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For Hugh Whitehouse, the only way to tackle winter in Tasmania is to mussel your way through it.

The former executive chef at famed luxury hotel Saffire Freycinet now cultivates his passion for ocean-to-dish produce at Freycinet Marine Farm and Fishers of Freycinet. Find these culinary havens on the sunny east coast near Freycinet National Park: a natural playground of pink-granite mountains, hemmed by turquoise bays and white sands.

“I think it’s really quite rare as a chef that you actually also have a farm that sits with your business,” Whitehouse says of Freycinet Marine Farm, “so the idea of getting fresh oysters and mussels daily from these pristine waters is pretty special.”

Mighty mussels

Freycinet Marine Farm’s Off Season offer is one for the seafood lovers. Come and warm the cockles of your heart this May–August with some Belgian-inspired moules frites: steamy Tasmanian blue mussels plucked fresh from the sea with golden French fries, drenched in a creamy garlic sauce.

A road winds through thick scrubby bushland towards a small hut near a body of shallow water. Mountains are in the far distance.
Oyster Bay Tours - Freycinet Marine Farm
Tourism Australia

“I thought it was a fitting dish for the winter season to sit in the winter sun or beside our fire and eat a pot of mussels,” Whitehouse explains.

You’re eating with your hands and you’re sensing all those beautiful aromas coming out of the dish.

The carbon-neutral bivalves are farmed onsite at Great Oyster Bay, their discarded shells layering the ground in the restaurant’s outdoor dining area, crunching and clattering underfoot.  

The cooler months mark the ideal season to devour the island’s plump scallops, oysters and mussels. As Whitehouse explains, “they love the cold water”. Good thing, then, that Tasmania is particularly crisp in winter, with water temperatures diving down to 12–14°C.

A man wearing glasses and a polo shirt stands in a doorway holding freshly prepared mussels and fried chips.
Hugh Whitehouse from Freycinet Marine Farm
Stu Gibson

Eat up the east

Operating in chilled-out coastal paradise Coles Bay places Whitehouse within easy access of the east coast’s best winter foodie experiences.

Find him camping somewhere picturesque, cooking over a fire and warming up with a whisky from Waubs Harbour Distillery in Bicheno, or strolling along seemingly endless (and in winter, virtually empty) stretches of sand. Whitehouse recommends Waubs Beach, Denison Beach or the “unique and raw” Friendly Beaches.

And he can’t go past the East Coast Wine Region’s finest drops, especially the spice and citrus of a Freycinet Vineyard chardonnay.

“Tassie produces some of the great wines not just in Australia, but I’d say [in] the world,” Whitehouse says.

A cooked and halved lobster sits on a plate on a platform above a small rocky port.
Lobster Shack
Tourism Australia
A group of people enjoy a bbq on a beach below grassy hills on a sunny, clear day.
Mayfield Estate
Jasper Da Seymour

Discover delectable Off Season offers and events on the east coast, such as Waubs Harbour Distillery’s whisky by the waves, pairing single-malt spirits with a local tasting plate on the windswept water’s edge. A stone’s throw from the distillery, Lobster Shack Tasmania serves more premium winter seafood such as hearty lobster mornay and chowder. Or hop over to Mayfield Estate in Little Swanport for an invigorating winter feast on the beach, pairing wine with seasonal produce, knock-out vistas and seasonings from nearby Tasman Sea Salt.

If you’re travelling further afield, Whitehouse recommends a trip to the state’s north for a Fork it Farm long table feast celebrating all things pork.

A couple sit on a wood stump next to a fire place with a large suspended grill plate. A pot sits on the grill.
Twamley Farm
Dearna Bond
A wooden platter of meats, cheese, dates and bread sticks placed on rocks.
Pop-Up Picnic Tasmania
Tourism Australia

Savour a seasonal stay

You don’t have to leave the comfort of your east-coast accommodation to experience gourmet indulgence this Off Season.

At luxurious Piermont Retreat, soak up a feast of earth, sea and fire: think flame-roasted meats and veg with mulled cider in the moonlight. Or sink into your own slice of Japan at Sabi Stays, where a private chef whips up a stimulating sake-paired degustationHarveys Farm Bicheno, an elegant holiday house on prime seaside acreage, treats you to pinot noir, cheese plates and homemade brownie mix for a gooey feed by firelight

Twamley Farm’s rustic bliss heats up in winter with a hot tub under the stars and a picnic of pinot noir, pheasant terrine, hot chocolate, toasted marshmallows and pumpkin soup over the firepit. Or let the feast come to you with Pop Up Picnic Tasmania’s romantic indoor experience: cosy up among the rose petals with some tasty nibbles.

A bowl of black shelled mussels and freshly fried chips presented in the top of a crayfish pot made of curved wood and fastened with wire.
Fresh mussels at Freycinet Marine Farm
Stu Gibson

Mussel out the cold

Whatever you choose to do this Off Season, embrace the unpredictability. For Whitehouse, nothing beats winter’s bluebird days and star-speckled nights, but he’s also no stranger to woolly weather. So how exactly did this former Sydneysider become a winter person?

“First thing: toughen up. It’s not as cold as everybody thinks it is,” he says with a giggle.

Wintertime here, it’s about putting on your beanies and your scarves and your big jackets and getting out there.

Whitehouse recommends taking your time, and thoughtfully disposing of rubbish to help preserve the pristine environment.

“Embrace the slowness of Tasmania,” he says. “Enjoy the people that you're going to meet and talk to them, because they've always got a great story to tell.”

If all else fails to warm you up, there’s always moules frites.

An aerial photograph of shallow waters with rows of oysters.
Freycinet Marine Farm
Prime Perspective

Coastal frequently asked questions

What are the best Tasmanian seafood experiences?

A remote island bordered by crisp seas; Tasmanian seafood takes the cake. For the best seafood in Tasmania, taste oysters, abalone, scallops and crayfish fresh from the source, or head to one of Tasmania’s fine seafood restaurants for an experimental feed (urchin pasta, anyone?). Hit up a seafood market in Tasmania or a festival dedicated to the humble scallop, tour an abalone-drying facility, or live it up on a seafood cruise while a diver gathers and barbecues the fresh catch before your eyes. Here are the top seafood experiences in Tasmania.

What is the top Coles Bay accommodation?

If you’re venturing to Coles Bay near Freycinet, you’ll find no shortage of dreamy quarters to relax in. Accommodation in Coles Bay includes camping with killer views of the Hazards mountain range, idyllic caravan parks, lavish resorts, quaint coastal cottages and sauna escapes. From eco-retreats with vast water views to glamping amongst the wildlife; humble bushland escapes to a luxurious stingray-shaped sanctuary; pick your stay, then discover what to do in Freycinet.

What is the water temperature in Tasmania?

Swimming comes with added invigoration down here: just remember to breathe. In February, average water temperatures of about 17°C provide welcome relief from the heat. In August, the sea drops to around 12°C (pro tip: don’t stay wet for too long). No matter how low the temps go, you’ll likely see plucky locals plonking themselves into rivers and bays, totally unphased. Here’s a local expert’s guide to cooling off in the icy winter water. Or if you prefer to admire the aquatic realm without the arctic jolt, try sailing and cruising in Tasmania.

Stay in the know

A flurry of unmissable Off Season offers and events has blown in for the winter. Subscribe for curated Off Season updates and handy tips.

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