We have the French explorer Bruni D’Entrecasteaux to thank for the town of Cygnet (at least for its name anyway).
Towards the end of the 18th century, D’Entrecasteaux sailed up the Huon River and discovered a port full of black swans. He aptly named the location Port des Cygnes Noir, which translates as the Port of the Black Swans.
Nestled in Southern Tasmania just a short drive from Hobart, Cygnet is now known as the place to escape the fast-paced stresses of our modern day to day. Ironically, it was a black swan event which crippled the world which led me to travel here in the first place!
Restricted to Tasmania during the pandemic, Mike and I have made an effort to explore our home state. Though being ‘confined’ to such a naturally beautiful island with a number of world famous wilderness destinations, free of crowds and chaos is far from limiting!
Our experience in the Huon Valley was the perfect balance of wild exploration, while still being able to relax in luxury after days full of dramatic adventure; a balance made possible by checking into the ultra modern Cygnet Retreat.
Cygnet Retreat: An Ultra Modern Base for the Wild Nature of the Huon Valley
A Little Bit About Cygnet
While we may have a French explorer to thank for Cygnet’s name, the region was originally the ancestral lands of the Nuenonne Aboriginal people.
Cygnet then became home to a number of convict probation stations in the mid-19th century and actually carried the name Lovett, which would have been just as fitting a title since any-one who travels here will! (“love it”).
Cygnet lies between Hobart and Tasmania’s southernmost point, with Bruny Island just off the coastline across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. Today the township is home to creative types, attracting musicians and various artists who find inspiration here.
The Cygnet Folk Festival held in January attracts visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy folk and other eclectic music as well as dance, art, food and wine, poetry, and film. Events are spaced out over three days and held in local pubs, cafes, churches, and parks.
In the past, Cygnet has also hosted a 2-day festival known as Le Weekend Cygnet that celebrates the town’s rich French history. The event has inlcuded a range of French-themed events including the town’s very own version of the Tour de France bike race, Le Tour de Cygnet.
Cygnet and the Huon Valley are also today known for growing fine produce such as apples, cherries, and hazelnuts, as well as bottling up some great cool-climate wines.
A Fully Self Contained Eco-Retreat
Cygnet Retreat sits perched at the top of a hill like a small cosy castle overlooking the township. Perfectly positioned for reaching most of the town’s major highlights, it’s just a short walk down the hill to the city’s main street with its restaurants and cafes.
You could consider Cygnet Retreat to be somewhat of an eco-retreat since its construction and facilities are intended to have a minimal impact on the local environment. The house features a 5K solar system, double-glazed windows, and environmentally responsible products.
We were blown away by the sleek modern interior. It blends an industrial vibe with sophistication and maybe a little tropical atmosphere thrown in. The interior is a mix of a masculine urbanity, with a soft colourful playful side.
Much of the furnishings are proudly Tasmanian or Australian made, and the kitchen is the centrepiece of the retreat in my opinion, featuring an open layout with a giant centre island benchtop and sink.
You’ll find every kitchen utensil you could ask for and loads of drawers and pantry space for any groceries you bring for your stay. That said, there’s a pantry full of breakfast goodies as well as a complimentary bottle of wine if you come empty-handed.
The giant 6-burner gas stove and electric oven came in very handy for cooking evening meals, and having a dishwasher is also a blessing. Though while the facilities are modern, it’s the views from the kitchen and dining area which steal the show.
Views from the Kitchen
Sleeping & Entertainment
The three-bedrooms and 2 bathrooms make this holiday home perfect for both a couple such as us or small families. All three rooms contain king-sized beds but two can be transformed into separate single beds.
The retreat is well-stocked with games, yoga mats, and newly released books. The outdoor dining/grill deck area as well as side yard with 5 person spa act as their own separate retreats within the retreat.
I especially enjoyed an early morning yoga session out on the lawn with tree ferns as my audience, and by early I mean 10 AM which is good for me!! Families will have no problem spacing out and carving out their own private slice of heaven.
The elegantly tiled bathrooms feature walk-in showers and one offers a lovely tub. You also have a laundry with washer and dryer for drying swimsuits or staying on top of your travel wardrobe.
Outdoors, we then have a spa which we were able to enjoy under a crisp night full of stars. Sadly no glimpse of the southern lights, but it would surely be possible this far south in Tasmania.
The retreat is expertly decorated with its great wall artwork, artsy throw pillows, and colourful furnishings. We found it easy to enjoy an afternoon siesta on the brown leather lounges set in the living area, the sunlight pouring into the room thanks to the many large windows that wrap around the space.
We had many visitors on the outside deck area and surrounding red flowering gums including green rosellas and yellow wattlebirds. A wedge-tailed eagle as well as white morph grey goshawk also made an appearance out the windows in the distance during our stay.
Free Wi-Fi allowed me to stay on top of emails and work. There’s also a large flat screen TV with Bose sound system if you do somehow happen to get bored (unlikely!) or forced to stay in due to bad weather.
While the retreat has full kitchen facilities, there are some great places to grab a bite if you don’t wish to cook yourself, just a short walking distance from the retreat.
Red Velvet Lounge is a local favourite, serving up dishes like poached eggs on toast for breakfast and pork belly for lunch. Meanwhile, Cygnet Woodfired Bakehouse offers up organic handmade sourdough alongside delicious Danish pastries, croissants, brownies, and Italian style Gelato.
For a truly unique foodie experience, check out Huon Valley’s Fat Pig Farm. This 70-acre farm hosts Friday Feasts that allow you taste paddock to plate meals while touring the farm between courses. The once solely heritage apple farm is now home to pigs, chicken, cows, and goats.
See what the local Cygnet artists are creating by stopping into the Lovett Gallery. Open to the public on weekends, the gallery is operated by the Huon Art Exhibitions Group and features the photography, paintings, sculptures, and other artworks from local artists. Feel free to simply admire the works or purchase one to remember your visit to the Huon Valley.
Pop into the Cygnet Living History Museum to dive deeper into the town’s history. Open on weekends, the small museum is housed in an old church and features interesting exhibits that relate to the French exploration of the region as well as the establishment and growth of Cygnet.
See Cygnet’s wild side by walking around Burtons Reserve (pictured above) and the Port Cygnet Wildlife Sanctuary which is a birdwatching hotspot. During our brief stroll around the network of paths, we saw egrets, native hens, oystercatchers, black swans, various shorebirds, and more.
Short Drives from the Retreat
Just a 15-minute drive to the east of Cygnet Retreat are many more local attractions worth a visit. Enjoy some wine tasting at Hartzview Vineyard, one of the southernmost wineries in Australia, producing exceptional pinot noir and unique spiced apple liqueur mead using Tassie apples of course.
Nearby is the Woodbridge Hill Hand Weaving Studio where you can purchase hand woven and knitted scarves, throws, rugs and more using local alpaca and wool fibres. You may even be allowed in the studio to check out the looms and weavers in action.
We also made a trip to nearby Eggs and Bacon Bay Beach which is a 20-minute drive south of the retreat. I must admit I mainly wanted to go simply because of the quirky name, but was impressed by how peaceful and private the several beaches in the area were.
Just a short distance from Eggs and Bacon Beach is Mickeys Beach in the Randalls Bay Conservation Area (pictured above). I found this beach to be even more scenic and walking trails like the Echo Sugarloaf Walking Track allow you to check out the coastal bushland which is home to seasonal swift parrots and sea eagles.
Further afield, you can check out Snug Falls, Inverawe Native Gardens, Willie Smith’s Apple Shed, and even Bruny Island if you want to extend your journey of Southern Tasmania.
For a full list of the Huon Valley’s top attractions, check out my blog post Things to do in the Huon Valley: a 4-5 Day Itinerary for Southern Tasmania.
How to Book
To book a stay at Cygnet Retreat, visit cygnetretreat.com.au.
Cygnet is about an hour from Hobart Airport, 3 hours from Launceston, and 4 hours from Devonport if you’re arriving with your own vehicle from Melbourne on Spirit of Tasmania.