As the winter temperatures drop to almost freezing, many start planning spontaneous getaways to somewhere warm and exotic.
For those who live on the mainland, Tasmania might not immediately spring to mind as a potential holiday destination, but there is one place that I now believe should be on every Australian’s bucket list.
Mention Saffire Freycinet, in Coles Bay on Tasmania’s east coast, and most travellers will have seen photos of the view of The Hazards mountain range and Wineglass Bay guests have from their bed.
But many may also be aware a stay at the secluded five-star spa does not come cheap, with prices starting at $2100 a night.
I’m definitely not one to embrace the cold, but nevertheless decided to head down to Saffire to see what all the fuss was about.
If you’re after an incredible view from bed…
Most who have heard of Saffire would know the view from each private suite of the three mountain peaks is unequalled.
But to actually witness the sound of silence as the sun hits the granite on the Hazards and tints them pink is something else altogether.
There are only 20 suites at Saffire – the luxury, signature and private pavilions – and each have double showers, a bath, a king bed, a private courtyard, heated floors and a complimentary mini-bar.
But I found it was the littlest of details that made the biggest difference to the stay and separated it from other hotel experiences.
After one particularly cold night, we returned to the suite to find a hot water bottle had been put in our beds just minutes earlier and my mother, who was celebrating her 50th birthday, was given a series of congratulatory messages throughout the stay. One was carved in the pebbles outside our suite and another was written in chocolate on her dessert.
If you love oysters and champagne…
This was the experience I had heard the most about from friends and colleagues who had also stayed at Saffire.
But even with the massive hype and high expectations, I wasn’t prepared to enjoy standing knee-deep in an estuary as much as I did.
While a guide shucked dozens of oysters and poured champagne at a table in the water, another gave us a detailed description on how the estuary works and the exact process of farming the molluscs.
We waded through the mud, held tiny baby oysters and learned exactly how their adductor muscle works to help them grow big and delicious.
But the highlight was most definitely standing around a table in the water and eating in excess of 30 oysters with copious glasses of champagne.
If you love Tasmanian devils…
Another surprisingly educational and exciting experience was a guided visit to the hotel’s Tasmanian devil enclosure.
Every second night, guests can opt to watch a very graphic feeding.
I don’t think we were completely prepared to watch five devils devour an entire wallaby carcass, including the bones, in mere minutes, but I also don’t think I’d ever had the chance to be so close to the incredible creatures.
While the animals ate, the guide explained how the aggressive devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is wiping out the population and how Tasmania hopes to save the animal.
If you’re keen on other activities…
For hikers there is also a guided walk to a lookout over Wineglass Bay, or a two-hour stroll around Freycinet Peninsula.
My mother and I are keen hikers and always fit one in whenever we travel. But we didn’t expect to learn so much during the Wineglass Bay walk as we did.
We were taught about the pink granite unique to Tasmania, that can cost up to $80,000 for a kitchen bench top and were shown 500-year-old trees that we otherwise would have walked past.
While we unfortunately couldn’t fit it in during our two-night stay, there is also cocktail mixology, kayaking, bird watching, archery and mountain biking on offer.
While guests might not get their money’s worth by not including some outdoor experiences in their itinerary, those who purely want to relax can opt to spend most of their stay at the spa. For those staying in the signature suites, a $150 voucher is included.
If you are here for the food…
Saffire Freycinet is widely known for its food curated by executive chef Todd Adams and if you like to be constantly fed, this is the getaway for you.
The dinner menu includes a multi-course degustation paired with local wine or an a la carte menu and both change every single night.
Just some of the dishes we enjoyed were wallaby tartar, spanner crab with sea urchin and beetroot crisps, Wagyu beef with tongue and cauliflower puree, linguini in burnt butter sauce with scampi and banana soufflé for dessert.
There is a brief breakfast menu, but absolutely nothing is off limits. After eating ourselves stupid, my mother even ordered Weetbix with hot milk one morning and it was at our table within minutes.
It is also somewhat refreshing to be able to waltz back to the suite straight after dinner without the exchange of money or credit cards as all meals are included in the price of the stay.
I was a guest of Saffire on this occasion and of course, didn’t foot the bill. But on thinking whether I would fork out the money for a stay such as this one knowing what I know now – I believe I would.
In fact, I might even dare to suggest sacrificing an overseas holiday to do a few nights at Saffire and explore Tasmania. It is right on our doorstep after all.
Because despite it only being a couple of nights, I can safely say it’s an experience that will stay with me for just as long as three-week overseas holidays have.
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