Tasmania: Follow the foodie trail

By Sarah Malik

Tasmania's Bruny Island and the Huon Valley, both located near Hobart, are full of passionate local producers who serve world-class produce.

The Freycinet Peninsula is a promising area for Tasmanian red wine production.
The Freycinet Peninsula is a promising area for Tasmanian red wine production.

"Cheese makes me happy". That's the slogan the Bruny Island Cheese Company staff wear on their shirts and it's a sentiment after my own cheese-loving heart.

The cheese-making business is nestled on Tasmania's Bruny Island, a 40-minute ferry ride from Hobart. It's just one of many gastronomical producers on the island, which is also popular for its wilderness experience.

For those wanting to tantalise their tastebuds, Tasmania has a never-ending line of platters, filled with delicious food, happily being offered to visitors to the tiny island.

Apart from fabulous scenery, Tasmania is also talked about for its world-class locally produced food and wine, plus an exciting mix of top-class cafes and restaurants.

On our food tour, a platter of handmade cow, ewe and goat milk cheeses greet us, in a range of soft and hard varieties, with fresh, aged, blue and vine-wrapped wholes cut in chunks for our delectation.

As we nibble at our cheese smorgasbord we are treated to a selection of mouth-watering artisan wood-fired pizzas.

The first is drizzled with one-day-old soft cheese marinated in olive oil and sprinkled with basil, olives and a lathering of tomato couli.

Our next offering is an equally delicious combination of Camembert, tarragon, corniche and olive oil on freshly made dough.

The simplicity and freshness of the ingredients make this easily the best pizza I have ever tried - plus there are seasonal jams, handmade ice-creams, local wines and ales also on offer to try.

Back on the Bruny Island food trail, we then head to Get Shucked, a supplier of local and mainland oysters, which also sells oysters live and freshly opened to eat roadside.

Fresh, salty and lush, tasting as if you had picked them from the ocean yourself and sold in $12 (NZ$15.50) a dozen boxes with chunks of lemon, they are both mouth-watering and good value.

Remind yourself to loosen your belt as you head back on the ferry for a food tour of the Apple Isle's Huon Valley.

This vibrant semi-rural community is a 30 minute drive south of Hobart and filled with awe-inspiring natural beauty, rolling hills and mountains mirrored back in pristine waters.

Here we find quite a few retirees, escapees from the mainland's hectic cities, operating charming bed and breakfasts.

We hit the sprawling organic apple orchards that produce Woolworths' Juicy Isle juice and the cool, musty rooms of Huon Valley mushrooms, where the dark sprouts are lovingly cultivated. Situated at Glen Houn, this fungi producer grows more than five tonnes a week of white, honey brown, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, which can all be purchased at the farm shop open.

We also visit Huon Aquaculture, a salmon aquaculture farm that grows and cultivates salmon in sea pens in the waters of the Huon valley.

Derided by critics as the "battery hens of the sea", the farming of the Atlantic salmon allows the scarce fish to be accessible and affordable all year round.

Owners Peter and Frances Bender, who started the now multi-million dollar business in 1988, insist the sea pens are world's-best practice, with around 60,000 salmon per pen as opposed to double used on other farms.

The company exports over 13,000 tonnes of salmon a year, and in 2002 launched it's own Huon brand.

If the sushi lunch they have prepared for us is anything to go by, the salmon we saw darting in pens and now on our plates is smooth, firm and fresh.

The best thing about food tours in Tasmania is that there is also an abundance of nature to work up an appetite for the next feast.

IF YOU GO:

Getting there: Qantas, Virgin Australian and Jetstar fly to Hobart from various Australian ports.

Where to stay: In Hobart stay at the Henry Jones Art Hotel on the waterfront, a five-star hotel featuring 300 original art works.

Another option in Hobart is the more affordable Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel. For what the hotel is lacking in trendy furnishings, it makes up for in friendly service, hearty food and location - just a short walk from Hobart's waterfront.

In the Huon Valley, Shetland Rest is a cozy self-contained cottage run by Karen and Geoff Russell. It has pretty views of the Huon River.

Also in the Huon Valley, Riverside is a private holiday cottage with a wood fire, deck and gorgeous views. Details:

Woodbridge Hill Hideaway is a recently opened property on top of a hill in the Huon Valley. The views from the six glass-front self-contained villas are impressive.

Hobart day trips:

Bruny Island: From Hobart drive 40 minutes to Kettering and then drive onto the car ferry for the 20-minute journey across to Bruny Island. On Bruny Island try a local tasty cheese plate at Bruny Island Cheese and a plate of oysters at Get Shucked Oysters for just $12 a dozen.

In the Huon Valley: Huon Valley Mushrooms, Tel: 03 6266 6333.

Huon Aquaculture: Phone 03 6295 8111.

* Sarah Malik was a guest of Brand Tasmania.

- AAP

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