Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania review: Who you gonna call? Not me

Oyster Shucking in Saffire Freycinet, Coles Bay, Tasmania.
Oyster Shucking in Saffire Freycinet, Coles Bay, Tasmania. 

Read our writer's views on this property below

Tech-addict Megan Levy gets used to an electronics-free break with surprisingly little trouble.

The view across the still bay and up into the pink granite peaks is so striking it's crying out to be Instagrammed. But that won't be happening in this quiet pocket of Tasmania, where a man in a dark suit has confiscated my iPhone and iPad, and sentenced them to sit in the naughty corner for the weekend.

For many Australians for whom the devices have become an appendage, two days without the dings and buzzes of email, Facebook and Twitter is a monumental challenge. Sit on any bus or train in the city and watch the masses stooped over, swiping away furiously with their index fingers.

Spa Saffire at Saffire Freycinet.
Spa Saffire at Saffire Freycinet. 

Ridiculously, I was sitting at home tethered to both my laptop and iPad when the email pinged in from our southern cousins. Would I like to come down for the weekend to Saffire Freycinet, a lodge on the fringe of the Freycinet National Park on Tasmania's wild east coast, to disconnect, quite literally, for the weekend? All phones and digital devices would be banned. It's not so much a detox, but an etox, and I'm the first to admit it: I'm a technology addict.

If there's an ideal place to calm a busy brain, this luxury lodge would be among the leading contenders. Certainly you pay handsomely for the experience - a four-figure sum a night - but the experience is, well ... it's electric.

There are 20 spacious private suites, each with glass walls positioned to take in sweeping views of Coles Bay and the Hazards mountain chain. Some have private plunge pools. The bath, again with a view, looks as though a small car could be submerged in it.

I was wondering what could possibly occupy my "device hand". It turns out the extensive minibar is all inclusive.

It's a short, covered walk to the main, stingray-shaped lodge, which contains the lounge and gourmet restaurant, touted as the best in Tasmania. Again, all food and drinks are included. And it's here that, on check-in, the concierge plucks my electronic devices from my hands and banishes them to the safe.

The first morning at Saffire began with a tweet of a different kind: a kookaburra, pecking at the window at breakfast. If I was on the outside gazing in on my ricotta hotcakes and rice pudding - fancier than the kind mum used to make (sorry, mum) - I'd want in on the action too.

At Palate Restaurant, chef Hugh Whitehouse, a champion of Tassie produce and the former chef at Darleys in the Blue Mountains, has put together an exceptional menu to rival any city eatery.

The dinner menu includes truffles and oysters, pulled from the bay that day, slow-braised quail and gently poached striped trumpeter, to name just a few dishes, with wine to match.

The Apple Isle has turned on a stunner, and we're off on the boat for a cruise around Schouten Island and along the isolated white sand wilderness that is Great Oyster Bay.

Phoneless, I've had to remember to bring a camera. My phone is also my clock, and I begin to ask Captain Wally for the time before I realise that, really, it doesn't matter. Where do I have to be, except sitting starboard-side enjoying the bay breeze as we push quietly up the coast in the autumn sunshine?

We pull up close to a colony of seals and watch as they slide into the sea with a splash. Then we cruise into a turquoise bay for a cuppa and cake on deck.

There's another initial urge to Instagram that afternoon when I'm standing thigh-deep in an estuary in an ugly pair of waterproof waders. Our guide, Joel, has whipped out a white cloth to cover the table that's perched in the water.

We gather oysters from the water and shuck them, before slurping them down. Bless whoever remembered the bottle of sparkling.

The next day starts with a private yoga lesson in my suite from Helen, who stretches my legs into angles they'll never grace again.

Then it's an etox facial and scrub, the gold-standard in beauty treatment. Or the diamond standard - my body is literally polished with crushed diamonds.

Perhaps the most tranquil moments are spent sitting and watching as the bay transforms in the evening light, and gazing up at the star-choked sky at night. There's a sense of freedom without the need to look at those small screens that have somehow barged into my life.

In a world of digital domination, it's a relief to switch off and recharge your inner batteries, rather than the ones on your digital devices.

Megan Levy was a guest of Saffire Freycinet.

 

Five more places to switch off technology

1 For a digital detox without the five-star price tag, head to Lady Musgrave Island, Queensland.

The only facilities on this coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef are three composting toilets and picture-perfect beaches.

There is no electricity or mobile reception or, quite frankly, anything. You will have to bring your own tent, food and drinking water. Get back to basics and watch a sublime sunset over the ocean, or play beach cricket with a bat made out of a stick. Camping fees are $5.45 a person a night. nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/capricornia-cays/camping.html.

2 For those craving a little more comfort than an inflatable air mattress, head to Cockatoo Hill Retreat in the Daintree Rainforest, Queensland.

Guests who book the digital detox package will relax in peace, but also in style. You'll stay in a private treehouse with views to the Coral Sea. There's no television, wi-fi or mobile reception at this luxury lodge, which is perched between Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas in Queensland's tropical north. The cost is $1175 for one adult for three nights, or $1225 for two adults for three nights. daintreeinfo.com/package-deals/Digital-Detox-Package-2085.php.

3 Digital addicts can unplug at the eco safari camp Sal Salis on the shores of the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.

Relax in a luxury wilderness "tent", swim with whale sharks, or just kick back in the white sand dunes of the Cape Range National Park without any digital distractions. Rates start at $725 a person a night for adults in twin-share accommodation. The price includes all activities. salsalis.com.au.

4 Embrace your inner settler at Arkaba Station, Flinders Ranges, South Australia.

This homestead dating to 1851 is set on a 24,000-hectare sheep station and has five rooms for guests. There are no televisions, telephones or minibars in the guest rooms, but the homestead does have a library with deep leather armchairs for sitting back with a good book, and a wide terrace overlooking the ranges, perfect for dinner and a cheeky drink. A wet-edge pool also overlooks Arkaba Creek. Rates start at $790 an adult a night based on twin-share occupancy, and includes transfers, all meals and activities. arkabastation.com.

5 The six-star Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa in the Blue Mountains, NSW, has it all — except mobile phone reception.

There are 40 free-standing luxury suites, each with a private terrace and swimming pool. This high-end resort is built around a fully restored homestead and nestles within a private conservation and nature reserve. But you will pay for the privilege. Heritage suites start at $1950 twin share a night, including food, drinks and activities. wolganvalley.com/wolgan-valley/en/index.asp.

Trip notes

Where Saffire Freycinet is at Coles Bay, midway along Tasmania's east coast.
Getting there
It's a 2½-hour drive from Hobart, or a two-and-a-bit-hour drive from Launceston. Chauffeur transfers — or helicopter transfers — are available.
How much
$3600 a person, including all food and drink, activities, and a massage.
Style statement
Luxury, five-star.
Perfect for
Relaxing in style and quite literally switching off.
Take the kids?
While possible, it's probably best not to.
A shame about
The price means this will be out of reach for many people.
Kudos for
The location, food, layout. We can't fault much here.