Saffire, Coles Bay review: Hazards loom large

Read our writer's views on this property below

Surrounded by granite, sand and ocean, Jane Reddy checks into a $32 million 'luxury shack' on the Freycinet Peninsula.

In waders, knee-deep in the glassy estuarine waters of Moulting Lagoon, I finally fall for the oyster au naturel.

The winter sun still has bite; hours earlier on the road from Hobart, patches of black ice on Bust-Me-Gall Hill confirmed the chill as I made my way north along Tasmania's east coast, stealing glimpses of Great Oyster Bay's yawning arc.

My guide, Veronica, selects a few of the 900,000-odd Pacific variety from a bed, pulls a knife and shucks; I slurp while a feathered competitor, the pied oystercatcher, eyes off the feast. I savour the ivory-coloured, briny flesh, without diversionary flavour. Forgive me the wasted years of the Kilpatrick.

Gluttony is also rewarded with this pearl of virtue; this oyster farm is carbon-positive, Veronica says, with the amount of carbon captured by the molluscs as they lay down their shell of calcium carbonate greater than that released by machinery used here.

My quota is full by the time farmer Dave returns from the beds in Great Oyster Bay just beyond the lagoon where, facing the open saltier waters, the shellfish have been fattening.

"Now this is an oyster," he says, handing over one more plump morsel and heading back to his boat. There's flathead to fillet and the sun is setting.

Everything is easier to swallow, I suspect, here on the Freycinet Peninsula where granite mountains fall away to white sand and sea. Across the bay, those mountains, the Hazards, are turning another shade of pink. They're matched only by the deep blush of the edible succulent samphire, Sarcocornia blackiana, on the edge of the lagoon.

We make our way back on the dirt track, potholes patched with oyster shells, to the main road and the township of Coles Bay, turning off at the newly opened Saffire.

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The Federal Group's $32 million boutique property, designed by Robert Morris Nunn and Associates, is positioned in so many ways to attract the well-heeled in search of bespoke accommodation, service and a little bit of adventure.

The property faces a peninsula loved by many: two outcrops of granite - the Hazards and mounts Graham and Freycinet - joined by a sand isthmus between Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach. Declared a national park in 1916, campers today enter a ballot for a handful of sites during busy times at dreamy-sounding locations such as Honeymoon Bay. Only half of those visitors are Tasmanian; 40 per cent venture from interstate, 10 per cent from overseas.

Rock climbers have been scaling the sea cliffs of Whitewater Wall and surrounds since the 1970s and fishermen are drawn to the sheltered waters for salmon, kingfish, crayfish and calamari. In the Fisheries, a coveted pocket of the national park, the 30-odd shacks are likely to be passed through the generations rather than put on the market, such is their value.

Captain Richard "Black" Hazard, after whom the range is named, and whalers and sealers in the early 1800s might not have been as enamoured. "There is no employment more hazardous; more laborious; more disgusting than whaling," wrote W.H. Leigh in his 1839 book, Reconnoitering Voyages and Travels.

The hunters had their sights on humpbacks and southern right whales, which they tracked in small boats with hand-held harpoons, for oil and bone. Wineglass Bay, the most photographed landscape of the area, is believed to have been named for the wine-red waters of whaling times.

Today, the peninsula is a place for whale watchers, with humpbacks and southern rights currently migrating north from the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic. They've been sighted close to shore at Wineglass Bay, Hazards Beach and Coles Bay, the calmer waters providing a haven for rest during the long journey, according to the state government's biodiversity conservation branch.

Across the bay at Saffire, the elevated main building fronting Muir's Beach has stingray-shaped wings captured mid-motion. It's quite the heady entrance along a walkway designed to evoke memories of a jetty stroll, the 20 separate suites mimicking waves peeling on the shore. At the end of the jetty is yet another stunning view of the Hazards.

In some ways, the 11-hectare property, accommodating 40 people, is a sampler of the island's finest, where old timber sits with designer furniture inside a space designed to blend, rather than compete, with its environment.

"Luxury shack culture was the design brief," says Campbell Lee, one of the hotel's guest managers recruited from Hobart's Henry Jones Art Hotel, another property in the Federal stable. The premium accommodation is priced accordingly: suites cost from $1250 a night; exclusive use of the entire property costs from $35,000 a night.

Once settled, there's the luxury of choosing to relax or raise the heart rate. Enter the spa for a slathering in a cream of blue sapphire dust or climb to the top of the saddle between Mount Amos and Mount Mayson and then on to Wineglass Bay with one of Saffire's five guides.

The three-level stingray building is open and light, its interior lined with thousands of panels of celery-top pine, a favourite of boat builders and endemic to the state. The library has bookcases of grey ironbark and Eames chairs; the lounge has a low-lying fireplace stretching along its length and there's a terrace from which to star-gaze.

On the cross-section of a thick chunk of aromatic huon pine almost a metre in circumference I count the growth rings, giving up at 200.

Then it's straight on to Hugh Whitehouse's degustation dinner of local produce borne of a temperate climate and rich earth. It includes yellowfin tuna from the east coast, Wild Clover pasture-fed lamb from the foothills of the Dial Range and the wines of Stefano Lubiana from the Derwent Valley.

Returning to my luxury suite I raise the curtains (electronically) on the floor-to-ceiling windows in anticipation of the sunrise.

The bathroom's marble floor is heated, the couch generous and the rug, with designs of local flora and fauna, is soft.

A hot-water bottle dressed in a lamb's-wool jumper and a thermos of herbal tea delivered for turndown are quaint and comforting. The toughest decisions are whether to take to your bed with a single malt whisky, label hand-written, and the Errol Flynn biography or draw a bath sprinkled with milk dust.

At dawn the lights of Coles Bay and the turn of the beacon at Cape Tourville lighthouse are upstaged only by the stars on the other side of the peninsula. As darkness retreats, I can just make out the craggy outlines of the range - mounts Parsons, Baudin, Dove, Amos and Mayson - honouring explorers and men of the cloth.

I trust that they, too, were uplifted by this place.

Photos: $32 million luxury shack

Jane Reddy travelled courtesy of Tourism Tasmania and Saffire.

FAST FACTS

Getting there

Saffire is about 2½ hours' drive from Hobart and from Launceston. A chauffeur-driven car from Hobart to Saffire costs $400. A helicopter from Hobart takes 45 minutes and costs from $2000 a person.

To Hobart: Qantas, Virgin Blue and Jetstar fly from Sydney and Melbourne; Tiger flies from Melbourne only. Fares cost from $39 one-way on Tiger; Qantas flies for $108 one-way from Melbourne and $157 from Sydney. To Launceston: Virgin Blue and Jetstar fly from Sydney and Melbourne; Tiger and Qantas fly from Melbourne only.

Staying there

Saffire, at Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, has introductory rates for a deluxe suite for two people from $1250 a night, a luxury suite from $1400 and a premium suite from $2250. This includes breakfast, lunch, mini bar, activities and a one-hour spa treatment (two hours for the premium suite). Activities such as a visit to the Freycinet Marine Farm are included in the tariff. "Signature experiences", such as a voyage to Schouten Island, cost from $495 a person. Phone 1800 723 347, see www.saffire-freycinet.com.au.

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