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Wednesday 24 July 2013

Head north: There's more to Tasmania than just Hobart

Many visitors to Tasmania spend all of their time in and around Hobart. The state capital is a wonderful city, well worth exploring, but there is a lot more to discover if you head north. 

Exploring tranquil northern Tasmania is like being handed the keys to a giant larder full of gourmet goodies.

From the exquisite cool-climate wines of the Tamar Valley to the artisan cheeses of Ashgrove and Yondover Farm  to the house-smoked salmon and rillettes from 41 Degrees South, there’s an awful lot to tempt the tastebuds.

With a chilly climate in winter, plenty of sunlight in summer and four seasons; the region surrounding the second city of Launceston has seen an explosion of quality boutique wine and food producers.
Outside Launceston you’ll find excellent wineries on both sides of the Tamar River and particularly at Pipers River, on the way to Bridport, home to sparkling wines like Jansz and House of Arras. Chardonnays, rieslings, bubblies and pinots noir all shine in this environment.

The major appeal of the Tamar Valley Wine Route is the fact that many of the wineries are family-owned, so you will usually be served at cellar door by someone intimately involved with the wines. The region remains small, friendly and largely undeveloped in terms of mass tourism.

Velo Wines, though, has opened a new architect-designed café and tasting facility (below) that has quickly become a favourite with both locals and visitors.
Other cellar doors that should be on your list include Josef Chromy, Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard, Pipers Brook, the Jansz Wine Room, Holm Oak, Bay of Fires, and Leaning Church, Marion’s Vineyard, Dalrymple Estate, Sinapius, Delamere, Bay of Fires, Three Wishes, Iron Pot Bay, Goaty Hill, Moores Hill, Stoney Rise, Winter Brook, Ninth Island, Native Point, Providence, Sharmans and  Bass Fine Wine (an urban winery housed in a Launceston industrial complex),

Some cellar doors are only open at weekends, or during the warmer months, so it pays to check before setting off on a day of exploration. Others, including Grey Sands, Clover Hill, Waterton and Humbug Reach, require a prior appointment.

Visitors can follow around 170 kilometres of trails marked by yellow and blue “Wine Route” road signage and the route was named one of the best 10 in the world by the UK’s Essential Travel magazine last year.

There are over 30 local boutique producers, some of whose wines you can taste and purchase at the award-winning Harvest Producers Market held every Saturday morning in Launceston (below), or at specialist retailers like The Pinot Shop and Davies Grand Central.
Just down the road the Pipers River and Lilydale wineries is one Australia’s top golf courses, Barnbougle Dunes, and its new sibling The Lost Farm.

Launceston, Tasmania’s second city, is two hours’ drive north of Hobart, it’s in a valley surrounded by hills and is home to the dramatic Cataract Gorge, just a short distance from the downtown area. Try brunch at the Basin Café, which has superb views.

Launceston has some outstanding restaurants including Stillwater at Ritchie’s Mill, with a terrific selection of wines by the glass, and outstanding steak house the Black Cow Bistro. 

Also check out Novaro’s, Pierre’s, Me Wah, the Terrace at Country Club Tasmania and Mud. For simpler fare try The Jailhouse Grill and Burger Got Soul, while the Dickens Cider House offers a good range of local tipples. 

The Old Seaport is something of a local hotspot, particularly at weekends. Home to the swish Peppers Seaport Hotel (although the service here leaves a little to be desired), overlooking the junction of the North and South Esk rivers, the complex is home to several riverside dining establishments that draw visitors and locals in equal numbers.  

For lovers of amber fluid, Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers is an obvious destination.

Gourmets will find it worth a detour to check out the superb salmon and ginseng products at 41 Degrees South aquaculture, outside Deloraine, the excellent English-style cheeses at Ashgrove Cheese near Elizabeth Town and the mouth-watering products at the Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm, also at Elizabeth Town.

In the small hamlet of Perth, near Launceston Airport, UtSi Café serves delicious meals using sustainably produced ingredients. 

If you’ve got time, the two-hour drive from Launceston for a stay at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge (below) is a must. The Highland restaurant is excellent - and you can walk off all your excesses in the spectacularly beautiful Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park.
Launceston itself has several good hotels at various price points. Among the best are the affordable and central Mercure Hotel, the waterfront Peppers Seaport, friendly Balmoral on York, Country Club Tasmania, The Sebel and the Hotel Charles. The luxury apartments at TwoFourTwo and the Hatherley-Birrell Collection are also very good, while if you want to stay among the vines, The River House is a luxury, boutique B&B in two hectares of bush overlooking the Tamar River at Dilston

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