The wild north-west of Tasmania is one of Australia’s great road-trip routes. Home to coastal towns, sailing clubs and sandy beaches, it also stretches back inland to remote mountain communities dotted with cosy pubs, and the astounding landscapes of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
World-class producers of cheese, chocolate, wine, beer and olive oil take advantage of the rich, fertile soil, fresh water and cleanest air on Earth (actually a fact), resulting in produce of unmatched quality. Down here you really do get out what you put in.
Despite its remoteness, accommodation is plentiful here. Charming old pubs ooze with character and a network of Airbnbs offer views and outdoor spas overlooking the mountains. Wherever you go, you’ll never be too far from magnificent views, majestic waterfalls, pristine rainforests – even decent op-shops.
Here’s a road-trippers guide to the region – what to eat, drink and do, and where to stay.
Ghost Rock Wines
Alicia Peardon and Justin Arnold were told they were crazy to try growing grapes in north-west Tassie, in Northdown just outside Devonport. Too cold, the sceptics said. Now, a James Halliday five-star rating later, the couple are recognised as trailblazers for the emerging Cradle Coast vineyard movement, proving cool climates can indeed produce some very cool wines. Peardon says the maritime climate means there are no peaks or troughs, just stability that allows the grapes to flourish.
Try a basic $5 sample ¬– refundable on any wine purchase – or indulge in a $25 pinot noir flight (which includes a sumptuous cheese platter). The grazing platters are a meal on their own and a testament to the quality of Tasmanian producers, showcasing Petuna cold-smoked ocean trout, Spreyton pickled onions, Coal River Farm triple-cream brie, and 41° South hot-smoked salmon.
With the shimmering blue Bass Strait peeking through the green fields and the vineyards in the foreground, the back lawn here cries out for a lazy lunch and a glass or two of pinot.
Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm
A family dairy farm that’s grown in profile without outgrowing its roots, Ashgrove excels at all things dairy. It’s especially known for its homemade cheese straight from the farm gate (literally 50 metres away).
Here, blocks of cheese like gold ingots sit on shelves inside the maturing room. You can sample traditional cheeses such as cloth-matured cheddar, or modern numbers with infused with wasabi or Tasmanian pepperberry.
Richard Bennett (whose great-grandfather lived in a house on the same site) says provenance is all-important when it comes to producing quality dairy products.
“Tasmania is green and has clean air and good soil,” he says. “Which means the cows produce great milk.”
And it shows. Aside from cheese, the milk here is also used to produce creamy butter and ice-cream, but the current hot ticket, we’re told, are the Amazeballs: more-ish, bite-size nuggets of dehydrated cheese puffs.
Cradle Coast Olives
Nestled in a bucolic valley just inland from Ulverstone is the multi-award-winning Cradle Coast Olives. Helen Huang and Kelvin Xu have recently taken over management of the 400 trees that thrive in this valley’s microclimate to produce low-yield, high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
Sample the olive oil with fresh bread in the showroom (it’s a four-time winner of Best Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the International Olive Awards Australia). But be sure to spend some time outside by the picturesque dam, where a jetty provides the perfect perch for platypus-spotting (late afternoon is best), or just enjoy the colour and tranquillity of the gardens, especially the 100-year-old cherry trees.
Seven Sheds Brewery
Seven Sheds – the only brewery on the Cradle Coast – occupies an unassuming property in Railton, a town with two claims to fame: exceptionally wide streets and a curious devotion to topiary.
Full-flavoured craft beer is the remit here. The Wilderbeer – a red ale with toasted hemp seeds, oats and rye – is a favourite. The Black Inca owes its sweetness to an infusion of Fortunato No. 4, a dark chocolate with a backstory that needs to be heard in person (Owners Willie Simpson and Catherine Stark will happily fill you in). A sunlit deck with barrel tables and market umbrellas overlooks the garden, where the hops are grown.
The brewery is a hotspot for mountain bikers, so it’s stocked with bike racks, repair kits and pumps. There’s also a spacious new Airbnb just out the back, which means a few lucky souls can enjoy a few beers without need to drive (or ride) off into the sunset.
Hellyers Road Distillery
Tasmanian whisky is the stuff of legend (must be that clean water again) and local single malt doesn’t get much more revered than Hellyers Road. Take a behind-the-scenes tour (allow 30 to 40 minutes) at the distillery in Havenview, just outside Bernie. You’ll see and smell the American oak barrels, and you can even pour and wax-seal your very own bottle. Tastings are available from $5 for 30 millilitres (be sure to try the pinot-noir finish), but if you’re a real enthusiast go for the Hellyers Top Flight, which includes their oldest aged whisky plus a limited-bottling master series, and a platter with bread, cheese and fruit. The kitchen is open for lunch from 11.30am to 3pm, serving up an all-Tasmanian menu (the chicken quiche is bang-on and served with whisky relish). Nab a window seat for a great view over the tranquil Emu Valley.
The Bischoff Hotel
It doesn’t get more authentic than Waratah’s 110-year-old grand hotel, which holds court over this relatively undiscovered mountain town at the gateway to the Tarkine.
The front bar looks out over the cascading Waratah Falls. Excavators, bulldozers and rusted relics hint at the town’s proud tin-mining history. You’re guaranteed to meet locals with stories to tell ¬– if you’re lucky you’ll run into “Waterfall Man” Mick, a local who can point you in the direction of the best hidden waterfalls off the tourist track.
Pull up a chair in front of the fire, take a seat at the Philosopher’s Bar (named after James “Philosopher” Smith, whose discovery of tin at nearby Mount Bischoff in the late 19th century kickstarted the mining industry on Tasmania’s west coast), challenge a local to a game of pool or just admire the memorabilia on the walls.
Don’t leave without ordering the Bischoff Pepper pot pie – fresh Tassie beef cooked in red wine and infused with locally harvested wild pepperberries. You won’t regret it.
Eagles Nest III
Modelled on a South American finca farmhouse, Eagle Nest III entices you outside with hammocks strung from trees, a firepit and a stunning outdoor spa and milk bath, all with views of the spectacular volcanic mound of Mount Roland.
Accommodating six guests, with two bedrooms and bathrooms, this luxury country retreat is located in West Kentish, just outside of Sheffield (which gets this writer’s vote for the best second-hand shop in the world, The Emporium – it’s especially great for vinyl).
Self-cater or splash out and book a private “dream chef” to cook a three-course dinner. You can also book a hot-stone massage. There’s also a surprise outdoor amphitheatre at the top of a nearby hilltop. If you get a clear night, don’t miss the chance to get out and experience the best stargazing you’ll find anywhere.
The Little House on the Hill
Breathe in the cleanest air in the world at this pet-friendly, off-the-grid and self-sustainable house hemmed in by hills and surrounded by inquisitive farm critters.
This cute, architecturally designed house has one queen bed, a wood heater, wi-fi, and polished timber panelling throughout. Guests have access to the organic vegie garden and fruit trees. Situated near Mount Roland and the Mersey River it’s a nature-lover’s paradise, so bring hiking boots and a fishing rod if that’s your thing, plus a good jacket.
The Little House on the Hill
Cradle Mountain Helicopters
Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and home to some of Tasmania’s most stunning alpine scenery, from pendant-like lakes to jagged, snow-capped mountains.
How to see it all? It helps if you can board a helicopter for a bird’s-eye view of a landscape that has long captured the imagination of explorers, nature-lovers and photographers.
Flights range from 10 to 100 minutes, and can take in Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain, Fury Gorge and the Overland Track. Flying over the Land of a Thousand Lakes on the central plateau is simply magical – a view you’ll only get from the air.
Drive just 10 kilometres south of Waratah and you’re in the heart of old mining country. Take a gorgeous 45-minute walk through lush, Tarkine rainforest to a viewing platform overlooking a stunning waterfall that appears to pour out of the trees. Keep an eye out for some amazing examples of colourful fungi growing out of fallen tree trunks along the track – the whole journey is nothing short of enchanting.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Airbnb.