We recently ticked another item off the bucket list with a much anticipated weekend at Pumphouse Point. Here is a bit of history; Tasmania has relied on hydro-electricity since the early 1900s. In the 1930s, Lake St. Clair, the deepest freshwater lake in Australia, became the focus of a new pumping station. The water would be pumped from the lake and stored, to be fed to nearby Tarraleah Power Station as needed. Construction began on a 5-storey pumphouse, 900 feet out in the lake, to house four huge water pumping turbines and was completed in 1940. Sadly, after all this effort, the site was never used and after being decommissioned in the 1990s, was placed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for its significant industrial heritage. Parks & Wildlife Service were appointed caretaker and thoughts turned to tourism opportunities. After unsuccessful tenders by two different developers, Simon Currant, a man with great vision, secured the lease in 2004 and a decade of hard work saw Pumphouse Point brought back to life in 2015. Our first glimpse of the pumphouse was thrilling, the imposing edifice was minified by the expanse of nature.
Lake St. Clair is as pristine today as it was when Europeans first arrived in 1832. The original inhabitants, known as the Big River Tribe, called the lake Leeawuleena, meaning ‘Sleeping Water’.
We were greeted at the reception lounge with the question, “would you like a glass of Tasmanian sparkling wine?” Not a difficult decision to make. Our bags were then loaded onto a ‘flume buggy’, similar to a golf cart, and we were driven the 240 metres along the flume to the pumphouse. The drivers reverse all the way along (there is nowhere to turn around at the end) and we sat on the back with a perfect view of the approach.
Our room on the middle floor captured the afternoon sunlight
and had everything we could possibly need. The kitchenette (with two fridges and a coffee machine) was laden with sumptuous Tasmanian produce, beer, wine and cider, all at very reasonable prices.
Hidden behind what at first appeared to be a mirrored wardrobe was the ensuite with industrial tapwear, all natural Australian products and the biggest shower head I have ever seen. We discovered when we turned on the light, the mirror wasn’t a mirror at all.
The three floors of the pumphouse have four rooms on each, as well as options for lounging. The ground floor lounge has a bar and wood heater, one of the original turbines is visible through a glass panel in the floor. For some reason I didn’t take a photo so have procured one from the website.
The lounge on the middle floor was right next door to our room, almost an extension of our private domain. The walls of rough sawn Tasmanian Oak boards added to the cosy ambience,
it was difficult to concentrate on reading with so much beauty just outside the window.
On the landing between the middle and top floors, there is a small library of books and board games.
There are another six rooms in the Shorehouse.
Formerly used as the substation for the facility, the art deco exterior has been preserved
and some of the original features have been blended with the contemporary furnishings.
There is no shortage of seating in the ground floor lounge, all with stunning views across the lake. A perfect place to relax with a purchase from the bar.
There are no bar staff, it works on an honesty system. You select your preferred tipple, write it on the list and settle the bill on departure. Once again, we found the prices surprisingly reasonable, certainly not the over-inflated dollars you find in a hotel mini-bar. A stylish extension to the Shorehouse sets the scene for a superb evening dining experience
and, of course, another view of the Pumphouse.
Dinner is a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow travellers, tables of six or eight are filled at random and conversation never wanes. The menu differs each day but always fresh Tasmanian produce from Coal River Farm. We started our Friday feast with pumpkin, roast capsicum & paprika soup with thyme & parmesan flatbread. Soup and dessert are served individually, main course is a shared table experience. I was otherwise occupied, choosing another bottle of wine, when main course was served so you will have to imagine braised Cape Grim beef shin with rosemary & orange jus, confit baby potatoes, broccoli gratin and Tasmanian hot-smoked salmon with crème fraiche & capers. My apple & brandy cake with salted caramel walnuts came with a special embellishment and a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday to You’.
Relaxed and replete, we strolled back to the Pumphouse under a clear, star-filled sky.
I could happily have stayed in bed and watched as the rising sun created an ever changing palette across the water
but breakfast beckoned. A self-serve affair, there was plenty to choose from including home-made baked beans, crispy bacon and a range of cheeses to make your own toastie. Or you can cook your eggs just the way you like them.
On the subject of food, you can order fresh crusty bread any time of day. We had a loaf delivered to our room for lunch which we devoured with cheese and olives while watching the world go by from the lounge.
After lunch, we set off to discover some of the walking tracks around the property. Why walk when you can ride a bike?
Across the bridge near reception,
the trail leads to Sunset Seat, a secluded spot with a rustic bench to sit and enjoy the sunset.
We were a little early for that but had a great view of the Pumphouse from a different angle.
Further along the trail, we found Basin Seats, another lovely spot to sit and contemplate,
overlooking Derwent Basin to Manganinni Island.
On the eastern side of the basin, a pontoon sits at the end of the track in St. Clair Lagoon. We had intended taking a dinghy out on the water but the wind had picked up and we weren’t too confident of our rowing prowess.
It would have been the perfect way to spend an hour or two, drifting around in the peace and quiet.
Back in our room, we realised we could see Sunset Seat across the water.
We returned to the Shorehouse for a beverage before dinner where we were, once again, presented with fabulous fare. Starting with chickpea & swede soup with parsley oil and thyme & parmesan flatbread. We shared plates of Coal River Farm pork belly with spiced apple puree & cider reduction, baked cauliflower with caramelised onion, tahini & sesame seeds, green beans & Coal River Farm feta and pressed Cape Grim beef terrine with green peppercorns & crème fraiche. Finishing with dark chocolate, raspberry & cocoanib crunch with raspberry ice cream.
We farewelled Pumphouse Point after breakfast the next day, vowing to return and experience the wonder in winter snow.