Tassie has to be the most under-rated holiday destination in Australia. I’ve spent some time in Hobart before but I had no idea what the East Coast of Tasmania had to offer when I was invited to attend a media trip with a small group of travel and food journalists recently.
One of the highlights of the trip was an experience called Wineglass to Wine Glass. I’m so fortunate to have experienced this at the time I did because just last week, I received an update from the Federal Group informing me that this experience has ceased to operate.
Don’t worry, you can still experience much of what I did by yourself, just not in the same comfort. It won’t be a silver service catered affair and you won’t have the pleasure of returning by boat, but you’ll most definitely be able to make the same trek to the same secluded beaches. Pack yourself an exquisite picnic and you’ll be eating in one of the world’s most gorgeous backdrops.
Anyway, this is what we got up to —
So we’re at Coles Bay, a small town of around 250 local residents which swells up to 3000 people during the holiday period. We’ve spent a rejuvenating night at Freycinet Lodge, and by 8am, we’ve been briefed, given nifty backpack sets and have cleaned our shoes, ready for the trek.
We’re driven to the Freycinet National Park carpark – the last point for vehicles. From here on, it is access only by foot or water.
It’s a fairly easy hike. Much of the start features paved stonework, and well designed stone steps. We’re constantly stopping to admire the pink granite formations and in no time, we quickly build up a slow and steady pace as we head further up the mountain. The air is fresh and crisp, it’s a natural boost of energy with every deep breath.
Eventually, we’re led off track by our vivacious guide, Katherine. We spot Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, sea eagles and various other native animals. It’s such an exhilarating adventure, something I’ve only ever dreamed about – getting up close with exotic wildlife, stumbling across beautiful creeks and untouched rugged landscape – it’s all so beautiful, I can barely comprehend how real this all is.
One of the more outstanding views is Hazards Lagoon:
The moments we spend standing at Hazards Lagoon is one of absolute serenity. It is as if we had just stepped into an artwork.
Not far from Hazards Lagoon, we descend to Wineglass Bay, named by Outside magazine as one of the world’s top ten beaches!
We’re treated to morning tea which Katherine has thoughtfully been carrying around in her backpack! There’s tea, coffee and homemade cookies. The water is far too cold for any swimming but nonetheless I couldn’t deny myself of the opportunity of touching the spectacularly white sand and crystal clear waters with my bare feet.
There’s hardly a soul to be seen. It is such a bliss being one of the first of the day, to set footsteps across this amazing pristine beach.
On a schedule to arrive promptly for our lunch banquet, we take a last glance at Wineglass Bay and head across the isthmus to Hazards Beach.
We’re immersed in the history of the area; the Aboriginal heritage and European settlements, and we even see physical evidence of habitation by the Great Oyster Bay Tribe.
What you see below are shell middens – evidence that mud oysters were a popular part of the Great Oyster Bay Tribe’s diet as they didn’t eat scaled fish. I learn that they generally migrated to the coast for the mild weather during autumn and winter, and returned inland during spring and summer where they ate more game (e.g. wallabies) and foods such as swan eggs.
It is said that there are no remaining full-blooded Tasmanian Aboriginals.
The trek from the isthmus to our lunch spot is a little more wild this time. It’s nothing by Bear Grylls’ standard, but we are ducking under fallen trees, scraping our arms across dense bush, and hopping over occasional cube-shaped wombat droppings.
And then, we arrive at our lunch haven!
It’s a superb set-up, overlooking the turquoise waters of Hazards Beach. The two chefs responsible for our lunch have done the most amazing job. Beverages, food, kitchenware, table settings, and all, are carried uphill from the boat. While we’ve been trekking through the national park, they’ve been preparing this most sensational seafood banquet with matched local wines.
Silver service catering in the bush? We couldn’t have been more spoilt!
We start with freshly baked lodge bread that is served with Kalamata olives, a spicy tomato Kasundi, some gourmet aioli and feta cheese in Ashbolt olive oil.
Then we have deep-fried whole baby abalone, Chermoula spiced scallop and local Oyster Bay oyster. Actually, everything is local.
The light batter around the abalone has been jazzed up with Cajun spices. The flesh is so delicate and tender. I’ve never had abalone deep-fried before but this has seriously sets the benchmark!
Both the scallop and oyster are entirely divine as well.
Next we are served enormous platters of local seafood. There’s whole lobsters which have just been plucked out of the surrounding waters, calamari, oysters, Spring Bay scallops, smoked salmon and deep sea travella.
Side dishes on offer include a garden salad and a potato salad. We all commend the chef on how scrumptious the potato salad is. He humbly tells us it’s just steamed chat potatoes mixed with a gremolata like sauce of garlic, basil and butter – now that’s a recipe I’m keeping up my sleeve for any upcoming BBQs!
The meat course (yep, there’s still more food!) features Cape Grim eye fillet, five spiced quail and grilled asparagus.
The eye fillet steaks are beautifully seared and so juicy and succulent. I love the robustness of the grilled asparagus and oh my, the quail is absolutely delicious.
To finish, a cheese platter consisting of local cheeses and fruit, and the some delightful poached walnuts in syrup.
Who can believe all of this was prepared in a bush kitchen?
But you know what really tops this off? It’s the departure.
We make steady steps down a steep hill, whereby we are greeted with the remarkably glittery waters of Hazards Beach. First we had private chefs and now we have a private escape boat! I’m feeling very much like a celebrity by this stage!
Of course there’s no wharf, so we roll our pants up and jump onboard the motorized inflatable tender boat in pairs. It takes a number of trips to get all of us, plus the kitchen stuff loaded.
About 10 minutes into the cruise, a pod of dolphins make a breathtaking appearance. They frolic against the boat for a while, lapping up all of our attention, and then fade into the distance.
The entire Wineglass To Wine Glass experience has been so fabulously orchestrated, but a dolphin sighting like this, isn’t something that can be planned.
What an utterly magical (and delicious) day.
Why would anybody choose to fly half way across the world and mess up their body clock, when a place like this exists so close to us?
Wineglass To Wine Glass (NO LONGER AVAILABLE)
Includes guided walk to Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach, morning tea and lunch banquet, and return boat transfer to the Lodge.
8am – 4pm
Freycinet National Park, Coles Bay, Tasmania
Phone: +61 3 6256 7222
Jen attended the Pure Tasmania media famil as a guest of Federal Group.