A unique haven of passionate artisan producers, Tasmania is the perfect place to trace the origins of your food. From farm gates to cellar doors and boutique tours, it’s time to get under the skin of our small island.
The antidote to a mass-produced modern world, Tasmania is the place to celebrate the small-scale and intimate, where the distance between farm and fork is reduced to metres by meeting the very people who grow what’s on your plate and in your glass.
As a compact island state of wineries and small-scale growers, brewers and artisan makers, Tasmania makes a compelling case for the attractions of terroir. It’s one of the rare places a visitor can immerse themselves for days (or weeks, time and waistband permitting) in a broad arterial network of farm gates, cellar doors, seafood foraging, tasting rooms and restaurants celebrating provenance.
Indulge on the high seas
Tourism Australia & Ellenor Argyropoulos
Climb aboard a cruise reserved for serious gastronomes. The seafood equivalent of paddock-to-plate can be experienced through a Seafood Seduction cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys. Leaving the Hobart docks behind, spend a day on a custom-built boat, discovering the kind of places only a local knows how to unlock. Travel down the River Derwent where your guide will forage for some of Tasmania’s most sought after seafood in the oceans and channels surrounding Bruny Island – where seafood for some of the world’s famed restaurants is also sourced. Taste the real flavour of the ocean – freshly shucked oysters, Southern Rock Lobster and salmon and watch as your guide dives in to collects sea urchin and wild abalone to cook up on board.
Feast in a greenhouse
Supplied Courtesy of Tasmanian Natural Garlic and Tomatoes
Imagine sitting down to a tasting session of heirloom tomatoes in a lushly planted greenhouse. White linen tablecloths are a given, so is a glass of organic apple cider made in méthode traditionelle style, from just down the road. Tasmanian Natural Garlic and Tomatoes grows more than 130 organic varieties of heirloom tomatoes and has specially planted a polytunnel with a riotous range in different shapes, colours and sizes for maximum visual impact. “You get to sit down in the midst of this vision of colour and feast on a tomato taste flight,” says Annette Reed, who runs the farm with husband Nevil. “You can wander around and pick them off the vine if you want, too.”
The Reeds are emblematic of a movement of proud Tasmanian food producers opening their doors to the epicurious. Their unique, intimate events are a considered response to the desire among travellers to get behind the island’s fresh produce scene.
“People are looking for those kinds of food-based cultural experiences, so Tasmania’s not the world’s best-kept secret anymore,” says Reed, “but we’re not in danger of losing that intimate aspect that has put us on the map in the first place”.
Visit the farm
Poon Wai Nang
The only prerequisite for visitors is curiosity – that, and a willingness to kick back a gear. Tasmania is not for hurrying, especially when an agrarian tour of its back lanes and byways has no shortage of welcoming locals keen to share their food traditions.
Case in point: Pyengana Dairy Company. Located in the Pyengana river valley in the state’s north-east, this lush farm is where you can witness the heritage farmhouse cheese – including their renowned cloth-matured cheddar – being made to a recipe dating back more than a century. Watch the herd of 220 cows coming in for milking, or simply sit down at a table overlooking the valley to a cheese platter served with all-Tasmanian beer and wine.
“As Australia has become more urbanised we’ve lost these touchstones in everyday life,” says Pyengana’s David Bennett. “But here it’s a big part of our identity. Showing people where their food comes from is integral to what we do… plus for many people, taking home produce is a way they can share their experiences with friends and family.”
Meet the producers
A new approach to connecting Tasmanian food producers with consumers, Off The Table has recently joined the farmgate party with a menu of intimate bespoke events, each one telling the story of primary producers that would otherwise remain inaccessible. At its core it’s a seasonally led, dirt under the fingernails look at some of Tasmania’s famed primary producers.
“Agritourism is really well defined in wine with its cellar doors but not so much in the broader food sector,” says Off The Table founder Anna Yip. “Consumers are becoming much more interested in where their food is coming from and regaining that trust in its origins. Tasmania for many people is still a bit of a mystery. There’s a large sense of adventure and discovery and intrigue. Off The Table is really a new way to characterise what food tourism can look like, for people who want to experience food in a different way.”
Soon to be in the Off The Table tour stable are an oyster mushroom farm that grows its prized fungi in a decommissioned 1890 railway tunnel, an organic forest honey producer and Tasman Sea Salt’s clean energy saltworks. A partnership with Lentara Olive Grove will set a course for discovery of the growth of Tassie’s cool climate olive oil industry.
“Food offers a cultural language through which you can understand a place,” says Yip. “Food isn’t just food anymore… it actually means something.”
It’s no surprise that Launceston’s restaurant hero, the relaxed and accessible fine diner Stillwater, is another Off The Table partner. Long a paddock-to-plate champion of regional produce, from exceptional seafood such as the famed east coast oysters of Moulting Bay to Robbins Island wagyu, the menu is peppered with the names that have put Tasmania on the map.
“We give our diners a little bit of information about where their food comes from without overloading them. If they’re interested, we can help them organise a tour,” says Stillwater’s Chris McNally. “They can also have a chat with our chef, Craig Will, who knows the producers and can tell you all about them.”
Pick up fresh produce
The nearby Harvest Market Launceston provides a compelling reason to visit Tassie’s second largest city on a Saturday morning. Featuring from 50 to around 75 producers depending on the time of year, it’s a sensory overload of fresh produce.
The market can be seen as a microcosm of the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail, a 40-member string of Tasmanian food and wine producers stretching from Launceston to Smithton. Producers like Seven Sheds Brewery have a weekly stall here and can also be visited at their home base in Railton; so too 41 Degrees South Salmon and Ginseng Farm in Red Hills, and the Cherry Shed near Devonport, and many more.
But as for the market itself? “It’s a magic atmosphere,” says market manager Caroline Williamson. “You can’t get the full picture of the smells, the sights, the music from photos. You just really have to experience it in person.”
Some producers sell directly to a variety of stores. Mt Roland Free-Range Eggs in Staverton gives new meaning to ‘free range’. The chickens can come and go as they like and are never locked up. The flock are guarded by Maremma dogs. You can buy the eggs at Sheffield Fruit and Veg, Your Old Grocer in Launceston or Mood Food, who all sell local produce.
Have an island experience
The King Island Long Table Festival is a delicious reason to visit this lush island off the north west coast. The home of King Island Beef and King Island Dairy, there’s an abundance of fresh produce, dairy and seafood to be tasted in this special farm to feast experience. If you can’t make it to the island in April, head to Wild Harvest when you visit. The seasons dictate the menu where the produce is sourced from the sea and land so you can expect anything from abalone, crayfish, beef or lamb with seasonal vegetables. There’s a crackling open fire, a wine cellar and views across Bass Strait to enjoy with your meal.
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