It glows like a bright yellow autumn leaf drifted lightly to the ground but tastes like fresh ocean water. Sweet and briny, thick and juicy with a melt in your mouth texture, a slice of sea urchin on the wharf at St Helens on Tasmania’s east coast in Australia is a rare treat.
Diver Cameron Mead cracked open a sea urchin from his daily haul of 500kg before the rest were quickly packed into a refrigerated truck heading south to Hobart. Work stops for no one on the wharf as every skipper is keen to keep their Georges Bay catch cold and fresh, so the urchins don’t lose water. Less water means less weight and they are paid for this export quality product by the kilo.
It won’t be long until it is flying to Asia to delight high-end restaurant diners.
In a satisfying climate change twist, invasive long-spined sea urchins that have hitched a ride south on the warming East Australian Current have spawned a lucrative sustainable catch for the region’s experienced abalone divers. These prolific breeders graze on lush kelp habitats at the expense of local marine life but the fishermen are working hard to reduce numbers.
Most sea urchin is exported to Asia, but a few find their way into local restaurants. At Japanese/Asian-influenced Raida in St Helens, chef Mark Rogers has a signature dish of scallops ceviche with sea urchin. Zachary Green, chef/owner at The Waterloo Inn further south in Swansea, says freshly caught sea urchin and abalone from Coles Bay feature on their rotating menu when in season.
Tasmania’s East Coast rivers and seas also are abundant with mussels, oysters, rock lobster, and deep-sea fish. Where can you dine on these delicacies? Lease 65 on the road to Bay of Fires has plump, juicy oysters filled with the essence of the sea. Buy them straight from the wharf, freshly shucked for AU$20 (RM62) a dozen. Cash only!
Don some waders and find out what it’s like to be an oyster farmer on a Freycinet Marine Farm Oyster Bay Tour. You’ll learn how to shuck and eat an oyster matched with a local Riesling and enjoy a bowl of just harvested steamed mussels.
On the other side of Coles Bay, Melshell Oyster Shack is a small farm run by three generations of the same family. They are pioneering new golden shell Angasi oysters in the region and offer shuck and chat sessions that are all about oysters. Try their oyster Kilpatrick kebabs or oyster pate.
Bicheno is famous for its fresh-caught rock lobsters. Experience an ocean to plate lobster roll at the Lobster Shack where chilled lobster pieces are sandwiched in a lightly toasted milk bun with crisp lettuce and house-made sauce. Or simply feast on fish and chips at the wharf in Triabunna.
While the ocean harvest is amazing, Tasmania’s East Coast offers more than just seafood. This coastline, with the Bay of Fires’ blood-red lichen-tinged rocks, bright blue skies, and sparkling white sand begs to be explored. It is a 50km stretch that runs from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point and is an easy day trip from St Helens.
The East Coast also is home to Wineglass Bay. It’s a crescent of sand curved around impossibly aqua verging into blue water that is the ultimate eye candy. You can walk there through Freycinet National Park, but you’ll need reasonable fitness, walking shoes, and a few hours. The easy way is to see it by sea on a cruise. For those unmistakable aerial shots, you can hop on a helicopter or scenic flight.
Little penguins, Tasmanian devils, Australian fur seals, and humpback whales are just some of the wildlife locals here. You’ll spot them while walking through Freycinet, Douglas Apsley, or Mt William national parks or even when strolling the beach. For a guaranteed wildlife experience, take one of the many tours or cruises available.
For walkers, there is the four-day Bay of Fires Walk and the award-winning Maria Island Walk, one of Australia’s top walking holidays.
Getting to Tasmania’s East Coast is an easy 82km, one hour drive from Hobart to Orford. This is the southern start of the coastal trail to St Helens which is 175km north. Download the East Coast Tasmania App for trip planning tips and interactive, zoom-able maps that can be used offline.
Tasmania’s East Coast is a rare opportunity to taste prime seafood metres from the pristine waters where it grows while touring an impossibly scenic coastline filled with chatty locals. For seafood lovers, it doesn’t get better than that!
Travel advisory: Malaysians visiting Australia are no longer required to quarantine upon arrival. Pre-departure tests are no longer needed too. However, some states in Australia still do require all travellers to test upon arrival (none for Tasmania!). All Malaysian travellers also need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority or electronic visa (it is better to apply at least a week before your departure date), and complete the Australia Digital Passenger Declaration at least 72 hours before your flight. For more information, head to the Tourism Australia website.