Six of the best: Charming Tasmanian townships
Alison Stewart | traveller.com.au | August 20 2015
Boat Harbour, perched at the edge of Bass Strait, two hours from Launceston is, quite simply, gorgeous. Charming beach cottages tumble towards Bass Strait, headlands protecting them from the Roaring Forties, reminiscent of Pearl Beach in NSW. With Ulverstone to the east and Stanley to the west, this is an excellent base from which to explore Tasmania's north-west coast, whose rich farmlands yield culinary delights. The local cafe, Harvest and Cater, has sublime crisp-battered fish and chips, seafood platters and barbecued beef fillet. Nearby is Table Cape, an explosion of tulips in spring, and Rocky Cape National Park, a walkers' paradise.
On the shores of gigantic, tannin-stained Macquarie Harbour, Strahan, 4.5 hours' drive from Hobart, is a west coast gem. It's pioneer country with a fascinatingly dark convict past and is the gateway to the World Heritage-listed Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Boat cruises take you to the edge of Hells Gate, the narrow opening of the harbour, as well as back in time to the Gordon River's pristine temperate rainforests, and into the harsh world of Sarah Island, one of Australia's most brutal convict prisons. There's a lovely walk (an hour return) to Hogarth Falls or the 40-kilometre Ocean Beach to explore.
Fifteen minutes' drive north of St Helens on Tasmania's north-east coast is the town of Binalong Bay at the southern end of the Bay of Fires. White, blue and ochre are the colours of this most scenic of holiday spots – white for the fine sand, ochre for the lichen-covered coastal rocks and blue for, well, the sea. This is 29 kilometres of total relaxation, which you can intersperse with bracing coastal walks, diving and snorkelling, game fishing or just plain vegging. There's camping among the acacias or rent a waterfront cottage at Binalong Bay where you can simply eat, sleep, read and twiddle your toes in the waves.
Everyone loves Cygnet, if only for its name. This little hamlet 50 minutes south of Hobart and wedged between the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and the Huon River is fruit central. The hills are alive with cherries, berries and apples, plus Cygnet has long been a magnet for artists (the Cygnet Art Trail), musicians and city tree-changers. Visitors have always made a beeline for The Red Velvet Lounge Cafe. Verona Sands and Randalls Bay are nearby swimming beaches and it's worth visiting one or both nearby award-winning wineries – Panorama Vineyard at Cradoc and Hartzview Vineyard at Gardners Bay.
The fishing village of Stanley in Tasmania's remote north-west is the region's earliest settlement. Rich in history, it's at "the edge of the world" facing the wild Southern Ocean and only a short hop to the Tarkine Wilderness. The Nut, a basalt plug of rock forced up 30 million years ago, looms over Stanley and you would be remiss not taking the chairlift to the top for the circular one-hour walk. You'll find history aplenty – the cottage of Tasmania's only prime minister, Joe Lyons, and the Van Diemen's Land Company's Highfield House. Foodies, too, will not be disappointed. There's even a gourmet deli – Providore 24, for an impromptu picnic.
It's not beachfront, nor is it wilderness, but Ross in Tasmania's Midlands is a fine heritage village. Standing in dignified splendour on the Macquarie River, the town, established as a garrison in 1821, is noted for its lovely original Georgian sandstone buildings and historic bridge, Australia's third oldest. Ross is listed on the Register of the National Estate and has convict history too, with the remains of the old female factory. Ross Village Bakery also boasts the best vanilla slice in the world (you're on holiday, remember) and is on anime fans' must-visit list as it bears an uncanny resemblance to the bakery in the Studio Ghibli film Kiki's Delivery Service.
Image credits: sourced by Featherston Design