Australia: Tasmania’s New Breed of Upscale Retreats

  • The living room at Marion Bay House.

    The living room at Marion Bay House.

  • The outdoor bathtub at Rocky Hills Retreat.

    The outdoor bathtub at Rocky Hills Retreat.

  • 28 Gates owner Susie Parsons.

    28 Gates owner Susie Parsons.

  • One of the three bedrooms at 28 Gates.

    One of the three bedrooms at 28 Gates.

  • Craigie Knowe, is filled with antiques and 19th-century furnishings.

    Craigie Knowe, is filled with antiques and 19th-century furnishings.

  • Occupying a historic farmhouse on a five-hectare vineyard, Craigie Knowe.

    Occupying a historic farmhouse on a five-hectare vineyard, Craigie Knowe.

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Why settle for a room when you can book an entire house? Tasmania’s new breed of upscale retreats offers unique experiences that are yours alone to enjoy

By Leisa Tyler
Photographs by Leisa Tyler

When Brett Torossi opened Avalon Coastal Retreat near Swansea in 2006, the three-bedroom house became a trailblazer for a whole new generation of Tasmanian lodges. It offered all the trappings of a top-notch resort—designer furniture, spellbinding views, a private beach, a wine cellar—but with limited services and the requirement that you book the entire place. The idea caught on. Now, there are scores of self-contained houses on the island that guests can rent out exclusively, from single-bedroom love nests to larger family-size properties. Here, we look at four of the latest to open their doors.

Rocky Hills Retreat

Avalon owner Torossi’s second take is the ultimate escape for two. The solar-powered modernist bolthole by Hobart-based architect Craig Rosevear sits at the edge of an old-growth forest overlooking an uninhabited stretch of coastline on Great Oyster Bay. Soak up the views from an outdoor Huon pine tub, or retreat indoors to a world of plush comforts, such as thick shag carpets and oversize couches. As with Avalon, it’s the attention to detail that makes this place so exceptional, from chenille bathrobes and hot-water bottles covered in cashmere to a fully stocked kitchen with a bottle of champagne in the fridge. You can take walks through the forest or exercise your creativity in the on-site art studio, an old clapboard church that was relocated here from Hobart and has everything an aspiring Picasso could ever need (11901 Tasman Hwy., Swansea; 61-428/250-399;; doubles from US$500).

28 Gates

Set on a 2,430-hectare sheep station in Tasmania’s dry Midlands region, this two-story stone cottage offers a rare insight into life on a working farm. Called Bloomfield, the station has been home to six generations of the Parsons family; 28 Gates, converted from a 1930s stables-cum–shearers’ quarters, is the creation of its current owners, the genial Susie and Mike Parsons. The building now has three blackwood-floored bedrooms, a big living room anchored by a rustic farmhouse dining table, and an open kitchen stocked with complimentary Derwent Valley wine, smoked trout, and Susie’s own fruit compote. You can spend your days fishing in one of the farm’s two lakes, exploring well-marked walking trails, or, in winter, watching the shearing. Everything you need for a rural adventure—a ready-to-go picnic basket, his and her gumboots, fishing rods—are waiting by the front door (662 Marked Tree Rd., Gretna; 61-3/6286-1319;; doubles from US$698).

Marion Bay House

An angular timber-and-cement-sheet structure with stunning views over the surrounding pastureland and coastline, Marion Bay House makes for a dramatic retreat. Owned by a Danish couple, the three-bedroom property takes many of its cues from Scandinavia, with minimalist white walls, timber floors, and simple but stylish furnishings: Eames chairs, Eilersen black-leather couches, an elegant Georg Jensen wall clock. There’s also a French-made suspended fireplace and Smeg kitchen appliances. It’s just a pity the owners haven’t put the same care and attention into supplying basic provisions; the house’s bathrooms and kitchen are poorly stocked, and it doesn’t help that the nearest supermarket is a  20-minute drive away. Still, guests have instant access to the delights of Marion Bay, which is popular with surfers and whales alike (Marion Bay Rd., Bream Creek;; doubles from US$598).

Craigie Knowe

This 1842 stone-built farmhouse takes its Gaelic name from the craggy knoll upon which it sits. Renovated and run by the Islington hotel in Hobart, Craigie Knowe has three bedrooms—two in the attic, one on the main floor—and spacious living quarters, all furnished with Persian carpets, period furniture, and lithographs by Louisa Meredith, a British-born artist who is thought to have lived in the house in the 19th century. Most guests will gravitate to the kitchen and its attached sunroom overlooking the eponymous five-hectare vineyard, established in 1979 by pioneering east-coast viticulturist John Austwick. The house keeps a small cellar of Craigie Knowe wines, which these days are produced by neighboring Spring Vale Wines (the lime-accented Riesling is the most interesting). Also near at hand is Freycinet Vineyard, a small estate that produces exceptional Burgundy-style Pinot Noirs (80 Glen Gala Rd., Cranbrook; 61-3/6375-1122;; doubles from US$350).

Originally appeared in the June/July 2012 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Southern Comforts”)

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