IT’S HOT IN THE HUON

Fire up for a day trip from Ho­bart that will ex­cite the taste­buds and the mind

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION TASMANIA - KERRY HEANEY

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.

MIDWINTER FES­TI­VAL

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

PIC­TURES: MIA GLASTONBURY, 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.

MASAAKI’S SUSHI

TAHUNE AIR­WALK

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