Where we went: Southport
When we went: Mid-February, 2019
Southport, in the far south of Tasmania is a popular beach-side destination primarily enjoyed by locals. Most people spend their summer holidays camping, fishing and surfing in the area and Sommelier and I have both spent time on school-organised forest and camping excursions in the area. It is heavily forested, moderately populated and caters to both campers and glampers alike.
Bushfires this year interrupted school holidays and forced the closure of all of the forests and walking tracks (as well as destroying the Tahune Forest Airwalk and many of the other forestry attractions in the area). On the day that Sommelier and I went they had only just (that very day) reopened some of the smaller walking tracks, and the bushfires were actually still burning. With a water bombing helicopter flying overhead and the sightings of several burned out forest areas we were relieved that, even though we had originally planned on a walk, we had changed our plans at the last minute to a picnic on the beach (we did pack walking gear though, just in case we changed our minds back).
The drive down south from Hobart takes a few hours, but there are by far enough stops on the way to keep your mind active (and entertain children if you happen to be travelling with them). We had a sleep in, and left home (without having eaten breakfast) to ‘forage’ for food at the Willie Smiths Saturday market which was, today, a special bushfire relief market that particularly welcomed stall holders who had been affected by the fires. We arrived in Huonville at 9:30am (because I usually wake up at 5:30am and a sleep in for us is 7am) having stopped at the Longley organic farm’s honesty box along the way to pick up some strawberries. It was at this point (starving and cranky on account of the starvation) that we learned that nothing in Huonville is open before 10am on a Saturday. Nothing! We drove to several other cafes along the way and found no food at all. We had no choice but to stop on the side of the road and eat the strawberries, throwing out my Instagram post plans completely! Luckily I remembered a box of crackers in the car from our last bush walking foray so we were not living off strawberries alone so about 3 of them survived the 30min wait.
We circled back to Willie Smiths at 9:55. There was a line of cars just driving over the very lowly slung chain with a very easily surmounted sign that read ‘Closed: opens at 10am’ so we followed them, and the car park was already mostly full of like-minded, fence jumping, individuals. One of the primary drawbacks of Willie Smiths in that, while it does have a fairly large amount of space, and a parking usher, the parking usher only starts work at 10am and the over flow parking is only opened at 10am and everything is chaos and anarchy until then (What I’m trying to say is, don’t come until 10am, I’ve tried it, and it isn’t worth it!).
The first stop at the market was Yeasty Beasty donuts. Yeasty Beasty has a lemon drizzle donut that reminds me of the first time I ever made donuts. I was very young, I got the recipe out of a magazine, and, while under the supervision of my father’s secretary, I baked a batch of lemon drizzle donuts; however, the recipe failed to state that it catered to roughly 50 very hungry humans, and the only condition that Daphne, the secretary, had given was that I was to see to it that all the donuts were eaten. It had been roughly 20 years since that day, and I was finally ready for lemon drizzle again. Yeasty Beasty do a classic, ring shaped donut, cooked fresh and served warm (which is really what seals the deal for me) it’s crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Sometimes, especially when your breakfast was strawberries and car crackers and you’ve been known to make some very believable threats of murder while under the influence of hunger, a warm sourdough donut is everything. I had eaten it in its entirety and moved on to looking for more food before I remembered that I hadn’t photographed it.
The market was a giant bake-sale with a few homemade cosmetics thrown in. We got a selection of pies from a brand-new baker called American Pi who makes traditional American pies following their father’s recipes. We also got some fig vinocotto because I’m a huge fan of Maggie Beer and the only other place I have ever bought vinocotto is from her kitchen in the Barossa. I had a hard time convincing Sommelier that Vinocotto is the ideal picnic addition (mostly because of his very compelling argument of ‘what even is vinocotto’, and also, ‘please stop saying vinocotto’) but the provedore’s input of ‘it’s made from wine’ sealed the deal. It’s basically very fancy, fruit infused wine vinegar and it really is very nice for dipping bread in. We also picked up our new favourite scented candle which makes the whole place smell like a gentleman’s drawing-room (do gentlemen even have drawing rooms, or are they just for ladies? Do they do sketches and doodles and stuff in there? What even is a drawing room? I don’t know, but I imagine it smells very pleasant). I also finally (I have been searching for some time) found a bar of shampoo soap. We are transitioning into a plastic free household, but cosmetics are our primary downfall. Shampoo bars are the sorts of things that you can find, but you have to look a little harder, or go to speciality shops, and I much prefer to have the universe present me with what I need when I need it, and I was starting to really need a shampoo, as my last one was almost finished. We were, otherwise, like kids at a school fair, and just went nuts for baked goods.
Quick disclaimer, if, like me, you are allergic to life, it should be noted that there is quite a lot of straw on the grounds at Willie Smiths (it’s a farm, so this is normal – they do keep it contained to the outside world though), and open shoes may not be the best choice in footwear. I learned this lesson the itchy way.
From Willie Smiths we stopped at the Lucaston Park honesty box for a bottle of apple juice. We could have bought a cider at our previous location, but we had picnic plans and imbibing alcohol in public at non-licensed venues is illegal in Tasmania (due to public drunkenness and anti-social behaviour, and not due to the possibility of a recovering alcoholic walking by, seeing you, and relapsing – which is what I thought as a child, I think because I had so many PSAs about alcoholism and peer-pressure). We also got cherries in syrup (because cherries…in syrup!), and a bag of apples (because apple season just started, and they do call Tasmania ‘the apple isle’), before we headed off to Geeveston. We had intended to stop at the fancy produce supermarket in Huonville for cheese, but we forgot.
Geeveston was put on ‘Emergency’ status and evacuated during the bushfires and, driving through, we saw tortoise-shell pattern of burned areas where spot fires had broken out along the backs of the hills that mark the outskirts of the town. Driving past the reservoir we saw the bushfire helicopter (a helicopter with a huge bucket that dangles from it that they fill with water to dump on fires from above) filling and flying off to fight the fire that has been burning for almost 2 months now, and the scorched far side of reservoir. A very painful reminder of how close the fires came to the town.
Sommelier has been wanting to show me the Old Bank Café in Geeveston for a while now, so we hurried in there for a coffee (apparently I’m not very nice when I am running low on caffeine), a few cakes and quiches, and a little poke around. They sell house-made preserves, cook books, and cosmetics on site, as well as normal, high-end, café fare. I found another shampoo bar here, so now I have 2 new suppliers of plastic free cosmetics (shampoo bars are also great for travelling because you don’t have to do the whole liquids and gels decanting-into-smaller-containers-and-then-putting-into-see-through-bags thing, plus there is no risk of it leaking).
We also, in a search for the public toilets, stumbled upon Baker and Co. A providore we had not previously realised existed (as this was my first time stopping in Geeveston town, and not because it is in any way difficult to spot. Sommelier frequently visits the area for work, so I don’t know what his excuse is), where we found the cheese we were looking for, and were also able to ‘hunter- gather’ a loaf of freshly baked sour dough bread (Somm’s note, Baker and Co. has since closed, but their fantastic patisseries can still be found at Hobart’s Farmgate Market on a Sunday). Picnic basket now overflowing (we only brought the little hamper and not the big one because, ‘last time we took the big one you packed enough food to feed a family of 5,’ said Sommelier, as though he doesn’t like lugging left overs back from remote picnic sites) we set out on the final leg of our journey: the search for a secluded beach.
We found ourselves completely alone on Roaring Beach (apparently it is a popular surfing beach, hence the name), save for a pair of fishermen a very long distance from us, 3 sea gulls, and a grey Herron who did not care to be photographed. I suspect this level of seclusion was primarily owed to the fires and the fact that school holidays are over, but there are certainly other beaches in the area if you find yourself more crowded than we did. Sommelier and I changed into our swimming attire (We do not fully agree on the term for these but Tasmanians call them ‘bathers’ which makes no sense because surely you, the humans are, in fact, the bathers? I call them ‘swimming costumes’, which, while sensible, is, admittedly, a bit posh sounding and long winded), and Sommelier leapt into the surf as though it wasn’t the ocean around the southern most point of Tasmania and very definitely far too close to Antarctica for my liking. I wandered along the beach, alone with the smell of salt spay, fresh kelp, and the cool winds that signal the start of the much anticipated wet season and the end of Summer.
The Tahune Forest Airwalk is destroyed and closed indefinitely, (Somm’s note: It has reopened since publishing) but parts of the Tahune are still the accessible temperate rainforests that Tasmania is famous for. Southport is the ideal place for those who find adventure in witnessing the far south of the Tasmania which is the last deep-sea port before Antarctica; it has white sand beaches, rainforests, cafes and ‘fine-dining’ style brunch options. It’s a quiet, hidden gem for a contemplative stroll along either the forest or the beach (or both, if you pick the right walking track). This was the first time in 2 months that the smell of smoke hadn’t woven itself through our expedition and you never know how long you’ve held your breath until you finally have the opportunity to let it out.