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The Huon Valley and D'Entrecasteau Channel
Convict Ruins Flowing 100 kilometres from Lake Pedder to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in south-east Tasmania, the Huon River threads through country ranging from wilderness to cultivated. The Huon Valley, less than 50 kilometres south of Hobart as the river nears the coast, is an area of intensive orcharding, producing more than half of Tasmania’s apples. The Apple and Heritage Museum at Grove, just north of Huonville, provides a history of the industry.

The first apple tree is said to have been planted by William Bligh in 1788 at Adventure Bay on nearby Bruny Island. Bruny Island is accessible by car ferry from Kettering, east of the Huon River on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. From Dennes Point on the north of the island, visitors can drive south, taking in the rough, wild coastline of Storm Bay on the east and the quiet of the Channel on the west. The road passes over The Neck (where a penguin rookery exists) to the south part of the island where the landscape ranges from mountains to beaches. A trip to the lighthouse on Cape Bruny on the southern shore takes in some dramatic scenery.

The sheltered D’Entrecasteaux Channel was named eponymously by the French explorer Bruni D’Entrecasteaux in 1792. The channel became important for shipping between Hobart and the coastal bases of whalers, sealers and timber-getters further south. One of the timbers felled from this part of Tasmania was the Huon pine, which can live for 2000 years and was found long-lasting and particularly useful for shipbuilding.

D’Entrecasteaux also named the Huon River after Captain Huon de Kermadec, commander of one of D’Entrecasteaux’s ships L’Esperance. Back on the mainland, Huonville is the main service centre for the district, and is located about 10 kilometres from the mouth of the Huon. Jet-boat riding, paddleboating and fishing are popular here, and a drive through the surrounding area in spring will reveal orchards in blossom, and in summer show them into production of apricots, plums, cherries, pears and apples.

Two towns lying between Huonville and the Huon River estuary are Franklin and Port Huon. Franklin is the oldest township on the Huon, with some surviving early architecture and a flourishing arts and craft community, including some notable woodturners. Port Huon, once a busy trading port, is now an ideal place from which to take a cruise up the Huon. It is also the site of some of Tasmania’s increasingly successful Atlantic salmon farms.

Inland from Port Huon is Geeveston, known as the gateway to 1740-hectare Hartz Mountains National Park. The gravel road to the park runs through tall eucalypt forest, valleys of beech rainforest, alpine heathland and rocky mountain tops. Arve Falls, before Hartz Peak, where the Arve River drops suddenly is worth a stop. At the end of the road, a number of walks of varying degrees of difficulty are marked out, including a rugged one to Hartz Peak which can take up to five hours return. Walkers should be prepared for sudden changes in weather.

If instead of following the road from Geeveston south into Hartz Mountains National Park visitors turns north onto Arve Road Forest Drive, they will arrive at Tahune Forest Reserve, where again a number of walks have been marked out. Various timbers can be identified here including Huon pine, sassafras and myrtle.

From Geeveston south along the coast of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and leaving the Huon behind, it is back to the seascape. Off the fishing town of Dover you can see the islands Faith, Hope and Charity, and enjoy a stroll along the beach. Southport, further south, was once a base for whalers and sealers, and still retains a small fishing fleet. Inland from Southport are the Hastings Caves (on the edge of Southwest National Park) and Hastings Thermal Pool, where waters are at about 27 degrees Celsius all year-round. It is about 20 kilometres south of Hastings to the southernmost settlement in Australia, Cockle Creek. From here a four hour-return walk will take you to the Southern Ocean.

One way of exploring the Huon Valley area is by way of the Huon Valley Trail. The route is marked by timber-crowned signs at 24 locations throughout the area, and begins just south of Hobart at Taroona. Here visitors are invited to climb the 318 steps up the Shot Tower (a shot tower produced rounded lead shot balls by letting molten lead fall in droplets from the top of the tower to the bottom) for views of the surrounding land and water. The trail continues south, taking in the coastal towns, Bruny Island, the orcharding areas and even the peak of Mount Hartz.

For accommodation in Hobart and the South-East of Tasmania, < href=http://www.bookings.travelmate.com.au/accommodation/search_results.php?location=R84>click here.


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