Saffire on Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula is a masterpiece in Australian Luxury Lodges. Like any masterpiece it’s the sum of the parts that delivers an extraordinary experience.
The AT Verdict
Just six weeks old Saffire is already a top three Australian Lodge experience, expect it to be on on par with the leader Southern Ocean Lodge in 12 months.
Surprisingly for a luxury lodge, the pictures don’t do it justice. It’s a strange quirk that $32 million worth of inspired design cannot be accurately captured by camera. It’s not the camera’s fault, Saffire and its surrounds, the inspiring and photogenic Hazard Ranges, are just too unique and beautiful to be accurately represented.
These extraordinary (there’s that word again) ranges stand protectorate to the Freycinet Peninsula and the renowned Wineglass Bay.
Like Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the peaks are elusive and ever changing. Sometimes they stand back; dull, shy and boring. And then the clouds shift, the sun shines through and the ranges come roaring forward, sparkling pink granite glittering in the light to stand like colossus over you. They make you stop whatever you’re doing.
Saffire is designed to work within this magnificent panorama, never rising higher than the surrounding eucalypts. During the day the focus is clearly on the surrounding wilderness. As night falls, Saffire slips into something more comfortable and becomes a sexy, sophisticated warm retreat.
As night falls, Saffire slips into something more comfortable and becomes a sexy, sophisticated warm retreat.
The Centrepiece of a Masterpeice
The main building of the lodge looks like a sleek smooth sting ray, gliding over the surrounding trees. Guests enter the tail where the panorama slowly reveals itself, climaxing two feet in front of a three-story high wall of glass, the peak of the sting ray. The curved golden celery-top pine wooden ceiling swells over your head. The craftsmanship is obviously exquisite.
No expense has been spared in the development of Saffire. The lounge, on the second tier of the stingray, is full of cosy games chairs and lounges with side tables made from the enormous trunks of Huon Pine. A self serve bar is within too easy reach. Watching the sunset on the Hazards from the lounge, enjoying a drink with the golden roof soaring above you like protective eagles wings is magic.
On the other side of the central stairway on this second level is the where the masterpiece within a masterpiece is revealed. Executive Chef Hugh Whitehouse has been enticed from Darley’s in the NSW’s Blue Mountains where he was winning every regional restaurant award in NSW and earned the restaurant 2 hats. At Saffire he has developed an astonishing food experience in the Tasmanian wilderness.
Do not be fooled, this is a mighty task, particularly in winter. Despite what you may hear, high quality fresh produce for consumption within Tasmania is extremely difficult to find.
Do not be fooled, this is a mighty task, particularly in winter. Despite what you may hear, high quality fresh produce for consumption within Tasmania is extremely difficult to find. The island’s best produce is ear marked for export or mainland metropolises. Hugh has managed to keep as much fare as possible on the island for his kitchen by making several journeys to meet the best local producers. (He has even turned one relationship into one of the guided experiences – you can don waders to visit the Oyster Farm on nearby Malting Lagoon and eat freshly shucked oysters directly from the beds).
Simple hearty lunches like chicken and vegetable soup are the perfect accompaniment to a morning of wilderness exploring. The evening meals are Quay-like (Peter Gilmore and Hugh are great mates), with a selection of one dish from each of the four menus on separate panels. Hugh’s signature Savarin of sugar cured Ocean Trout with avocado, wasabi leaves and flowers, seaweed jelly, cucumber and salmon pearls is out of this world. He incorporates simple local native fare like the Red Samphire (a Tasmanian salty shoreline succulent) into the rock lobster miso and consommé. Every meal came with Amuse Bouche and ‘surprise’ dishes. A smoked salmon consommé with creamed horseradish was a delicate heart warmer that more than livened the palate.
Small details have been covered at Saffire from the very outset, impressive in a lodge of this nature. For example, the cutlery is changed between lunch and dinner. Order the steak and a Laguiole knife
is delivered. Seriously, EVERY detail is covered.
The evening meal is made even more special as the lodge comes into its slinky sexy best, starting with moody Italian lighting that would soften the hardest and harshest heart. It just doesn’t get any more romantic than this. With one exception, elevator music. The choice of music for dinner was reminiscent of the office and an unfortunate intrusion.
To truly make the most of dinner duck into the spa for an afternoon treatment. AT has had a few treatments but the massage by Spa Manager Felicity was certainly one of the top three in Australia. Unfortunately, the professional plus one AT’s Wife, had a poor treatment the first time round. She went back for more and second time in the capable hands of Felicity confirmed my thoughts.
Each suite features the expert finishes showcased in the main lodge building. Celery-top panelled ceilings echo the rolling curved ceiling of the lodge and entire walls of glass face the granite peaks. The natural woods in the ceiling and flooring enhance the affinity with the outside you feel. The muted colours are reminiscent of the Hazards across the bay.
Each suite has a full kitchen (not kitchenette). The mini bar is all inclusive so there’s no penny pinching (and nor should there be). A magnificent espresso machine will grind coffee to order. Heated marble floors in the bathrooms are a nice extra touch. An extraordinary number of details have been covered.
The depth of natural history in Tasmania attracts passionate and informed people who make excellent guides across the entire island.
At Saffire and Freycinet they have a great deal to work with. The Saffire boat takes a day tour to Schouten Island at the base of the Freycinet Peninsula. The trip takes in some magnificent scenery and wildlife. Seals laze around while the juveniles show off, majestic and huge white bellied sea eagles build monstrous nests – 4.5 m deep –and soar majestically over head while albatrosses make awkward takes offs before soaring regally.
The boat is equipped with an under water camera for a birds eye view below. The guides are now able to follow the fish, squid and lobster that are famous in the bay. Fishing rods are also on board to catch a few squid (Hugh uses them in his dishes).
2.5 Hours north of Hobart and 2 Hours South East of Launceston. If you are driving from Hobart take the coastal road via Sorrell, it is a superb scenic drive.
Deluxe suites from $1550 inc of dinner.