There’s something very appealing about rugging up for a campfire, sitting beneath blankets and drinking hot chocolate under the stars, before retiring to the cosy interior of your camper for an epic night’s sleep in comfort and warmth.
Travel opportunities abound in Tasmania – and although camping there during the southern winter may be a very different beast to camping in the warmer months, I reckon it’s entirely underrated. With a camper hitched to the back of your car, stocked full of extra blankets, warm jackets and beanies, you’re sure to be in for a treat.
We set our sights on the Huon Valley, just outside Hobart in Tasmania’s southeast. This region is perfect for self-drive touring and is renowned for its fresh local produce, cool-climate wines and peaceful rural vibes – sounds like a winning destination to me!
We found ourselves at Grove, some 35km south of Hobart, one Saturday morning in late July. We pulled into the car park of Willie Smith’s Apple Shed just a week out from their popular mid-winter festival.
Anyone planning a trip to this region in winter should put this festival into the calendar – there’s nothing quite like the huge roaring bonfire, mulled cider, live music and friendly festival vibes to warm you up on the coldest of winter days.
The local produce market was underway and stallholders from the surrounding area were touting a range of goods, including organic pork, vegies, preserves, jams and wood products made from local blackheart sassafras and sweet-smelling Huon pine.
The backdrop of snow-covered mountains contrasted with the brilliant blue sky, and locals in down jackets and beanies (Tasmania’s informal winter uniform) sat in the sun drinking coffee and cider.
As well as a range of cider available for tasting, Willie Smith’s offers great food – including charcuterie and delicious house-made apple pie.
Having bought some meat to cook on the campfire, as well as a range of preserves, we continued on. But just five minutes down the road we were sidetracked by the sign for Home Hill winery.
We were welcomed into the warmth of the restaurant and found ourselves at the tasting counter, the outlook across the vineyard providing a pretty rural backdrop as we worked our way down the list of reds.
Be sure not to overlook the Summer Kitchen Bakery on your way through.This cosy little corner store and cafe has an array of sourdough breads, pastries, pies and cakes, and I can highly recommend the wallaby pie, followed by a piece of their amazing carrot cake.
On the other side of town you’ll find Huon Bush Retreats, a refuge of dense bush high up on the hillside. We enjoyed the view across the forested valley from one of the lookouts on the property. There’s a selection of bushy campsites and a network of walking tracks to explore, including one to the summit of Mount Misery, where on clear days you can see across to Bruny Island and down toward the south-west wilderness.
The small town of Huonville straddles the banks of the Huon River, not far from where it widens and opens out to the sea. You can continue south on the Huon Highway, following the river past the towns of Geeveston and Dover, before eventually reaching Southport.
From Southport, it’s less than an hour to Cockle Creek and the end of the road: it's as far south as you can get by car, next stop Antarctica.
There’s plenty on offer for campers down this way, including some great walks in Hartz Mountains and Southwest national parks, underground adventures in the form of cave tours at Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, as well as two popular bush camping areas at Cockle Creek.
The nearby town of Cygnet, which we accessed by the Channel Highway, has the lovely feel of a close-knit rural community. It’s worth spending some time wandering the main street, where you’ll find a mix of cafes, antique stores, boutiques and a great little larder filled with local vegies, fruit and cheeses.
If you time your trip right, the Cygnet Farmers Market, held on the first and third Sunday of each month, is a great place to stock up your camper pantry with fresh produce while enjoying the colourful market atmosphere.
When it came time to leave, we took one of the back roads towards Woodbridge. Smoke poured out of chimneys, dilapidated barns dotted the roadside and cows grazed in the paddocks as the road climbed. Then, as we came down off the ridgeline, the view opened up across the water, the steep sea cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula just visible in the distance.
We made it just in time to pick out a strong-tasting sheep cheese from Grandewe Cheeses – the last treat required to round out our night’s camping feast. Grandewe offers beautiful views across the water from Birchs Bay. You can sample the array of cheeses, and be sure to try the boutique gin and vodka – unusually made from sheep whey.