After a couple of days in the Huon we moved on again and met up once more with our three offspring in Hobart. Together we headed up the East Coast to stay at a small coastal town called Swanwick. It was just ten minutes’ drive from the well-known east coast town of Coles Bay and near the renowned Wineglass Bay, located in Freycinet National Park. Swanwick was a gorgeous place to base ourselves for ten days together. We had rented a spacious weatherboard cottage complete with a winding bush track from our back garden gate and finishing on the shores of Sandpiper beach. We were thankful we had no need to put up or pack down the tent for over a week and relished the freedom to walk, swim, fish, rest, read, wander and explore our surrounds. From Sandpiper beach you could walk the flat, sandy coastline, or swim in the pristine waters whilst drinking in the magnificence of the Hazards mountain range looming in the distance.
This was quite special, one of those 'pinch yourself' moments, as we marvelled at how awe inspiring and incredibly beautiful this place was and that we were here experiencing it.
A five minute walk from our cottage was Moulting Lagoon, where we were delighted to discover hundreds of soldier crabs daring to appear on the surface at low tide. Mr G captured a bucketful and used those brave crabs as fresh bait to catch many black bream, including a forty two centimetre long one, the biggest he has ever bagged. He was so content. Meanwhile, I stumbled upon a cluster of rocks on the water’s edge covered with Tasmanian blue mussels ripe for harvest. Mesmerised and eager to gather some to cook, I immediately went for a bucket and knife to grab us a feed. Back at the cottage I made a simple broth with tomatoes, garlic, white wine and fresh herbs, and steamed the mussels in it. We stood around the kitchen sink together and tucked in with a spoon each and some crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Not far from Swanwick on the shores of Coles Bay, nestled at the base of the Hazard mountains was 'the shack', an old timber cottage belonging to our new friends, the farmer and Maggie. The farmer had a fishing boat, craypots and a liking for flathead, needless to say Mr G was very interested in spending time with them. We had a wonderful couple of days sharing food and conversation together, a taste of freshly caught and perfectly cooked cray, a pot of mussels harvested from the rocks below and a summer barbecue of lamb, that we all enjoyed around the old red wooden table (that I am sure could tell a thousand tales). Later in the week an early morning outing on the boat for the farmer and Mr G meant catching more flathead in two hours than we had caught on our three month road trip. On returning to the shack the farmer generously cooked up a feast of battered flathead for a late breakfast. In return, we arrived with a bag of bream fillets for them to share next time we saw them.
We ventured to Freycinet National Park to walk the Wineglass Bay/Hazards circuit (another four-hour bush walk), taking in a visit to the Wineglass Bay lookout. We then descended down to Wineglass Bay, where we shared a picnic lunch on the rocks at the end of the beach and an icy cold swim in the transparent aqua coloured waters. You can’t travel all that distance to arrive at one of the most spectacular bays in the world and not dive in - even if the water temperature is close to freezing. We ate our lunch as we defrosted in the sunshine, then redressed and continued on walking. We passed through expansive wetlands, then climbed our way back to the coast and down to the white sands of Hazards Beach. We enjoyed the long walk on the beach and then took a path through a shadowy forest of deadwood trees. We emerged from the forest and joined a rocky path meandering along the coastline high above the waters edge. Looking out to the water, we had spectacular one hundred and eighty degree views of Coles Bay and the ocean beyond. It was a hot afternoon and the walk seem to take longer than we expected, fortunately we made it back just as our drinking water was running dry.
On the only rainy day we had in our time at Swanwick, we took a leisurely half hour drive to the nearby seaside town of Bicheno, known for its fleet of fishing boats and red and orange lichen covered rocks. Bicheno is a very pretty place even on a rainy day and offers a lovely village of shops with a local butcher, baker, supermarket, post office and a variety of cafes and restaurants. Bicheno is the biggest town on this stretch of the east coast.
Our days here were over now, however this little east coast town of Swanwick had won our hearts and left a mark that still makes me smile when I think of those lazy summer days. So many happy moments: enjoying the stunning scenery, wandering walks, refreshing swims at the foot of the mountains, bragging about the size of the bream caught and licking our fingers after eating a pot of succulent mussels (that had been caught just hours before). This place had captivated us and thoughts of precious times shared there with like-minded friends will always be treasured.
Over the coming weeks we ventured further north along the east coast and camped at St Helens, exploring Binalong Bay, the Bay of Fires, Policeman’s Point and Anson’s Bay. We drove through Pygenana and tasted award winning cheddar cheese, talked bream fishing with the locals and ate freshly churned ice cream before breakfast. We discovered the beauty of St Columba Falls and the remoteness of small towns like Derby, Branxholm and Ringarooma. We stayed five nights in the coastal town of Bridport, where the water temperature was just a little warmer and took a long day trip to enjoy the vineyards of the Tamar Valley. We wondered how people could see Tasmania in just a week as many do, when we were running out of time after four weeks exploring the East Coast. The next adventure that lay ahead had the potential to surpass them all, and it was both exciting and somewhat daunting to imagine. As our final adventure on this visit to Tasmania, we had booked ourselves in to walk The Overland Track in the Cradle Mountain National Park. It was something we had always wanted to do. The two of us joined a group of ten others with two guides to walk seventy kilometres of wilderness over six days and nights, and as we prepared to start we wondered - how hard could that be?
© Stories - Our Delicious Adventure - Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel by Jane Grover