The next morning, we kayak the crystal waters alongside Freycinet National Park to an oyster farm, where owner Andrea Cole shucks so we can taste. Aquaculture is huge along Tasmania’s 5,000-kilometre coastline – the state has 300 islands – where scallops, mussels, ocean trout, abalone and crayfish are farmed in the cold waters. We hike to a viewpoint in the park overlooking turquoise Wineglass Bay, then continue driving north up the coast to Binalong Bay, pounded by breakers sending up a mist tinted magenta by the setting sun.
“This is from just down the road, made in an 1842 convict-built stable,” says Jo Lisson as she pours a frosty Spring Vale reserve chardonnay. Lisson and her chef son run the Binalong Bay Café overlooking the crescent of white sand. The casual eatery is packed with folks who came for the popular prawn and blue-lip mussel laksa, and 12-hour roasted short-ribs from cattle who munched grasses at Cape Grim (which boasts the world’s freshest air according to the Australian government’s Baseline Air Pollution Station).
We backtrack 10 kilometres to St. Helens and turn inland on a winding route through dense rain forest where parrot-like rosellas and lorikeets flit among giant tree ferns and eucalyptuses. In the village of Pyengana, we pass by Holy Cow Café, serving up farm-fresh milkshakes from Pyengana Dairy Co., but opt instead for a pint of Boag brew at the nearby 1880 Pub in the Paddock. Then, it’s an old-fashioned Devonshire tea with fresh clotted cream in the funky tin-mining town of Derby.
Just before Launceston, we stop at Pipers Brook for a bit of bubbly; Tasmania makes some of Aussie’s best and it’s sipped everywhere, even at roadside picnics.
Our last night is in an 1842 stagecoach inn – now known as the Red Feather Inn Cooking School – in the village of Hadspen, west of Launceston. Even out here, in this sleepy rural enclave, you can immerse yourself in the food scene by signing up to forage and fish, create a Tasmanian game feast, learn to make wallaby sausages, or smoke and cure. We poke around nearby villages, tasting from more than 50 samples at the Honey Farm, and settling into a fresh salmon burger and ginseng tea for lunch at 41 Degrees Salmon and Ginseng Farm in Deloraine. As we leave, we tuck a package of melt-in-your-mouth smoked baby salmon into our bag, feeling like we were well on the path to becoming true Tassievores.
IF YOU GO
Hobart is a 75-minute flight from Melbourne. Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jet Star run regular flights to Hobart and Launceston from most Australian capital cities. The Spirit of Tasmania ferries passengers and cars to and from the mainland daily, departing from Melbourne and arriving at Davenport.
WHERE TO STAY
Salamanca Wharf Hotel: A stylish boutique hotel in downtown Hobart with full kitchens, on the harbour alongside Salamanca marketplace. Doubles from $188; salamancawharfhotel.com
43 Degrees Eco Apartments: Self-contained two-bedroom eco-lodgings with full kitchen near the Adventure Bay beach on Bruny Island. From $184, breakfast included; 43degrees.com.au
Piermont Estate: Fifteen luxury stone cottages and a fine-dining restaurant on a private beach near Freycinet National Park. From $225; piermont.com.au
The Red Feather Inn and Cooking School: Forage, fish and hunt for ingredients, or learn smoking and curing in Hadspen near Launceston. Classes start from $195. Luxury rooms from $250 including breakfast; redfeatherinn.com.au
WHERE TO EAT
Ethos Eat and Drink: New, chic small-plate eatery in Hobart that focuses on local produce and spirits. Set lunch menu $34, and set dinners from $62; ethoseatdrink.com
Smolt: Waterfront dining in Hobart with local produce and wine specialties. From $7 for small plates and $22 for mains; smolt.com.au
The Source: Another excellent option in Hobart. Dinner tasting menu from $72 for 3 courses; mona.net.au/mona/restaurant
Meadowbank Estate Vineyard Restaurant & Frogmore Winery: Fine dining with a patio overlooking a vineyard in Cambridge. Mains from $32; frogmorecreek.com.au
Binalong Bay Café: Casual cuisine with a view over the spectacular bay. Mains from $22; 613-6376-8116, 64A Binalong Bay
WHAT TO DO
The 25 annual Taste of Tasmania foodie festival takes place on the Hobart waterfront from Dec. 28 to Jan. 3. thetasteoftasmania.com.au
Gourmania Food Tours: Four-hour small group walking and tasting tours in Hobart exploring Tasmanian produce and markets. $115; gourmaniafoodtours.com.au
The Agrarian Kitchen: Seasonal cooking courses in Lachlan, outside Hobart, including Tomato Gluttony and the full-day Agrarian Experience ($350). theagrariankitchen.com
Bruny Island Cruises: Eco-adventure wildlife cruises. From $120; brunycruises.com.au
Freycinet Kayaking Adventures: Guided kayaking adventures starting in Coles Bay. From $90 for three hours; freycinetadventures.com.au
MONA Museum of Old and New Art: Cutting-edge exhibits in Hobart. Admission $20 (free for those under 18); mona.net.au
For more information, visit discovertasmania.ca
The writer travelled courtesy of Tourism Australia, which did not review or approve this article.