Tamar Valley

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.

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.

Cradle comforts

Last time we spent the weekend at Cradle Mountain Lodge we promised ourselves we would make it a regular treat, perhaps once a year. Nine years on, we returned last month for a mid-week stay, the impetus being Michael’s birthday. After a leisurely scenic drive of just over an hour, we felt compelled to inspect the new, controversial, Visitor Centre. With all the negative publicity, I wasn’t expecting to find, in my opinion, a rather impressive construction.

Once the hundreds of plantings have grown, I think it will blend well with the environment.

The lodge looks stunning with a new face lift

and the reconfigured reception area has lost none of its welcoming charm.

We checked in to our Pencil Pine cabin, surrounded by wildlife

with a distant view of Cradle Mountain,

and returned to the tavern for lunch.

The guest lounge is cosy and comfortable

and there were two chairs by the fire that definitely had our names on them.

Our cabin was an easy stroll from the lodge, passing many contented furry residents along the way, obviously used to the comings and goings of the human variety.

The next day brought rain, a soothing constant downpour with not a breath of wind.

After a hearty breakfast, we retired to the guest lounge for a couple of hours of enforced relaxation before making our way to Waldheim Spa for a spot of pampering. Michael savoured a sixty minute Aromasoul massage by the lovely Eka, while Kayoko treated me to a Tension Tonic Ritual – a delicious hour of body massage, foot treatment and scalp therapy.

Anticipating a sumptuous dinner at the Highland Restaurant, we returned to the cabin for a cheese platter and quiet afternoon, hoping the forecast snow would materialise. Despite -4°C overnight, snow didn’t eventuate but a heavy frost and ice greeted us the next morning.

We couldn’t resist a final indulgence with a cooked breakfast followed by an easy walk in the crisp, clear air before departing for home, vowing to do this more often.

Matamata

Much as we enjoyed our time in Auckland, after three nights we were ready to leave the confines of the city and breathe the country air. A scenic two hour drive south of Auckland, we arrived at Matamata. Established as a Māori pā in 1830, the name means ‘headland’ and the position on a ridge of high ground was perfect for the defensive settlement. The town is now recognised as the home of The Shire, anyone who is familiar with The Lord of the Rings will know what I mean. There was no doubt we were in Hobbit country when we located the information centre.

1.information centre2.information centre

We were very fortunate to have booked accommodation only 4km from Hobbiton, it wasn’t difficult to see why Peter Jackson chose this area for the filming of his movie.

3.countryside4.countryside5.countryside

The setting of Buckland B&B couldn’t have been more peaceful,

8.Buckland B&B

the spacious living area was a welcome contrast to our cramped city apartment. It is amazing how a section of this American barn has been so tastefully transformed.

9.interior10.interior11.bathroom

The outdoor area was perfect for a late afternoon aperitivo,

12.outdoor setting

undisturbed by the amiable neighbours.

15.sheep16.neighbours

Scrumptious homemade bread was delivered to our door daily, what didn’t get eaten for breakfast was enjoyed with our Rangihoua olive oil at dinner.

We stayed four nights at Buckland, not only is it close to Hobbiton it is a great base for day trips west to Hamilton and east to Rotorua. Thank you Tracy & Kevin for a wonderful experience.

Wrest Point

Michael’s gig at Cascade Brewhouse in January gave us the opportunity to stay in Hobart overnight and the perfect excuse for a belated wedding anniversary celebration. We hadn’t been to Wrest Point since a holiday in 2007 when we enjoyed a fabulous evening in the revolving restaurant, it was time to revisit. Not only did Wrest Point become Australia’s first legal casino in 1973, its fascinating history dates back to 1789 when a chap named Thomas Chaffey was transported for life to Norfolk Island. He married Maria Israel, was made a constable and given 39 acres of land. When the settlement on Norfolk Island was closed, he received 62 acres of land in Hobart and built a house on land at Queensborough which became known as Chaffey’s Point. Thomas’s son, William, built an inn on the site called the Traveller’s Rest in 1839 and it was later purchased in 1939 to create a prestigious international hotel, the Wrest Point Riviera. The current Wrest Point hotel was built on the same site and is still the city’s tallest building at 64 metres.

1.Wrest Point Tower

The complex has been extended over the years and now includes a conference centre as well as a range of bars and restaurants and three accommodation options depending on your budget. We had booked a Water Edge room but were upgraded to a newly refurbished Harbour View Deluxe  King on the sixth floor of the tower. The décor was tasteful

and the view stunning, although we didn’t have much time to spend admiring it.

5.river view6.river view

After the Brewhouse, it was a quick freshen up and change for our reservation at The Point on the top floor of the tower. A selection of breads were presented, followed by a delicious venison taster.

For entrée, we both chose the Rannoch Farm quail breast, house made falafel, onion, Cygnet mushrooms, herbs & red wine jus.

11.quail

We differed on main course with Tasmanian slow cooked lamb rump & braised neck, cauliflower, sweet potato, snow peas, almonds, green raisins, herb salsa verde & dukkah seasoning and honey glazed duck breast, braised red cabbage, parsnip, bread dumplings, caramelised chestnuts, duck & orange jus.

Had we not opted for the table d’hôte menu, we would have declined dessert, not realising the meals would be quite so generous. We soldiered on. I had textures of rhubarb & berries, honey crème brûlée, elderflower, milk crumble, lemon sorbet, pistachio sponge & meringue, while Michael managed the walnut & maple syrup tart, buckwheat pastry, red wine poached pear, sauce Anglaise & yoghurt sorbet.

With no room for another morsel, we were presented with a mist shrouded platter bearing chocolates and a congratulatory anniversary note. How could we refuse?

16.Happy Anniversary

The following morning, a spotlight of sun pierced the clouds, illuminating the Derwent River and the cast of players waiting in the wings.

17.morning light18.rowers

A group of rowers appeared on the stage

followed by a lone paddle boarder, obviously confident enough to carry a backpack.

It wasn’t long before a seaplane landed then cruised downriver and disappeared from sight.

With the water entertainment over, we wandered through the venue to explore the immaculate grounds.

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Cormorants preened on mussel crusted rocks,

with an enviable view of the Tasman Bridge and Mt. Wellington beyond.

35.Tasman Bridge

Vegetables and herbs are grown in the gardens, a ready supply to serve the patrons.

Boardwalk Bistro

39.Boardwalk Bistro

overlooks the marina.

40.marina

It is no surprise that Sandy Bay has the most expensive real estate in Hobart.

41.Sandy Bay

Our only disappointment was that we weren’t staying for longer but there is always a next time.

42.Wrest Point Tower