Sunglasses on, wine in hand, contemplating the jaw-dropping view from the lounge sofa, we notice the chef in the veggie patch picking produce. Talk about giving ‘eating locally’ a whole new meaning. I haven’t experienced anything like it since we plucked tomatoes, beans, peaches and herbs from my grandfather’s garden in Barcelona back in the day.
Mr Smith and I have already enjoyed lunch – barbecued fish with a selection of delicious salads, no doubt straight from the garden – and the effects of the award-winning Derwent Estate Pinot Gris are working their magic. A siesta in the sun is looking more likely by the moment.
Such is life at Saffire. Having flown into Tasmania’s capital Hobart, a road trip north along the coastline brought us to this startling seaside location on the Freycinet Peninsula a couple of days ago. The weather switched from rainy to sunny and back again during our journey, but did produce three rainbows as if on cue. At every turn we encountered different, dramatic scenery, and we already felt satisfyingly isolated even before we arrived for our much-needed break.
Turning into Saffire, there’s an immediate sense of privacy. The stunning modern architecture is designed in the shape of a stingray and, as we walk under the tail into the lobby, an amazing, uninterrupted view of the mountains and bay presents itself. This is heaven. A cheery handshake, a welcome drink, a quick tour and we’re escorted to our room. It’s already obvious everyone wants us to have the best Saffire experience – the staff members go out of their way to engage.
Dominated by high glass windows, our spacious room seems nestled in the incredible landscape. The thought of waking up to that view for three mornings, and being able to walk onto the private deck and be in the bush, is excitement enough. Add to that the tranquility, the soothing sound of crashing waves, and dolphins – yes, actual dolphins! – dipping through the ocean in the distance. Even better, there’s limited mobile phone reception. Yeah! No work calls or texts for 72 whole hours. Fantastic! (Although there is speedy WiFi for die-hards…)
After a walk by the beach before nightfall, it’s time to prepare for the evening’s meal. There is something about the old-school process of ‘getting dressed for dinner’ that I love. After a long soak in a bath tub that allows two to recline comfortably, accompanied by a glass of wine and panoramic beach horizons – can this be any more like a Hollywood romance? – we head out into the darkness. At first and slightly tipsy glance, the heart of the hotel appears to be a spaceship, a warm glow emanating from its interior.
The restaurant mood is intimate; the sounds of the internal waterfall – not as camp as you’d imagine – soothing alongside the uncomplicated jazz music. Curved wooden beams on the lofty ceilings echo the natural world and the surrounding vistas, yet the design of the room feels unpretentious. From our table near the window we gaze out, but all we see are our own reflections in the glass. It makes us focus instead on each other, which, after all, is why we’re here.
Superb is the only way to describe the food. Our preferences are established and then the dishes flow, one after the other. It’s all something of a delightful blur now, but at the time I couldn’t get enough of the local oysters.
During dinner, Mr Smith and I really begin to wind down and realize how wonderful it is to be here. The blackness of the mountains at night, just a faint silhouette in the light of the three-quarter moon and the multitude of stars, makes us believe we’re not missing out on the view even though it’s cloaked in darkness. It certainly gives us a new perspective on the Tasmanian wilderness. We feel as if we are the only two people in the universe.
The next day we journey out on our own to tackle the 45-minute walk up Mount Hazard. There are many activities included in the tariff at Saffire – guided tours of the local oyster farm, cooking demonstrations and canoeing among them – but we’re here on a public holiday and most of them are already full. Walking up mountains is not my usual idea of a leisurely morning, and, dressed in jeans, I’m not very well prepared, but once we reach the top there is no doubt we’ve made the right decision. Below us are the pristine white shores of the beautiful Wineglass Bay. It is a mind-blowing experience made more so because I see a kangaroo! For a relative newcomer to Australia, this is a real thrill (previous road kill sightings don’t exactly count). My only regret is that we don’t leave enough time to take the trek right down to the bay and walk along the sand. Alas, a massage for two awaits us at the spa. Of course, there’s always next time.