Where we went: Table Cape Tulip Farm
When we went: Spring, 2018 and again in 2019
Table Cape Tulip Farm, on Tasmania’s far North-West coast, is a riot of colour, if you time your arrival correctly. There is only a very small window annually in which to see the flowers in bloom from the end of September to the middle of October. It is paid entry ($12 for an adult), but it is worth the fee if you time it right (during the tulip festival, in early October, would be my advice for best time to visit).
Knowing full well how allergic to pollen I am I pumped myself full of non-drowsy antihistamines and we went on our merry way, planning to veer off the Midlands highway and take the scenic route through the central highlands. We woke up at around 5am to ensure ample travel and exploration time along the 4-5ish hour drive. We donned ‘all weather’ shoes – so shoes we don’t mind getting dirty, but that are comfortable enough to tolerate a long drive in, and respectable enough to visit an art gallery in, should the need arise.
We had very few firm plans for places to stop when we set out, we just agreed to follow signs to things that looked interesting. Our first stop came in the form of Miena Dam, located in the sensibly named ‘Great Lake’ district in Tasmania’s central highlands. Great Lake is one of the largest, permanent, natural, freshwater lakes in Australia. It is also located in one of the coldest parts of Tasmania which was a fact that I knew, having been fishing with my father here once. I was putting the makeup artists on Game of Thrones to shame when I stepped out of the vehicle on this fine Tasmanian Spring morning. The wind was bracing, which is to say it felt like the wind was somehow a solid entity capable of giving hugs…bone chilling hugs. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a romantic (read, frantically clinging to each other for warmth) stroll along the water’s edge. Miena Dam provides a significant portion of Tasmania’s hydroelectric power (honestly should consider harnessing that wind as well), and is one of the cleanest, most litter free large bodies of water that I have seen in a long time. Please, endeavour to keep it that way. I am not a keen fisherman myself (I hate to eat fish and I do not like to stick the worms on the hooks – I’m just in it for the father-daughter time) but if you enjoy fishing tourism then trout, in particular, abound in Great Lakes. Dress warmly (seriously, it snows in summer) and ensure you have all the proper permission slips, Tasmania takes its fishing licensing very seriously.
We found ourselves stopping at most of the lookouts and rest-stops along the way because the views from the road over the lake and mountains are wonderful, but very difficult to properly appreciate from the car as the road is squiggly-wiggly, and it seems like the sort of place where the local wildlife is not very road-savvy, attention to tarmac is recommended. As we rose in altitude the trees became hunched from the years of being battered by wind, the rocks grew increasing jagged, and the views were gradually obscured by cloud, so we pulled over to better appreciate the sense of standing at the edge of the universe.
The intense reclusively of the central highlands grudgingly gives way to Meander Valley then Deloraine where the food tourism that Sommelier and I live for comes in to play. It is also ground zero for the fruit-fly infestation of 2017, that was rumoured to have been started by tourists coming over on the Sprit of Tasmania. The fruit-fly crisis temporarily crippled Tasmanian industry, the eco-system is fragile and we do ask politely (but firmly) that you do not bring any fresh fruit or vegetables in to the state – even if you are coming from mainland Australia.
Deloraine is host to many food producers: A berry-farm (Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm) – Where we procured chocolate covered raspberries, which are better than chocolate strawberries because you can fit a lot in your mouth at once before you start looking like a hamster that broke into the food container (whereas you can only get about 2 strawberries in before people start noticing and questioning your deportment training); an ice-creamery (Van Diemen’s Land) – they are in Hobart city too and we go there a lot, so we did not partake, but I do recommend them if you are in the area and like ice cream; and cheese maker (Ashgrove) – cheese is one of my true passions in life, you can get Ashgrove cheese in most good providores in the state if you miss out on going directly to the farm. This trifecta is all within a tight little stretch of highway. You can visit all three and pick up a few little treats and gifts (you can move fresh fruit and veg out of Tasmania, just not into it), or you can save you appetite for the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory (The Conservatory).
Blink and you will miss the Conservatory – even though it is located on a road called ‘Conservatory Road’. It is the TARDIS of cafes, bookings are recommended because bus tours stop there for lunch, but there is ample outside seating if, like us, you didn’t think to book a table. They specialise in cheese platters which they arrange by region and the rest of their menu consists of locally sourced produce made into delicious light meals and share plates. They are, in my opinion, the best place in the area to get lunch. As a bonus they are a provedore as well, so you can collect all the cheese and cured meats and things in the one convenient location and carry on to a picnic location of your choosing. We stayed for a picnic/platter on the grounds and it was everything I love about Tasmania, perfectly presented.
Fed, and full of high-quality cheese (here’s looking at you truffled brie) we went to our last planned stop before Tulips: House of Anvers (HoA). HoA makes Belgian style chocolates and there is a café, gift shop, museum and factory viewing floor on site. I am usually very wary of chocolate stops along tourist trails, but House of Anvers is an exception. Keen to stretch our legs a little we even visited the museum. Did you know that chocolate is fermented before it is roasted? There is also a chocolate mould in the museum which I’m pretty sure is in the shape of an asparagus, this raised more question for me than any chocolatier could ever hope to answer. The dark fortunato no. 4, single origin, from Peru is one of my favourite chocolates in life in general, but the truffles are also worth an honourable mention.
As I said at the beginning, it is essential to time your arrival at Table Cape tulip farm incredibly carefully. There are only about 3 weeks a year when you can see tulips. I prefer to avoid large crowds, so I like to visit either the week before or the week after the tulip festival. This comes at a price – limited tulips to view (either they haven’t all opened yet, which is what happened on the late September trip, or they are over). When we visited on the 25th of October 2018, the tulip fields had a ‘closed’ sign on the gate. We took limited solace in a walk to the Table Cape lighthouse and a view over the recently harvested stumps of tulips flowers while trying very hard to make the most of the situation. I saw a very cute lizard, and it had stopped raining! There was also a brief moment in a clearing on the walk along the cliff to the lighthouse when we were surrounded by white butterflies, it would have been a much more magical moment if we hadn’t just driven for several hours to see a gate with a closed sign on it and a lighthouse (and a lizard!). Never fear though, dear reader, this story has a happy ending.
We decided to buy my mother a gift from the shop on the farm (I really didn’t want to waste the antihistamines) and, on arrival, learned that we were just in time! They were harvesting the flowers that very day but there was still a field that the tractor hadn’t got to yet. Having paid a reduced entry fee we were set free to roam the pollen and colour filled fields of the tulip farm. The rows and rows of flowers in every colour possible stood in brilliant contrast to the grey and cloudy sky above and the distant rumble of the tractor was a reminder to stop for a second and savour each bright, perfect moment as it comes because they’re the most fleeting, and the most precious as well.