Brickendon Estate, Longford, Tasmania
Brickendon Estate is a World Heritage-listed property in lush, rural northern Tasmania, about one hour's drive from Devonport (if you arrive on the Spirit of Tasmania), 30 minutes' drive from Launceston and about two hours' drive from Hobart. If you're looking for peace and quiet – interrupted only by a cow mooing or chickens clucking – you'll find it here. Brickendon also makes a good base for exploring northern Tasmania.
The estate comprises the owners' Georgian homestead (the Archer family has lived in it for seven generations); the 19th-century convict-built farm village, which includes three original cottages that visitors can stay in; three additional "farm cottages" for visitor accommodation; and 465 hectares of working farm land and heritage gardens.
My travel companion and I stayed in Sweetcorn Cottage, one of the three neighbouring rustic-style farm cottages that are built from recycled materials. It has more than enough space for two single travellers, or two couples travelling together; although its two bedrooms can sleep up to seven, the living area would be a bit squeezy with that many inhabitants. However, the verandah at the back, overlooking rolling paddocks, adds space and is a lovely spot to relax and take in the views – and you can also book all three cottages if you're travelling in a group.
The open-plan kitchen/living room is comfortably furnished with a couch, armchairs and colourful rugs and the wood-burning stove is a major bonus on chilly evenings. There are lots of interesting books and info about the estate to browse. The kitchen is equipped with an oven, microwave, small fridge, tea and coffee making facilities, cutlery, crockery and essential condiments.
The main bedroom has a queen size bed and a single while the second bedroom sleeps up to four in a double bed and bunks. Oiled floor boards, rough-sawn timber features and hessian-covered bedroom walls add to the country-style ambience. Bed-linens, blankets, electric heaters and bath towels are all supplied and it was certainly cosy. Maybe it was being surrounded by all that wood that helped me sleep like a log – or was it fresh country air washed down by some delicious Tassie red?
You can cook up a feast for dinner with local produce and superb wines bought on your travels along Tasmania's Tasting Trail or from shops in nearby Longford; or check out restaurants and cafes in the town. Continental breakfast is provided.
You only have to walk about 50 metres from the farm cottages to find yourself in the middle of the convict farm village. Established in 1824 by English settler William Archer, the farm village was built by convict labour and today there are 20 original buildings still standing. As owner Louise Archer says, the estate is a working farm rather than a museum, so some of the buildings retain tools and furnishings from various eras of the farm's life rather than pristinely catalogued collections of artefacts. You can wander around the shearing shed, the blacksmith's forge, a large granary, the smokehouse and not-yet restored living quarters; the lovely little chapel is now used for weddings.
The gardens around the main house feature an impressive collection of trees – some of which are 180 years old and very rare – and the English hawthorn hedgerows that line the road to the estate date back to the 1820s. A leisurely walk to the neighbouring property, Woolmer Estate, takes you along a 2.8-kilometre track known as the Convict Farm Walk. Woolmers was established by William Archer's brother, Thomas; once on the property you can take guided tours but the walk itself is well worth doing.
Brickendon Estate is a fascinating historic destination and staying for a weekend or longer gives you the chance to discover more about Australia's convict past in a very immediate way. Young children will enjoy meeting the farm animals and helping to feed them every morning at 10.15 (Brian the duck is a bit of a star); garden enthusiasts will find plenty to enjoy in the heritage gardens; and anglers can cast their lines in the estate's three-kilometre stretch of the Macquarie River.
Sweetcorn Cottage sleeps up to seven people. The cost for two adults is $200, additional adults $45, children 15 and under $30. Continental breakfast provisions are included. 236 Wellington Street, Longford, Tasmania 7301. Phone 03 6391 1383, see www.brickendon.com.au
HIGHLIGHT: Touring the convict village and farm with owner Louise Archer.
LOWLIGHT: More research would have encouraged (our) better dinner provisioning.
Sally Macmillan was a guest of Spirit of Tasmania & Brickendon Estate.