Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front - WORDS SUSAN OONG A charm­ing B&B on acreage of­fers home com­forts on the edge of a vast Tas­ma­nian wilder­ness

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.

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