Bridestowe Lavender Estate… you’d only ever visit there in summer, right? When the gorgeous purple blooms cover the hillside and offer up a dream scene for anyone with a camera? I have to confess, I may have been guilty of that very thought. But that was before we made our way there in June (yep, in winter) for a look-see during our research mission to north east Tasmania. Now, I think it’s a great place to visit regardless of the season.
Bridestowe Lavender Estate: Any Time
Well-known as a popular tourist attraction during December and January, the lavender farm can be found at Nabowla in north east Tasmania. In the peak flowering season it is truly spectacular, as many photographers can attest. Of course, we’d love to see the lavender in all its glory, and that’s yet another reason to return to the north east region again. But winter does offer a different perspective and we can report plenty of positives from our time there.
We took the tourist route from our base at the Tin Dragon Trail Cottages, via Scottsdale and Lilydale back to Launceston. Personally, I’d recommend the tourist drive over the Tasman Highway (via Sideling Lookout) any day! Anyway, about 20kms west of Scottsdale, there’s a sign pointing the way to Bridestowe Lavender, and another 3kms on Gillespies Road will see you at the entrance to the farm.
Visitor Centre & Gift Shop: Warm Welcome
During the lavender flowering season, Bridestowe charge a small entrance fee to visit the farm. But there’s no charge at all in the off-season, and there’s the first positive right there! We were greeted warmly at the restaurant and gift shop complex by the staff, all with smiles wide enough to brighten any winter’s day. And we had the whole place to ourselves.
Lounging on the chairs by the wood fire, were two of the most beautiful cats I’ve ever seen. They were friendly even. Apparently dumped at the farm as tiny kittens, they’ve adapted to their new life as the Bridestowe Lavender Estate welcoming-committee, and tourists like us just love taking photos of them.
Once we’d ordered our lunch, we had a chance to watch a video and learn a little more about the lavender farm. Then we checked out all the merchandise made from the versatile purple flower. This is definitely one Tasmanian tourist attraction that has a lot of territory covered from one core product. The gift shop has something to suit everyone, from gourmet teas and preserves to teddy bears and soaps… and seemingly everything in-between.
Our lunch was simple, but delicious: pumpkin soup with damper; savoury scones with a chunky tomato chutney and a pretty decadent plate of pancakes with berries and ice-cream. The ice-cream was infused with culinary-grade lavender oil, and at first, I was a bit hesitant to sample a taste.
Another confession about my preconceptions… I had thought that food and drink flavoured with lavender might remind me of soap! As it turns out, that was silly really, because the ice-cream was absolutely divine. But that’s exactly the reason we like to experience things first-hand before we write about them for Think Tasmania, so we can offer an informed opinion. And now I wouldn’t hesitate recommending Tasmanian lavender as a flavour for food. So there you go!
Tour of the Lavender Farm
To round out our first-class experience of Bridestowe, the manager of the lavender farm met us at the cafe and took us for a tour of the distillery. Anna started with the business about seven years ago when her family moved to the region. Originally, she worked during the harvest period, but over the years she’s progressed through all the departments (including the kitchen) and now works in a field she is clearly passionate about.
Declaring winter her favourite time of the year, Anna gave us a great insight into the distilling process. Huge barrels of mauve flowers are harvested and pressed to make oil. The lavender oil is then used to make a wide variety of products, including the ice-cream we’d just eaten. The oil is so potent, only a few drops are required to flavour a whole tub. And that’s fortunate really, because when you see the size of the vat holding the oil from the entire farm, you realise it’s not exactly massive. With demand so high for their product, Bridestowe Lavender Estate might need to plant even more of those pretty purple flowers over more hills in north east Tasmania.
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