As a case study for how convict deportation could change one's fortunes for the better, Corinda gains top marks. In 1826, Englishman Samuel Crisp was sentenced to life in Van Diemen's Land for stealing a sheep from a neighbouring farmer. After years of model behaviour, he was pardoned in 1840, allowing him to embark on a career as an enterprising timber merchant. His son, Alfred, inherited the business and built upon that wealth while rising to a respected position in society that included multiple terms as city mayor. In 1878, Alfred built Corinda as his family home, high on a hill affording views to the waterfront. After decades of swapping hands between various owners, it returned to the family fold in 2016, when Alfred's great-great grandson, Julian Roberts, and wife, Chaxi, bought the property then turned it into one of Hobart's finest boutique heritage hotels.
Forget taxis. Corinda is perched on the highest point in Glebe, within strolling distance of the CBD and Hobart's historic waterfront. The Tennis and Aquatic Centres are practically on its doorstep and the Royal Botanic Gardens are a hop, skip and jump down the road.
Large blocks with opposing street frontages are rare in inner-suburban Hobart. Even scarcer are neatly compartmentalised English gardens that are big enough to host wedding receptions for 120 guests filling half that space. The gardens, which have featured in magazine spreads, contain a 100-year-old magnolia tree, yew and box hedges, a convict-era wall and a snug, self-contained Gardener's Cottage for two. The main house, Corinda, occupies the upper half of the block and contains six rooms with en suite bathrooms. Additional self-contained accommodation is available in the detached Coach House and in the Servants' Quarters wing. Two contemporary-designed Pavilions occupy an adjoining block – one sleeping two, the other eight.
I'm staying in Alfred Crisp's Suite upstairs in the house, where I can savour the views through bay windows across the manicured gardens towards Sullivan's Cove and Mount Wellington. The handmade bed is king-sized and the antique native cedar furnishings complement the house's period foundations. There's a TV, complimentary Wi-Fi and coffee-making facilities. Wall hangings include a monochrome portrait of Alfred Crisp by the door and a moving portrayal of a girl by Plácido Francés y Pascual fortuitously discovered at a bargain basement price in a flea market. The artist's work hangs in Madrid's Prado Museum, among others.
A pop-up restaurant serving Spanish or Mexican-themed five-course dinners from a $75 set menu opens most Fridays from 6.30pm. Bookings are essential. Owner Chaxi, a qualified chef who uprooted from her native Canary Islands to settle in Hobart with Julian, also runs three-hour cooking courses followed by lunch, eating what you make. They cost $225 and include a recipe book with homegrown garden ingredients to take home. Breakfasts and High Teas ($45) are served in the house's enclosed veranda. An honesty bar in the drawing room is well stocked with Tasmanian whiskies, gin, vodka, wines and craft beers.
Hobart's historic waterfront, once a whaling centre, is now home to Salamanca Place, as well as the city's coolest restaurants, bars, galleries and museums, including exhibitions dedicated to the city's crucial role in polar exploration and research. Ferries to MONA start here too.
A pleasantly leafy, relaxed sanctuary where time stalls the moment you enter through the gates.
Rooms range from $250-450, with or without breakfast. It includes a complimentary bottle of Glaetzer-Dixon wine from the award-winning vineyard down the road. Pilates retreats cost $995 for two nights and include bedding, classes, mats and all meals. Flower arrangement workshops are $65, including morning tea. Garden and House Tours for day visitors cost $19/25 respectively. See corinda.com.au.
Unusual, I know, but my room's native Blackwood lavatory, or "thunder box", with antique Staffordshire Blue ceramic bowl, is the first I've seen of its kind. The photo I sent to my family at home prompted many quizzical, but intrigued, responses.
Hard to find any. Creaky floorboards perhaps, but that's to be expected in a 143-year house.
Mark Daffey stayed as a guest of Corinda.