Cosy Encounter at North-West Tasmania

WORDS PENNY McLEOD

A tasting tour from Cradle Mountain to Burnie yields many wonderful flavours from the region’s gourmet produce

Severe weather has set in as we finish a quick morning tea at Bothwell and head out towards our holiday destination in North-West Tasmania. We’re on a mission to try the region’s gourmet produce and drinks, and do some sightseeing over three days and four nights at Cradle Mountain and Penguin.

We enjoy our warm scones with cream and jam at Sealey’s Store on Alexander St, but a slow and hazardous drive ensues, at one point, through a blizzard and virtual white-out approaching Liawenee on the Highland Lakes Rd. The challenging road conditions, which send two vehicles into snow banks, extend what is usually a four-and-a-half hour trip from Hobart by at least two hours.

We travel via Deloraine (where we stop to stretch our legs) and Chudleigh where we’d hoped to visit Melita Honey Farm on Sorell St. But it’s late and we skip our planned caving experience at nearby Mole Creek Caves and arrive at Cradle Mountain Hotel at nightfall.

The 60-room hotel, owned by RACT, has a welcoming fire blazing in the reception area. Although there is a power outage (as a result of the wild weather), there’s a backup generator and staff at the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, Altitude, are preparing to serve guests.

The lights are flickering, but our a la carte dinner (there’s also a buffet option) is one of several great meals we have there over the course of our two-night stay. There’s a special menu for kids, but we start with Baked Seal

Bay Triple Cream brie and Braised Tasmanian Wallaby Tail, followed by CharGrilled Mt Roland Eye Fillet and Porterhouse Steak. They’re tasty, hearty meals.

Day two brings more food — a buffet breakfast, a casual lunch and buffet dinner — a meandering, two-hour-return walk at nearby Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park (on which we count 10 wombats) and a visit to the hotel’s impressive Wilderness Gallery.

In addition to an absorbing permanent collection and a fun, interactive space, there are curated exhibitions, including on this occasion, one of Judy Jackson’s vibrant and textural Cradle Mountain landscapes.

 

At Sheffield, on our way to Penguin, we have an excellent lunch of sweet potato and coconut soup with crusty bread at The Apple Tree Cafe on Main St. It’s bustling and near capacity when we arrive at lunchtime, but it’s warm and cosy. Just 10 minutes on is Railton — the town of topiary — where Seven Sheds Brewery and Meadery is a possible stop (though it’s closed in August).

We arrive early afternoon at our base for two nights in Penguin — Madsen Retreat on King Edward St, a short walk from the waterfront shopping precinct.

We stay in a two-bedroom Deluxe Spa Family Suite, one of several options offered at this relatively new (it opened in December 2016) and stylish establishment.

Affiliated with the award-winning Madsen Boutique Hotel on the waterfront at Penguin, it provides a good base from which to explore the area. The town has some Bohemian homeware and design stores on Main St, including Cocoon Designs, and quirky cafes.

We walk along the beach before having a satisfying pub dinner of steamed dim sims, chicken schnitzel, burger and fries and spaghetti bolognese at the Neptune Hotel.

The next day we visit Hellyers Road Distillery on Old Surrey Rd at Burnie after first wandering through the nearby Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. There’s a sizeable lunchtime crowd at the whisky maker’s cafe and visitor’s centre, in a picturesque setting overlooking green hills, and we leave with a box of single malt varieties to enjoy later.

That night in Penguin we dine at Spanish restaurant El Perro Tapas & Bar on Main St on the recommendation of our host, Chris Whitelaw. We receive a complimentary glass of sangria when we mention we’re guests at Madsen Retreat, and share a mixed tapas plate and La Espanola pizza with prosciutto and chorizo.    The food is delicious and clearly very popular with locals, and the vibe is great.   We head for home early on our fourth day, stopping for takeaway coffees and choc-chip cookies at Jo and Co Cafe in Penguin. On our way back through Latrobe, we stop to buy a mixed box of soft-centred dark chocolate at famous Anvers Chocolate factory. Here, you can watch the chocolate-makers or eat at the on-site cafe (open from 7am-6pm daily).

Further south just off the Bass Hwy, there’s a cluster of gourmet offerings: the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory, at Sassafras; and Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm, Van Diemens Land Ice Creamery Cafe (which offers 24 flavours of ice cream and gelato as well as homemade caramelised banana pancakes), and Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, all at Elizabeth Town.

We linger at the Christmas Hills cafe for luscious, chocolate-coated strawberries and jams, and wander through the pretty bushland garden. We make good time travelling home via the Midland Hwy with just one more stop for soups and toasties at Ross Bakery.

The author was a guest of Cradle Mountain Hotel and Madsen Retreat

MAKE A NOTE

STAYING THERE: Cradle Mountain Hotel, 3718
Cradle Mountain Rd, Cradle Mountain.
From $159 per room per night. RACT members receive
a 25 per cent discount.
Visit cradlemountainhotel.com.au

Madsen Retreat, 6A King Edward Street, Penguin.
From $135 per room per night.
Visit madsenretreatbnbpenguin.com.au

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