Hellyers Road Distillery

With our favourite restaurant, Bayviews, closed for annual holiday, we chose an alternative venue for a mid-week lunch with a very special friend. Hellyers Road Distillery is located in the hinterland behind Burnie with fabulous views across the Emu Valley to the Dial Range beyond.

Behind the walls of the architecturally designed visitor’s centre, interactive tours inform visitors about the origins of the brand and provide guests with the opportunity to pour and wax seal their own bottle of whisky. We have yet to experience the Whisky Walk, something to pencil in for the not too distant future.

We were met in the lobby by a wonderful paper sculpture of namesake, Henry Hellyer and his dog. Hellyer came to Tasmania in 1826 as architect and surveyor for the Van Diemen’s Land Company. He is credited with opening up much of the northwest to settlement and the road we find the distillery on was, at one time, named in his honour.

There is opportunity to relax for a casual whisky tasting treat

and a retail area for those tempted to continue the indulgence at home.

Expansive windows make the most of the rural panorama

and landscaped gardens surrounding the restaurant.

Our meal choice took a while, with so many enticing options on offer but our wine selection was easy, Josef Chromy is always a winner. I finally decided on Five Spice Roasted Pork Belly; Scottsdale pork belly rubbed with five spice, soy, and garlic, roasted and served on buckwheat soba noodles and shredded Asian greens. Finished with tempura mushrooms and an aromatic ginger and chilli broth.

Michael wisely chose something else in fear of random coriander (he was right but I love coriander) and went for The House Special; potted pie of north-west coast beef, braised in Hellyers Road Original Whisky, caramelised onion, and aromatic vegetables, topped with flaky pastry and served with thick cut rosemary scented potato wedges, crusty sourdough and butter. Our lovely friend was happy with Braised Duck Leg with Chorizo Fettuccine; duck leg slow cooked in tomato, onion and herbs, roasted and served with house made fettuccine tossed in tomato sugo with olives, capers, chorizo, chilli and preserved lemon. Finished with parmesan and fresh herbs.

A magnificent rainbow brightened the landscape outside

as our desserts had a similar effect inside. I couldn’t resist the Lemon Delicious Pudding with blueberry compote, served with a rolled up brandy snap filled with lemon mascarpone cream.

My accomplices indulged in a Mini Apple & Raspberry Cake; sautéed Tasmanian apples topped with raspberries, baked in a light fluffy sweet pastry and served with pouring cream and raspberry coulis and a Warm Whisky Raisin Brownie served with Anvers dark chocolate mousse, double cream and VDL cookies and cream ice cream.

I was especially surprised to discover, on paying the bill, a complementary bottle of coffee cream liqueur. Along with a jar of Whisky Relish (a must in any pantry) and a branded whisky tumbler, my collection is complete …. for now.

Myilly Point

Darwin has long been an important strategic outpost from a military perspective. In the early 20th century, the need to attract senior public servants to the town led to the construction of four significant houses between 1936 and 1939, now known as the Myilly Point Heritage Precinct. Architect Beni Burnett was recruited from Malaysia, where he grew up with Scottish missionary parents, and was appointed the task of producing housing appropriate to the climate. The influence of his early years is shown in the tropical elements of the architecture of the three houses he designed. One was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974, another was damaged and remained vacant and boarded up to prevent access from itinerants until it was restored in 1988. A year later, it became the headquarters of the National Trust and known as Burnett House.

The only two-story house on the precinct and the only surviving example of B.C.G. Burnett’s Type ‘K’ design, Burnett House survived the bombing of Darwin during World War II with two bullet holes in the front fence. The Australian Women’s Army services were based here during the war and it was also as a rest area for nurses. Nowadays, the National Trust hosts afternoon teas once a month in the beautiful gardens, a lovely setting to while away a couple of hours on a balmy Sunday.

We were invited to wander through the house before leaving, an offer too good to refuse. What would have been the original living areas downstairs are now occupied by National Trust administration spaces, we made our way upstairs where the bathroom greeted us at the top. The upper floor bedrooms are spacious with three-quarter height partitions between rooms, information panels and photographs tell the history of the house.

Presented as living areas, I could quite imagine enjoying a gin & tonic under the whirring ceiling fan with the scent of a tropical garden wafting through the louvres.

The bedroom exuded a peaceful ambience and has a spacious dressing area.

Outside, colourful tropical flowers abound in the immaculate garden.

Adjacent to Burnett House, Audit House was designed by the Commonwealth Government and is an example of a large-scale housing form used in Darwin during 1920-1940.

Built for the Commonwealth Auditor in 1938, this house was also used during the war as part of a rest home for nurses. After the war, the Auditor no longer used the residence and there was a succession of occupants from various Government Departments. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see inside but it looked very inviting, surrounded by a well-established tropical garden.

Lake House

I have mentioned previously that we are not really ‘big city’ people. When we travel, we like to take the back roads and stay in self-contained accommodation in quiet locations. Our wishes were certainly fulfilled when we arrived at the Lake House on the shores of Lake Taupo at Motuoapa Bay.

It is actually half a house but there were no occupants in the other half for the three nights we were there. The description of ‘a beautiful lakeside retreat with a twist of retro’ is something of an understatement. Stepping inside, memories of our childhood homes came flooding back as we explored the wonders within.

The well-equipped kitchen was reminiscent of our 1970’s lives, right down to the crockery.

The theme continued down the hallway

and into the bedroom.

I don’t think I have ever seen wall art created from carpet before.

I love the idea of using a shower curtain to make bathroom curtains.

We don’t usually take time out to relax and regenerate on holiday but we were feeling the need and Sunday was the perfect opportunity. A stroll to the local café for lunch took us past some lovely homes and very well behaved children

before returning for an afternoon of reading, napping and soaking up the view.

Basilica di Santa Margherita

Remembering our first visit to Cortona and the strenuous postprandial walk to the top of the town, we opted to drive this time to explore the magnificent Basilica di Santa Margherita.

A church was built on the site by the Camaldolese monks in the 11th century, dedicated to St. Basil, but was damaged during the sack of Cortona in 1258. Efforts led by Margherita di Cortona resulted in the church and adjacent convent being rebuilt in 1288. The interior is spectacular.

There have been many alterations over the centuries, the large rose window of the façade is one of the few remaining original features.

A marble depiction of Saint Margaret and a chapel commemorating the Cortonese war dead are to the side of the main aisle.

The most impressive display is above, with vibrant ceiling frescoes and stained glass windows presenting impossible angles.

Margaret lived the last years of her life in a small room at the back of the church until her death in 1297. She was buried in a wall of the chapel of St. Basil and her remains were transferred when a larger church was constructed in 1330. Her body is now displayed in a silver casket at the main altar.

Canonized in 1728, Saint Margaret didn’t have an enviable portfolio, being the patron saint of the falsely accused, homeless, insane, orphaned, mentally ill, midwives, penitents, single mothers, reformed prostitutes, stepchildren and tramps.

Beyond the rooftop of the neighbouring convent,

the vista across Lake Trasimeno and the Val di Chiana once again took our breath away.

Heritage Walk

After discovering the beautiful Federation Homes of Burnie and delving further into the history of the town, I set out to investigate the civic buildings from this period. These are by no means the only significant heritage buildings in Burnie, they are merely the example promoted by the ‘Federation Walks of Burnie’ pamphlet. The prominent Ikon Hotel was established as the Club Hotel in 1912 by J.T. Alexander. The Alexander family pioneered European settlement at Table Cape and with support from his family, J.T. built his own hotel after leasing the Sea View (now the Beach Hotel) from 1902 to 1910.

Known for his generosity to many needy families during the Great Depression, Alexander faced mounting debts and was forced to sell the hotel in 1933. The three storey building, dominated by the tall pyramidal tower, is an example of Federation Free Style architecture with very fine cast iron valances and balustrades.

Built by the Hobart Bank in 1921, the St. Luke’s building is on the site originally used by the Don Trading Company as their wood yard. ‘Burnie Brick’ was used in the construction of many buildings of this era, dug and fired in the Cooee brickworks until 1967 when the clay was eventually exhausted and the business closed. Federation Free Style often incorporated features from other styles such as the Romanesque semi-circular arches and Art Nouveau pediments above the downstairs windows seen on St. Luke’s.

In 1899, a Baptist Church was established in the town with services held in the Town Hall. Funds were raised to purchase land and erect a purpose built weatherboard church and adjoining two-storey brick manse. By 1925, the church proved too small and the new brick version was completed almost entirely by voluntary labour of the parishioners. There are some medieval elements to the Federation Gothic style including pointed arch windows and doorways, blind turrets and arrow slits and a parapet resembling a battlement.

The Christian Brethren began services in Burnie in 1875 and a simple timber building was constructed a year later. The current Gospel Hall, built in 1915 and enlarged in 1930, is another example of Federation Gothic architecture with a steeply pitched roof, arched windows and the inclusion of Art Nouveau leadlight.

The current SES Regional Headquarters is housed in a magnificent two-storey Federation Filigree home originally built for the Lucadou-Wells family as a combined residence and dental surgery. The ornamental screening on verandahs and balconies was usually timber but in this case it is cast iron.

Constructed in the Federation Free Style for the Commercial Bank in 1913, I think this sandstone and brick structure is looking somewhat neglected. Known as the T.G.I.O. Building (Tasmanian Government Insurance Office) through the nineties, it is now inhabited by Steadfast Taswide Insurance Brokers.

Another beautiful building sits sadly neglected. The former Burnie branch of the Launceston Bank for Savings opened in 1928 and was most recently the premises of the Spirit Bar, a welcoming hub offering Tasmanian beer, wine, cider and spirits as well as delicious fare and live music. The forlorn façade has deteriorated dismally since the unfortunate closure of Spirit Bar a couple of years ago.

My disappointment reached a new level when I saw the condition of the Old Post Office. Purpose built in 1898, it is considered an important example of Federation Free Classical architecture. An enthusiastic couple bought the property in 2014 with plans to renovate but I can find no further reference to that story and it certainly appears deserted and decrepit.

The former Bank of Van Diemen’s Land (V.D.L. Bank) building, just a few doors down from the Old Post Office, has been beautifully restored and maintained. Completed in 1892, the prominent corner position is ideal for what is now ‘Food & Brew’, a successful restaurant and wine bar serving Tasmanian produce and making the most of the stunning period architecture, both inside and out.

I fail to understand why some these buildings that are considered significant enough to be listed on the Heritage Register are not being maintained. Surely the conservation recommendation of, “this place should be retained” indicates an obligation to upkeep the premises? Perhaps some Council coffers could be allocated to restore Burnie’s historical buildings, especially those promoted in brochures to entice visitors to the town?