I recently spent a couple of nights in Launceston, catching up with a special friend from W.A. who was travelling around Tasmania with another two friends. They had booked accommodation at Armalong Chalets and fortunately, there was room for me. I arrived on a very inclement afternoon and we wasted no time seeking a beverage at Stillwater Restaurant, overlooking the Tamar Basin. Across the water, four large grain silos from the 1960s are now Peppers Silo Hotel. Deserted for decades, the Kings Wharf grain silos were rescued and transformed into a stunning $25 million hotel with many of the facilities constructed inside the original barrels. (A weekend stay is still on the bucket list).
After a fabulous meal at The Grain of the Silos Restaurant and a good night’s sleep, I awoke to a glorious sunny day and the most spectacular view through the floor to ceiling windows.
The chalets are situated at Tamar Ridge Cellar Door, perched high in the trees overlooking vineyards and the ever changing Tamar River.
We set off for a day discovering the Tamar Valley and a short drive down the West Tamar Highway, stopped at Brady’s Lookout, once the hideout for bushranger Mathew Brady. A gentleman’s servant in England, he was convicted of stealing a basket with some butter, bacon, sugar and rice and received a seven-year sentence of transportation to Australia. Arriving in December 1820, he wasn’t the most exemplary prisoner and escaped with a group of fifteen in June 1824, spending the next two years on the run before being captured and hanged on 4th May 1826.
The Tamar River isn’t actually a river, it is a tidal estuary into which the North and South Esk Rivers empty, that stretches 70km from Launceston to Bass Strait.
After investigating a couple of wineries and the former gold mining town of Beaconsfield, we arrived at Beauty Point to enjoy a relaxing lunch by the water.
The first deep-water port on the Tamar River was established to service the nearby gold mine and then, after the gold rush, it became the centre for the export of apples. It is now home to the Australian Maritime College training ship, Stephen Brown, a permanently moored neighbour of the Tamar Yacht Club.
We wended our way back to Tamar Ridge where, not only is there a cellar door on site but also a gin distillery, Turner Stillhouse. Arriving within a few minutes of closing time, we were treated to a tasting session of the award-winning Three Cuts Gin with distiller, Brett Coulsen. The unusual name refers to the three cuts of Tasmanian rose that are added to the gin, including some grown near the distillery.
Returning to the chalet as the shadows lengthened, we settled on the deck with a beverage and platter to absorb the breathtaking vista over vineyards and river.
Sadly, the next morning we went our separate ways but not before another magnificent sunrise.