difficult for the developers.
After coffee and chocolate treats we caught a local bus to the Cascades female factory, which is mostly a ruin. The matrons cottage has been saved, but the dormitories where female convicts were kept are now only footprints. You need to use your imagination. Entry here was $5 pp. We wandered a little further to the Cascades Brewery, a stunning bluestone building, where tours are available. We were happy to just try a few small ales and have lunch of charcuterie, antipasti, cheese and dips at their lovely restaurant. The afternoon was spent nearby at a friends house, with Mount Wellington still snow patched in November looming overhead.

Wednesday 2 November was our MONA day. We walked down to the wharf and had the breakfast of champions at Brooke Street Larder (Bloody Mary's and a trio of dips $45) then caught the MONA ferry $20 pp along the Derwent river to the gallery. Entry is also $20 pp and it has an excellent cafe amongst the exhibits and installations. I enjoyed MONA and we spent several hours there. We explored more of Salamanca Place, then back to our apartment for Pizzarazzi delivery (suggested by our friend), it was very good pizza. A Ninth Island Pinot noir went down well.

Thursday 3 November was car pick up day, (booked on www.economy car rentals.com). We got an almost brand new Hyundai Accent via Europcar for 6 days at a cost of $242, and headed down the Tasman Peninsula. Dunalley is a town that was ravaged by bushfires two years ago, fortunately the beautiful old pub was saved. Lunch was an excellent seafood chowder for me and a great mixed grill for DH, all served with friendly local camaraderie.
We drove past the Port Arthur historical site, but didn't enter for a few reasons, we were time poor so would have been unable to do it justice, the cost is $42 pp, and it's the site of a major tragedy in our recent history when a deranged gun man opened fire in 1996 killing 35 people. The actions of Martin Bryant (who is serving a life sentence) at least led to a radical overhaul of gun laws and a buy back of guns by the federal government. We then stopped at Richmond another history rich town with beautiful buildings, several antique and collectable shops and pretty green countryside. The evening saw us joining in with a bunch of locals at the Prince of Wales in a quiz night, great fun and such friendly people.
sartoric is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 03:34 PM
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Thanks for sharing, Sartoric. I'm eagerly following along in anticipation for our own visit in January. The more I read about Tasmania, the more I ask myself why it's taking me a third trip to Australia to make it to the island state.
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Nov 15th, 2016, 06:29 PM
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Great start! Looking forward to following along.
yestravel is offline  
Nov 15th, 2016, 09:09 PM
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TP, don't grill yourself too hard, it took me more than 50 years to get there, and I live in Australia.

Yestravel, thanks, I hope you find something useful for your upcoming trip.

Whilst I didn't book much in advance, I did research and read a bit before we left. I used Fodors forum, the visit Tasmania tourism site, many websites that google led me to, my 10 year old copy of Let's Go Australia, a vintage 1998 road touring atlas (back when Bruny Island was a farming community only) but far and away the best source of information was on the ground at the local visitor centres.

Located in most towns, they're marked by an italicised yellow "i" on a blue background. Without exception the information given, the local knowledge provided and the friendly delivery was a huge help. Some will ring to book accommodation for you, and all will tell you where there's a good place to eat. Free maps of local drives or self guided walking trails are available, along with brochures for local attractions and places of interest. Yes, there's google and a million other sites, sometimes it's nice to talk to a person.

Friday 4 November, and we're off to Bruny Island. It's off the southern coast, and reached by car ferry ($33 round trip per car, ferries every half hour) from a town called Kettering. The whole trip from Hobart took around 45 minutes. Another 15 minutes driving sees us at Get Shucked, a famous oyster growing and processing facility. I am spoilt for life for fresh Pacific oysters now, with 18 oysters in three different ways, a glass of Oyster Bay savvy blanc and a cider for DH the cost was $55. A few hundred meters away is the Bruny Island cheese factory, with free tastings and delicious cheese. There be happy cows here ! Another 20 minutes or so, we lobbed into the Hotel Bruny for accommodation options and were offered Sandpiper cottage for $175 per night. The cottage was a lovely wooden chalet, if a bit remote, accompanied by howling winds and gorgeous sea views. We hunkered in with cheese and wine. The food at Hotel Bruny looked excellent and is all local.

Saturday 5 November was a return through Hobart and a push on to take the east coast drive. We stopped for coffee and a scallop pie from the bakery at Orford (excellent) stopped again for a poke around Triabunna, then a beer at Swansea in an historic pub. We stopped again at Oyster Bay winery to check out the local produce. Onwards to Bicheno where we found out this was a public holiday weekend for the north half of Tasmania. No one really knew what the Monday holiday was for, but in any case the town was packed and we jagged the last self contained cabin at Bicheno east tourist park, ($105 pn). It was very seventies decor, but clean, comfortable and had a sea view (over the caravans). It's in the centre of town, and therefore a short walk to the pub where we had a meal that was awful.
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Nov 17th, 2016, 01:33 AM
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Sunday 6 November a (small) market day in Bicheno - with only five stalls while we were there. We met Des who explained far more about local trees and wood turning than we probably needed to know, so of course we bought a lovely myrtle bowl, slowly backing away as the conversation turned to hardware, travel, anything really. Des likes to talk. Breakfast was coffee and a delicious spinach sausage roll at the Bicheno bakery. Fortified, we took a 40 minute drive to Freycinet NP (entry $24 pp) for beautiful walks, amazing views of the remarkable Hazards, and a pretty little town called Coles Bay. Back in Bicheno there is a 3 km foreshore walk, with a rocky blowhole and empty windy beaches. We ate dinner at Pasani's also a short walk from our cabin, where they have fantastic local produce. We shared a wood fired pizza and a superb seafood chowder with homemade toasted sourdough. With a bottle of Devils Corner Sauvignon Blanc, the total cost was $59.
A much better choice than the pub.

Monday 7 November we moved on to St Helens, via a stop at St Mary's. The road to St Mary's is narrow and winds up through the mountains. This is the first time I've seen signs asking long vehicles (mostly cars towing caravans or boats) to sound their horn before rounding corners. In St Mary's there's a quaint historic hotel, too early to stop there for us, but we did find a cute cafe with good coffee, a collection of mid 20th century lounge furniture to sit on, and a bunch of motorcycles inside. I think the building may have previously been a service station. We stayed in St Helens at the budget part of Bayside Hotel Motel $80 pn for a room from the fifties. The view over the water is lovely, the Formica and fixtures not so pretty, but it was clean and functional with a comfy bed, a bathroom, small fridge and tv. Lunch at The Captains Catch on the waterfront included local fish, chips, scallops and prawns. With a glass of local Pinot Gris and a Boag's beer, cost was $46.
We ventured to Binalong Bay to attempt a coastal walk, but the weather closed in and a steady rain began. We drove further to Wineglass Bay for spectacular views from the warmth of the car. Back to St Helens, there is a small museum located in the visitor centre (entry $2.50 pp) which has details of the tin mining history of the region, models of the water wheels used to extract same, plus artefacts and the story of the tin dragon. Dinner was cobbled together from some of the excellent produce (salami, local cheese, pickles, wood fired bread) available at the local IGA.
A note about IGA (Independant Grocers Association). There are two chain supermarkets which dominate most of Australia, they are Coles and Woolworths. IGA is effectively a buying group, which allows the independent owners of each store to source product from the group, or wherever else they wish. We were amazed at the selection of local cheeses, meats and readymade meals available. Try IGA.
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Nov 17th, 2016, 03:21 AM
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Great report so far! Keep it up!
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Nov 17th, 2016, 01:52 PM
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Thanks margo_oz.

Tuesday November 8 was a drive to the north coast town of Bridport. First we headed out to the Pyengana valley, for a stop at the cheese factory to sample their washed rind cheddar of several ages. There's also a cafe with great coffee overlooking the dairy farm. More happy cows. Further along is St Columba falls, it's an easy 20 minute walk downhill through rainforest to the viewpoint for the highest falls in Tasmania where 200,000 litres per minute cascade over in winter. Also in the valley is the "Pub in the Paddock", an historic hotel with a very friendly publican and a warm open fire. The drive then takes us through Bass forest country, there are beautiful trees everywhere. We stopped in several small towns along the way, checking out op shops, antique shops and local produce shops. As we drove into Bridport we were delayed at substantial roadworks which should have triggered an alarm. We had a late lunch at the Bridport Inn, more fish & chips for me and a steak sandwich for DH. With a glass of wine and a beer, the cost was only $42. We got chatting to a couple from our home state of Queensland who were touring in a motor home, and had another drink with them, so decided to stay the night in Bridport. I mentioned the roadworks because now we find out accomodation is almost fully booked by construction workers. This has happened to us before in small town NSW, we should have known better. We jagged a room at the Bridport Hotel for $80, it ranks right up there with all time horrible hotel experiences, and I've had a few. Shared facilities, a u-shaped bed, no heater and difficult access. Dinner at the pub was just okay, Tasmanian mussels in a red sauce and chicken soup with crusty bread.

Wednesday November 9 was an easy drive across to George Town, the third place to be settled in Australia after Sydney and Hobart. We took the self guided heritage walking tour following a well marked trail via a brochure from the visitor centre. The buildings were well preserved, although few are accessible. Here also is a replica of the Norfolk, a sailing vessel in which Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated Tasmania in 1798, thereby confirming it was an island. Again it was very windy (sunny though) and as is typical of many small towns in Australia, there were lots of empty shops. We had a snack of an excellent chicken pie and coffee at the bakery, then pushed on to Launceston via a stop at Brady's lookout which has stunning views of the Tamar valley. Launceston has a tangled maze of one way streets in the CBD making navigation frustrating. Eventually we found the visitor centre and were recommended the TRC hotel located in a great position almost on the waterfront between the CBD and Cataract Gorge. Rooms here were $80 pn, staff very friendly and obliging.
We took another self guided heritage walk, and were very impressed with the many different eras covered. Here also lies the James Boag brewery where tours are available. We wandered the waterfront esplanade walk (windy) back to the TRC, then had dinner at Hallams waterfront restaurant. Dinner was crab cakes with remoulade, slow cooked abalone in a mushroom broth with soba noodles, plus a salad of baby spinach, toasted pita, dates and almonds. With two glasses of wine the cost was $76. Bookings are advised, we got the last available table at 6.30 pm
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Nov 17th, 2016, 05:50 PM
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Excellent read sartoric, bringing back fond memories of our two trips to TAS.

I'm having trouble picturing a u-shaped bed!
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 17th, 2016, 06:38 PM
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Still following along... Did you have a favorite spot in Tasmania?
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Nov 17th, 2016, 09:07 PM
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Thanks Mel, think double bed sagging in the middle.

TP - good question, I'll have to think about it, so many great spots.

Here, supposedly, are some photos from Hobart.

http://www.smugmug.com/downloads/25b...17b2c3/6599865
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Nov 19th, 2016, 07:28 PM
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I'm still thinking about your question TP.

Thursday November 10 another day in Launceston which started with an easy stroll to Cataract Gorge. It's just lovely scenery with an easy, well marked trail and a cafe set in beautiful gardens, complete with peacocks. We had coffee and toasted bagels with ham, cheese and pineapple. Yum. The Tamar estuary is 70 kms long, the longest in Tasmania, and here meets both the North Esk and South Esk rivers. You can take cruises of varying lengths to explore these waterways. We checked out the historic Penny Royal area, and a nearby providore featuring local gourmet produce.

We wandered the city some more, stopping at antique and op shops, gawking at the buildings, the trees, and admiring flowers. Rhododendrons are prolific here, in bloom now and stunning. We walked across the river to the Launceston museum (free entry) and spent an hour or so amongst the exhibits. Here they had a special WW1 display of "welcome home" embroidered cloths from 1916 in readiness for Remembrance Day tomorrow. The permanent exhibits include a realistic immersion into the trenches of the Somme. I found it distressing, there are warning signs. There's lots of stuffed fauna, explanations of the geology of Tasmania and an interactive science area. The free city bus Tiger took us nearly home, then dinner was at Cataract On Paterson. Booking is essential here, we had tried to eat here last night, but no seats were available at about 6.15, so we booked for Thursday. Hard to believe on a Wednesday night in Launceston, though clearly it's popular for a reason. We enjoyed this meal immensely, fresh oysters from Backmans Bay near Hobart, Scottsdale pork belly twice cooked in an asian cider stock, on a creamy cauliflower puree, with a pear & quince port paste & walnut crumb, plus chicken parmigiana (there's a long story about this). With a bottle of Ninth Island Pinot Gris and a creme brûlée to share, the cost was $122.

Friday November 11 sees us motoring to Devonport to return our car. It's an easy one hour drive on the best road we've seen so far. We stayed at the Argosy Hotel Motel ($90 per night) on the eastern side of the Mersey river. This is where the Spirit of Tasmania docks. Most of the town is on the western side of the river, and again is full of heritage properties, lovely trees and parks, plus a large antique and collectables emporium.

The visitor centre recommended Strait off the Boat for lunch. This is a no frills cafe not far from the centre of town up a rather steep hill. Here we enjoyed a fish pie, battered elephant fish, and two potato cakes. The potato cakes were very different from what we know, essentially mashed potato formed into cakes, battered and fried. One even had cheese and bacon, drool. Cost was only $15. There's a pretty waterfront park with walking trails, the ambience spoilt only a little by the grain silos, cement silos, and heavy industry you'd associate with a working port. Dinner was at the Argosy bistro, and disappointing.
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Nov 20th, 2016, 03:13 AM
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Launceston sounds very laid-back and a nice place to visit. Will have it include it on a return trip to Tasmania.
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Nov 20th, 2016, 04:58 PM
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TP, Launceston was probably my favourite spot.


Saturday 12 November. Crossing the Bass Strait by ship. I've been wanting to do this for a while. It's now been accomplished and I probably don't need to repeat the exercise. The Spirit of Tasmania ($86 pp) sails between Devonport and Port Melbourne across the 450 kms of Bass Strait, taking eight or nine hours. It's a 10 deck car carrying ship with several food options, two cinemas, a gaming room and comfortable lounges. Most passengers had a vehicle on board, everything from large motor homes to cars towing caravans or boats, to motor bikes. Bass Strait is notorious for rough seas and a bumpy ride. We had smooth sailing, notwithstanding a vicious wind and pretty much constant rain. We had books to read, watched the abysmal start to the first test in Hobart, oh my what a batting collapse, and chatted with fellow passengers. It was cool to arrive in Melbourne by sea. Port Phillip Bay is huge, we amused ourselves by pointing out the various locations along both sides of the bay that we've visited before.

To wrap up, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Tassie. The people were unfailingly warm, friendly and genuinely helpful. The scenery is beautiful, the distances between towns are short by Australian standards, the food mostly great, and the wine delicious. We were a bit sticker shocked as South East Asia has been our holiday destination for the past six years or so, but, that's what it costs here, and I thought we mostly got good value for money. We will hopefully return for the west coast and central areas, perhaps one March when warmer weather is likely.

Thanks for reading.
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Nov 20th, 2016, 05:24 PM
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Thanks so much for sharing your trip, Sartoric. I'm really happy that you now have a special spot in Tasmania to draw you back. I will be sure to reciprocate on my own experiences in the island state in less than two months' time and perhaps pique your curiosity about the west coast.
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Nov 20th, 2016, 06:07 PM
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Enjoyed reading about your trip to Tassie. I was interested in the boat crossing, but ended up flying. Fortunately the US$ is doing ok for now so even though compared to SEAsia, it was expensive to plan Australia, not too bad for us...so far. I look forward to our time there in a few months.
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