A festival in Tasmania’s north-west celebrates the delicious, fresh produce of this prolific region of our island state.
Story + Photos Ricky French
Two laps of Tasmania. 14,000km. 200 property inspections. That’s what it took for Matt Packwood and Sarah Hollings to find the perfect place to start their new life. The couple “jumped off the corporate bus,” as Sarah puts it, leaving their home in McLaren Vale, SA, to reinvent themselves as distillers. They just didn’t know where. Selling everything they’d ever owned or earned, they arrived in Tasmania in 2019 with nothing more than a ute and a rooftop tent.
“We had 11 criteria,” Sarah says. “One was fresh, clean water, and another was a region that had exceptional producers we could collaborate with.” Table Cape, 7km north of Wynyard, ticked every box. On a hilltop overlooking Bass Strait, an old shed housed their new business, Alchymia Distillery. A regular stream of passers-by now flows off the Bass Highway to buy a bottle of whiskey, gin or vodka, and stock up from a fridge full of local cheese, cider and seafood. “The produce that comes out of this place is the best in the world,” Sarah says. “There really is something in the water.”
There’s also something in the ground. The red, volcanic soils are so fertile and the rainfall so reliable they say you can hear the grass growing at night. Cape Grim Beef is already a household name, named after the state’s most north-western tip, which has the cleanest air in the world, thanks to the ‘laundering’ effect of thousands of kilometres of unbroken ocean. Then there’s the ocean itself, stocked with sustainably managed fish, oysters, octopus and abalone. Even the cool temperate rainforests of the Tarkine provide for the table, with the sweet nectar of its leatherwood trees collected by bees to produce premium honey.
Last November the region held the first Stanley and Tarkine Forage Festival, a 10-day celebration of local produce. Circular Head Tourism Association manager Kim Bailey says it’s all about “getting people to turn right,” once they disembark the ferry at Devonport. “The north-west sometimes gets overlooked but word is finally getting out,” Kim says.
This story excerpt is from Issue #149
Outback Magazine: June/July 2023