The Huon Valley starts just 30 minutes south of Hobart and unspools all the way down to the island’s far south coast. The picturesque hamlets that lie on either side of the river are home to artists’ studios, inviting cafes, cool-climate wineries and what may be Tasmania’s best sushi. If that’s not enough to draw you in, there is also the lush wilderness that cocoons the valley, seducing hikers and kayakers alike.
Main image: Aerial panorama of Huon River and Valley
Housed in a century-old storefront in the pretty hamlet of Cygnet, Red Velvet Lounge offers a surprisingly sophisticated dining experience. Scarlet-painted walls and original pressed-tin features add to the ambience, while the woodfired oven turns out tasty dishes such as duck curry and braised eggplant teamed with tomatoes, almond and chickpeas, as well as woodfired pizzas.
Who would have guessed that a town of just over 1000 people would be home to a sushi chef with three decades of experience? Geeveston locals know a good thing when they see one, so you’ll need to book early to get a seat at Masaaki Koyama’s pocket-sized restaurant, Masaaki’s Sushi. Koyama was born in Osaka – known as the foodie capital of Japan – and has sliced, rolled, and plated sushi since he was 10 years old. When Rick Stein visited Tasmania in 2015 for BBC series World on a Plate, he described Masaaki’s Sushi as some of the best he has ever eaten. Once you taste his finely-crafted cuisine, you’ll understand why.
If your love of eating extends to cooking, a session at The Farmhouse Kitchen cooking school is a must. Your host, Giuliana, draws on her southern Italian heritage to teach simple but flavour-packed recipes. Her feather-light gnocchi are a revelation.
Winemaker Kate Hill’s small but well-tended vineyard at Huonville grows chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz for her boutique handcrafted label, Kate Hill Wines. Tastings are available at her charmingly simple cellar door, housed in a heritage-listed cottage.
Willie Smith planted his first apple tree all the way back in 1888. Today his descendants at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed tend the storied orchards and use the produce to make cider and brandy. The bustling apple shed is also home to a lively restaurant serving pork croquettes with apple and fennel salad and grilled Huon salmon fillet.
Elegant architecture, a sophisticated restaurant, an extensive array of wines – Home Hill’s cellar door has it all. The Bennett family’s flagship wine is their much-awarded Kelly’s Reserve pinot noir but there are plenty of other drops to discover, including an enticing dessert wine made with Sylvaner grapes.
There are plenty of places in the Huon Valley where you can walk amid towering trees, but only one where you can stroll through the treetops. The Tahune Airwalk takes you high above the forest floor, giving you a unique perspective on the landscape. If you like an adrenaline hit, you can also glide through the trees on the zip-line.
It’s not just the dolomite formations of Hastings Cave, sitting 50 metres below the earth’s surface, that make it so memorable, although the stalactites, stalagmites, columns and shawls are splendid. It’s also the scale of the cave, vast enough to hold concerts in. Also nearby is a naturally-heated swimming pool, its thermal waters rich in minerals.
What lies beyond the end of the road? The South Cape Bay Track. Right at the southern end of the Huon Valley, where the road finally peters out, this 16km walk takes you to Australia’s most southerly point. Allow about four hours return for this gorgeous hike which takes you through eucalypt forest, fern-filled valleys and pretty marshes (a boardwalk keeps your boots dry) before you reach the coastal cliffs where the Southern Ocean comes tumbling in.
There’s nothing rustic about Villa Talia, a two-bedroom luxury retreat sitting high on the slopes overlooking the Huon River. Think polished floorboards, Persian carpets, sprawling living and dining areas and an expansive marble kitchen that will have you itching to cook up a storm. Hands-down our favourite feature is the outdoor bathtub.
If you are looking for your own little slice of waterfront heaven, the three-bedroom Fair Winds hits the spot. Located just south of Geeveston, at Fair Winds you don’t have to content yourself with drinking in those lovely river views: you can easily wander down and start the day with a quick dip.
No matter what time of day you stroll past, chances are the Conservatory Café will be bustling. Housed in Cygnet’s Old Bank bed and breakfast, this inviting, light-filled café is a favourite with visitors and locals alike. High tea is served on Saturday afternoons.
On a fine morning when the sun catches the colours of the preserve jars arrayed along the back wall, and the aroma of coffee drifts Old Bank of Geeveston café, it’s hard to resist the urge to pull up a pew. There’s a concise brunch menu as well as inviting cakes and savoury tarts.
Traditional Turkish flavours add interest to the menu at Frankston’s Cinnamon and Cherry café, whether it’s a pistachio and custard brioche in the morning or a meze platter later in the day. Saturday mornings the breakfast includes Turkish-style eggs, while Turkish ice cream makes an appearance in the summer.
It’s the aroma you notice first at Mikkris House. The gallery of woodturner Ross Patson-Gill, housed in Geeveston Town Hall, is redolent with the scent of the different timbers that Patson-Gill uses in his exquisite pieces, including sassafrass, myrtle, willow and oak. Each piece is a small treasure, and comes signed, numbered and dated.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Huon Valley has a lively arts scene; after all, artists respond strongly to natural beauty. Among the many artists working here, Henrietta Manning stands out for her exquisitely-observed landscapes and still lives. Visits to her Waterloo studio, a converted historic apple packing shed, are by appointment only.
“Spoon carver” is not a job description that crops up every day but David Rauenbusch, who formerly worked as a furniture maker, has turned his passion for handmade spoons into a thriving business. Located on a hill above the main street of Cygnet, Phoenix Creations is an intriguing place to visit, and a great place for a spot of souvenir shopping.