Eating well while road tripping in Australia can be a real challenge, particularly when motorcycling as there’s such little space and possibility to keep fresh food cold. This means being on an extra vigilant lookout for what’s locally grown or farmers markets wherever I’m traveling. Not only as an incredibly special way of experiencing a place but to try and stay healthy given the extra demands of long haul motorcycling.
To follow on from my recent Tasmania Vol 1. blog post, this beautiful state not only offered the most dramatic natural environment to travel through, but also some memorable eating. It really does deliver on its marketing promise; choosing to champion the small producers, makers and operators along with the big. It seems many more of us are increasingly hungry to find and experience these stories of place and Tasmania, it seems understands this like no other state.
Along with the eating, the arts, the extraordinary natural environment (the photo of the magical forest above is from the stunning Cradle Mountain National Park), the history and the people all made this 3 week experience a life long memory.
Tasmania Vol 1. finished with a delicious paddock to plate Farmhouse lunch at Fat Pig Farm, Tasmania Vol. 2 begins with another beautiful meal, this time at The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery in New Norfolk.
Selecting the images and writing about this memorable trip has again been a process of joyously reliving it. Here’s the last of my 2 Tassie posts.
THE AGRARIAN KITCHEN EATERY, NEW NORFOLK: ‘An agrarian mind begins with the love of fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking and good eating’ Wendell Berry. This is the premise on which Rodney Dunn and Séverine Demanet built the Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School & Farm on; located on 5 acres with a 19th century schoolhouse at Lachlan, 45 minutes from Hobart in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley in 2008. The next chapter in their agrarian journey began in 2015 when they fell in love with a beautiful Bronte building in nearby New Norfolk’s Willow Court – the town’s old mental asylum. With vast expansive space, large windows and high ceilings lined with the original pressed metal, the building was transformed and The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery opened its doors in June 2017.
LEFT: Sourdough bread and kefir butter. Burrata and smoked paprika. Salami. RIGHT: Leeks with poached fish and dill.
LEFT: Wood roasted lamb with tomatillo and peppers. Kennebec potatoes and lamb stock. Celtuce leaf with onion and cider vinegar. RIGHT: Leatherwood honey parfait and bramble berry. Cardamom leaf meringue and roasted blueberries.
The Eatery’s dining room high ceiling and institutional-style windows are linked to its history as the infirmary for the women’s wing of Tasmania’s largest mental hospital. The Royal Derwent Hospital, originally called the New Norfolk Insane Asylum and later Lachlan Park, was built to house mentally unwell and disabled people in 1827 and operated for over 170 years. Outside these now transformed walls, the grounds are now mostly abandoned, suffering from neglect, vandalism and arson making the stark contrasting experience of a pared-back, contemporary lunch with clean and refined flavours even more unforgettable.
MONA, HOBART: According to the Business Council of Australia, about one in five interstate and international visitors to Tasmania, go to MONA – Museum of Old and New Art – catching the attention of millions of tourists since it opened in 2011. It’s called the ‘MONA effect’ as the economic ripple-on through the state’s tourism and hospitality industries has been a significant game changer. There are several ways to travel to MONA but for the most dramatic and in sync option you can take a ride on one of these above high-speed ‘Mona Roma’ catamarans.
Deep within a three-level underground space cut into sandstone on the Derwent riverbank, eccentric, polymath, professional gambling millionaire David Walsh built the $110 million MONA gallery to house his collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art. Described by Walsh as a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’, it’s off-the-wall irreverent, provocative and intense. At times it felt like I was virtually walking around in the mind of an artist with its non-linear labyrinthian-layout full of nooks and crannies and profane, visceral surprises.
Downloading an app called the O uses Bluetooth technology offers info about the artworks on display as you walk around the gallery; such as the above, The Naked Studio, 1981, Brett Whiteley.
The Collector, David Walsh 2009 by Geoff Dyer. From an interview with David Walsh in the Financial Review written by Gabriella Coslovich, ‘MONA’s founding idea, the museum’s catchy “sex and death” motif asserts that all human endeavour is motivated by the desire to have sex (reproduce) and avoid death’. Along with the gallery, MONA is home to two wineries and a brewery, several bars and restaurants, luxury accommodation pavilions, a library, cemetery and tennis court. Tasmanians are admitted to the museum free of charge and everyone else pays an entrance fee.
Snake 1970 – 1972 by Sidney Nolan. Mixed media on paper. 1,620 sheets arranged so that the images on each panel form a larger image of a snake. Nolan is believed to have created the work after “he saw a mural in a Beijing palace that moved him to create an Australian version, inspired by the desert in springtime.” “Nolan developed a gestural language for Snake in the same way that most artists work. He composed and executed a little picture, influenced, as we all know, by aboriginals and their art, and New Guineans, and their snake dances. He then painted similar scenes with a quicker hand and fewer gestures, and he repeated this thousands of times, till the paintings were made by muscle memory. — David Walsh
FRANKLIN: After a rich cultural injection of food and art, I left Hobart to visit a friend in Franklin, located on the western side of the Huon River and home of The Wooden Boat Centre Tasmania. I was en route to Kettering, situated on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the departure point for the ferry to Bruny Island.
BRUNY ISLAND: Located a 30 minute drive and 20 minute ferry ride from Hobart, Bruny Island is two land masses joined by a 5km long, narrow sandy isthmus called “The Neck”. North Bruny and South Bruny have a total length of approximately 50 km and its traditional Aboriginal name is lunawanna-allonah, which survives as the name of two island settlements, Alonnah and Lunawanna.
The Neck Lookout is a 279 step stairway to a stunning 360˚ view with a monument dedicated to the Aboriginal woman, Truganini and the Nuenonne tribe who inhabited the island long before European settlement. Truganini was the daughter of the chief of the Bruny Island people and worked tirelessly in her life to unite the indigenous communities of Tasmania. The Neck is also an important habitat for Bruny Island’s native wildlife including fairy penguins. As they only come in to shore from the ocean on dark, their little webbed foot prints in the sand left visible evidence of this unique real estate being their home.
After the 1st of a 2 night stay in Adventure Bay, I headed south into the South Bruny National Park riding an hour along bitumen and dirt to the end of the island and Cape Bruny Light Station. This historic site is managed by the Parks & Wildlife Service with assistance of volunteers.
The southerly view from the Lighthouse towards the Huon Marine Park with Courts Island in the distance.
Colonial architect John Lee Archer designed the 13 metre high Cape Bruny lighthouse, which was built from local stone and cost 2,500 pounds to build even though it was constructed using free convict labour. The lighthouse was lit in 1838 and is the oldest continuously-manned lighthouse in Australia. It was decommissioned in 1996, when it was replaced by a solar-powered tower.
Natural beach flotsam and jetsam on Adventure Bay, the largest eastern-facing bay on South Bruny and one of the main townships. It’s a popular spot for swimming as it is one of the more sheltered beaches on the island with cultural and historical significance.
Adventure Bay was named after Captain Tobias Furneaux’s ship ‘The Adventure’ in 1773. The area was visited by Furneaux and also Captains Cook, Bligh, D’Entrecasteaux and Tobin in the 1700s. On the eastern end of the bay is a monument commemorating the 200th anniversary of the arrival in the Pacific Ocean of Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery 1768 – 1771 in the Endeavour.
On the main road heading to or from Adventure Bay is Bruny Island Cheese Co., which was founded by Nick Haddow in 2003 after he spent 10 years working with specialist cheese makers in different countries around the world. In 2016 the company also started making craft beer. They now sell their sought-after cheese and beer directly to consumers through their online store, at a pop-up restaurant, retail store in Hobart and at their busy Cellar Door. My simply delicious Cheese Platter lunch with a glass of cider was a warming treat after a very fresh ride back from the lighthouse.
Just up the road from Bruny Island Cheese Co. in Great Bay is Get Shucked Oyster Farm. Get Shucked cultivates the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, which is native to the Pacific coast of Asia and first introduced to Tasmania in the 1940’s. Oysters are filter feeders. They filter plankton using their gills, often filtering up to 30 litres of water per day. Get Shucked’s oyster leases are situated in the centre of Great Bay and are ideally positioned to filter the tides and currents providing a rich amount of nutrients for the oysters to feed on. A dozen of these briny, fat nuggets of the sea made for a delicious and healthy dinner.
WILLIE SMITH’S APPLE MUSEUM, HUON VALLEY: After a couple of nights on Bruny Island I ventured back to start a 4 night house sit 30 minutes out of Hobart. Passing through the Huon Valley, I stopped at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed; a large rustic barn surrounded by green pastures and old wooden outbuildings offering house made cider and apple brandy, an apple museum including a wall of different apple varieties, local produce and wares retail store and large cafe / event space.
Situated on 115 acres 6km north of Huonville, Willie Smith’s current 4th generation orchardist Andrew Smith is continuing in his family’s footsteps of constant innovation in an attempt to survive.
His great grandparents William and Elsie Smith came to the Huon Valley in the 1800’s and planted the first tree in 1888 for the orchard that they still pick from today. Andrew’s father Ian had to rebuild twice. The 1967 bush fires burnt the packing shed to the ground and in 1973, Britain joined the European Common Market forcing a collapse of Tasmania’s apple export industry overnight. In 1997 Andrew led the change to organic growing and more recently diversifying with The Apple Shed’s wide ranging impressive offerings.
HONEYWOOD HOUSE SIT: Before leaving Fremantle at the end of January 2020 to travel Australia on my bike, I registered as a housesitter with Mindahome. A service that offers people with pets the opportunity to leave their pets at home being cared for by a sitter of their choosing. Everyday I receive a list of sitting opportunities and as it happens, a house sit with coinciding dates became available in the outer suburb of Hobart called Honeywood.
Along with a variety of animals I took care of a vegetable patch from which the owners were happy for me to harvest from. Along with an abundance of sweet cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, strawberries, beans and corn were also a treat.
Being February it wasn’t quite cold enough to light the slow combustion wood fire but these wood stacks suggested winters here certainly demand it.
Geese and chickens free-ranged the 5 acre property, returning to their shelters on dusk.
Along with a cat, chickens and geese, 5 sheep made this short stay feel a little reminiscent of life on a smallholding although for now I’m quite happy to love and leave them with their very grateful returning owners.
GORDON RIVER DAM: On one of the house sitting days, I took off to ride the spectacular road out to the famed Gordon River Dam. The one way in, one way out Gordon River Road winds through the protected Tasmanian World Heritage Area and the Franklin-Gordon Rivers National Park with plenty of opportunities along the road to stop for a photo of the stunning view.
The Gordon River Dam is located 12km past Strathgordon, a settlement built to house 2000 Hydro Electric Commission employees. Construction started on the Gordon River Dam in 1964 and became operational in 1978. At 140 metres high, it’s the tallest dam in Tasmania. The concrete 192 metre long wall features an arch both horizontally and vertically and holds back more water than the entire Sydney Harbour. It’s possible to walk along the top of the wall and is one of the world’s highest commercial abseils.
LAKE PEDDER: Lake Pedder, was once the largest glacial outwash lake in the world but is now a man-made reservoir and diversion lake. Together with its companion Lake Gordon, which is a few kilometres up the road, they provide the largest inland freshwater storage in Australia, covering more than 500 square kilometres and holding more than 37 times the volume of water than Sydney Harbour.
Another stop on the Gordon River Dam Road took in the sculpture artist work of Alex Miles called Bitumen Bones. This artwork of rammed earth, quartzite and steel is ‘a response to the beautiful and often harsh environment in South West Tasmania and draws inspiration from a poem by Sarah Day titiled ‘Wombat’. The quartzite earth wedge represents weather-bleached bones, and framing the view, the black wings of a Forest Raven – often seen hopping along the roadside scavenging roadkill remnants.’
RICHMOND BRIDGE: Another day trip while house sitting was to the Richmond Bridge. The oldest stone span and heritage listed arch bridge in Australia located 25 km north of Hobart. The foundation stone was laid on 11 December 1823 with construction using convict labour until completion in 1825.
STRAHAN: After the house sit, it was time to leave Hobart and take the 4 1/2 hour twisty ride to Strahan on the West Coast. The A10 Lyell Highway is famed for a section between Queenstown and Derwent Bridge called the 99 bends. Tight switchback bends up and down on steep rises made for a bit of clenching but thrilling ride. Strahan is an incredibly pretty little town in the middle of Tassie’s West Coast and sits on Macquarie Harbour, a huge natural inlet that is larger than Sydney Harbour.
A coffee loving friend who’d visited Strahan on a recent Tassie trip gave me the heads up on where she’d found the best on offer and The Coffee Shack was high on the list. A great breakfast spot prior to walking across the road to the departure point for the Gordon River Cruise.
GORDON RIVER CRUISE: The same coffee-loving friend also highly recommended taking the Gordon River Cruise; a half day journey out through Macquarie Harbour to the narrow mouth called Hells Gates and then on to the tranquil rainforest lined Gordon River.
Prior to docking at Sarah Island, we made a 1/2 hour stop at Heritage Landing to walk along a boardwalk built through ancient Huon Pines and other stunning temperate rainforest species.
SARAH ISLAND: The Macquarie Harbour Settlement was established to put the fear of God and Hell into the Van Diemens Land prisoners who provided free or cheap labour to the growing number of free settlers in the colony. This slave labour camp harvested high quality ship-building timbers, especially the Huon Pine and Celery Top from sites around the harbour and up the Gordon River and then rafted to Sarah Island, processed and transported to Hobart.
Almost 2000 prisoners, officials and military passed through Sarah Island between 1822 – 1833. The settlement housed male convicts, with a small number of women housed on a nearby island.
Our Sarah Island Tour guide brilliantly retold the complex and brutal history including severe oppression which drove many to despair and violence, murder and cannibalism; stubborn and subtle resistance involving strike and mass escapes; a thriving black economy and increasing skilled industrial activity accompanied by labour negotiation.
Sarah Island operates as an historic site under the direction of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. The stories and information on the guided tour were drawn from original sources in the Tasmanian State Archives, the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries and from other sources in Australia and Great Britain.
Hells Gates, where this lighthouse is situated, is the name of the mouth of Macquarie Harbour, which is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel entrance to the harbour and relates to the original convicts’ claim that it was their point of “entrance to Hell”. Their Hell being the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island and the outlying surrounds of the harbour.
HOGARTH FALLS, STRAHAN: After the Gordon River Cruise I took a short walk from the centre of Strahan to People’s Park where there’s a 1.2 km path that winds its way through beautiful rainforest along Botanical Creek to Hogarth Falls.
The Falls drop over rocks that were once horizontal but have been tilted close to being vertical.
Hogarth Falls is registered as one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks.
As well as towering gum trees, there are beautiful rainforest trees such as leatherwood, sassafras and myrtle to look at above and fungi, moss, lichen and berries below. Another incredibly beautiful location in Tasmania.
ZEEHAN: From Strahan on my way to Cradle Mountain it was a short ride north to Zeehan, which owes its existence to mining. In 1882 Frank Long discovered silver and lead on the banks of Pea Soup Creek and in no time what had been a small mining field became known as Silver City; once Tasmania’s third largest town.
Zeehan is now a one-horse, tumbleweed-down-the-main-street kind of place except for the West Coast Heritage Centre and old Gaiety Theatre.
Housed in the 1894 School of Mines & Metallurgy, the museum is the town’s major draw card with a huge mineral display, photographs and documents tracking the history of the west coast.
There are over 30 themed displays and exhibits of the rich and colourful history of the West Coast, which is told in pictorial galleries.
The Gaiety Theatre was built in 1898 and was one of Zeehan’s grandest buildings. At its height, it was the largest concert hall and theatre in Australia with a seating capacity for over 1,000 patrons. Many successful shows in Melbourne were brought across to the Theatre where miners and their families regularly packed out the building. Aside from the many old posters advertising these shows, there’s a Pioneer Women’s Gallery with a display of past domestic life.
CRADLE MOUNTAIN – LAKE ST CLAIR NATIONAL PARK: From Zeehan, on to one of the locations I was most looking forward to: Cradle Mountain. Part of the Unesco World Heritage listed Tasmanian Wilderness, this 1262 square kilometre national park was visited by Tasmanian Aborigines for more than 35,000 years. From the 1820’s to the park’s declaration as a reserve in 1922, explorers, prospectors, trappers, hunters, timber-getters and graziers also passed through the glacier-sculpted mountain ranges, river gorges, lakes, tarns and tracts of wild alpine moorland.
It was the vision of Austrian-born Gustav Weindorfer and his Australian wife Kate which ultimately led to this extraordinary stunning area being declared a national park. In 1910, from the summit of Cradle Mountain, it’s recorded that Gustav proclaimed: ‘This must be a national park for the people for all time. It is magnificent and people must know about it and enjoy it.’
Although the park extends over a huge area, its most beloved walks, including parts of the 65km Overland Track, are around Cradle Mountain. The boardwalks, which were built to protect the fragile environment also make many of the walks in Cradle Valley easy. Especially in often wet and wild weather that is frequent and often unexpected.
DOVE LAKE: I started out with the sky heavy with cloud and fog for a full day’s walking by taking the shuttle bus to the end of its route, taking the 6km undulating circuit through rainforest past quartzite beaches around Dove Lake.
At the end (or beginning) the cloud and fog had completely disappeared and I was incredibly lucky with the highly unpredictable alpine region weather making this now iconic Tasmanian view of Cradle Mountain from the boat house on Dove Lake a crystal clear picture of natural beauty.
MARION’S LOOKOUT: From Dove Lake, I continued past Lake Lila, Wombat Pool and Crater Lake linking up with the Overland Track to reach Marion’s Lookout. At 1223 metres, with some very steep sections aided by chains, Marions Lookout offered breathtaking views to Cradle Mountain (above) and over Dove Lake and Crater Lake (below).
Apart from passing walkers on the tracks, there’s a high chance of crossing paths with the abundant wildlife. This echidna seemed pretty unperturbed by my presence as it navigated the steps and then headed back in the bush. Along with echidnas, wombats, pademelons, wallabys, Tasmanian devils, quolls and if you’re lucky platypus can also be regularly seen in the park.
Walking through the pristine, picture-book forests and past the lakes surrounding Cradle Mountain will forever be a lifelong memory of the extraordinary beauty of Tasmania. An incredible privilege at the best of times, but even more so when the world is mostly locked up by a pandemic that’s prevented travel experiences as special as this.
STANLEY: Leaving Cradle Mountain, I took the twisty route through the beautiful Hellyer Gorge enroute to Stanley; a small popular holiday town on the north west coast with lovely heritage weatherboard cottages and colonial buildings sheltered from the roaring forty winds by ‘The Nut’. Also known as Circular Head, the Nut is a 143 metre high, 12 million year old core of an extinct volcano. The town was once the administrative centre for the Van Diemen’s Land Company, a royal charter company, formed in 1824 during the reign of George IV.
As the weather was wild, wet and windy I stayed at the Stanley Seaview Inn. A long-term family owned Inn located a short distance from town with hillside views over Stanley.
HIGHFIELD HISTORIC SITE, STANLEY: Given the inclement weather made the possibility of riding to the top of The Nut a bit precarious, I visited the Highfield Historic Site. Located 2km from Stanley, this Regency period homestead was built in 1835 by convict labour for the chief agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company. The property originally occupied some 350,000 acres of agricultural land which has reduced over time and today covers 9.5 acres.
Managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, the homestead is being restored over time but many rooms are complete and available to view with self-guided interpretive information about the families who occupied it and displays illustrating what their lives would’ve been like in the early years of settlement. Along with the main homestead, there are other outbuildings including stables, grain stores, workers’ cottages and chapel surrounded by ornamental gardens.
The group of merchants, businessmen and politicians that formed the Van Dieman’s Land Company were hoping to make a fortune from fine merino wool as landowners in other parts of Tasmania were successfully achieving at the time. However after being forced to take less than perfect land in the far north west the sheep succumbed to the extreme cold and rain. Once cleared of its dense timber it proved successful for other agricultural enterprises and they eventually moved to land sales which proved a successful strategy.
Highfield is also a venue available to hire for special events with an onsite chapel and beautifully restored barn with separate spaces for small or large groups.
Stanley is also well-known for seafood. Hursey Seafoods operates a fleet of nine fishing boats and is known for its catches of fish, crabs and southern rock lobsters. Above their retail store on the edge of town is what looks like a previous large office space that’s turned into a cavernous restaurant offering what’s fresh off the boat that day. Lobster’s never been as affordable as it is at the moment so lobster served a la locale for supper that night it was.
SHEFFIELD: From Stanley it was back to Devonport via Sheffield. In the 1980’s Sheffield was a typical declining small country town until a group of locals came up with the idea that had been applied to a small equally declining town in Canada, to paint large murals depicting scenes of early pioneer days on the sides of its buildings and walls. It successfully turned it’s economic situation around becoming a tourist draw card with more than 50 large-scale murals and an annual mural festival.
DEVONPORT: With another Covid cluster situation having spiked in Melbourne just prior to my Tassie departure dates, my original plan of traveling back on a Spirit of Tasmania day journey to spend a few days visiting family and friends in wider Victoria quickly altered. I took another night journey back, lining up to board alongside a couple of large groups of equally happy motorcyclists also contemplating long straight-through-to-state-border transit rides ahead.
After a wonderful 3 weeks of free-spirited stunning travel in Tasmania, the night departure preempted a restless sleep ahead of a non-stop ride, [except for essential fuel, food and bathroom stops] from Port Melbourne to the SA boarder due to the snap lock down in Victoria.
ANGASTON, SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Some 900km later via Mount Gambier, I returned to my Barossa cottage in Angaston early evening after docking early morning in a very empty Port Melbourne and even emptier Melbourne. It felt somewhat apocalyptic to ride across the West Gate Bridge towards Geelong with only a couple of other vehicles on one of the normally choked main arteries out of the city. A reminder that travel beyond your home-patch after a year since Covid first pulled the hand brake on is still a precarious prospect.
Arriving back mid February left me with the remaining 7 weeks of 2 x 6 month leases in this little stone cottage. Precious little time for plans beyond, to work again, to make sense of and put things to rest after what’s been a totally unexpected year and full-circle return to the Barossa Valley.
This trip to Tassie was a bit of a watershed moment. As it’s long been in the back of my mind to consider relocating to for all the same reasons so many others are choosing to do so, it was time to take stock and knuckle out where my future beyond this period of travel might best be served. I’ll never forget it for that and for those wild and beautiful landscapes, for the delicious food, for the generosity and kindness of spirit of long ago colleagues, mutual and distant friends, for its devastating beauty and brutal histories of both first nation and colonial settlers – free and otherwise.
For now though, it’s time to leave the Barossa Valley and pick up my wider travel plans after a year hiatus when Covid was the force quit key to free roaming across Australia. To follow the sun to its red heart centre and remoteness beyond as it looses its strength here in the south. Who knows what lies ahead. Life’s demonstrated very clearly to me that certainty is never a given. However in spite of or with great willingness, I’m not sure which, I’m certainly in the words of a BMW motorcycling marketing pitch willing to: Make Life a Ride