The seas were wild and the East Coast air fresh with salt spray. On land however, there were no ripples on the wine or whisky but the company was invigorating for the afternoon and evening’s festivities!
Borne of an idea to bring together committees South and North to connect with our East Coast tourism and hospitality colleagues, the Bicheno Beams on WITH Tas event evolved into a wider invitation to Members and industry colleagues.
Curated by Karen Phillips, former TICT dynamo, founding member of the WITH Tas Northern group in 2010 and now an East Coast resident, it was always going to be an informative, fun and engaging experience.
The group was small but be assured the experiences were tested and tasted with enthusiasm, ensuring a similar gathering is on the 2023 calendar. Read more below and then reserve 29 & 30 July 2023 for a WITH Tas East Coast experience!
Lunch at Devil's Corner
This venue gave Karen, Kim Woolley (Committee, WITH Tas North) and Kerry Scambler (Treasurer, WITH Tas) the chance to catch up over a delicious lunch and a glass of Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot, overlooking the pruned winter vines. There’s nothing like connecting in person after countless email exchanges so chatting in this new, open yet warm space was an absolute pleasure.
After lunch, we did consider Bicheno Blowhole for a group photo but the sea had other ideas (see photo) so rather than take on the swell and slippery, drenched rocks, we continued on to our next, much warmer destination.
The Lobster Shack
Warmly greeted by co-owner Sara Walkem, our small group took over the top floor and watched out as the waves crashed over the Gulch – Mother Nature at her wondrous best. We then turned around and lo’, more of nature’s bounty with natural and Kilpatrick oysters and Milton Sparkling wine!
As we sipped, Sara shared the salty tale of The Lobster Shack. Sara and her husband Marcus, both from Tasmanian fishing families, were running a live Southern Rock Lobster export processing facility in the Gulch at Bicheno and had a vision to expand. Visitors were eager for ready-to-eat, fresh seafood but found it hard to find, so where better to experience that farm-gate, just-harvested taste than right there, on the seafront?
Opening in 2017, The Shack has been redeveloped further enhancing the deck and spectacular views and its seafood offerings make it a firm favourite on the East Coast culinary list.
Waubs Harbour Distillery
Just a few steps across the Gulch, and we were in the old oyster hatchery, barely recognisable now with its clean, white paintwork, setting off the beautiful, shiny copper stills and pipes, and walls arranged with rustic wooden barrels filled with nectar.
As co-founder Bec Polmear took us around the distillery, explaining the process, she also related the story of how shared Tasmanian heritages, deep connections to the ocean and a love of whisky have combined here. All through, the sea could be heard, crashing onto the rocks just outside the window, reinforcing the maritime influence that can be tasted in the air, and in the golden whisky we were about imbibe.
In the tasting room, the table is beautifully crafted from the old jetty planks, with bolt holes the perfect size for the glasses! Surrounded by the barrels, we sipped the single malt whiskies from Tawny Port and Bourbon casks with at least one convert from non-whisky drinker to fan!
Following a successful launch in 2021 and after following the Beams on social media this year, we were all excited to see the lights in person and wondering which of the alternate shows we’d see.
Rugged up, we joined the expectant crowd of 520+ in Lions Park, then the music and lights filled the night skies. One and all were enthralled and lifted into a different and spectacular dimension. The colours danced across the clouds, raced up the huge tree at the back of the park and reflected off the upturned faces.
Too soon it was over but as we turned to leave, suddenly the music began again, there was a beam of light across our heads and the second show began. Again, the rapture took hold with a new soundtrack and lighting dance. Thanks Karen, for arranging such a special double treat for your WITH Tas colleagues!
Bicheno Beams attracted over 10,000 visitors in July 2022, injecting an estimated $800,000 into the East Coast economy. This project is an shining example of industry and community creating a remarkable attraction and having the initiative to invest in the equipment for the long term.
The Farm Shed - dinner with Chef Christopher Bell
When a renowned executive chef says he’s cooking a few of his favourite things, chances are the food will be stunning. And it was, perfectly matched with welcoming hospitality from Subi and Helen of The Farm Shed.
The three course, shared plate feast was simply divine, particularly when paired with fine East Coast wines. Our small group joined Bicheno locals with many lively and enlightening conversations across the tables. (It should be noted that many of the locals had also booked for the Sunday night feast as well!).
Christopher took the time to come and talk about his cooking style, his ethos around Tasmanian produce and his retreat from an international stage to Bicheno where he has found an enormously joyful and fulfilling lifestyle.We were so fortunate to have had this experience... Christopher now only dons his apron on very, very special occasions. We were all honoured!!
The after party: Karen and Michael Phillips opened their home for us to gather in casual conversation. It was only natural that connections were made with women in the local industry who gave us further insight into the challenges they encountered and the rewards they experienced.