Things to See & Do
Known for its quirky creativity and home to potters, painters, writers, photographers plus the Cygnet Folk Festival (January every year) and the bi-annual French Festival, Le Weekend (incorporating "Le Tour de Cygnet" bike race) our little town is now something of a magnet.
From "Australia" (as opposed to Tasmania) and from just about everywhere else on earth, people who are interested in good food, cool climate wines and glorious scenery visit the region in increasing numbers.
And, at around 45 minutes from Hobart, and around one hour from Hobart Airport, Cygnet's a great place from which to explore Tasmania's pristine South.
From the village itself, pretty roads wander off in all directions, and tucked away you'll come upon bays, perfect unspoiled beaches, vineyards, organic farms - often with seasonal farm-gate sales - and friendly locals (though the wallabies, Tasmanian devils, bettongs, spotted quolls and potoroos can be a bit shy; they wake up when you go to sleep.)
Within a 30 minute radius of Frenchman's River, you can visit:
People will tell you that less than 800 people live in Cygnet, but no-one's counted for a while. What's for sure is that weekends are particularly busy and vibrant, especially when the bi-weekly farmer's market is on (1st & 3rd Sunday of each month.) You'll find the market announced by battered signs stuck on trees and fences just a few days ahead. Very informal, Cygnet, but that's the spirit of the place.
Wonderful bread, organic produce of all kinds, stalls selling everything from hand-made soaps and cosmetics to cakes, plants, books, beautiful timber work and things you just don't expect, that's the market. And it's very friendly. Most people know each other and standing in a queue for a fresh croissant or a Chai Latte, it's not hard to feel like part of the community.
Mary Street is the main street through the village. It's where you'll find great coffee and really delicious & original food at places like the famous Red Velvet Lounge (vegetarian cafe) or The Lotus Eaters, each pretty much in the centre of town. The School House cafe is a friendly place too, and well patronised by the locals. Also, the Cygnet Woodfired Bakery, next to the big IGA store, serves wonderful treats from its enormous stone-built, wood-fired oven at the front of the cafe.
You can find personally designed and hand-made jewellery at Lalique Designs in the main street too, and if you're interested in books, Southern Swan has a great collection, both new and second hand, and doubles as an homeopathic compounding pharmacy where John & Kate Reed make and dispense their medicines worldwide.
ReFind also sells interesting books too but there you'll also come upon high-quality second hand clothes and unexpected treasures from all over the world.
Other shops include Near & Far, selling a range of Artisan-made goods from Asia, and Trove, a really well-curated shop in which to find interesting C19th & 20th furniture and objets.
Cobweb Designs & Gallery, opposite the Red Velvet Lounge has a range of work from local artists, often with a decidedly mystical bent, while Stanley Gallery near the RSL club at the Huonville end of Mary Street, features the work of Richard Stanley who is a watercolour artist of note, finding much inspiration in the local landscape and waterways. The Lovett Gallery, at the back of the town hall, is open on weekends and displays mixed media works from local painters and makers of all kinds.
A chemist's shop, a real estate agent, two butchers' shops - one the renowned "24 hour Emergency Butcher" (true story, there's a mobile number on the window, and Grahame makes great, smoked, organic bacon as well) - a post office, a news agency (with laundromat), two IGA grocers, a hardware store, a branch of the Commonwealth bank plus the delightful Cygnet Larder (an ever-changing array of glorious seasonal vegetables, fruit and bread plus treats and unusual kitchen equipment) make for a pretty serviceable little collection of traditional and not so traditional main-street shops.
And, there's more: two hairdressers, three doctors surgeries (appointment only, though with emergency numbers after hours), two pubs - the Top Pub (opposite the camping ground), and the Bottom Pub (opposite the roundabout where Mary Street turns into the Channel Highway) both have bottle shops; there used to be a middle pub, too, but at the time of writing, though the building has a bottle shop it's changing use in a variety of ways (and might become a back-packers and post office. That's the gossip, anyway.)
A police station near the top pub and two petrol stations serve the community also.
NORTH of Cygnet
Take Mary Street North out of Cygnet towards Huonville, and in a few minutes you'll find the Pagan Cider Cellar Door. Cider-making has brought apples back to the Huon Valley and at Pagan's you can sample a wide range of their excellent produce, including special Micro Brews of special fruit-based ciders.
A couple of kilometres further and there's a left to the Cygnet Coast Road, which will take you towards Glaziers Bay and Wattle Grove . A lovely drive indeed that will lead you in a long, twisting loop beside the river until you arrive back in Cygnet again (at least half an hour - longer if you're tempted to dawdle or take pictures along the way)
However, if you resist the lure of the Cygnet Coast Road and continue instead on the road to HUONVILLE , summer's spectacular berry, cherry & soft fruit season sees farm gate sales of fresh-off-the-tree fruit open up at Woodstock (a couple of kilometres on). You won't taste better cherries, apricots or raspberries anywhere on earth. Big call, but certainly contestable.
HUONVILLE itself has a broad array of shops including specialist grocer Salamanca Fresh/IGA in the main street, plus two terrific cafes - The Local, and The Cat's tongue (a chocolatier which serves breakfast on weekends) - can both be found in Wilmot street.
A large Woolworths plus Fork in the Road (comprehensive hardware and garden centre), various real estate agents, doctors surgeries, a dentist and a petrol stations make Huonville a useful place to visit. And don't pass up the chance to visit The Red Shed, a great repository of second hand furniture plus renovation requirements of all kinds (Wilmot Street)
And did I mention the Jet Boat tour of the Huon River? You'll find the office close to the 50 sign on the esplanade as you enter the town from the direction of Cygnet.
If you head on towards HOBART from Huonville, you'll pass Willie Smith's Apple Shed and Apple Museum a few kilometres North of town. Home of the first organic cider to be brewed in the Huon, this multi-generational family business has pioneered the Mid Winter Fest; a riotous day in the darkest time of the year with a distinctly Heathen edge. Good fun! Willie Smith's also hosts live music on Friday Nights and has a great cafe. Frequently packed!
A five minute drive from Huonville is the village of Ranelagh and the Huon Showgrounds. For those interested in food and local produce, each March, the Taste of the Huon takes place at the Showgrounds and showcases all the spectacular seasonal produce the Huon Valley has to offer.
Nearby you'll find Home Hill Winery which serves its own internationally award-winning wines in its restaurant - an architect-designed mud brick building among the vines; It's worth checking opening times as Home Hill is a popular wedding venue at weekends.
SOUTH (& WEST)
Like to see some of the loveliest old wooden sailing craft in Australia? Well, when you arrive at the bridge spanning the Huon at Huonville (beside the Grand Hotel) from Cygnet, head South/left & follow the signs to FRANKLIN.
A short drive of approximately eight minutes, will bring you to this quaint river-side village strung out along the banks of the Huon.
Maybe you'll stop at Frank's Cider Bar & Cellar Door before you drive on a little further to where you'll find the Wooden Boat Centre.
There, tied up to a collection of wharves, are boats you're unlikely to find in such numbers anywhere else in the country. Often small, but beautifully crafted, they display the love and skill that only time and experience brings; experience passed on at the Wooden Boat Centre to wooden boat disciples who come from all over the world. A special place.
A monthly market, too, takes place in Franklin's restored Art Deco era town hall. Excellent and fun to visit, as are the various cafes, restaurants, pubs and little galleries you'll find here, such as Petty Sessions restaurant and gallery, almost at the end of town on the river bank.
An historic timber town, in the last decade Geeveston has re-invented itself as the gateway to the Hartz Mountains National Park, Tahune Airwalk and, also, Dover and the great South West Wilderness.
Masaki Sushi, a renowned Japanese restaurant with a devoted vegetarian and vegan following also, has fans all around Australia (as with all cafes and restaurants in our region, it's good to check opening times & days, as they vary depending on the season.)
Travelling time will vary from Frenchman's River, however the following places & attractions are all worth a visit, and most can be accomplished within a day:
- Tahune Air Walk - stroll through the tops of forest giants on elevated walkways & see Huon Pine trees growing in the wild on the banks of the river they were named after.
- Dover - home of the rock-lobster & abalone fishing fleet; gateway to the Southern Ocean
- Hastings Caves & thermal springs - guided tours of the underground realm, and afterwards, take a swim in the naturally heated pools just up the road
- Ida Bay Heritage Railway - a quaint red train chugs through the bush to the beach (beside Southport) along an old timber-getters rail track; good walks to be had (the train can drop you off and pick you up again where they turn around at the beach)
- Hartz Mountains - snow capped in winter; great walking tracks
- Southport - a former convict outstation older than Port Arthur, now a holiday settlement
- Cockle Creek - on Recherche Bay (named by Bruni D'Entrecasteaux for one of his ships) - whalers and sealers made sure this hamlet had a wild, wild past
- Southwest Wilderness - for experienced walkers and campers
KETTERING is a small fishing village on the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. And it's from here that the car ferry to BRUNY ISLAND departs approximately every hour (google for the timetable.)
There's also a large marina, the Mermaid Cafe (at the end of the wharf, by the terminal) and The Oyster Cove Inn.
From Frenchman's River there are three pretty drives that will take you to Kettering & the Bruny Island Ferry.
The first drive...
- Nicholls Rivulet peels off to the left from the Channel Highway, the main road leading South from Cygnet; it's a two or three minute drive from Frenchman's River (you can see the road from the terrace of the Helmsman's House: a cream house with a red roof and a huge white shed beside stand together on the corner)
- Follow Nichols Rivulet Road all the way to its end; heading broadly East, it winds up the Cygnet hills and down the other side
- The road ends at the Oyster Cove crossroads (about a 15 minute drive in total from Frenchman's River)
- Turning right at the crossroads, and passing the Oyster Bay store on your right also, follow the signs to Kettering
- A short five minute drive and a left turn into Ferry Road (passing the Oyster Cove Inn on your left) will take you to the Ferry Terminus at the end of the Marina
- Here the Mermaid Cafe serves a snappy cup of coffee, lunch or breakfast as you wait in line to board
- HOWEVER leave yourself plenty of time when you set out; holiday season sees long queues to get on board and you might find yourself having to wait while the ferry departs and returns (about an hour)
The second drive...
- Woodbridge Hill Road is a couple of Kilometres further south on the Channel Highway past the entrance to Nicholls Rivulet Road
- Allow around half an hour from Cygnet to Kettering for this route (more, if the weather is fickle)
- Turn left into Woodbridge Hill Road where you see the sign to Woodbridge
- On the way, you'll pass the Cellar Door of the Two Bud Spur Vineyard. Certainly worth a visit (but maybe not if you want to catch the ferry : )
- Follow the Woodbridge Hill Road up the valley and the foot-hills for some few kilometres
- Before the road really starts to climb, you'll see a sign to Hartzview Vineyard on the (sharp) left; once one of the oldest apple orchards in the district, the owners have restored a "street" of apple pickers huts that can be visited, however Hartzview is now known for producing blackcurrant cassis as well as award winning wine, both of which can be sampled in its own restaurant
- Back on the Woodbridge Hill Road, keep going until you reach the top and, winding down the other side through bush, you'll shortly see spectacular views of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel all the way to Hobart (in the very far distance)
- BEWARE, however.
- This is a narrow road with many unexpected twists and turns; in winter it can be foggy and icy in places and the summit is blind on one or two of the curves
- Driving down the other side, views of fields, mountains, bush and the Channel reward the intrepid
- And, the road will bring you down to meet the Channel Highway at a crossroads beside the general store, and opposite the quaint Woodbridge Hall
- Turn left, towards Kettering and Hobart at this point
- And you will pass, or not, Peppermint Bay (a charming waterside bistro and restaurant serving excellent local wine and food)
- In fine weather sit outside on the terrace under the umbrellas; if it's cold, snuggle up by the fire inside
- Continuing towards Kettering - about ten minutes from Woodbridge - lovely countryside and views of the river will keep you entertained until, entering Kettering, you make a right turn into Ferry Road, and drive on down to the Bruny Island Ferry Terminus at the end of the Marina.
The third drive...
Along the Channel Highway all the way from Cygnet to Kettering via places such as Randalls Bay, Eggs & Bacon Bay, Verona Sands, Gordon, Middleton, Flowerpot (yes, really) Birches Bay and Woodbridge...
- Allow at least 50 minutes, if you don't stop, for this drive
Following the highway from Cygnet to Kettering will take you on a delightful, twisty route through little holiday communities, pasture and bush alongside the river where it seems the whole world owns at least one boat.
Points of interest that you might like include,
- Randall's Bay; follow the signs off the highway down to the Bay - a gentle, shallow cove ideal for a summer swim (about 15 to 20 minutes for Frenchman's River)
- Red Sails Cider, Middleton; there's no cellar door but in Apple season - around March/April - keep an eye out for the Cider Trail to be announced because Red Sails prides itself on making cider from Heritage Breed apples
- Just after Flowerpot, Grandvewe Cheesery can be found at Devlins Road, Birches Bay where the owners make sheep's milk cheese from their own flock.
- Apart from witnessing the sheep being milked at 3pm every day, you can sample coffees and teas of all kinds made with sheeps' milk, various sheeps' cheeses - delicious - and eat soup and light snacks while also sampling vodka made on the premises. The unusual combination rather suits this eccentric establishment. The sheep are friendly and so are the owners
- Pepper berry Cafe and Art Farm (plus forest walks on the property) can be found at Birches Bay not far from Grandview
- Pepper berry is the sponsor of a yearly Sculpture competition and you can take the 1.5km walk to inspect the works in a bush setting
- From Pepperberry, you'll drive a couple of kilometres to reach Woodbridge and Peppermint Bay (see drive 2, above)
- And from Woodbridge, it's around ten minutes to Kettering and the Ferry Terminus at Ferry Road.