It’s part 3 already, and you’re still here? Well dang – good on you dear reader! Clearly Tasmania is on your radar, so without a further ado, let’s get right back to it!
Date of trip: 21/12/16 – 3/1/17
I love travel as much as I do food; it’s simply becoming less of a secret now as I expand I’m Still Hungry’s focus. The world is a far bigger than Sydney, and I wish to show it to you. Welcome to another installment of my travel series!
In part 3, we cover the entire east side of Tasmania from Port Arthur down the south-east, all the way up to Binalong Bay in the north-east. But before all that, the pocket-sized Bruny Island – which punches well above its weight in its food offerings.
Red: food destination
Blue: scenery/sight/landmark destination
Destinations with an asterisk (*) are recommended – visit these places, if you can’t squeeze in anything else!
Separated from mainland Tasmania by the very French-sounding D’Entrecasteaux Channel, Bruny Island is to Tasmania what Tasmania is to Australia; an important inclusion in any well-rounded Tassie itinerary. The island can only be accessed via a car ferry near Hobart, which departs according to a set timetable around 12 times a day. While there was ostensibly plenty to see, we unfortunately encountered inclement weather in the form of all-day rain, which threw a very wet spanner in the works. Insert sad face here: 🙁
Bruny Island ferry in the background (Bruny Island side)
An area that would have otherwise looked stunning in good weather, Adventure Bay is one of the best spots for swimming (as it’s an enclosed beach), and is the starting point for several Bruny Island walks.
A must-see even in disagreeable weather, The Neck is Bruny Island’s most recognisable feature. It is an isthmus (or fancy word for land bridge) that connects the northern and southern parts of Bruny Island, and is about 4-5km long. The views are panoramic, beautiful whether rain or shine. It’s also an important breeding area for several local animals. These include the fairy penguin – the world’s smallest penguin species. At night, you can test your luck finding them, though this chance wasn’t available to us as we only gave one day to Bruny Island.
Cheese Factory – Bruny Island Cheese & Beer Co*
We originally didn’t intend to eat all that much on Bruny Island, but with outdoor activities not being an option, gorging ourselves became the natural plan B. Turns out that Bruny Island is actually a haven for food! We started off with Bruny Island Cheese Company. It’s a must-visit, with plenty of local produce for sale, including Tasmanian honey and craft beers. It’s also a full-fledged cafe that does hot food and coffee, so it’s really an all-inclusive package – what’s not to like?
Look at them wheels of cheese
Three different platters – toastie, cheese tasting board, raisin toast w/condiments. All of it was good!
Chocolate Factory – Bruny Island Chocolate Company
Bruny Island Chocolate Company is just a shop, with no cafe facilities or any “factory-like” experiences, which makes the name somewhat misleading. There’s a wide selection of chocolates & fudge (a Bruny Island specialisation) to buy, with many coming in really cool packaging such as cassette tapes and faux-antique boxes. However, if you’re not intending to shop, there’s not much here.
Berry Farm & Cafe
A bit more can be done at the Bruny Island Berry Farm – eat at the cafe, pick some berries, or just sit around and take a break. Unfortunately, berry picking was not an option when we visited thanks to our cloudy friends in the sky. That didn’t stop us from indulging in some berry ice creams though!
I have no idea what jostaberries are but as I couldn’t pick them, I couldn’t find out 🙁
Blueberry & pepperberry ice cream – pepperberry was very interesting! A bit spicy, a bit herbal. It worked, in a strange way!
Get Shucked Oysters*
No need to mince words here: Bruny Island oysters are fabulous. When it comes to eating local, it doesn’t get much better than an oyster platter at Get Shucked Oysters. We got a 3-ways platter, but if you know how you like your oysters then go straight for a dozen of your choice. Juicy, fresh and sweet – slurp up! In fact, a friend liked them so much she got a few more for herself!
Bruny Island Oyster Platter three ways – au naturale, breaded Asian fusion, kilpatrick – $28
With coastlines stretching out into the horizon as far as the eye can see, the Tasman Peninsula is the place to be for landscape photographers. It’s also home to the Port Arthur convict settlement.
About 1.5 hrs from Hobart lies Port Arthur: one of Australia’s biggest, oldest, and most notorious penal settlement colonies. The site was originally built to be a timber factory, but its seclusion and surrounding deep waters made it the perfect island prison for convicts. These convicts also happened to be put to work logging timber, so that worked out nicely (not for the convicts). It was quite shocking to read about the types of punishments that can see you sent to Port Arthur. Flogging, solitary confinement, and eye-for-an-eye disciplinary measures were the norm. That you could be sent to Port Arthur for the smallest of offences and be as young as a primary school boy is just another fun fact about this place.
Other than Port Arthur’s grim history, it’s quite a beautiful place to walk around; exploring colony ruins and some rather pristinely-preserved buildings.
Not too far from Port Arthur are the Remarkable Caves. Not so much a cave complex than a literal hole through a mountain leading out to sea, the vibe of “light at the end of the tunnel” definitely made an impression, as did the coastline that led to the caves themselves.
Tasman Peninsula coastline
Another spot to check out on the Tasman Peninsula not too far from Remarkable Caves is the Tessellated Pavement. Truly living up to its name, it’s a tessellated pavement. While not exactly a must-visit, it is on the way from the Remarkable Caves to Maria Island (our next stop), so it’s worth a stop for a quick snap.
Heading north from the Tasman Peninsula will bring you to Maria Island (pronounced “mah-rye-ah”). A mountainous island around 1/3 the size of Bruny Island, it’s one of the most unspoilt areas in Tasmania – and Tasmania itself can be considered fairly pristine by global standards. Maria Island is also home to the last wild Tasmanian Devils that aren’t infected by a disease endemic to the little furry creatures. Yes, Maria Island is literally the only place in the world where Tassie Devils have a chance to have a wild population again!
A 40 min no-cars-allowed ferry from the coastal town of Triabunna will get you to Maria Island. It’s definitely worth the trip; most people we travelled with on the ferry actually brought their own camping gear!
Triabunna Takeaway (scallop pie) / Maria Island Ferry Espresso Cart*
Just before jetting off to Maria Island, we decided to refuel ourselves with scallop pies from the most nondescript place ever by the name of Triabunna Takeaway. You know that saying about a “hidden gem”? Well it turned out be just that. Triabunna Takeaway delivered the best scallop pies we had on the trip. Crusty pastry, spicy curry of perfectly viscous consistency, coupled with juicy fresh scallops made for a heck of a delicious bite. You might want to stop at Triabunna even if you don’t intend to visit Maria Island – it may just be worth it for this scallop pie alone!
Okay, where were we? Oh yes – Maria Island! As mentioned earlier, the Maria Island Ferry is your gateway. What I didn’t mention earlier is that you need to book to reserve your spot – don’t forget this!
Our ferry missed its departure time by nearly 40 minutes thanks to the huge amount of luggage that everyone else was bringing (campers, what can I say), and the journey was incredibly rocky. Not one for the seasick, but I think it would be worth it nevertheless.
There’s lots to see on Maria Island: other than camping (duh), there are a ton of walks/hikes; the toughest and most rewarding hike is Mt Maria (6-8hrs), which unfortunately we couldn’t attempt for lack of time. Two shorter ones that do nicely fit into a day trip are the Bishop & Clerk & Fossil Cliffs/Painted Cliffs walks.
Darlington Bay – our disembarkation point
Ain’t no wombat gonna care about humanswhen it’s eating.
Bishop & Clerk
This felt a LOT scarier than it looks O____O
Painted Cliffs / Fossil Cliffs
Wow, that layering – it’s like a delicious, teeth-breaking crepe cake that nature created.
Fossil Cliffs – can you see the ton of shells on the rocks?
While I do recommend you visit Maria Island, you may not have the time for it if it’s your first visit to Tasmania. However, if you’ve already been once, Maria Island makes for an excellent lesser-known destination.
The Fish Van*
After many hours of leg-busting on Maria Island, a refeed back at Triabunna’s famous Fish Van was necessary. Yes, it’s just a shipping container-sized fish and chips shop, but the food’s cracking legit, and delicious!
Whole crayfish – $70
*insert love emoji here*
[more than just] fish & chips family pack plus some extras – $40?
Freycinet National Park*
In part 2, I mentioned that Cradle Mountain is the scenic destination to visit if you just had to pick a favourite. With that said, Freycinet National Park and its world-famous Wineglass Bay comes in at a close second. Shaped like a wine tumbler when viewed from above, it’s a classic postcard destination.
Wineglass Bay & Beach
If you decide to take the relatively easy Wineglass Bay Track, you will undoubtedly get the promised view of the bay (and a fork will take you down to the beach itself). However, the kicker is that the vantage point presented is just not all it’s cracked up to be. The first photo below shows this – a rather flat-looking bay, and blocked by the foreground!
If you’ve got the stamina, I advise you to take on the neighbouring Mt Amos Track instead, which boasts a far superior view – postcard variety. Be warned though, this is an exceptionally challenging track that even makes the difficulty of Marion’s Lookout appear intermediate. But hey – YOLO right?*
*seriously though, I saw someone fall and crack their bum and countless others slipping on the Mt Amos track: TAKE CARE.
Wineglass Bay from the official Wineglass Bay Lookout. It’s alright.
Wineglass Bay from the summit of Mt Amos. Now we’re talking.
Should I photoshop out the two ladies in the background? Strong temptation…
Wineglass Bay Beach – take the Wineglass Bay Track fork to reach here.
Mt Amos / Coles Bay
Hiking up Mt Amos for an unsurpassed view of Wineglass Bay is only half the reward. Turn the other direction and you’ll be rewarded with a view of Coles Bay. Sure it ain’t no wineglass, but it’s also stunningly pretty:
Autumnal edit of Coles Bay, let me know if you like this!
Freycinet Marine Farm
After the ambitious but ultimately successful Mt Amos hike, a fearsome feast was in order. With a cornucopia of seafood options, nearby Freycinet Marine Farm is easily the best place in or out of town. When we visited, we had to wait a solid chunk of time just to nab a table!
Overall, I came out with mixed feelings. It’s a good restaurant, but I had some quibbles with several of the dishes; see captions for specific comments.
Oysters trio – natural, poached in ginger soy, smoked salmon & brie – $25
These weren’t as good as I thought they would be, mainly due to a surprising amount of grit around the edges of the oysters. Flavours were however, on point – ginger soy was my pick!
Sea urchin – $15
Gluttony: when you eat an entire box of sea urchin by yourself. This was super fresh; however, you’ll have to consume immediately otherwise they warm up and don’t taste nearly as good!
Pan-fried East Coast abalone – $25 / Tasmanian garlic scallops – $15 / Pan-fried Tasmanian salmon – $25
The abalone (pictured on the LHS), with its tough and rubbery texture, was a letdown. The scallops were good but there was too much wateriness in the shell. The pan-fried salmon was perfecto – crispy skin, soft flesh: I could eat it again and again.
Had enough of beaches? To be honest, my answer to that question was a resounding “YES”. One last trip to the I-have-no-idea-why-it’s-named Friendly Beaches and I’m just about done. Don’t get me wrong though – it’s a beautiful beach, and quite secluded too. Imagine Bondi without all the people and you’re on the right track. It’s definitely one for the beach lovers.
Bicheno & Binalong Bay
Heading up north from Freycinet National Park takes you to Bicheno, a town where there’s really nothing much going on – other than a blowhole. You should check it out maybe – or maybe not. Other than the water spewer, the area is also a confirmed fairy penguin breeding ground; I saw them myself, but you’ll have to take my word for it – no photos as it was the dark of night!
For us, heading up from Freycinet, Bicheno was well-timed for an overnight stay before heading up north to Binalong Bay. Your trip mileage may vary.
As with any blowhole, Bicheno Blowhole‘s strength is subject to tidal forces and thus, time of day. It put on a pretty good show when I visited:
Halfway between Bicheno and Binalong Bay lies the town of Scamandar, a popular holiday destination for fishermen & surfers. For me, the key landmark is Scamandar Bridge, a truss bridge that has since been decommissioned for pedestrian/cyclist traffic use only.
Binalong Bay is the most prominent destination on the east coast after Freycinet, and it’s not hard to see why. Gorgeous turquoise waters; long, unspoilt beaches; and home to the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. This is where you need to stop and take in the sights.
Bay of Fires Conservation Area*
Why is it called the Bay of Fires? Thank plants for that. Specifically: bright, orange-coloured, rock-loving lichens cover a huge swathe of the rocks on the upper eastern coast, with very pretty results:
I think it’s worth a stop, don’t you?
Bayside Inn Bar & Bistro
Dinner was at the nearby town of St Helens, at “yet another pub” called the Bayside Inn. You’d think we’d be sick of bar food by now, but when half your meals are meal replacements, you will jump at eating anything that comes on a plate. Thus, don’t blame me if I’m a bit biased towards the food!
Roast of the day – the luscious gravy was the star of this one.
Seafood linguine – with al dente pasta & buttery, scorched seafood, this was a top pick!
St Helen’s Bakery
Paella king & celebrity chef Miguel Maestre considers the scallop pie from St Helen’s Bakery to be the “third best pie in Australia”. With that kind of a celebrity endorsement, it would be an act of utmost negligence were I, as a foodie, to ignore testing the hype.
Unfortunately, I regretted falling for it – St Helen’s scallop pies were decidedly third-rate, literally in the sense that when compared to Banjo’s Bakery & Triabunna Takeaway, St Helen’s ranks 3rd. The pastry was soft and soggy, and the curry overly starchy. Sure, the scallops were really fresh and I could taste that, but dead-on-arrival pastry makes this one a non-starter from the get-go.
Pastry looks good; it wasn’t.
Town of St Helens
And that brings us to the end of part 3! Hobart and MONA will star as the sole highlights in part 4, so stay tuned for the finale to the series!