Frenchman's River is a 200 acre working cattle farm near Cygnet in Southern Tasmania's exquisite Huon Valley. Owned by television producer & writer Posie Graeme-Evans (McLeods Daughters & Hi-5) and designer Andrew Blaxland, together they have just opened two newly-restored and beautiful self-catering houses on the farm - The Helmsman's House and The Writers House - for travellers who cherish magnificent views, serenity, bespoke luxury and complete privacy (as well as being spoiled by hosts who enjoy meeting their guests.)
Perfectly placed above lovely Cygnet Bay, the Helmsman's House is a restored Federation-era farmhouse with two large and romantic bedrooms, a pair of opulent bathrooms (with underfloor heating and organic amenities) and a vast living-dining area that leads the visitor out to the limestone terrace with glorious views of water, mountains and sky. Outside areas include a pretty white-painted "folly" - a perfect place to read or meditate embraced by the bay and the hills - and a gazebo at one end of the terrace; sundowner drinks as you watch the sunset? Why not.
And, undoubted star of the well-equipped chef's kitchen is the revolving 1917 Metters Bush Pantry. Perhaps it' a first cousin to one of Dr. Who's Dalek's but here in Southern Tasmania this endearing and eccentric object is the real deal: a radically space-saving pantry whose drawers brim with all kinds of dry goods, sauces, oils and treats.
Among the inclusions in each accommodation house at Frenchman's River is a well-stocked pantry and fridge that together provide a range of seasonal and organic goodies including free-range local eggs, bacon and cheese, plus artisanal bread, milk from the dairy down the road and excellent Tasmanian butter. Tasmanian yoghurt is also provided, along with muesli and organic oats in porridge season.
A bottle of regional wine or local cider, port in a decanter plus a simple two-course meal for your first night at Helmsman's are all provided free of charge; let us know any dietary preferences, we're flexible! (fresh provisions will vary according to what's available in season, but are always generous.)
During the day, the bustling village of Cygnet is a ten minute stroll down the hill (one-way; stepper coming back up) where the famous Red Velvet Lounge, Lotus Eaters Cafe and the Port Cygnet Diner showcase the glorious seasonal produce to be found in the region. Or, if you'd like to buy your own, the Cygnet Garden Larder is certainly worth a visit (just ask for Bec, tell her Posie sent you). Here you'll find the best, freshest fruit and vegetables the valley can offer. The Emergency Butcher next door (true. That's what he calls himself) smokes his own free-range bacon and you can grass-fed beef and lamb in abundance.
The cellar door of Pagan Cider, just outside town on the road to Huonville, is well-worth visiting also: they specialise in micro batches of artisan-made cider from just-picked local fruit (as does Willie Smith's Organic Cider, just outside Huonville on the Hobart Road, and Frank's Cider Bar in Franklin.)
Good restaurants also include Peppermint Bay Bistro (20 minutes from Frenchman's Bay), Petty Sessions (it's a gallery as well) in the riverside village of Franklin (home to the world famous wooden boat school - 30 minutes drive) and Home Hill vineyard restaurant at Ranelagh (25 minutes away).
Two Bud Spur at Gardiners Bay, Hartzview Vineyard (where you can see a collection of old-time apple pickers huts) and Elsewhere vineyard are all less than ten minutes by car and, during August 2016 Mathew Evans - yes the gourmet farmer himself - will have opened his new restaurant on Fat Pig Farm at Glaziers Bay, also ten minutes' drive from Frenchman's River. Saturday lunch is the go and Posie reckons the whole valley is counting down the days! And there's more good news: Mathew is setting up a cooking school. You heard it here first : )
And, all around Frenchman's River winding country roads - many of them waterside - picturesque picnic spots and deserted beaches are all to be found within 2 to 15 minutes drive of Frenchman's River; also, the Bruny Island Car Ferry departs hourly from the fishing village of Kettering (20 minutes away.)
Keep your eye open for seasonal farm gate sales of fruit and vegetables as the harvest is brought in, plus cheese (Grandview Sheeps Milk cheeserie and cafe at Birches Bay is a great place to go: you can watch the sheep being milked every day at 3pm) and even handmade chocolates (in Cygnet, Huonville and Kettering)
Attractions further afield include the extraordinary Tahune Airwalk (walk amongst the tops of Forest Giants), the underground realm of Hastings Caves and thermal Springs, the eccentric Ida Bay railway and, of course, the great South West Wilderness so beloved by walkers and campers alike.
For maximum freedom we suggest you hire a car to explore the region using Frenchman's River as your base.
And did we mention the farm? Two hundred acres of pasture and forest to explore and a peaceful herd of lowlife angus to meet. Legend says a platypus lives in the dam (Posie declares she's seen it twice, at sunset) and you may well see a wedge-tailed eagle or sea-eagle (if it's rough at sea, the sea-eagles come inland for shelter.)
Or, in the evening, you might meet the very reclusive neighbours: pademelons, wallabies, the occasional golden possum, spotted quolls or, even, the Tasmanian Devil who lives under the old apple barn beside Posie and Andrew's house.
Then there are the Southern Lights, the great Aurora Australis. Very late on a winter's night, if you're awake, you might see them dancing in the deep south. And, best of all, they're free!
Welcome to Frenchman's River. We hope you enjoy your stay.
Posie & Andrew Winter 2916