Tasmania is just one of those places that as soon as I arrive, I can breathe a little easier. It could well be because it’s home to some of the freshest air in the world, or maybe it’s because the locals are so warm and welcoming. Either way, with its world heritage listed wilderness, and incredible food and wine, it’s home to some of the most spectacular drives in our country.
Our adventure to North West Tasmania starts where the Spirit of Tassie pulls in, the town of Devonport, which sits on the banks of the Mersey River. There’s no better introduction to this port town, than onboard the recently restored Julie Burgess – a 64 ft wooden ketch built in 1936, and now open to the public to enjoy her beauty.
Amidst a flurry of excitement, we sail out onto Bass Strait, seven sails up, and our captain and crew passionately bring her maritime history alive and set the tone of our entire trip.
Now we have visited plenty of wineries in our time, but never before a ‘cidery’. The families behind the Spreyton Cider Company have been growing apples for a hundred years. We spent the morning with passionate cider maker Damien Viney, tasting more varieties of cider than I knew existed – and Damien doesn’t hide his excitement as we relish in each drop, even matched with local cheeses from down the road.
We continue our journey and set up camp in the BIG4 Ulverstone Holiday Park. Ulverstone is the gateway to the northwest and the Tarkine, which is often referred to as the ‘edge of the world’ – and it’s not just a catchphrase! The Tarkine wilderness area is a wild, rocky geographical point right on the North West of Tasmania belted by the fierce winds of the roaring 40s, where no land stands between us and the islands of Patagonia in South America!
We enjoy the most beautiful drive following the coastline, through the town of Penguin, and at almost every corner sneaking ‘just another’ photo. But the historic town of Stanley is waiting. “Haven’t you heard of The Nut?” the locals keep asking. Well, no, I haven’t. We all think it must be something like the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour as every time I ask someone to describe it, they simply reply, “You just have to see it to believe it”.
Of course we all Googled it. It looked impressive. But nothing, and I mean nothing, like what it looks in reality.
As soon as we’re in the vicinity of the historic town of Stanley, this imposing, ancient volcanic plug that rises before us, 150 metres above sea level, silences us. Perched right on the edge of Bass Straight, acting as the backdrop to the most charming town you can imagine.
Abundant with rich history, Stanley was settled in the 1820’s. A town of just 500 or so people, it’s filled with 19th century cottages. Meeting a 5th or even 6th generation local is not uncommon. We are welcomed by one of them, local man Graeme, who takes us up The Nut on the chairlift, and together we share the incredible views, bracing against the wild winds of Bass Strait and mesmerised by the rolling green hills in front of us.
After a leisurely day on a boat ride to watch the fur seals bask in the sun on the rocks at the back of The Nut, we make our way further south to a place I’m sure we’ve ALL heard of. One of Tassie’s icons. It barely needs an introduction. The world heritage listed Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.
We set up at our Jayco at the BIG4 Cradle Mountain Holiday Park, nestled amongst the gumtrees and welcomed by wallabies with babies in their pouches. We’re blessed with blue skies and 25 degrees, ideal conditions to enjoy a walk around one of the most photographed lakes in our country, Dove Lake.
It’s a postcard perfect day, the area is filled with the buzz of trekkers starting and finishing so many different walks, from a half hour stroll to the week long overland trek and everything in between (I even met a great group of women who had just climbed Cradle Mountain itself!).
But my lasting impression of our time at Cradle Mountain is a man I’d love you all to meet – Jeff. Park Ranger by day. Rock God by night. Jeff has found his place in life, where it’s his mission to protect our incredible backyard through his colourful stories and passion for the region. And every second Thursday you’ll find him wowing the crowds on stage at the Cradle Mountain Lodge with his incredible tunes.
Our journey ends in Launceston and the Tamar Valley – home to some of the state’s best wines. Eminent winemaker Josef Chromy and his Chief Winemaker Jeremy welcome us to their estate. With jazz playing in the gardens, wine flows freely and we chat over a superb lunch in the restaurant and hear of Josef’s colourful past fleeing Czechoslovakia that got him to where he is today.
I never want to leave when I visit Tassie. Today is no different. Just a two-minute drive from the city is the Cataract Gorge. Like an oasis so befitting for this beautiful state, it’s a place of beauty and natural wonders that locals have been enjoying for over a century. It’s the kind of place where time slips away, and all of a sudden the sun goes down, and it’s time to leave…
So, tell us, had you already heard of “The Nut” in Stanley? Or have we uncovered another hidden North West Tasmania gem for you too?