Tasmania has the locavore cred of Portland and the wine scene of Napa with some world-class adventure thrown in. Colleen Clark heads down under for the foodie adventure of a lifetime
The ache started deep in my stomach, asserting itself with a growing chorus of grumbles, an elemental growl. The hunger pains merge with the delicious torpor of the hour, sun hanging lazy on the horizon, waves crashing on the orange rocks below. This cocktail of bone tired body and primitive hunger is my favorite aperitif, the perfect lead-in to the kind of lingering, languid meals that can only happen after a long day of adventure.
It's taken four planes, two cars and a 14 mile hike to reach this modernist aerie clinging to the cliffs above Tasmania's Bay of Fires. I've come for a few reasons. This island state off the coast of Australia may only be the size of West Virginia, but its geography feels a world more diverse. Rolling vineyards rise into prehistoric eucalypt forests, towering dunes tumble into glassy tidepools. Wallabies hop across windswept heathland and inky rivers snake through emerald grasses. The weather is equally changeable with moody skies breaking into violent tempests only to subside into rainbows arching across sundrenched skies.
At the same time, its food scene is booming with the kind of DIY fervor matched only by the likes of Portland and Brooklyn. Chefs from Sydney and Melbourne have decamped from their big city gigs to revel in the oyster- and salmon-stocked waters, the world-famous vineyards and the lush farmlands. Locavore cafes, small-batch distilleries and artisanal food purveyors dot the countryside. In other words, it's the perfect place to work up an appetite and then seriously satisfy it.
That's what I'm doing here at the Bay of Fires lodge at the edge of Mount William National Park. Days are spent kayaking in the bay, bushwhacking through waist-high ferns, scrambling up dunes reflected in lunar tide pools, hiking through forests among wallabies and wombats. In between, it's a steady procession of local cheddars, salmon plucked from the water nearby, fresh baked breads and tarts, all washed down with the pinot noirs and sparkling wines Tasmania has become known for. It's a true moveable feast. And a delicious one at that.
Check out a photo gallery of Colleen's trip on Facebook.
Want to taste the best of Tasmania? Here’s our hit list for the island’s best experiences.
Hike the Bay of Fires
One of Australia’s great hikes, the four-day Bay of Fires walk winds through some of the most remote and dramatic scenery in Tasmania (you’re unlikely to come across another person for the duration of your hike). Expect diversity on par with the rainforest — wallabies, Forester kangaroos, maybe even a Tasmanian devil.
Visit Australia's Wildest Art Museum
You arrive via boat at MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art carved into the bedrock of the Derwent River. The subterranean bunker's irreverent mix of contemporary art and priceless antiquities is the brainchild of millionaire David Walsh. You'll also find a microbrewery, winery and locavore restaurant onsite.
Go Wine Tasting
Some of Australia's most famous cool climate wines--from pinot noirs to sparkling wines -- come from Tasmania. We love the wine routes north of Launceston in the Tamar Valley. Or if you're basing yourself out of hip Hobart, take to the southern wine route in the Derwent, Coal River and Huon Valleys.
Climb Cradle Mountain
Hikes through this World Heritage Site take you through rainforests and alpine meadows, past waterfalls and on to the stunning Lake St. Clair. We love the Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, which allows weary hikers to bed down in modernist eco-digs along the route.
Follow the Whisky Trail
Whisky lovers will be shocked by the diversity of quality single malts coming out of Tasmania. It lays claim to one of only two "paddock to bottle" single malt distilleries in the world (the other is Kilchoman in Scotland). The whisky trail runs from Burnie on the north coast through the highlands to Hobart.
Eat You Way Through Hobart
Tasting menu restaurants like Garagistes, The Source (at MONA) and Ethos put Hobart's food scene on the world culinary map. Shop for artisanal preserves, local cheeses and fresh seafood at the Salamanca Market. And in 2014, watch out for a new creative hub in an old newspaper warehouse with a restaurant by star chef David Moyle.
Take to the Water
You're heard of farm-to-table. How about sea-to-table? On Pennicott Wilderness Journeys' seafood tour, guests float along the coast of Bruny Island near Hobart, helping guides gather oysters, mussels, abalone, sea urchin and crayfish. Then they drop anchor for an onboard cooking lesson followed by a beach picnic with local wines, microbrews and boozy ciders.
Go Behind Bars
Going to jail isn't normally at the top of most tourists' to-do list, but it's a must for visitors to Tasmania. The Port Arthur Historic Site offers the best window into Australia's history as a penal colony with 30 buildings, ruins and restored period homes dating from the prison’s establishment in 1830 until its closure in 1877.