Sensory overload: exploring Tasmania by car

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Sensory overload: exploring Tasmania by car

Launceston is an ideal place to start a fly-drive holiday around Tasmania, especially if you have the right wheels. I pick up a cherry red Ford with an XR engine complete with spoiler and my 5am start begins to feel worthwhile. Today this car will take me from fields of lavender to cellar doors and sand dunes.

The Victorian streetscapes of Launceston have been kept intact thanks largely to a lull of activity between when they were built and the present day. A good way to acclimatise to Tasmania is to visit the city’s Design Centre which showcases the most divisive and iconic element of the state: its trees. I am overwhelmed by the peppery smell of timber and polish that is matched only by the smell of a pinot noir at my next stop.

The quirky Leaning Church Vineyard has the best tasting notes I have ever stumbled across. Take the summary of the 2010 Chardonnay, compared to Dolly Parton:

“Perfectly curved, bold melons, soft and creamy in the mouth, powerful undertones, a little nutty and guaranteed to age gracefully!”

Or for the male version, the 2011 Chardonnay Reserve:

“The Fabio of Chardonnays – full-bodied, flavoursome and ending in a fabulous woody!”

More overloaded senses are on the cards as I drive to Bridestowe Lavender Farm. The rows of lavender only bloom in December, so I head for the kitchen. Every product in the café contains lavender. Sausage rolls, shortbread, cheese, relish and milkshakes all contain the purple product.

The must-taste is the lavender ice cream which tingles on the tongue and tastes nothing like the cake of soap I expected. Apparently when the lavender paints the valley purple, people do all sorts of odd things. One woman was found lying among the bushes staring at the sky while one group was caught hurdling over the crop rows.

My final destination for the day is the Lost Farm at Barnbougle Dunes, a golf course modelled on the great coastal tees of Scotland and Ireland. Between the lavender and the dunes, the GPS is a little too good and takes me down a goat track – or in these parts, more a sheep track.

As I park my car at the hotel, I see that the cherry red is now smattered with mud. I have well and truly broken in my wheels, and the wilderness of Tassie awaits.