Dover is the end of the internet, my host Gary Ashdowns explains when I ask him how he and his wife Lorraine chose the location for their B&B on the bank of the Dover Rivulet. “If we’d moved any further south, we’d be on satellite internet, which can be a bit iffy,” he says.
Before settling in the Tasmanian seaside town four years ago, the couple traversed the length and breadth of Australia in their 4WD, from the tip of Cape York to the westernmost point of Shark Bay via Darwin and Perth then south to Cockle Creek — the southernmost point accessible by car and just down the road from Dover — on a hunt for the best place to open their B&B.
“When we got here, we quickly decided the Huon Valley was it,” says Gary. They bought five hectares on the main road near the commercial hub of the town on a gently sloping block that overlooks the imposing Reeves Hill, with its forest of stringybark, blue gum and blackwood — and Ashdowns of Dover was born.
The 1950s house, in which the couple also live, stands on the site of a former apple orchard. The barn, which is close to 100 years old, was the original apple packing shed. The land where the apples once grew is now a rambling vegetable patch, grove of fruit trees, chook yard and home to a 30-strong flock of sheep.
I stroll the property with Gary, who collects eggs from the chooks and proudly shows me the greenhouse he built. The eggs reappear that evening in hollandaise sauce, part of our dinner of plump salmon fillets, potato and carrot mash, and a medley of asparagus, broad beans, peas and spinach from the garden. It’s divine, and my husband has to hold himself back from eating the hollandaise from the jug.
We take the next day at a leisurely pace. After a hot breakfast, we head to nearby Geeveston to go on the platypus walk near the centre of town where we see ripples in the water but no platypus, visit the Red Door Larder co-op to pick up some local honey and stop in at the visitors’ centre, where I have a turn spinning alpaca fleece.
We head across the road to Masaaki’s for takeaway sushi. It’s only 11am, but the queue for the famous sushi chef’s fare is already out the door. There must be at least 15 people lined up outside the tiny shop, which seems out of place in small, quiet Geeveston.
We eat our sushi lunch on a plateau overlooking alpine scrub way up in the Hartz Mountains National Park. We trek both waterfall walks: the easy boardwalk stroll to Waratah and the longer walk to the Arve Falls, which meanders through low-lying scrub with trickling alpine streams before dipping into Tasmanian snowgum forest and the stream’s eventual dramatic tumble over boulders down to the Arve picnic grounds below.
On our return from a day’s exploring, our host greets us with a hot drink and homemade cake. In my short stay, I sample Gary’s jamdrop biscuits, his banana jam, which he makes from leftover bananas from the guest fruit bowl, his overnight-soaked muesli topped with fresh fruit, and his blueberry panna cotta with sliced pear and baked white chocolate crumble. All accompanied by cups of tea.
He’s the epitome of an attentive host, which is possibly why Ashdowns of Dover is a finalist in this year’s Tasmanian Tourism Awards for hosted accommodation. Every convenience has been considered, from wheelchair-accessible ensuites to the electric car-charging point in the guest car park.
I pick out a book from the communal bookshelf and sit on the back veranda, which doubles as the guest living area, with our coffee, tea and cakes. Although I intended to read, all I really want to do is enjoy my tea and take in the view. From top: Adamsons Peak has a looming presence over the fishing village of Dover, where the Ashdowns have set up their B&B not far from Dover’s beach; and Arve Falls in the Hartz Mountains National Park.