An hour’s drive south-east of Hobart airport, the wild and windswept Tasman Peninsula, best known for the World Heritage-listed historic site at Port Arthur, is undergoing a quiet revolution. Here are four more brand new reasons to visit the Tasman Peninsula:
1-Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed
From the outside, this place is nothing fancy, just a gravel car park and a barn-like timber restaurant on a windswept hill. But Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed, which opened in December 2014, wears its warmth on the inside, where you’ll find a high-ceilinged, minimalist space with tables of local bluegum, armchairs by a fireplace and large windows overlooking pinot and chardonnay vines to Blackmans Bay.
Owners Matt and Vanessa Dunbabin never intended to run a restaurant, just a cellar door serving their boutique cold-climate wines and their neighbours’ award-winning oysters (plus locally farmed abalone and mussels) so the menu is refreshingly simple.
Try the natural oysters with three types of dressings – Thai lime, soy & ginger and minyonette – or the Mussels Cataplana with sourdough, and a glass of the Jimmy’s Hill hand-harvested pinot gris 2014.
There’s also beef and lamb from the property and locally made pies and biscuits, and takeaway oysters, live or freshly shucked.
More information: Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed is open 10am-5pm daily and until 9pm Fridays, and for events.
2-Wild Ocean Tasmania’s seal-watch experience
In a world-first, Wild Ocean Tasmania has developed a “sea-view platform” for a fresh, underwater perspective on Tasmania’s incredible marine life.
The 3-hour experience, which has been going since January 2015, involves a boat trip along the Tasman Peninsula where your guides look for suitable spots to launch the platform.
Then you get into the water – wearing a drysuit over your clothes and a mask and snorkel – and lie on this floating trampoline with your face in the water, looking down at wild Australian and New Zealand fur seals, the world’s last giant kelp forests, maybe even dolphins, orcas and migrating whales in their element.
If you’d rather stay high and dry, try a three-hour Wilderness Cruise with Tasman Island Cruises in one of its purpose-built 12.5m inflatables (no drysuits, but you do get to wear red waterproof overalls).
More information: Wild Ocean Tasmania’s 3-hour trips cost $175 per person ($135 for children).
3-Port Arthur Lavender
The main attraction at this new boutique, organic lavender farm, which is right on the main road to Port Arthur and opened in October 2014, is its industrial-chic restaurant/café.
It has all the ingredients you need for a cosy Tasmanian lunch: an open fire, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay and some of the farm’s 16,000 lavender plant.
The menu includes lavender-inspired offerings such as lavender panna cotta, lavender hot chocolate (made with their own chocolate ganache) and lavender grey tea, as well as heartier options like gourmet rabbit pie and salt and pepper squid.
Wander over to the gift shop, in the same building, which sells everything from locally made lavender soaps, eye masks, organic beauty products and lavender-scented Tasmanian devils to eco-certified soy candles, lavender honey and hand-made, lavender-scented paper.
Then take a self-guided walk around the farm and lavender oil distillery; the best months to visit are December and January when the lavender blooms.
More information: Port Arthur Lavender is open 10am-4pm (until 8pm in January and February).
4-Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
The Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, which has been operating since 1978, is undergoing a transformation, becoming the world’s first intentional “unzoo”, which will open in October 2015, in partnership with American unzoo-guru Jon Coe, who has worked on more than 60 zoos and aquariums worldwide to redefine how we relate to wild animals and nature in general.
The Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is removing animal enclosures and boundary fences, for instance, and instead has walking paths and free-range experiences with kangaroos and native birds as well as devils.
There’s also a new “devil tracking” tour where you get to retrieve nightly infrared video footage of wild Tasmanian devils to look for signs of the dreaded facial tumour disease, which hasn’t affected Tasman Peninsula devils so far.
It’s tourism-for-conservation at its most elemental.
More information: Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is open 9am-5.30pm daily. Entry $33 ($18 for children), Devil Tracking Tours $49 ($25 for children).