There are not many places within only minutes of an Australian capital city that can leave you feeling like you’ve travelled far away to another time, but that is the charm of the Channel region just outside Hobart. Indeed, some of the d’Entrecasteaux Channel towns and hamlets are home to city commuters; and after just moments of arriving you’ll soon know, and feel, why they’ve chosen to settle here.
I’m guilty of previously only being a day visitor to the Channel, so I relished the opportunity to spend more time exploring in the comfort of my new Renault Koleos from Overdrive Car Hire in Hobart; and as many Hobartians will agree, you can’t start a Channel trip without a stop at the Margate Train, or as locals know it, the Pancake Train! The train, the Tasman Limited, is a former steam locomotive built in the UK in 1950, while the carriages were built in Launceston in 1955. Although the train doesn’t go anywhere, the five carriages now house an eclectic mix of businesses – a brewery, lolly shop, barber, and the pancakes (served in the dining car, of course!).
I left my car in the train carpark, and wandered around behind it; and into the sprawling Inverawe Native Gardens. As the name suggests, the 22ha property is landscaped entirely in Australian natives, providing an immersive showcase of the variety, durability and colour of our native vegetation. Margaret and Bill have spent well over a decade transforming a weed-infested hillside over looking North West Bay into a masterpiece of sustainable planting, and even with a touch of whimsy as you discover sculptures and Bill’s lyrical poetry amongst the undergrowth. The green-thumbed couple also runs workshops to help you with your own native garden, so you can take some Inverawe learnings home with you.
Just past the adorably named town of Snug, a quick stop at the Ye Olde Oyster Bay Store to fill my basket with fresh local produce (the selection of apples and pears is incredible!) was an ideal opportunity to ask about walks in the area – the verdict, Snug Falls. Sounds delightful, and intriguing, so a great place to walk off lunch later on.
Combining art and the outdoors, the Art Farm at Birchs Bay is exactly as the name suggests; art, on a farm. The artworks – twelve permanent sculptures – are situated along an hour-long trail at Five Bob Farm, taking in pear orchards, gardens and bush trails along the way. Each year they also hold a temporary exhibition and acquire new works for the collection.
While the Woodbridge Smokehouse has been purveying the finest hot and cold smoked trout and salmon since 2004, they have recently opened a tantalising tasting house – and I couldn’t resist dropping in to savour their produce. Tucked away in the hamlet of Woodbridge, the smokehouse sources all of its ingredients from within Tasmania, which includes woodchips mulched from their own onsite apple orchard to give a truly unique and local flavour. I was keen to try the Mediterranean spiced and peppered varieties – and wow, I had to stop myself from devouring all the samples. Thankfully they can cold-pack anything you buy, so darn you temptation, you won that round!
I had good reason for reigning in my tastings at the smokehouse, as also in Woodbridge is the popular and aesthetically stunning Peppermint Bay. The restaurant and function centre takes prime position overlooking the bay, with commanding views of the Channel and across the shimmering waters to Bruny Island. Without sounding like I gorged myself (I may have, don’t judge me), I took in the sun-kissed views with a delicious lunch, as suggested by chef Toby; a nibble of duck liver parfait with crostini, pickles and seeds and an octopus skewer with salt bush crumb. It was as heavenly as it sounds. Dining here is an experience, and one I was trying to figure out how I could also return at dinner time for more goodness!
After such a hearty taste of the Channel, it was time to strap on my boots and head into the forested hills near Snug, and seek out the cosy-sounding Snug Falls. Clear signage got me to the carpark without fuss, for the 4km return walk, of approximately an hour. As I bundled my camera and tripod into my backpack, I figured I might take a little longer than that (I find waterfalls have the magical ability to let more time pass than you realise, which I love). Making my way down the track – the walk in is all downhill, so keep that in mind when it’s time to turn around – I spotted not one, or two, but three wallabies happily hopping along the track ahead of me. How cute! Stepping down the large stone steps, brushing fern fronds gently aside, I got my first view of the falls – mesmerising! The veil of the falls pools in a shaded grotto, hugged by lush, dense and vibrant green ferns and carpet of tiny mosses. Rumour has it that there’s a resident platypus here, so I was sure to be quiet and not move too quickly. Alas, I didn’t see it – but if it is there, it has the most idyllic place to call home.
Having a comfortable and welcoming place to call home for a night or two in the Channel helped me to slip into the lifestyle of the region, and Leonie at Waterview Gardens B&B in Margate ensured this was the case. A cheery welcome, such as you’d give an old friend, greeted me as arrived. The home, on over 6 acres, overlooks North West Bay above the town of Margate, to the Channel and Bruny Island, while the garden is lovingly tended to – you may even spot some local wallabies from your balcony, as I did from my room, the Baudin. Of course, the allure of Bed and Breakfasts is that hot, soul-fuelling home-cooked breakfast you know you’re going to get; and early in the morning as I awoke with the sunrise and feathery dawn chorus, the smell of fresh baking bread filled my room – and in that moment, I knew the day was going to start off right and get me prepared for another day uncovering treasures in the d’Entrecasteaux Channel.
Hidden Gems: Seven Stunning Walks in the Channel
Channel Drive: Unearth the Local Gems on a Road Trip
Four Unique Channel Experiences to Treasure
Seaside Pearler: Four Things to do in Kettering
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