There are no luxury resorts in the Huon Valley. No branches of McDonald’s or KFC. Not even a set of traffic lights. But what you will discover is perhaps Tasmania’s best-kept gourmet secret, with rivers, orchards, friendly locals and hearty food.
Head south of Hobart to enjoy the wild beauty oh Huon Valley. This twin-tailed valley that is rapidly building a reputation for its cool-climate wines, artisan ciders and gourmet seafood. Huon Valley is the southernmost municipality in Australia. Locals like to joke that the next stop south is Antarctica.
The area is full of small villages, quiet beaches, and arts and crafts trails. The hamlets of Cygnet, Franklin and Geeveston are among the most popular destinations.
Here you can pick berries fresh from roadside hedgerows, pull mussels and oysters straight from the water, fish for river trout or buy ciders from the same shed in which the apples were processed.
In the 1950s apples were sent by sea from here to Britain, making Huon the biggest producer on the Apple Isle. Today, seafood from Huon Aqua is keeping the region’s name alive on the global food stage.
This region has something for everyone, be they walkers, fishermen or wine lovers.
Wineries in the Huon Valley region
Home Hill Winery is regarded as one of the country’s leading producers of premium pinot noir. It’s also a popular lunch venue with a restaurant overlooking the vines. Check out Elsewhere Vineyard , Kate Hill Wines and Two Bud Spur Vineyard cellar doors as well. For cider drinkers, Willie Smith’s Apple Shed – an organic cider pioneer – Frank’s Cider and Pagan Cider all welcome visitors. Be sure to try Pagan’s cherry cider.
Accommodation in Huon Valley
When it comes to places to stay, the choice ranges from campsites to luxury guesthouses.
River’s Edge Wilderness Camping, on the banks of the Russell River at Lonnavale, is remote and rustic. It’s also hugely popular with trout fishermen so pack a reel if you feel like catching dinner.
In Cygnet, check out the Old Bank – a chic little B&B with its own café. Just out of town you’ll find luxury accommodation at Coast House and Frenchman’s River cottages. Both are remote hideouts where you can kick back in style and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Read our full review of Coast House here.
Restaurants in Huon Valley
When it comes to eating, choose from lunching at Home Hill or Willie Smith’s. If you fancy a gourmet burger, try Ranelagh General Store, or the waterfront cafes in Franklin.
The chic The Old Bank, long-time favourite the Red Velvet Lounge, Cygnet Japanese Diner and the new Port Hole Cafe are all located in downtown Cygnet. The RVL serves fun dinners on Fridays and Saturdays.
Just outside town, on the road to Nicholls Rivulet, is an unlikely find. Ashcraig Farm offers authentic Thai food to eat in or take away.
Things to do
Although it begins just a 30-minute drive south of Hobart, the rural idyll that is the Huon has very few city conceits. It moves at its own pace. In season, you can pick up fresh apples, berries, cherries, stone fruits and purple garlic from roadside stalls and simply leave your money in an honesty box. Make sure to sample local cheeses, vegetables and mushrooms and even saffron.
The liveliest hamlet in the region is Cygnet. It’s here that Sydney chef turned Gourmet Farmer, Matthew Evans moved, and filmed several seasons of his hugely successful SBS TV show. He offers Friday lunches, cooking classes and foraging experiences at his Fat Pig Farm at Glaziers Bay. His caravan is a regular at local festivals including the Huon Show, Taste of the Huon and the Huon Valley Mid-winter Fest.
Cygnet also attracts thousands of visitors with its Folk Festival every January. Sushi master Masaaki Koyama, who used to run a tiny hole-in-the-wall eatery, will soon reopen in Geeveston. Port Cygnet Cannery is home to a wood-fired oven, café and the Sailor Seeks Horse cellar door.
Both Geeveston and Franklin have a good selection of eateries from which to choose, but this is the country and most options close early.
Unless you live locally, you probably haven’t heard of any of the local wine producers. The biggest are Home Hill and Panorama, now owned by Steve and Monique Lubiana.
Tucked away on hillsides and riverbanks there are many more small producers. Jim Chatto, renowned winemaker at Pepper Tree in the Hunter Valley, has planted his own Isle Vineyard with pinot noir at Glaziers Bay. Chatto, who has a passion for Burgundy, says: “This part of the world has the potential to be among the most exciting sites for pinot noir anywhere in Australia.”
Fishing and aquaculture in Huon Valley
Huon Aquaculture was started in 1988 by local couple Peter and Frances Bender. It now employs more than 500 people and was Tasmanian exporter of the year in 2012.
“It’s all about getting the basics right – and attention to detail,” says Frances, who praises the stress-free and pristine Huon environment in which the business’s sashimi-grade salmon are raised.
“We are very proud of this region,” she says. “It is a clean, beautiful place with a real sense of community, and we wanted our product linked with the area – hence the name. We think it’s great that the story of the Huon is now spreading all over Asia. And it is great that we can be champions for this remarkable place.”
Visits to Huon Aqua’s main farm at picturesque Hideaway Bay, outside Dover, are available by appointment.
And if you’re in the mood the browse for your perfect Huon Valley hotel, have a scroll through these beauties.