Rossi caught and shucked her own oysters during a stay at Saffire Freycinet lodge in Tasmania. // © 2014 Sunnie Rossie
Sunnie Rossi, president of Aussie Experts in Bannockburn, Ill., has seen a great deal of Australia over the course of 30 visits to the destination. She spoke with TravelAge West about one of her favorite places in the country — the small island of Tasmania, off the continent’s southern coast.
What type of clients would enjoy a visit to Tasmania?
There is no generic definition for who should go to Tasmania. I send everyone from families to honeymooners to singles because it offers such diversity. It’s a good nature and soft adventure destination. It’s great for trekking because almost half of Tasmania is ancient world heritage wilderness or national parks and forests and marine reserves. But at the same time, it has this colonial convict heritage, world-class golf courses and award-winning wineries. And let’s not forget it’s the only place you can see the Tasmanian Devil in the wild.
Do clients often ask you about the Tasmanian Devil?
Yes, some ask me if it’s really like the cartoon, and of course I tell them ‘No. It’s not.’ I actually find them to be cute. And yes, they do make noise when it’s feeding time, but it’s not really like what the cartoon portrays.
Unfortunately, there is a horrible disease that’s affecting them now and a lot of them are dying, so there’s been a big push to fund research to try and find out what’s causing this and to save them. If people are interested, Steve Irwin’s foundation, Wildlife Warriors, is a big supporter of saving the Tasmanian Devil and they can find more information and offer support there or through Tourism Tasmania.
If a client wants to see a Tasmanian Devil, how do you help them?
There are several options. One is the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, which takes in injured animals and rehabilitates them. There’s also a place right outside of Cradle Mountain called Devil’s Cradle. This facility has researchers that work with and help Tasmania Devils.
Is it easy for clients to get to these facilities?
Yes. Cradle Mountain is a heavily visited area in Tasmania, and it’s a great thing to do while you’re there. Bonorong is just outside of Hobart, which is one of the main cities.
It’s very easy to get around Tasmania, and it’s great for self-driving, as long as you’re comfortable with that. It’s so compact and there are many great little places to stop. One minute you’re at this wonderful berry farm and then 15 minutes later you’re at what I believe is the oldest convict-built bridge in Australia.
Have you found that clients won’t commit to a self-drive tour in Tasmania because they worry about driving on the other side of the road?
I would say it’s about 50-50. I always tell people that if I can do it, anybody can do it. Typically the worst thing that happens to most of us is that when you go to put the turn signal on, it’s actually the windshield wiper. That happens to me all the time. And in Tasmania, it’s not like you’re driving in a big city all the time. It’s pretty rural.
What makes Tasmania special for you?
I’m a bit of a foodie and I really enjoy the freshness of the offerings in Tasmania. The berry farm I mentioned makes terrific jam. One of my favorite cheeses comes from the King Island Dairy. Some of the wines are incredible. Tasmania was kind of organic before it was the thing to be, and I think that stood out to me right from the beginning. The tastes of Tasmania are amazing.
When I was there last September, I stayed at Saffire, which is one of Australia’s newer luxury lodges — I think it may be four years old now — and we went out into the bay and harvested our own oysters. Then I turned around and they had this table set up in the water with champagne and we shucked and ate oysters right there, and I thought to myself: ‘It doesn’t get any fresher than this.’”