IT’S HOT IN THE HUON
Fire up for a day trip from Hobart that will excite the tastebuds and the mind
They queued here for two hours last week, says a man standing outside Masaaki’s Sushi in Geeveston, a tiny town in Tasmania’s southwest Huon Valley. Luckily, I have a table booked because the dining room is best described as cosy and the outside tables look less than appealing in this foot-stamping cold weather.
Inside, it is toasty and when the daily sushi tasting platter of freshly farmed local salmon and oceancaught seafood arrives – filled with fresh regional produce and Tasmanian-grown wasabi (none of that flavoured green-paste stuff that masquerades as wasabi) – it is hard to disturb the precision of its presentation by eating it.
English celebrity chef Rick Stein says Masaaki Koyoma is taking sushi to a new level and makes some of the best sushi he’s ever eaten. Those who have made the one-hour lunch pilgrimage from Hobart and local devotees certainly agree.
Masaaki only opens the restaurant on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch and usually sells out by 2pm so he can go surfing.
The Huon Valley is a day trip, a weekend exploration or a week of fun and feasting which starts just outside the city limits and continues to the Huon River mouth in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. From there the road heads south ending at Cockle Creek which is the furthest point south that you can drive in Australia. Super keen walkers take the trail into South West National Park heading to South East Cape, Australia’s southernmost point.
They call it the Huon Valley but sighting a Huon pine tree needs dedication. These slow-growing trees were widely harvested for their wood, so spotting a sapling on the bank of the Huon River is a feature of John Allport’s Huon Jet tours in Huonville.
The tannin-infused river water is a dark amber colour making it a photographer’s dream but also hiding the shingles and rapids just beneath the surface, creating a thrilling ride. Add in 360-degree turns and fast, close-to-the-bank action, and you’ve got a ride to please all the family.
The drive from Hobart is filled with tempting stops such as the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin where the nose-tingling pine aroma arising from beautifully handcrafted boats under construction is a bonus.
With the Huon River just a few steps away, the centre offers courses for would-be builders and tours. Hoist the sail on the Yukon, a restored wooden Danish vessel, and live a boating dream on the calm waters of the Huon River on an afternoon tour.
Huon Valley is full of people with big ideas who are prepared to take a few risks to turn them into reality. Following the crash of the apple and beef industries in the valley, they have learned their life lessons the hard way, taught by a beautiful but challenging winter landscape.
Rosemary and Terry Bennett turned their old orchard into the uber stylish Home Hill Winery restaurant at Ranelagh.
Resplendent in rusty steel with walls of rammed earth, Home Hill sits snugly into the five hectares of vineyard that surround it and produces award-winning pinot noir.
The chef likes to work with Tasmania’s best produce, making meals from scratch in the open kitchen to deliver memorable flavours. It’s a restaurant where you can try Cygnet mushrooms, Bay of Fires Cheddar, Tasmanian oysters and scorched local salmon.
There’s another chance to get close to a Huon pine at the airwalk in Tahune Forest, which is also home to the world’s tallest hardwood tree. It stands 99.6 metres tall and has been dubbed the Centurion. It’s not for the height challenged, but the 50-minute airwalk through the forest canopy is a great way to commune with nature.
The Cable Eagle hang glide adventure will take you 250m across Huon River with a thrilling edge of the wind beneath your wings, but in complete safety.
If you are up for a bit of wibblewobble, the swaying cantilever over the confluence of the Huon and Picton rivers offers thrills and views, all in one.
Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, a one-hour drive south of Huonville, will see you walk through Newdegate Cave, one of the largest dolomite caves in the southern hemisphere. Passages lead visitors through multiple levels filled with spectacular crystal straws and stalactites, columns and shawls. The cave is only accessible on a guided ranger tour, but the thermal spring pool is open to all. Just don’t forget your swimmers.
Holding the title of Australia’s southernmost town, Dover is a sleepy fishing village dozing along the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.
Dining options are limited, but the RSL does a fine job with the local catch and chips. The lights go out at 6pm each evening for one minute’s silence while patrons remember the dead before they dive in for dinner, so don’t tarry or the day’s special will be sold out.
It feels like a long way, but this world of pristine produce and landscape is just 80km from Hobart.
Shout down Tasmania’s deep winter cold by singing to an apple tree and watching Willie, an effigy of the midwinter man, burn. A Huon Valley highlight, the festival celebrates the region’s apple picking heritage by scaring evil spirits out of the orchard with song and pan banging. There’s also much feasting and cider drinking. The festival is held in July. HUONVALLEYMIDWINTERFEST.COM.AU
THE WRITER TRAVELLED WITH THE SUPPORT OF TOURISM TASMANIA
WINTER WARM-UP The midwinter festival celebrates Huon Valley’s apple picking heritage (main); the airwalk in Tahune Forest (below right); and (below left) sushi taken to a new level.