Meander up north
Journey into the Meander Valley to sate the soul, feast and explore in the shadow of the Great Western Tiers.
Mention the Meander Valley to any local, and they’ll smack their lips in anticipation. Known for its lush pastures, Meander generates some of Tasmania’s most sumptuous dairy produce.
The recently expanded Ashgrove Cheese Dairy Door exemplifies the best, and creamiest, of what the region tempts us with, and it’s a great place to stock up on a few days’ provisions. Gourmet cheddars are stacked high in the factory, visible through viewing windows in the new visitor centre.
Definitely leave room for more, because further along the Bass Highway are Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe and the Van Diemens Land Creamery. Like many who live nearby, we often take our visitors on this ‘triple dip’, and the car always sinks a little lower when we get back into it.
Head off the highway into Deloraine, and you’re at the heart of the Meander region. It feels like a picturesque mountain village, the main street climbing a slope lined with shops and cafes, with glimpses of the Great Western Tiers through gaps in the buildings. These dolerite bluffs and forested escarpments form the edge of the Central Highlands plateau. Always there, hazy and blue in the distance, they’re a constant, spectacular backdrop.
If a gentle stroll is all you feel like after all the gourmet dairy feasting, take a wander along the kooparoona niara/Great Western Tiers Cultural Trail, in the riverside parkland. The inspiration of proud palawa man Greg Murray and the work of local artists, the trail features native plants and bush tucker, with stone artwork depicting ancestors’ life along the river. “Kooparoona niara is the Aboriginal name for the Great Western Tiers, it means mountains of the spirits,” Greg explains, as we chat on the riverbank, a platypus flopping around midstream. It’s also the name of his tour company, which offers stories of Indigenous culture told from ancient rocky lookouts, and mouth-watering visits to the local truffle orchard and salmon farm.
If you prefer striking out into the bush on your own, the Great Western Tiers visitor centre at the top of town is a great place for information. Meander is known as the ‘short walk capital’ of Tasmania and there is plenty here for the ardent walker to stay and explore. The rural roads snaking west and south pass through farmland into wilder parts of the valley and the Conservation Area, with its deep gorges, thick bushland and waterfalls.
We enjoy a picnic lunch... with views from the rocky bluff across plains to the coast
We set off on the Higgs Track, a favourite with locals that wends its way up through gnarly, moss-covered myrtle forest. The path emerges on the plateau in the Wilderness World Heritage Area. On the deck of Lady Lake Hut, we pause to enjoy a picnic lunch courtesy of the Deloraine Deli, to the sound of mountain springs gurgling through the button grass, with breathtaking views from the rocky bluff across the plains to the coast.
Below the heights, back in Chudleigh Valley, the underground world at Mole Creek Caves is no less spectacular. This ‘karst’ cave system was formed over millions of years, as glacial waters eroded layers of limestone sediment. Guided tours help you absorb the atmosphere and ancient geological history. Guides point out the glow-worms and Tasmanian cave spider, which has evolved to live without light. The cool silence of the caves is a fascinating counterpoint to the mountainous landscape towering above.
Exploring above ground and below is thirsty work, and the Wandering Trout Taphouse at Mole Creek answers this need. The provenance of the smallbatch craft beers served by owners Justin and Susie is second to none: brewed on site from local rainwater, malt and hops.
If you’re not ready to leave the ‘mountains of the spirits’ yet, Cedar Cottage Meander is the place to hang your beanie for the night. Owner Sarah Williams’ grandfather built the cottage using Tasmanian timbers. “Sunset in the hot tub, looking across to Mount Roland with a glass of wine is absolutely beautiful,” Sarah says. “It’s a good place for dark-sky watching, too.” Soaking in the solitude of this bushland retreat seems a perfect way to prepare for another day’s exploring.