“Been walking long?” asks a woman sitting with her two friends on the isolated beach on the northeastern corner of Australia’s only island state, Tasmania.
“Three days,” I say proudly as we stroll past.
The group burst into laughter. “Three days!”
They’re the only people we’ve seen for the entire duration of our guided trekking experience – besides a fishing boat.
It was only a white lie. We had been walking for three days; we were just taken back every night to our Australian beach shack, which was a very comfortable beach house owned by our tour guide, Life’s An Adventure.
We were a diverse bunch – two young professionals from Australia’s sunshine state of Queensland, a fit retired couple from the United Kingdom, a scientist and her semi-retired husband from South Australia, a woman from the snow-capped mountains of Canada, and a single walking enthusiast from Canberra.
Our luxe-trek saw us cover 40 kilometers over three days through the Bay of Fires region on the northern east coast across stunning coastal beaches, where large red granite rocks lead to kilometers of flat cream sand and emerald ocean. Not surprisingly, the region was voted by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s hottest travel destinations.
There are only two companies who take tours into this region, where you’ll see little besides wombat bones on the rocks. One of those, Life’s An Adventure, takes you to the southern most point of the region, The Gardens, with sweeping views of the coastline north. The entire walk looks like someone has come along just beforehand with giant felt tip pens and colored things in so that they look just right.
At the end of each day, back at the shack, you tuck into homemade gourmet meals using local produce. Think ‘Scottsdale’ pork fillet with peaches and chardonnay sauce finished with baked apples with leatherwood honey and hazelnuts before retiring to the lounge for some of the much revered local pinot noir. And once the walk is over, and you’ve got a taste for that velvety wine, you can head inland to the the Tamar Valley wine region, one of the four distinct wine tourist routes in this island state.
The Tamar Valley produces 40% of Tasmania’s premium quality wine and is where six of the local winemakers were shot to instant stardom when they were featured in People of the Vines, a TV series shown across Australia.
The first series of its kind, it was a no-holds-barred view of life in the vines. Featured were a mix of wineries from Tamar Ridge Valley, part of the Brown Brothers family, which has been making wine in Australia for 125 years, as well as Josef Chromy Winery, a state-of-the-art winery at the base of the vineyard at Relbia, just 10 minutes south of Launceston. Also included were some of the smaller celebrated winemakers.
One of those, in the most northern part of the Tamar Valley, is Delamere, which was started by husband and wife team Fran Austin and Shane Holloway. Fran and Shane took over what she called a “dilapidated winery” seven years ago. But after much work, the couple have had the last laugh, and her chardonnay and pinot are recognized as benchmarks of the best Tasmanian wine. They now also have a tasting room within the winery, where you can also bring your own food.
Another female winemaker kicking some big goals in the region is Holm Oak’s Bec Duffy, whose wine was given the highest possible rating by highly acclaimed Australian wine critic James Halliday. She says the decision to be a winemaker came while she was still well too young to drink it. “I was 14 years old and my dad planted a few trial vines on our cattle farm to see how they would go. And that got me thinking I’d like to be a winemaker.”
Bec and husband Tim now own their own property in Rowella on the west side of the valley where they work the vines with the kids in tow. They’ve just expanded their cellar door and have a fridge stocked with local produce, so people can make their own picnic or platter.
“We have a flight of pinots, too, which is a great self-guided comparative tasting of the four pinot noirs that we make, which range in style and price point. As far as we are aware, we are the only cellar door in Tasmania offering this. Obviously, Tasmania is highly regarded as a pinot noir producing region, and it has been a real focus of ours. To be able to taste these four different pinots and compare them is a lot of fun, but also interesting and educational as well.”
Visitors can also meet their pig, aptly named Pinot, who also made it to the small screen. “The kids who come here love to feed him apples.”
While wine is big business in Tassie, for those who aren’t so fond of the grape variety, there’s always whisky. Just 90 minutes from Tasmania’s second largest city, Launceston, is Hellyers Road – Australia’s largest single malt whisky distillery. Here, you can go on a guided tour of the distillery, and there’s even a pinot noir finish single malt whisky, recognized as being one of the World’s Ten Best Value Whiskies by UK publication, The Spirits Business.
For those like me, who like to earn their wine, or whisky for that matter, grab your backpack first (after all, you don’t even have to carry it), and head to Life’s An Adventure for a few days of guided walking. You won’t regret it, and just remember, there’s a glass of that silky pinot noir the region is so famous for, waiting for you at the end of the day. Once you’ve had a taste of it, head out to the local wine region, and you might even catch a glimpse of a local celebrity.
If you go
Life’s an Adventure: www.lifesanadventure.com.au
Holm Oak: www.holmoakvineyards.com.au
Tamar Ridge Winery: www.brownbrothers.com.au
Josef Chromy: www.josefchromy.com.au