Say hello to fresh produce, beautiful countryside, stunning waterways, and remote wilderness an hour or so south of Hobart. Situated at the southern tip of Tasmania the Huon Valley is a delight for adventurers; compact enough for short excursions, with ample activities to keep you busy for days on end. Choose your own adventure from these four itineraries, or mix and match for a smorgasbord.
SHE’LL BE APPLES, MATE
The Huon Valley is synonymous with Tasmania’s historic apple industry (hence the state’s nickname the Apple Isle). Drive in any direction and you’ll see sprawling orchards festooned with Summer Red apples, the glistening baubles bobbing like Christmas decorations. Stop at a roadside stall for a bag of Pink Ladies — where the first bite will remind you just how good food is supposed to taste — or pull up a pew at a riverside cafe for a slice of buttery, homemade apple pie. If cider is the apple of your eye, don’t miss a tasting at one of the many cider houses, where old-English styles sit side-by-side with contemporary blends.
Start your cider trail in Grove at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed, an easy 30-minute drive from Hobart. Home to an apple museum, organic cider house, distillery and eatery (try the slow-cooked Cygnet lamb) the Apple Shed is a hive of activity all year round. Time your visit for a Friday night music session with ‘Moonshine Whiskers and the Ragged Pony’ or the Saturday morning artisan markets. A further 20-minute drive south Pagan Cider’s boutique tasting room is housed on a working cherry orchard near Cygnet. Try free tastings of their flagship range of ciders made from apples, pears, and cherries grown by local farmers.
“Our apple cider is characterised by a clean, fresh and modern style, where you can really taste the fruit,” says Mick Dubois, co-founder of Pagan Cider. “It’s the Goldilocks of cider — not too sweet, not too dry.”
They are also known for their small-batch seasonal blends such as quince, blueberry, and apricot.
“We really want the fruit to shine,” says Dubois. “Which is why we ferment in stainless steel rather than oak.”
Take a detour: Drive to Eggs and Bacon Bay — you know you want to.
Don’t miss: A wooden spoon carving workshop with Phoenix Creations in Cygnet. phoenixcreationstasmaniashop.bigcartel.com
Where to stay: Cygnet Holiday Park offers camping and powered sites within walking distance of town.
SOMETHING IN THE WATER
Australia is blessed with many great river drives, but the 60km stretch from Huonville to Southport must be one of the prettiest. A waterscape like no other, where the twirling blue ribbon of the Huon River flares and folds into the broad D’Entrecasteaux Channel, before emptying into the Tasman Sea, where the next stop really is Antarctica. The resting profile of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ — hair, brow, bosom and body — is an ever-constant landmark, greeting travellers and sailors alike. Rise early to see her glow with the blush of freshly applied makeup or visit on a frosty day to see Beauty’s shadowy face concealed by a misty veil. Formed of dolerite rock that was violently forced up thousands of years ago, locals attribute the valley’s fertile land and prosperity to her presence.
To the west of Huonville on the banks of the Huon River is the Glen Huon Dairy, a showcase of small-scale organic dairy farming. But what’s to see on a dairy farm you ask? Firstly, since this is the dairy that supplies milk to the well-known Bruny Island Cheese Co., you can stock up on top-notch cheese from their farm gate shop. Second, the farm offers behind-the-scenes tours where guests walk amongst the herd, visit the milking parlour and learn how the 40-bird chook caravan (yes, it’s a thing) helps the soil. Pour your own 750ml bottle of fresh milk for the princely sum of $3 — you'll never want to buy store-bought milk again.
On the river in Franklin is Osteria at Petty Sessions, a modern Italian restaurant in a heritage-listed building focusing on fresh Tassie seafood, handmade pasta, and local ingredients. I'd go back for the wild mushroom gnocchi alone.
Don’t miss: Pickles, pickle platters and a picklery at Harvest and Light cafe in Geeveston.
Take a detour: to Dover for fishing, swimming and kayaking on the quiet waters of Port Esperance.
Where to stay: CMCA Geeveston is a quiet park on the banks of the Kermandie River. Vehicles must comply with CMCA self-contained vehicle policy. Non-members welcome. See cmca.net.au.
FOOD, WINE, AND FEASTING
Pack your appetite as you explore the Huon through farm gate stalls and farmers’ markets, cooking schools and paddock-to-plate experiences. Once a well-kept secret, the Huon is now one of Australia’s fastest emerging wine and food destinations.
Let the eating games begin at Fat Pig Farm, where Matthew Evans (yes, the Gourmet Farmer from the SBS series) provides a variety of food experiences at his farm at Glaziers Bay. Enrol in a hands-on pork workshop or take a back-stage tour of the farm, or go the whole hog and sign up for a Friday Feast, where multiple dishes are served at communal tables over a four-hour lunch. From Glaziers Bay it’s a ten-minute drive through a verdant landscape dotted with postcard-perfect farmhouses to Wattle Grove, where Giuliana White runs an Italian cooking school — The Farmhouse Kitchen — from her home. While Giuliana’s master classes require commitment, her two-hour mini-classes, specialising in either sweet or savoury treats, are the perfect snack-sized workshop for travellers.
Each of the towns in the valley has its own food identity. There’s kitsch Geeveston, which boasts Masaaki’s Sushi served in the town’s restored Anglican Church (look for the queue) and a Twilight Feast held in the Town Hall on the first Thursday of each month.
Across the river in bohemian Cygnet, Red Velvet Lounge serves up pizzas cooked in a 100-year-old wood-fired stove, while the Cygnet Old Bank hosts regular Paddock, Pillows and Plates afternoons. Hidden in the hills above Cygnet you’ll find a farm serving up the best Thai food in the country (It’s called Ashcraig Farm, but is only spoken about in whispers).
Vine-inspired detours along the way include Home Hill Winery in Ranelagh, just outside of Huonville. Famous for producing pinot noir, the estate’s light-filled restaurant and cellar door is a popular spot for lunch and tastings. From here it’s a five-minute drive to Kate Hill Wines where you can enjoy casual tastings in a rustic shed. Visit in autumn to see the vines ablaze in a riot of gold, russet and red.
Take a detour: Port Cygnet Cannery in Cygnet for a genuine paddock-to-plate experience.
Don’t miss: the distillery door at Tass-Saff, a saffron farm that has branched into making saffron gin and vodka.
Where to stay: Huon Valley Caravan Park at Huonville offers powered, unpowered and ensuite sites. A highlight is the daily Tasmanian Devil feeding (free to park guests). huonvalleycaravanpark.com.au
FRESH AIR AND EXERCISE
There comes a point (somewhere between the breakfast tray of hot apple muffins and the supper slice of apple pie) where even the most committed foodie needs a break between courses.
Lace up your hiking boots and head to Hartz Mountains National Park, part of Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area this rugged landscape offers a number of walking trails. From Geeveston follow Arve Road until you reach the sign-posted turnoff to the park. The final section is unsealed and continues for 10.5km.
The easiest walk in the park is to Lake Osborne (40-minute return), a gentle climb that passes through a rainforest and ends at a glacial-carved lake. Hartz Pass is a steep uphill climb (3.5 hours return) through the Devils Backbone, while the hike to the summit of Hartz Peak (5 hours return) is for experienced hikers only. Register your walk, as the weather can be wild and woolly (and snowy) at any time of the year. For my money, the Lake Osborne walk delivers on all fronts, without too much sweat (and certainly no tears).
Tahune Adventures, 30km outside of Geeveston, is home to the elevated Tahune Airwalk. Standing 30m above the forest floor, the 619m walkway overs spectacular views over the confluence of the Huon and Picton Rivers. There’s also a Swinging Bridges Walk (and yes, they swing, alarmingly) and a wheelchair and stroller friendly Huon Pine Walk. To gain an appreciation of the river at water level, be sure to give the half-day rafting or kayaking tour a go. Not for the faint of heart is the Eagle Hang Glider, a slingshot meets Eddy the Eagle device, which launches you 400m across the Huon River.
Not all of the Huon’s treasures lie above ground. Deep beneath a beautiful temperate rainforest sits Australia’s largest dolomite tourist cave, complete with stalactites, stalagmites, shawls, straws, and flow stones. The Hastings Caves State Reserve can be reached from Dover, by taking the A6 towards Southport and following the turnoff to Hasting Cave Road. Pack your swimmers for a dip in the 28-degree thermal spring pool.
Take a detour: Drive south to the end of Cockle Creek Road, the most southerly point in Australia that you can drive a car.
Don’t miss: Geeveston Town Hall Visitor Centre for information, local handicrafts and an augmented platypus called Archimedes.
Where to stay: Tahune Adventures offers overnight camping in their overflow carpark for $10 per vehicle with the purchase of an admission ticket.
PUT THESE IN YOUR CALENDAR
1. Art and Away Trail: Held each November, the trail features more than 20 artists and makers.
2. A taste of the Huon: An autumn weekend of fine food, wine, cider, beer arts and crafts.
3. Huon Valley mid-winter festival: held each July to celebrate the region’s apple picking history.
4. Terror Australis readers and writers festival: Australia’s southern-most literary festival, held each November in Huonville.
5. High Tea Saturdays: Served at 2pm in the gardens of Cygnet Old Bank.
More information huonvalleytas.com and huonvalley.tas.gov.au.
The Traditional Owners of the Huon Valley are the language group known as the Nuenonne People, which consists of the Mouheneenner, Nuenonne, Mellukerdee and Lylueqonny People. We acknowledge Elders past, present, and emerging.