Saturday, March 22, 2014

Southerly House, Clifton Beach, TASMANIA

When I free my mind to travel during meditation, it often returns to these places, and I revisit once again the perfect clarity of the water, the texture of the sand under my feet, the light on the sand dunes and the call of the gulls. 

I had the opportunity to add a new beach to this repertoire of Nature’s perfection. Clifton Beach, Tasmania is right up there on the top-10 list.  We recently rented a house in Tasmania - called Southerly - which is about 30 minutes outside of Hobart. With glass walls, modern furniture, decks on both sides and endless views, it was a truly memorable stay. 
view from living room

It has a private little path down to a splendid beach, that is always deserted except for a few surfers. They have their wetsuits, and their board under their arm, and often jog down to the far end of the long curve of the cove. While I had prepared my sister that swimming without a wetsuit was really not going to be much of an option, even in March (the tail end of summer), I found myself irresistibly drawn to the water on our second morning there. We had walked down to the beach for photographs, seashell searches and just taking in the clear oxygenated air. Long after my son and husband had walked back up to the house, I found myself standing in the clear water, being drawn further and further out. Eventually I took the plunge and it was like swimming in the ocean’s equivalent of champagne. 

view from front deck

view from back deck

Not all is perfect at Southerly and the owner would do well to note a few things that need changing, especially given the rate in excess of $800 for a weekend night (with a 3 night minimum).  The kitchen is a long way from gourmet cuisine, and leans more towards the bachelor’s pad in terms of the facilities. The stove top needs updating, with one of the burners missing a knob, and another burner not lighting properly. There is a French press coffee machine, but the screen is very old and the coffee gets seriously muddy. There is also what looks like a very nice expresso machine, but no pods were provided (nor any instructions on where some could be purchased). Also the pillows are quite hard (not a feather in sight) and the owner only provided one towel person. So, 4 people, 4 towels. No hand towels, no wash cloths, and definitely no beach towels. The master bedroom is in the back of the house, and has shades for the left and right side glass walls, but the sliding glass front wall has no shade, so if you are sensitive to light, you will want to pack eye shades. The last issue I will mention is that the cleaning left something to be desired, with the top of the toilet in the downstairs bathroom being covered in dust.

You would think that with this many issues to note, I would hesitate to recommend renting Southerly. I do not. I give it an unconditional thumbs-up. The views and placement on Clifton Beach are so completely perfect that they more than make up for the items mentioned above. So if you are headed to the Hobart area, pack your favourite pillow, grab some eye shades, maybe take a few extra towels, and enjoy every blissful moment at Southerly. The owner is slightly uncommunicative, occasionally taking a couple of emails to respond and not returning phone calls, but don’t let that discourage you. 
------------------------ the practical stuff .....
 We visited wineries while staying in Hobart, in particular we were charmed by the Cellar Door at Spring Vale on the drive up to Freycinet National park (we also stopped at Freycinet wineries, which we liked less, even though they are better known) . We ate lunch at the much touted Freycinet Marine Farm, and while the setting is charming, with blue picnic tables and a decent choice of wines by the glass, the menu is extremely limited, boiling down to a choice among oysters served a couple of different ways, scallops (cooked one way) or abalone. The small portions of seafood come with a roll. It is probably worth checking out, but don’t plan on a memorable meal of any type. 

We also traveled down through various connected peninsulas to see the Tasman Blow hole (which sort of blows – not in the sense of a traditional blow hole, but in the sense that it is no great shakes) and the Tasman Arch which is beautiful.

Tasman arch
Of course the point is really the drive there and back, to take in the beautiful views and eucalyptus forests along the way. We had read about Dunalley Fish Market and decided to check it out. The fish and chips are pretty good, and the fact they are served in newsprint (on the outside) harkens back to gentler times, but I was not very impressed by the fish selection (there were only 2 types of fish – neither which looked dazzlingly fresh), considering their by-line is they “buy Tasmanian fish from Tasmanian fishermen”. No other type of seafood was available, but there were a few pieces of squid in our seafood fry up. Also, if you want a beer with your fish and chips, you had better BYO. They are not licensed, and when my husband asked if there is a bottle shop near by, he was told that they "are christian". Am not sure quite what that has to do with anything, but I gather it means he would not know where alcohol is sold (even though he has run that business in that location for more years than I can count).

On our last day we went to MONA and were blown away. I’ve never been a big fan of Museums, but MONA seems like a museum for everyone – art lovers (like my sister and husband), and museum avoiders, like myself. There are lots of ‘toys’ for grown-ups, interesting and evocative art (including some  pieces that are bound to be controversial), a terrific subterranean bar, a winery onsite, as well as a microbrewery. As I said … not your traditional museum. We had lunch at the wine bar, which was excellent. That night we enjoyed dinner at Smolt, in Salamanca square. It was excellent! I highly recommend it. 

words created by falling drops of water at MONA