A long weekend in the Huon Valley
A short hop from Hobart is the perfect getaway spot. Just don’t forget to pack your appetite.
I wake suddenly in the dead of the night. Dazed and confused, I wonder where I am and why our bed is inside a kombi van. Then I remember it’s the first night of our long weekend in the Huon Valley and we’re spending it at the brilliant Kombi Kamp.
Tucked beside a burbling creek on a farm between the towns of Huonville and Cygnet, Frida, a classic ’70s VW Kombi, is the heart of this unique accommodation offering, which also boasts a camp kitchen and a shower under the stars.
Set up by Pam Lane and Nic Smith, Kombi Kamp is a fabulous example of the kind of creativity that can be found right across the Huon Valley.
“We love kombis and know many others do too. Where else can you sleep in an icon while enjoying one of the prettiest spots in Tassie?” Pam says.
Cosily cocooned in Frida, I sleep soundly for the rest of the night, waking fresh for our big weekend of Huon Valley adventuring.
Carving it up in Cygnet
We begin in earnest with a coffee and pastry from Cygnet’s Poolish and Co. bakery, enjoyed while walking the town’s eclectic main street.
Founded largely by Irish ticket-of-leave convicts and built around forestry, shipbuilding and fruit growing, Cygnet became a magnet for many seeking alternative lifestyles back in the ’60s and ’70s. A recent wave of tree-changers has added to the creative mix, and the town is a fun stroll, with hippy, craft and antique shops, galleries and cafes vying for your attention. Add in a strong palawa community and Cygnet makes for a compelling destination.
We can’t linger too long, however, as we’re off to make wooden spoons at Phoenix Creations. In their Cygnet home studio, artist David Rauenbusch and his wife Michelle have handcrafted thousands of wooden spoons, mostly from recycled or sustainably sourced green wood. What began as a joking jibe from Michelle to her cabinet-maker husband about not having any wooden spoons in the home has grown into a rewarding lifestyle and business. David and Michelle now run spoon-carving workshops and have amassed something of a cult following, with more than 114,000 followers on Instagram.
After a brief demonstration in his atmospheric workspace, David hands each of us a block of green wood and a very sharp carving tool. Putting us at ease with his calmness, David guides us through this ancient art. While far removed from David’s creations, I do end up making a functional spoon, and feel a touch proud of my efforts.
“People are looking for experiences rather than just going and tasting wine or visiting galleries,” David says. “It’s getting your hands into making something that lots of people don’t really do anymore. So that’s the mindfulness of forgetting about whatever your day-to-day grind is and just carving a spoon.”
All this handling of utensils has made us hungry. Luckily, we’ve booked a cooking class just up the hill at the renowned Farmhouse Kitchen.
Heritage treats and hot tubs
We’re greeted by the charismatic and engaging Giuliana White, who shares the cooking of her southern Italian heritage from her family farm perched high above Cygnet.
Rather than prepare any of the traditional recipes from her family region of Puglia, today we’re making the more recent creation of tiramisu. Giuliana has us all transfixed with stories from Italy and life as postwar migrants in Hobart as much as she does with her effortless preparation of the cake.
“I love sharing my knowledge of the food from my parents’ region of Italy,” she says. “It is easily done here as the environment is beautiful and we live in an old heritage home that makes the atmosphere quite inviting and friendly.”
We retire to the dining room with “proper espresso”, as Giuliana carves up the tiramisu. It’s the best I’ve ever tasted. The lure of an outdoor hot tub with views compels us to farewell Giuliana and head straight to our accommodation at The Roundhouses.
The hot tub, views and Roundhouse don’t disappoint, and we happily stay put until the next morning.
It’s all about the valley
After local eggs on sourdough, we drive direct to the historic town of Franklin, where we stop at Cinnamon and Cherry for a heart-starting Turkish coffee and house-made cherry tart.
Now needing some exercise, we drive further south and then west, up towards the Hartz Mountains and the Tahune AirWalk. Although hit hard by bushfires in 2013, the towering eucalypt forest around the AirWalk is recovering beautifully and it’s awe-inducing to walk out to the end of the suspended platform high above the Huon River and Southern Forests.
With our thoughts never too far from food, we head back to Geeveston and lunch at Australia’s southernmost wine bar, Harvest and Light. Established by microbiologist Cassy Faux, Harvest and Light not only showcases Tasmania’s best wines, but also Cassy’s pickled and fermented creations.
We sample pickled cherries, peaches and various vegetables, served with labna and cheeses, while Cassy tells us about her career transition from Antarctic microbiology to pickling and wine appreciation, alongside her love of the Huon Valley community and its food growers.
“I think the thing that makes the produce in the valley special are the producers – the people who choose to live in the valley and grow food,” she says. “The fact that they know it’s hard work and hard to make a living being a farmer, and yet they still choose to do it. So much love and care going into producing a product they can be proud of.”
The hits keep coming
Accommodation for our final night is at the evocatively named River Run Lodge, further south beyond Dover. Set right on the banks of the Esperance River, we enjoy a fabulous pub meal in the tavern before crawling into our bunkhouse cabin, vowing never to eat again.
We soon break this pledge. After a long morning walk on the beautiful Roaring Bay Beach near the mouth of the Huon River, we declare that we’ve earned lunch at Huonville’s Lost Captain on our way back up to Hobart.
We finish with a brief stop at Kate Hill Wines for a tasting and some keepsake wines to take home.
As we drive up to Vinces Saddle and out of the Huon Valley, I wonder to myself whether our long weekend of indulgence was just a dream, only to be reminded by my tightening waistline that it wasn’t.