28 April, 2015 - “Hey, Barney, could you please book us a place for the 9:30 ferry to MONA and entrance for two to the museum?”, I asked the lovely young man atThe Henry Jones Hotel’s reception.
After our first restful night’s sleep in our Spa Deluxe room and a breakfast of Eggs Benedict at Henry’s Restaurant, Peter and I were ready to tackle The Museum of Old and New Art. Known as MONA, it is the largest privately funded museum in Australia and one of Hobart’s main attractions.
“I’m sorry, but MONA is closed on Tuesdays,” Barney politely explained.
“Oh no!” I exclaimed in a panic, envisaging a wasted day. “We leave Hobart tomorrow for Swansea!”
“Don’t worry, you can still drive to MONA tomorrow morning and spend a couple of hours there before continuing on to Swansea,” Barney continued. “It won’t be out of your way.”
“Thank God. But what do we do today?”
“Why don’t you head out to Peppermint Bay for lunch. It’s just South of Hobart. While you and your husband get your things, I’ll program the GPS in your car for you and mark off some places of interest on a map.”
What service! Thanks to Barney, our day’s program was salvaged. What he’d recommended to us was a drive along the Huon Trail, an area south of Hobart that was filled with extensive and serene waterways, wild coastlines, quiet farmlands, boutique vineyards, and rugged but accessible World Heritage wilderness.
A mere 20 minutes out of Hobart, we had reached Margate, a small seaside town on the Channel Highway between North-West Bay and the Snug Tiers. Surrounded by lush countryside on both sides, we pulled into the parking lot of an unassuming and uninspiring building on the Channel Highway called the Channel Heritage Centre. A purpose built community museum, research library and exhibition gallery, we accepted one of the volunteers’ offer to show us around. It didn’t take Peter and I long to realize that we’d stumbled upon a gem. Aiming to promote and preserve the history and heritage of the local area, the authentic displays featured the areas early exploration, the timber, fruit growing and scalloping industries, farming, shipping in the Channel, the 1967 bush fire that devastated a community, local schools, churches, sporting teams and militaria. The past came to life for us as we read stories of families who’d settled and helped develop the area, as well as the tragic end of Tasmania’s last surviving traditional Aboriginal woman, named Truganini, and man, William Lanne (aka Lanney).
From Margate, we made our way to Kettering, where we came upon Nutpatch Nougat & Confectionary, a virtual paradise for chocaholics. Established for almost 30 years, the Nutpatch orchard is the largest operating commercial hazelnut orchard in Tasmania. Their handmade chocolate is crafted using Callebaut, the highest quality Belgian chocolate. Chocolatier extraordinaire, Sarah, who we were lucky enough to meet on the premises, showed us where she creates a mind boggling array of chocolate products to showcase fresh and local produce. Nutpatch’s gracious host, Martine helped Peter and I pick a little treat for ourselves from their huge range of individual chocolates, which included fruit cream, liquors and a unique selection of ganache.
We finally reached our lunchtime destination of Peppermint Bay, in the tranquil town of Woodbridge. Nestled on four acres of waterfront headland, Peppermint Bay has commanding views across the d’Entrecasteaux Channel and north to Mt. Wellington. Set against a backdrop of the lush rolling hills of the Huon region, this award-winning building sits comfortably amid green lawns, peppered by sculptures from local artists, and shading trees. Seated outside underneath white market umbrellas while we soaked up the fresh air, warm sunshine and spectacular vistas, we dined on delicious yet uncomplicated dishes that featured local and regional produce - muscles and chorizo in white wine for me and a trout and white bean salad for Peter - washing it down with a glass of regional wine. After our meal, driving back to Hobart - only 40 minutes away - was hardly a chore. It was then that I was reminded of the proud catchphrase used by the Hobart City Council to describe Australia’s southernmost capital city, “Tasmania, The way life should be.” This catchphrase is spot on.