NEIGHBOURHOOD: HUON VALLEY
A NEW BREED OF AVID FOODIES ARE FLOCKING TO A SOUTHERN TASMANIAN COMMUNITY, ONCE FAMOUS FOR ITS FARMING AND APPLE TREES
A new breed of avid foodies are flocking to a southern Tasmanian community once famous for its farming and apple trees
WHERE DO YOU GO when you want to make a name for yourself in food? The answer is surely the Huon Valley. In fact, ever since food stylist Michelle Crawford made the move, her career has gone from strength to strength – thanks in part to the food world’s current obsession with all things Huon. “Apples, beef, stone fruits, berries, mushrooms, salmon – there’s so many good things to eat here!” exclaims Michelle, 48, who lives in Huonville with husband Leo, 49, daughter Elsa, 14, son Hugo, 11, Patch the dog, Twiggy the cat and nine fat hens. The 15-strong brood relocated to the southerly tip of Tasmania from Sydney back in 2004, renting until they found the ideal property. “Initially we looked in the Channel region, which is a cluster of little villages perched along a winding road that hugs the coastline south of Hobart,” Michelle says. “But I’m glad we ended up in the Huon – it’s home.” And they’re not the first transplants to be enticed by the rich pickings down south. “Ten years ago, the Huon Valley was a quiet agricultural town with bad coffee and nowhere nice to eat or shop,” she says. “But now it’s a vibrant place full of great cafes, an awesome chocolatier, sourdough bakery and funky gift store.” In retrospect, the SBS series Gourmet Farmer might have had something to do with it. The books, shows and restaurant it’s since spawned have made the Huon a sought-after daydream. “A lot of creative people move here because they can have a modest lifestyle and create incredible work,” Michelle adds. “There’s just so much potential to do great things here.”
WHAT WILL YOU FIND THERE?
There are several public primary and high schools in the Huon, plus it’s just over 30 minutes from Hobart proper, meaning everything is at your fingertips. “The high number of wireless NBN towers has allowed many people to relocate and work from home with business interstate,” tells real estate agent Nick Bond, owner of Harcourts Huon Valley. Being the very definition of a tree change, rental demand is high. In fact, around one-third of residents are renters, with the rest owning or paying off mortgages.
WHAT ARE THE PEOPLE LIKE?
You won’t find fast living in the Huon – this is the kind of place where people use canoes and bake their own bread. The median age for the area is 40, but almost 20 per cent of residents are under the age of 15 thanks to the influx of young families making the move. “For the past 20 years, 35 to 60 per cent of all sales have been to interstate buyers,” Nick says. “Most are baby boomers retiring, but the secondary market is couples with young children wanting a safe, quiet life for bringing up kids. Not many people leave once they come here either, so it’s growing much faster than the rest of Tasmania. There aren’t many places that offer what the Huon offers.”
WHERE WILL I FIND IT?
The Huon Valley sits in the southernmost tip of the Tasmanian mainland, and is made up of the five main townships of Huonville, Franklin, Cygnet, Geeveston and Dover. It’s an easy drive south of Hobart. “You’re only 30 minutes from a capital city, 30 minutes from the bush walks of the South West World Heritage area and 30 minutes from the beaches and coast,” Nick says. “It’s a country lifestyle but close to everything,” he says. Chenoa Georgi, owner of Nest Property, agrees. “It’s an opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds,” she says. “Certainly those who are coming into the region from built-up areas are pleasantly surprised at what their money will buy them.” Of course, renewed interest in the area also means more tourists, which is great for reviving business. “The Huon Valley once produced thousands of kilos of apples a year,” Michelle explains. “At one time the valley was filled with orchards – old timers talk about how all you could smell in the late spring was the scent of apple blossom on the breeze – but with the creation of the Common Market in the 1960s, the export industry collapsed and most of the orchards were ripped out. Now, with the newly thriving cider industry, they’re being replanted at a rate of knots and producers can’t keep up with demand. It’s an exciting time to live here.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
In a nutshell: an outdoor lover’s delight. “We love swimming in the Huon River in summer and kayaking and fishing when it’s cooler,” Michelle says. And while this renaissance means house prices are starting to rise, it’s still excellent value. “The prices are higher than other places a similar distance from Hobart, but very affordable compared to most areas 30 to 50 minutes from the centre of a capital city,” Nick says. If Michelle could give future residents any advice it would be this: “Find a warm house, and get a year’s worth of dry wood sorted before you move!” To that Chenoa adds, “Be prepared for your guest room to be frequently used… friends and family love to visit.” And while some businesses shut down over winter, there’s still plenty of activity to be had – such as the Mid-Winter Festival, held each year in July. The festival celebrates the region’s apple picking history with plenty of food, cider, fire and the tradition of wassailing – essentially, singing and dancing and banging pots and pans to scare nasties from the orchard and ensure a bumper crop. Festival goers are even encouraged to dress up in feather, fur, leather and greenery, with prizes for the best dressed.
(2) 1 Farming remains a big money-earner for the area. 2 Quaint cottages abound in the Huon. 3 Locals head to the river to swim, kayak and fish. 4 The distant Sleeping Beauty mountain range.