Tantalising Tasmania Part Two

After our fantastic first day in Launceston we rose early, had breakfast in the Links Restaurant at the Country Club Launceston where we had been staying and hit the road. We were on our way to Tasmania’s rugged West Coast, home of the picturesque village of Strahan. Rugged is far too often used to describe an unshaven man who’s had too much sun, but I think the description here is far more apt for the landscape which has supported humans for over 35,000 years.

Aboriginal Tasmanians have lived in this area since the last Ice Age, making them the most southerly humans in the world at that time. In recent centuries a stream of explorers, fishermen, sailors and those travelling Tasmania in search of the prized Huon Pine have called the area home. The town of Strahan was established in the 1800’s due to its position as the region’s only sheltered harbour. It was also the major fishing port, and is still plays a significant part in Tasmania’s aquaculture industry to this day.

The drive from Launceston to Strahan sweeps past the wave kissed coasts of Northern Tasmania and through rich red soil covered hills and then soaring graphite coloured rocky outcrops that are often peaked with snow in the winter.

The rich soils are home to a number of agriculture industries including the famed Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm and Café. The farm was established in 1984 and added a café and retail operation in 2005, selling a range of raspberry themed products including my favourite, the dark chocolate dipped whole raspberries which are well worth getting your hands on. Be warned, they are addictive! The farm has diversified and also grows blackberries and strawberries.

Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm

Freshly Picked Berries

For cheese lovers a visit to Ashgrove Cheese is also a must, with the cheese being produced by the Bennett family, who have been involved in the dairy industry in the area since the 1880s. The family produce a range of cheddar style and flavoured cheeses, many taking advantage of other locally grown produce such as their award winning Tasmanian Wasabi cheese.

Maturing Cheese

We stopped briefly in the Forth Valley to visit the farms of Harvest Moon, one of Tasmania’s largest vegetable producers. The rolling hills in the area are home to large numbers of crops destined for supermarket shelves across Australia. Craig Brakey from The Wagyu Pie Company in the nearby town of Devonport met us at the farm for lunch.  There was something quite magical about sitting in an old tin shed atop a hill, eating a delicious slow cooked wagyu beef pie. I wish we had time to visit Devonport as the pies were incredible and I’d love to try the other treats the bakehouse turns out.

The Hills of Forth

The view from the shed

We were quickly on the road again and made our way to Strahan. We had dinner at View 42, a restaurant that overlooks Strahan Village. During the summer months, the restaurant features a buffet of gorgeous Tasmanian produce including freshly caught seafood from the village’s fishing fleet. The food was delicious and the dishes inventive and the whole Petuna Ocean Trout was definately the star of the show. The experience completely subverting my opinion of buffets.

Strahan Village

As dusk descended on the village, we climbed on board a boat to begin the Bonnet Island Experience. Bonnet Island is a tiny outcrop at the mouth of the inky waters of Macquarie Harbour, and home to a small colony of penguins. The island is home to a lighthouse, which was manned until the 1970’s before becoming automated. It is a great opportunity to see the penguins up close, and as they only take small groups out to the island, it is an intimate experience.

Bonnet Island

The next morning we were back on the water to visit the ocean trout and salmon farms of Petuna.

The farms are located at the meeting place of the vast cool waters of the Great Southern Ocean and the tannin and nutrient rich waters that flow from the mountains of Tasmania’s world heritage listed Wild Rivers National Park making it the perfect place to raise fish. Petuna Ocean Trout is featured on menus at some of Australia’s top restaurants including Tetsuya’s, Flying Fish and Etch.

The Petuna Fish Nets

Observing the fish at feeding time, it struck me how the different species had distinct personalities. When the ocean trout were being fed, the water was boiling with fish jostling for position to get to the feed. Salmon on the other hand were content to wait until the feed came to them. Seeing how the fish were cared for in the amazing habitat, it’s not hard to see why some of the worlds best chefs choose Petuna Ocean Trout to star on their menus.

Petuna Ocean Trout

It was not long before we were on the road to Tasmania’s capital, Hobart for the final stop of our tour. In part three I’ll explore the wonders that Hobart has to offer.

Jeremy Bowell travelled to Tasmania as a guest of Brand Tasmania.

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Author:Jeremy Bowell

Jeremy Bowell is the founder and editor of Taste Explorer. He also writes for InsideCuisine.com, TheGrapeHunter.com, SoBadSoGood.com and has featured in the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Living section. He is an avid connoisseur of all things food and drink related.