The South: Huon Valley and the Far South… Part 1

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March 16th 2021
Published: May 8th 2022
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Those who lose dreaming are lost ~ Aboriginal Australian Proverb

This blog covers Day 1 of our trip to the far south of Tasmania.

The main aim of this trip was to hike into South Cape Bay – the southernmost beach in Tasmania – located along the most southern tip of Tasmania’s South-West National Park. The trip would also take in the western half of the Huon Valley, after which we would drive south until we literally couldn’t drive any further!

Tourism taglines in Tasmania often claim superlatives of the tallest, the longest, the oldest etc. While some claims may be accurate, most are quite tenuous… but there’s something rather endearing about it, and we have embraced the concept. We joked about how many ‘southernmost’ claimed places we’d be able to experience in the next few days.

Our first Tassie trip didn’t start as we intended. Not having a plane to catch made us a bit too relaxed with our time keeping, and we ended up dropping the dogs and Mia at the kennels 45 minutes later than we were supposed to. Luckily their short-stay accommodation was only a short drive to a nearby small town – which is very conveniently just over the next hill from ours.

We doubled back home to do some last-minute house closure tasks and packing of the car, and we eventually left home an hour later than we should have. When we finally drove out the gate, I had a realisation that we need not have taken so long agonising over what to pack. We had been unnecessarily limiting ourselves to one bag each when we had so much space in the car! Obviously packing a small backpack each for plane travel has influenced us more than we realised. That was our second lesson that morning.

The excitement levels in the car were high, but we hadn’t technically started our trip yet, as we had a couple minor things to attend in Hobart first. A broken-down car on the Tasman Bridge, in addition to a long queue at Service Tasmania (to pick up our prebooked Personal Locater Beacon and National Park passes) slowed us down considerably. We normally don’t carry a Personal Locater Beacon on our shorter bushwalks, but we decided to take one this time as we were walking and driving in remote areas.

After grabbing two quick takeaway coffees, we were finally off on our adventure to the deep south – the first road trip of our Tassie Travels! We drove south out of Hobart and fought traffic on the Southern Outlet (the main highway south out of Hobart), and before long we were approaching the Huon Valley.

Huon Valley
The Huon Valley was originally home to the Melukerdee and Lyluequonny people of the South East Nation, who remain the traditional custodians of the land. Not very long after we left the extended southern sprawl of Greater Hobart behind, we entered the green hillsides of the Huon Valley. The area is most famous for its fresh seafood, stone fruits, apples, and an emerging industry of turning fruit into cider and wine. The Huon Valley’s claims are many, but it’s probably most famous for putting the ‘apple’ into the ‘Apple Isle’. Apple cultivation started somewhere in the mid-1800s and remained a robust industry for more than a century. Even though the ‘Apple Isle’ nickname isn’t widely used anymore, it’s still quite apt and possibly experiencing a rebirth with the resurgence of the apple industry. This part of our trip was all about apple orchards and cider.

We detoured through a few back roads to fully appreciate the neat orchards laden in all their red and green glory. There were occasional vineyards too. The small groups of fruit pickers and piles of wooden crates on the roadsides signalled that the beautiful harvest season had begun. I would very confidently say that the Huon Valley is at its best in autumn. 😊

I probably should mention that when I first visited Tasmania many years ago, I had erroneously assumed that the Huon Valley was named after the Huon pine – a significant symbol of Tasmania. It wasn’t until I started planning this trip that I embarrassingly realised that everything Huon – the valley, the town, the river, the highway, and the pine – is named after Jean-Michel Huon De Kermadec, a French naval officer who visited Tasmania (or Van Diemen’s Land as it was called then) with Admiral Bruni D’Entrecasteaux in 1792. I assume Bruny Island was named after the Admiral as was the D’Entrecasteaux channel that lies between Bruny and the south-eastern coast of the Tasmanian mainland.

The Valley’s fruitfulness (excuse the pun!) has also spawned a flourishing cider industry. We have sampled many brands of Huon Valley cider. However, there’s something very romantic about buying it directly from the producers.

Our first stop in the Valley was in Grove to shop at the renowned Willie Smith’s Apple Shed. Their orchard grows organic heirloom apples and is best known for their juice and cider (fermented on site). I love their cider, and we both wanted to get some for the next few days. We have been coming here for years and often bring visitors to the Apple Shed to check out its slightly kitsch Apple Museum. And as we always do, we (again) bemoaned not making time to eat here – something we need to rectify soon, as we’ve heard good things about their kitchen. We stocked up on some traditional cider for me and some ‘bone dry’ cider for Andrew.

It’s very common for us to plan our trips around food, and this time was no different. Ranelagh is a few minutes detour off the highway, and the only reason we were visiting was to check out the Summer Kitchen Bakery. Stopping here for lunch was one of the linchpins of this trip.

As I mentioned in our Notes blog, researching and planning this trip was quite different to our normal adventures. This was mostly due to the nature of it being a local road trip, but also because the pandemic had caused such uncertain times for the hospitality and tourism industries – many places were either shut, on a break or open only for limited periods. I follow a couple of Facebook Groups on eating out in Tasmania, and the Summer Kitchen Bakery had received glowing reports as one of the best places in the Huon Valley! So it was with high expectations that we pulled into the tiny streets of this quaint town.

The famous bakery blended innocuously into the surrounding suburbia and I had a momentary sense of disappointment… but the pies and pastries on display instantly evaporated any doubts I had. Everything looked delicious and it was hard picking just two pies and a dessert – but we settled on the Huon beef pie for Andrew and the wallaby and potato pie for me. The pies were both excellent, but the absolute star of the show was the beautiful looking custard tart! The custard was lemony like a Crème Catalan, and the pastry was thick but crispy like a Portuguese tart. Custard tarts are one of my most favourite things and I was in heaven!

We were so impressed with their food that we changed our plans on the last day of the trip and detoured back through Ranelagh on our way home. The bakery was nearly closing, but we managed to try two very welcome pots of brewed chai teas, a mushroom roll, a spinach and fetta roll (nice, but not as fabulous as their pies), and another stand out custard tart. 😄

We pass through Huonville – one of the largest towns in the Huon Valley – quite often, but we don’t stop unless we need to buy a coffee or use the toilet. However, as it was a beautifully sunny mid-March autumn day, we drove along the picturesque Huon River until we found a lovey picnic spot by the sparkling water to enjoy our pies and some local apple juice.

We picnicked under the watchful eye of an almost comic statue of a lumberjack and his dog. It commemorates the history of the timber industry, which played a large part in shaping the Huon Valley (for better or worse). The forestry industry is still a significant industry sector in the area, even though it’s probably a very different business to what it was in its sawmilling days.

Driving further south we entered the traditional country of the south east Tasmanian Melukerdee people. Of all the towns in the Huon Valley, we have always loved the tiny but beautiful town of Franklin – so we decided to base ourselves in Franklin for the entire trip. It meant a bit more driving back and forth than if we had moved through the Valley in a loop, but it was worth it.

We booked the convict built and heritage-listed Toll House in the heart of the town. As expected of a Tollkeeper’s Cottage, it sat right on the gorgeous Huon River. It enabled us to fully immerse ourselves in the picture-perfect river town experience. It also helped very much that the property came with a very charming Cavalier King Charles spaniel called Monet. 😊

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Far South Tassie adventure!

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


8th May 2022

Thanks for the memories
You may remember I was in Tasmania in 2018 and we were going to meet up but something got in the way. Great to read about this trip and thanks for the bit of history , naming of places is usually a colonial effort . I drove down the Huon valley , visited an apple museum / boatbuilding place , and there was a fabulous bush walk. Only had a limited time in Tassie so had to concentrate on one area , that was the east coast and wow it was pretty superlative.... thanks for the memories .
8th May 2022

Re: Thanks for the memories
Wow time has flown since you were here! If faced with a short stay, the East Coast of Tasmania is a great place to concentrate your time in. We were in Swansea a few months ago and I’ll write up that trip soon. I’m happy to hear this post stirred up good memories for you :)
8th May 2022

Good things -
- come to those that wait. Very enjoyable missive on the start of your local explorations. The blue skies and waterways invite the viewer in.
9th May 2022

Re: Good things
Thank you Chris. The big sky and blue water are two very Tasmanian traits… although our sky isn’t always that friendly blue. We currently have sullen and heavy grey late autumn skies!
9th May 2022

Road Trip!
I love a good road trip! The custard pie looked seriously delicious (I love egg tarts, I'm not sure if it's similar). (But, wallaby .... really? Aren't they little kangaroos? People actually eat them?). I enjoy apple cider too, if it's dry (I'm with Andrew on that). The aboriginal proverbs at the start of the blogs are very appropriate :)
9th May 2022

Re: Road Trip!
Hi Lori, yes I’d say custard and egg tarts are very similar, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably; but over here the egg tarts are of Chinese origin and the custard tarts are of British origin - sweeter, less eggy, have a shortcrust pastry (not puff) and usually have cinnamon sprinkled on top. This particular tart was a hybrid of sorts ? Yes wallaby and kangaroo are very good game meats, and in my opinion they are much better than beef from a health standpoint, and much better for the environment too ?
10th May 2022

Hi there. We are travelling on the SOT for our dream trippp to Tasmania in October this year!!! and I would like to follow your blog. Trust that is ok?
10th May 2022

Re: Tasmania
Hi Sandra and Jim, you are most welcome to follow our blog. If you’re not a member of TravelBlog, you can click on the ‘Subscribe’ button… however the email alert has been a bit problematic recently. We aim to post a blog a week (fingers crossed), so if you don’t receive a link, it’s probably best to periodically check back on here ? And please feel free to Private Message if you have any questions!
15th May 2022

Southern Most
It is entertaining when more than one location claims to the the biggest, the best or the southern most. We truly enjoy road trips and one reason is we can take what we want in addition to having lots of picnics. Thanks for taking us along on this wonderful trip. It makes me want to go back to Tasmania.
15th May 2022

Re: Southern Most
We have many of those superlative claims in Tasmania, and they make us chuckle. Thanks for following and commenting MJ - roads trips are so much fun! :)
22nd May 2022

Apple a day
Harvest season is always a fruitful time to visit ;) A season of activity and busy life in the rural areas.
22nd May 2022

Re: Apple a day
That's very punny Jessica :) And we agree that it really is the best time to visit rural farming communities.
24th July 2022
franklin - huon river

Nice photo
Do you enjoy travelling in your own backyard as much as we have? We are starting to go abroad again, and we have missed it, but we have enjoyed our local travels a lot. /Ake
25th July 2022
franklin - huon river

Re: Nice photo
Thanks Ake. It has been really enjoyable and comfortable travelling around Tassie, although I have to admit the level of excitement is very different to an overseas trip. I think we both rate exploring the unknown far more than comfortable travels :)

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