Postcard from East Coast Tasmania

Casey Warrener
24 June, 2016

Join Cooked’s Casey Warrener on a gourmet adventure to Tasmania’s spectacular East Coast.

Tasmania: we’ve all heard tales of its magically clean air, bountiful fresh produce, and breathtaking natural beauty. There’s also award-winning whisky, restaurants worth travelling for, craft beers and excellent cool-climate wines. And let’s not forget MONA, the private-made-public art collection of millionaire David Walsh. Or the mind-boggling number of World Heritage-listed sites.

The intrigue of our island state is clear. And yet there are a small few visitors who ever truly experience its wonder. The done thing is to head to Hobart and once there, invariably visit the Salamanca Market, ferry to MONA, and perhaps stop by Battery Hill for a beer. Your next most popular option: fly-in to ‘Launnie’ (the charming local moniker for Launceston) and hit the Tamar Valley wine trail.

While we at Cooked certainly don’t knock these well-trodden trails, Tasmania has an incredible amount to offer more intrepid travellers – something we were lucky to discover on a recent trip to its East Coast. What’s on the East Coast, we hear you ask? Well, think back-to-nature adventures, the freshest fresh produce, and landscapes so scenic you’ll have to try pretty hard to keep your jaw clamped closed.

Tassie was made for road trips, and with a car and a week to spare you could easily explore from end-to-end. But on this particular occasion we had just 36 hours and a whole lotta oyster slurping and wine drinking to fit in, so we made for Launceston and from there, set out on the hour and a half drive to our first stop and base camp – Devil’s Corner.

Now when I say base camp, I mean that literally rather than figuratively – camp we did, but not in your usual unzip and squeeze into a sleeping bag, kinda way. Happy Glamper followed through on the promise of its name with spacious bell tents (we’re talking standing room for a six-foot-tall human and enough floor space for a yoga sesh by your bed), a fluffy doona and double pillows – a combination that equated with the kind of blissful sleep unheard of in your standard camping story.

But first things first: food. Before arriving at our beautiful campsite between the vines and the Hazards, we replenished our energy with a relaxed meal care of Tombolo Freycinet Cafe. A gluggable glass of sparkling while taking in the vineyard view was welcome, and the big picture windows and long table of the cellar door called for us to sit down to a feast of wood-fired pizza, pinot noir and chardonnay.

Opened by the Brown family in 2010 to answer Australia’s ever-growing thirst for pinot noir, at the time, a temporary tasting room was set-up overlooking the Moulting Lagoon and Hazards mountain range – a seriously stunning outlook that saw word of the site spread quickly. And with its convenient location along the road to attractions such as Wineglass Bay and Freycinet National Park, the call for a more permanent structure became evident.

Enter a snazzy new cellar door and lookout, featuring dark metal and rough, textured timber in the trademark style of Cumulus Studio, the Tasmanian architects behind local projects such as Pumphouse Point. Add a couple of dining options onsite in 'The Fishers' by Freycinet Marine Farm, serving up the best oysters, mussels and abalone this side of the coast, and Tombolo Cafe turning out a top-notch coffee, and you've got yourself a must-stop experience on the East Coast.

Following our arrival to the cellar door where I consumed more than my share of the Tombolo-prepared fare, I fell into a deep sleep further fuelled by the rain falling on my roof, and emerged to see first light flashing over the ranges. A tea from the Billy, a coffee that made my Melburnian heart sing, and bacon and eggs cooked on the campfire, and I was ready for the adventure ahead.

Back into the car we went and off to an action-packed day. First stop, Freycinet Adventures HQ (aka Coles Bay), where a line-up of kayaks awaited us. With the extent of my rowing experience a few leisurely loops of Melbourne's Merri Creek, I had my concerns about the eight-kilometre sea kayak ahead. But in the capable hands of guides Alice and Ryan, I soon found I had nothing to fear, as we were given pointers on our technique, shown white-bellied sea eagles, and fed homemade biscuits on a (much-needed) halfway break.

We arrived at Hazards Beach having faced no greater risks than a slightly soggy bottom and water-splashed iPhone (the perils of the in-kayak selfie), and continued on our trek to Wineglass Bay, where the promise of a picnic propelled us on. Feeling we'd earned it, we tore into the fresh bread, selection of cheeses, relishes and not-boring salads with abandon.

Energised by our lunch on the beach, we were able to face the daunting ascent to our next stop, the Wineglass Bay Lookout. Shaking legs and burning glutes aside, the bird’s-eye view of the bay’s famous curves was a worthy reward, and the glass of sparkling that met us at the top was more reason to celebrate still.

Having had a full-body workout and a good dose of vitamin D, we were keen to get on to our last activity – foraging for oysters at Freycinet Marine Farm. Decked out in super-stylish waders, we followed our chatty host Giles Fisher (no pun intended) into his underwater farm – a strange sensation for the feeling of being both warm and dry in our water-immersed suits, and having to walk across the water’s silty bottom, which at times felt like a challenging game of ‘stuck in the mud’. A few brave souls sampled oysters right there in the water. Me? I chose to wait until we were back on dry land, riesling in one hand.

Having embarked on an epic paddle, hiked a vertical track, and donned waders to walk underwater (and consumed more wine and cheese than I thought possible on a day outdoors), I was aching for a hot shower and hearty meal. Thankfully, both were waiting for me back at base camp. After washing away the day with Happy Glamper-issued spa products, it was back to the cellar door to watch the Hazards turn shades of pink and the sun sink into the lagoon. And of course, to eat.

A seafood feast from Giles rounded out the day nicely, and included perfectly cooked Tasmanian salmon, pan-fried abalone, and another stab at the oysters – this time with a tangy ponzu sauce. The moreish Devil’s Corner Cuvee was on offer once more, as were a couple of flavourful medium-bodied pinots, an elegant 'new school' chardonnay, and a zesty, refreshing riesling. 

It was under a star-filled sky and around a roaring fire that this uniquely Tasmanian trip ended. Until I can return to the magnificent wilds of the East Coast, I shall tide myself over with the next best thing – a menu inspired by it. Plan your own gourmet nature escape and we promise it will be worth your while, but in the meantime, get a taste for Tasmania with the five recipes ahead.

Image credits: cellar door image by Cory White and lead image iStock; all others by Aleksandar Jason

Wood-fired pizza bianco

Produce tip: Bruny Island Cheese’s Nick Haddow recommends taleggio from the Lombardy region of Italy as being the very best. Tasmania is also famous for its leatherwood honey, so try adding this to the base for a unique taste.
Wine match: The Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir is fruit-driven and flavourful, and will marry up nicely with the taleggio in this dish.

Baked camembert rosemary & truffle oil

Produce tip: Tassie is known for its full-flavoured black truffles, perfect for making truffle oil.
Wine match: Try a dry Tasmanian cider – something from Lost Pippen will do just fine.

Crab-apple & chilli paste

Produce tip: Choose a sharp cheese like manchego to pair with this flavour-packed paste.
Wine match: The more full-bodied Mount Amos Pinot Noir will have the power to stand up to this pairing. 

Oysters with red chilli nahm jim

Produce tip: Pick plump Pacific oysters (the whiter, fleshier kind are sweeter in taste) from Tasmania for this dish.
Wine match: The spicy flavours in this Thai-style snack will be well suited to the Devil’s Corner Riesling.

Crisp skin saltwater char with spiced pork crackling & slow-braised abalone

Produce tip: Saltwater char is a type of trout that was introduced to Tasmania in the 1900s and is now farmed on a small scale in the southwest. Look for fillets with an unmarked, vibrant orange flesh.
Wine match: With a couple of year’s age and more complex flavours, the 2013 Resolution Chardonnay will work well here.

For more travel inspiration around the Apple Isle, download your free guide from Spirit of Tasmania. 

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