It's not every day that James Bond licks your thigh with unashamed abandon. James Bond the cow, that is, named for her 007 tag. But this is what happens while I'm walking around Deep Water dairy farm in Tasmania's lush Huon Valley with farm manager Richard Butler, one of several stops on a four-day road trip.
The small herd of rare-breed cows produce the rich, organic milk that goes into Bruny Island's sought-after cheeses but, as Richard explains, everything on this sustainable farm is interlinked. Free-range pigs eat whey from the cheeses and by-products of the island's brewing operation; chickens control insects, help fertilise the paddocks and produce eggs; pigs are eventually turned into handmade sausages and bacon.
Richard and his wife Karen run tours of the farm (gumboots provided) and you can buy cheeses and local produce in the boutique farm shop.
Tasmania is deservedly lauded for its food and wines and, increasingly, for its craft ciders. Willie Smith's is a family cider company that dates back to 1888 and is now run by the original Willie's descendants, father-and-son duo Ian and Andrew Smith. The Willie Smith Apple Shed in Grove combines a restaurant, museum and even a distillery – apple-based spirits are taking off and their Charles Oates collection is enjoying record sales.
Offerings at Willie-Smith’s. Photo: Natalie Mendham
We sample the cider tasting paddle, a selection of deliciously dry drops made from organically grown apples that are a world away from the mass-produced sweet fizzy stuff. Manager Kate Marsden says a lot of people don't understand cider and how it can be paired with food, just like wine.
Wine critic Winsor Dobbin agrees. "People are familiar with wines made in a wide range of styles but are less comfortable with artisan cider made from different apples, and local fruits, and in a selection of styles," he says. "The Huon has to convince visitors to take a step into the cider unknown."
I don't need any convincing and we enjoy another cider-tasting at Frank's Cider House and Cafe in Franklin. Owner Naomie Clark-Port is a fifth-generation apple grower; the cafe's charming wooden building houses a collection of photographs and artefacts that depict her family's history.
Across the road, set on the banks of the broad, peaceful Huon River, is the Wooden Boat Centre. This remarkable establishment is the only wooden boatbuilding school still operating in Australia, and after a guided tour, my husband is sorely tempted to sign up for a 12-month course. This notion takes wings when we have dinner with Sean Langman, a renowned sailor and CEO of the Noakes boatbuilding group, at his Kermandie Hotel in Port Huon. Sean owns more than 40 wooden boats and his enthusiasm is contagious.
The valley certainly attracts more than its fair share of creative people. We meet potter Bronwyn Clarke at her studio in Deep Bay, near the arty town of Cygnet. One of the exhibitors on the popular Art & Wine Trail, scheduled for November 5-7, she makes elegant artworks using clay dug up from her front yard, and her pieces are bought by collectors worldwide.
After taking in magnificent treetop and mountain views from the soaring AirWalk at Tahune Adventures, we stop at Geeveston, a pretty forest town where the ABC TV series Rosehaven is filmed. A surprise Japanese platter arrives at our table at Cassy Faux's Harvest and Light Cafe courtesy of "surfing sushi chef" Masaaki Koyama, who is something of a local legend.
Hastings Caves is another surprise, a magical world of ancient chambers and spectacular subterranean formations – the biggest, Newdegate Cave, is more than 40 million years old. There are hot springs and some easy walks in the surrounding forest. As snow is now falling on the mountaintops, we head for Dover, en route to the walk from Cockle Creek to South Cape Bay, the furthest south you can go in Australia.
Villa Talia. Photo: Supplied
Our Huon road trip is bookended by stays in two great properties: Villa Talia in Wattle Grove, less than an hour's drive from Hobart, and Corinda in Hobart's Glebe. Villa Talia is a beautifully designed private house set among rolling hills with sublime river and mountain views. Corinda is a gorgeous heritage home, built by the current owner's great-great uncle in the 1870s. It has been painstakingly restored and the historic gardens have won a National Trust award.
The writer was a guest of the Huon Valley Council; huonvalley.tas.gov.au.