On this visit, my first to “Tassie”, I was lucky enough to be visiting two of the islands’ most impressive and accessible National Parks – Maria Island and Freycinet.
Maria Island National Park is located in the Tasman Sea, off the east coast of Tasmania, an easy one hour drive from Hobart followed by a 40 minute sea crossing. The island is a delightful blend of rare wildlife, convict heritage and empty white sand beaches. I had decided to “challenge” myself and embark on The Maria Island Walk, one of a number of walks known as “The Great Walks of Australia”. The four day/three night walk is an active, but relatively pampered experience designed to let you experience the remoteness and tranquillity of a wilderness island in comfort. Daily walking distances are relatively short (10-15kms), day packs are light and with a maximum number of 10 walkers and the promise of quality local produce, gourmet food and local wine at the end of each day, this really is the way to walk in style!
At the end of each day, you’ll retire for the evening in one of two secluded wilderness camps, both a stone’s throw from empty, white-sand beaches. The concealed camps are comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and environmentally conscientious. On the final night, we stayed in a heritage house in Darlington, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the northern tip of the island. Once a bustling penal settlement with over 600 convicts, Darlington is now home to a selection of well-preserved and fascinating historical buildings. Nearby is the remarkable Fossil Bay which contains a collection of fossilised shells and sea life unlike anything I have ever seen before. There is nothing quite like sitting on the veranda of Bernacchi House, sipping champagne on the final day of the walk and reflecting on the varied and rich experiences of the island.
Following my “exertions” on Maria Island I was happy to be heading back to the mainland for a taste of true luxury at Saffire Lodge in Freycinet National Park. Saffire, sits on the Freycinet Peninsula's Great Oyster Bay surrounded by azure waters and opposite a series of rugged and beautiful granite mountains called The Hazards.
The lodge, a homage to minimalist architecture, organic design and pared down luxury, offers a number of signature experiences. When you arrive you are presented with your own unique tailored programme based on your pre-stated interests.
Within a few hours of my arrival I’d been fed lunch, whisked off for a massage, taken on a fascinating tour of a local oyster farm and guided mountain bike tour - and all before dinner! Food is of course of the highest standard and locally sourced. I can’t think of a more perfect end to a trip to Tasmania than fighting your way through a 7 course Dégustation menu at Saffire Lodge with matching wines while overlooking the pristine waters of Great Oyster Bay, knowing that there is nothing but hundreds of miles of the Tasman Sea between you and the closest land mass, The South Island of New Zealand."
Jeremy Webster, Tasmania, November 2015