The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Aboard a ‘flume

buggy’, Alice Hansen ar­rives at a wilder­ness retreat, one of a

raft of new ex­pe­ri­ences for trav­ellers to the

Ap­ple Isle.

AR­RIVE by “flume buggy”, a glo­ri­fied golf cart that con­veys us along a long, slen­der jetty over a lake. Not just any lake, but Lake St Clair, the na­tion’s deep­est lake, in the heart of 1.5 mil­lion hectares of Tas­ma­nian World Her­itage wilder­ness. Be­yond the un­blem­ished sur­face of the lake are sharp peaks ris­ing from thick myr­tle forests in the Cra­dle Moun­tain-Lake St Clair Na­tional Park. It’s eerily si­lent.

At the end of this 240m jetty is our ho­tel, but not just any ho­tel. Opened last month, Pumphouse Point was part of the state’s hy­dro-elec­tric­ity scheme, now an 18-bed­room wilder­ness retreat, and one man’s 20-year dream.

Con­structed in 1940, the pumphouse and sub­sta­tion were built on Lake St Clair and fit­ted with tur­bines to sup­ply wa­ter to nearby Tar­raleah power sta­tion – the “flume” refers to the wa­ter chan­nel be­neath the jetty. The pumphouse was found to be largely sur­plus to re­quire­ments and sat un­used for years. It was de­com­mis­sioned in the early 1990s.

Dur­ing a fam­ily pic­nic at Lake St Clair in 1995, Simon Cur­rant no­ticed the weath­ered, derelict build­ing and saw po­ten­tial. The tourism en­tre­pre­neur ap­proached the gov­ern­ment with a plan to de­velop the site into a wilder­ness retreat. It stalled, so he put the idea on the back­burner and moved on to de­velop Cra­dle Moun­tain Lodge, Stra­han Vil­lage in west­ern Tas­ma­nia and, later, the dining venue of Pep­per­mint Bay in Wood­bridge, about half an hour’s drive south of Ho­bart. In 2004, he suc­cess­fully ten­dered to de­velop the retreat and for the next 10 years he weath­ered plan­ning hitches, the GFC, build­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and fierce public de­bate about land use in wilder­ness ar­eas.

Cur­rant re­gards his devel­op­ment as a tem­plate for the fu­ture, an ex­am­ple of sen­si­tive, sus­tain­able tourism within a World Her­itage area. He has a 45-year lease on the build­ing and, un­like other pro­pos­als, Cur­rant kept the scale of his project small, to min­imise the im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

Pumphouse Point has 12 bed­rooms in the old three-storey con­crete pumphouse linked by the jetty to an­other six in the two-storey Shore­house, which also in­cludes the dining room and a help-your­self bar. The build­ings’ her­itage­listed Art Deco-era fea­tures have been pre­served; the ex­te­rior paint looks its age. Both build­ings have lounges with fires and calm lake views. Bed­rooms have lake or land­scape views and are stocked with a Tas­ma­nian larder: Ash­grove vin­tage ched­dar, Huon salmon and Kate Hill caber­net mer­lot. Th­ese in­gre­di­ents make a per­fect pic­nic, while break­fast and din­ner are served com­mu­nally in a wa­ter­front dining room, the likes of house-

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