The main town on the eastern shores of Port Huon, Cygnet is a centre for a prosperous fruit growing district (apples; grapes; strawberries; blueberries; cherries) which has numerous orchards and vineyards.
Where is it?: 54 km south west of Hobart, 18 km south of Huonville, at the head of Kangaroo Bay in the Huon Valley.
The Port Cygnet Sailing Club Regatta is held on the first weekend in March. Reflecting the mix of agricultural and creative local residents, events in Cygnet include the Cygnet Folk Festival, held over three days every January, and the Harvest Festival.
The local area also supports a farming population and there are many second homes, sometimes known as shacks in Tasmania. About a mile south of the town centre is Port Cygnet (home of the Port Cygnet Yacht Club), a safe anchorage for pleasure craft with easy road and walking access to Cygnet. Cygnet and surrounding suburbs have access to the beautiful D'Entrecasteau Channel on one side and the Huon River on the other.
In recent times Cygnet has become the centre of an alternative lifestyle community which have established woodturning, wholefoods shops, craft activities, vintage car restoring and holiday cottage accommodation as important local industries. As a result, the town has its own arts trail and is home to several galleries, including the Whispering Tree Gallery, Stanley's Fine Arts and Crafts, the Ginger Nutt Gallery, Lovett Gallery, Cobweb Designs and the handcrafted woodwork at Phoenix Creations. Throw in a print workshop with an old print press, the fascinating local museum, a bird sanctuary, several waterfront parks and a yacht club and it's a perfect weekend trip from Hobart.
Gardners Bay: Gardners Bay, to the south east of Cygnet, is both a rural area and a small inlet on Kanagaroo Bay on the Huon River. If you are looking to take one of those iconic photos of the amazingly tranquil, reflective waters of the Huon, Gardners Bay is a great place to start your search. Be there on a still day and chances are you'll get what you are looking for here, or at nearby Glaziers Bay.
Gardners Bay is home to Hartzview Vineyard, established in 1988 by Rob and Anthea Patterson. In the early 1980s the Hartzview property was operating as a fruit farm - producing a large percentage of Australia s gooseberries. Rob had a keen interest in developing the land so investigated the possibility of planting grape vines to make wine. He undertook various site and soil tests of the property and it was determined Hartzview was not dissimilar to the French regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux - a perfect site to grow pinot noir. In 1988 the first Hartzview pinot noir cuttings were planted.
The Egg Islands
The towns of Franklin and Cradoc lay on opposite banks of the Huon River. In between these two centres, situated midstream, are the North and South Egg Islands. During early European settlement, the Egg Islands located a stone s throw from the township of Franklin were utilised for stock grazing, fruit and vegetable growing, timber harvesting, duck hunting and greyhound training, with some sources even reporting a football oval to have once existed on one of the islands. Little evidence of this use remains today and the islands are now an untouched wilderness hideaway and conservation sanctuary.
The location of the islands made water travel between Franklin and Cradoc difficult. In order to facilitate better navigation between the towns, convict labour was used to cut a canal through South Egg Island in 1838. At some point in the subsequent years the canal became impassable so a second canal was cut across North Egg Island in the 1870 s. This canal was 10 feet wide and 4 feet deep, but it soon followed the footsteps of its southern counterpart silting up and becoming un-navigable. Work began on re-excavating the original canal on South Egg Island in 1884. A team of horses dragging a dredge was used to make the cutting. The canal was widened to a width of 20 feet and the depth was increased to 8 feet. It is still popular with kayakers and boaters.
Huon River Drive
The drive south from Cygnet around the tip of the peninsula is particularly pretty as the Huon River widens into D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Verona Sands and Randalls Bay are two popular swimming beaches. Being at the foot of the peninsula, where the Huon Estuary meets the D'entrecasteaux Channel, Verona Sands has expensive views south down the channel and across to Port Esperance and Bruny Island, on opposite shores. The settlement surrounds Lasts Lagoon that occasionally opens to the beach.
On the way there are numerous minor settlements with urban sized allotments located on the coastal strip on the eastern shores of the Huon River estuary at locations like Randalls Bay, Eggs and Bacon Bay, Garden Island Sands, Charlotte Cove and Abels Bay. These settlements are located at intervals along the coastline south of Cygnet and typically comprise between 50 and 100 lots of an urban residential size.
Eggs and Bacon Bay
Some of the settlements such as Eggs and Bacon Bay and Abels Bay have had further subdivision of larger allotments around their periphery. Most settlements are purely residential in nature and are located in attractive settings, with access to beaches and picturesque coastal views. They each have a distinctive character due to the absence of kerb and channel, retention of native vegetation and the unpretentious design of much of the housing. Eggs and Bacon Bay is located on the western side of Cray point. It has a curving 400 metre long west-facing beach located along its eastern shore. Eggs and Bacon Bay beach and beaches on Garden Island Sands, Barretts and Surveyors Bay are the only sandy beaches located towards the southern entrance to the estuary.
How Eggs and Bacon Bay got its name is one of those mysteries that will probably never be solved. There are three suggestions:
1. It was so named by the Lieut. Governor, Sir John Franklin, after seeing the flowers known as 'Eggs & Bacon' growing there.
2. Lady Jane Franklin ordered eggs and bacon on her way to or from Franklin.
3. Lady Jane Franklin was served eggs and bacon there by the Marsden family during a visit.
Garden Island Bay
Garden Island is a small stony island that is part of the Partridge Island Group, sheltered by Garden Island Bay near the entrance to the Huon Estuary. Garden Island was first named "Gardners Island" by the Rev R. Knopwood in 1804, and had that name in maps in 1832. At that time, a "Garden Island" or "Smooth Island" appeared on maps at the entrance of Norfolk Bay. Much of the island is covered with eucalypt forest.
Cliffs near Randalls Bay from Mickeys Beach
Garden Island Bay is a 3 km wide irregular embayment that faces south past Garden Island into D'Entrecasteaux Channel. Garden Island Sands is located on the bay at the mouth of Garden Island Creek. It has a 400 metre long beach bordered by the creek. Randalls Bay lies 1 km to the west in the centre of Garden Island Bay. The bay has a 750n metre long beach. A camping and picnic area with toilets are located at the western end of the beach adjacent to the mouth of Randalls Creek.
View from Echo Sugarloaf summit
Echo Sugarloaf is an elevated area overlooking Randall Bay which is protected as a nature reserve. Its 122 hectares and was donated to the state by local farmers, Max and Bev Thomas, for the protection of endangered species. There are walks through the reserve, the main 2.5 km long walk starts in Williams Road, Randalls Bay, and follows a track to the top where a trig point. Passing through varying habitats, walkers may encounter a wide range of birds, including threatened species like the swift parrot and wedge-tailed Eagle, pademelons, bettongs and other marsupials. It is also the habitat of Tasmanian devils (rarely seen during the day). Walkers will also enjoy a diversity of plants, from old-growth eucalypts and native grasses to delicate orchids.
A pond with a well constructed platform is passed on the way. The summit offers lovely views of the surrounding area as you climb. Along the way there is plenty of fungi and a pond with a wooden platform, which is good for birdwatching.
Arch Rock is small sandstone island at Ninepin Point Marine Reserve a few kilometres east of Verona Sands, named for the cave that forms an arch in its centre and it is a notable geological feature as well as being an interesting dive. Diving in the tannin waters of the reserve is an iconic Tasmanian dive experience. The waters of the Reserve are subject to high levels of tannin from the nearby Huon River. Less dense tea-coloured fresh water overlays the colder sea water and filters out light, which leads to some marine life being seen in much shallower waters than otherwise.
If you have the time, an alternate and more scenic way than travelling north directly to Huonville is to leave Cygnet township from the south and follow Lymongton Road past Port Cygnet and Copper Alley Bay to Lymington, then continue along the Cygnet Coast Road past Herlihys Bay to Petcheys Bay, Wattle Grove and Glaziers Bay. Lymington, once a convict probation station, is now an orchard-growing district. It was originally named Lymington South.
Copper Alley Bay
Prior to 1840 the area around Copper Alley Bay had been mainly settled by Irish settlers, who cleared the heavy timber and transported it to Hobart by boat. The land was turned into farmlets growing potatoes and other vegetables. By 1843 it had a thriving community. In 1845 Probation Stations for convicts were established at Port Cygnet, Lymington and Nicholls Rivulet and Huon Island. The clearing of land and building of huts continued.
There were 333 convicts stationed in the district and a hospital was being built at Lymington where the staff were based. Of the convicts there were blacksmiths, boat crews, brick makers, charcoal and lime burners, carpenters, coopers, carters, gangs for clearing and cultivating, erecting barracks, splitting timber, sawing, fencing timber cutting, rolling logs and hard labour! There were also servants for officers and others and storekeepers. In 1848 the number of convicts began to decline - probably by pardon and ticket of leave.
From June 1846 onwards, convicts at Norfolk Island were transferred to stations on Tasman Peninsula, with Impression Bay receiving approximately one third of the 1536 men. In order that room could be made available for the reception of these prisoners, all invalids who had been sent from Wedge Bay to Impression Bay were, some time in second half of 1847, sent to the Lymington probation station. In recognition of the special needs ofinvalids a number of modifications were made at Lymington, including the erection of a large hospital. Despite the cost incurred in amending this station it was broken up in mid 1848 and the invalids were subsequently transferred to the asylum at New Norfolk, then eventually relocated back to Impression Bay by steamer in May 1848.
It was at Petcheys Bay in 1838 Matthew Fitzpatrick came from Ireland with his wife and sisters and settled. He planted the first orchard in the area, giving birth to one of Australia's most productive fruit growing area. In 1935 the district reached its record-breaking peak, producing 21,170 bushels of pears, 5,470 lbs of gooseberries, 644 800 bushels of apples, 31,890 lbs of blackcurrants, 100,750 lbs of raspberries and 160,880 lbs of strawberries. Because of the easy access to the Huon River Petcheys Bay was used as a pick-up point for ferries shipping their cargo to Hobart.
Wattle Grove, 6 km west of Cygnet on the Wattle Grove Road, is also an orchard-growing district but once it was part of the district's timber industry. The locality was once thick with wattle trees, hence its name.
Like Petcheys Bay, Glaziers Bay was once an important port for the shipping of produce to Hobart but eventually, road transport took over. In its heyday as a port, as many as 32 vessels a month passed through the area. There were in fact jetties at Crooked Tree, Deep Bay, Coal Jetty, Herlihys Bay, Petcheys Bay, Wattle Grove, Lymington, Glaziers Bay, and Randalls Bay - apart from Port Cygnet. All produce had to be carted by dray to these points.
Hugging the coast, Cygnet Coast Road eventually meets up with Channel Highway at Cradoc. From there, follow the highway north to Huonville. On the way you will pass numerous fruit farms and wineries offering produce from tasting and purchase.