It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with Tasmania. It may have been while exploring The Museum of Old And New Art (a mind-bending gallery carved into Hobart’s Triassic sandstone cliffs), hunting for convict ghosts at Port Arthur, embracing nature on Bruny Island, or drinking in the clove-like aroma of Huon pine by the mighty Franklin River. All I know is that it’s an island I adore, a wondrous and wild escape that was never far from my mind - despite the fact I hadn’t visited since I was a teenager.
While I’d daydreamed about returning for a while, it was Black Blaze’s ‘bush walk’ candle that eventually led me back. This was the first scent founders Ray and Joe created; a blend of citrus, grass, pine and eucalyptus inspired by the Overland Track - a long-distance walk that links Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. Hearing how moved they were by their own hiking experience, and how dwarfed they felt by the immensity of the ancient landscape, I released I’d put off a Tasmanian adventure for far too long. I wanted to be somewhere elemental, where nature dominated and walks were plentiful - so set about planning a long weekend on the Apple Isle’s East Coast.
This is how I found myself breathing in the scent of smoke, tea tree and salt as I sat by the crackling outdoor fire pit at Whale Song Shack, watching as the sea spray diffused the late-afternoon light, making the scene before me seem as soft and velvety as the aroma.
Owners Ingrid and Clif Daniell were passionate about restoring the land to its natural state, and set about regenerating the indigenous flora. They preserved leucopogon and bower spinach, which grows wild by the water, and added endemic plants like correa, cushion bush, lomandra, isolepus and banksia. Thriving garden and light-bathed, art-filled interior aside, the most dreamy element here is the view - an endless sea or a canopy of stars, depending on the hour.
The journey to Whale Song was a delight in its own right. I followed the Great Eastern Drive north from Hobart, stopping for a beach ramble at Mayfield Bay, to toast the view at the Devil’s Corner Cellar Door, to photograph Kelvedon Beach’s iconic wooden boatshed, and, finally, in postcard-perfect Bicheno to stock up on freshly shucked oysters from The Lobster Shack.
Falmouth itself is everything you want an Aussie beach town to be - a petite community seemingly caught in a 1960s time warp, and framed by aquamarine water, a white sand beach and farmland. I knew that tomorrow’s escapades would be just as magical, but for now, I was blissfully content at Whale Song, watching the sunset transform the sky into a melange of pastel, and convincing myself that the ebb and flow of seaweed was a particularly inquisitive seal.
Ingrid felt a similar power when she first saw Whale Song. “It’s very hard to describe that feeling without sounding a bit trippy. I was overcome with a sense of knowing - that I’d experienced this place before in a dream,” she says. “It was absolutely love at first sight. The shack needed a lot of work but the site was one of profound beauty and incredibly special.”
Things remained serene the next morning as I stood beside Halls Falls, which I’d reached via a short descent through bushland, the air around me scented by blue gum and fern. I was struck by the lushness of it all - the vividness of the greens and the way the sunlight seemed to dance on the water. St Columba Falls were equally picturesque, and I rounded off my laid-back tramping efforts with lunch at the Pub in the Paddock and cheese from Pyengana Dairy.
Sometimes you know you’re going to relish a place long before you arrive. You’ve built it up in your mind, lusted over travellers’ photographs, and promised yourself it will be magical. And when you finally visit, nothing disappoints. This proved true with the Bay of Fires, a staggering 50-kilometre-long stretch of coastline revered for its crystalline waters and secluded beaches - and the next stop on my East Coast getaway.
My base here was Bay of Fires Bush Retreat, where sandy feet are encouraged and you remember just how glorious glamping can be. Although the retreat is only a few minutes drive from the rock pools and white sand of Binalong Bay (also home to Meresta Eatery, ideal for seafood lovers), you immediately feel that here, you’re far from the madding crowd.
Owners Anna Hoffmann and Tom Dicker visited the Bay of Fires as kids, and always felt connected, with Tom purchasing the Bush Retreat land 20 years ago. Utilising Anna’s background in environmental design, the couple went on to create a getaway with heart that allows visitors to experience the things Tom and Anna adore about travel: calmness, the chance to meet new people, and excellent food and wine.
Bush Retreat is self-catering, but if cooking isn’t your forte, you can put together a platter using regional producers and tipples from their honesty bar or tuck into a meal pre-prepared (all of which are prepared in-house and are influenced by Tom and his years of cheffing experience). The lamb ragu was perfection, finished with spinach gathered from the veggie garden.
I’d come to the Bay of Fires to watch a sunset from Cosy Corner, scramble over granite boulders cloaked in orange lichen, hike around St Helens Point and take a bracing dip at Sloop Lagoon - but one of the most joyous experiences was simply sitting by the Bush Retreat fire, moving, as the night progressed, from tea, to wine, to marshmallows. The sense of well-being grew as I listened to the patter of rain against my tent, wondering if there was a better sound in the world. With my odyssey drawing to a close, it was clear that I had entirely new reasons to love Tasmania - and wouldn’t be waiting decades to come back.
Words by Liz Schaffer