Having been grounded since the start of the pandemic, air travel had become an exciting prospect. I just wasn’t expecting it to be quite this exciting or for the aircraft to be quite so small. On our descent, a seasoned local declares “a gentle Flinders breeze” as the pilot expertly navigates gale force winds to get us safely to ground.
The nerve-racking episode is worth it the second we step onto land. The landscape on Flinders Island, off the north-east tip of Tasmania, is wild and rugged, with rolling green hills that make it easy to forget the coast until you round a bend and are confronted by that immense Bass Strait blue.
Flinder’s Quoin, an Angus cattle property home to boutique accommodation On Island Time. Photo: Adam Gibson
My partner and I are met at Flinders Island airport by Jo Youl of On Island Time. Jo has lived on Flinders’ Quoin, an Angus cattle property, for 10 years with her husband and their three children, but the family connection runs much deeper; her grandfather originally bought the land in 1932.
We’re staying at the property’s Wombat Lodge, but first it’s off to the Flinders Wharfshed for provisions. The Wharfshed is home to a restaurant that hosts residencies by renowned chefs, and the Furneaux Distillery.
We collect a bounty of local produce: new potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, crayfish, pies and a couple of Quoin Angus steaks for the barbecue.
Wombat Lodge is a cosy cabin on the cattle farm complete with fireplace, chef’s kitchen, three superbly appointed bedrooms and a bath with a view. The impressive attention to detail extends from the luxurious furnishings – you can purchase the beautiful bedlinen and thick Turkish towels from Jo’s burgeoning lifestyle brand, Quoin the Label – to an antique bar cabinet stocked with local gin, whisky and wine. Wombats amble about as if on cue and the sunsets are extraordinary.
We wish we had more time to explore the island, but a trip to Stacky’s Bite, a natural stone arch, is not to be missed. Sadly, our fortune wasn’t realised fossicking for “Killiecrankie diamonds” (topaz crystals) on the pristine beaches; perhaps on the next trip.
Our next stop is Launceston, which is experiencing a renaissance thanks to its food scene, the Tamar Valley’s wineries and the fact it boasts some of the cleanest air in the world. The arrival of world-class venues such as Stillwater Seven makes visiting the northern Tasmanian city even more desirable.
Stillwater Seven boutique hotel, Launceston.
Built in the 1830s, this former flour mill turned boutique hotel and restaurant sits perched on the River Tamar. The menu features a roll call of local producers and a feast of seasonal delights including sublime oysters, Scottsdale pork and Tongola goat’s cheese. There’s something to be said about gazing over the tranquil river sipping on an exceptional Haddow & Dineen pinot noir just a stone’s throw from where the grapes were grown. We walk lunch off at nearby Cataract Gorge, a jaw-dropping slice of wildness a mere 10 minutes from the city centre.
The hotel, named for its seven guest rooms, opened in 2019 after a makeover sympathetic to the building’s rich heritage. We spend a night in a spacious suite with local art on the walls and a picture window over the bay.
The road trip from Launceston to Hobart is a pleasant 2½ hours but we’re in no rush. We stop for a spot of antique-shopping at historic Campbell Town, then it’s on to Pontville for a snifter at the Lark Distillery cellar door. If time allows en route, the pretty town of Oatlands and its colonial-era sandstone buildings are worth a visit. Alternatively, take the scenic route via the east coast to see the beauty of Wineglass Bay.
A short drive and car ferry ride from Hobart, Bruny Island is known for its dramatic cliffs, fairy penguins and fresh produce. For a tiny island, there’s a lot going on here for foodies: honey, chocolate and cheese included.
We’re staying at Bruny Boathouse, a two-bedroom weatherboard cottage that overlooks the channel towards Satellite Island and its own Insta-famous boatshed. Inside, it’s all understated elegance, beautifully decorated with sea-faring treasures – at once a beach house with all mod cons and an oasis from the elements.
The locals claim Bruny Island has a special kinetic energy and I’d have to agree. From the magnificent bays and beaches to its edge-of-the-earth beauty, not to mention the rainbow that arched over the ferry on our departure, this place is magic.
The writer was a guest of On Island Time, Stillwater Seven, Bruny Boathouse and Tourism Tasmania.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale October 2. To read more from Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.