Pumphouse Point Lake St Clair is about a two and a half hour drive from Hobart and depending on which way you go there are a number of quaint smaller towns along the way. I recently did this drive on the VW Touareg Launch.
We arrived reasonably early in Hobart, around 9am but it was still cold, as there had been a huge cold snap across the eastern side of Australia. While waiting to jump into our cars, the wind was making it pretty fresh and a warm mocha was well received.
Our destination was Pumphouse Point Lake St Clair.
After a quick brief on the features of the new Touareg, we set the seat warmers and headed off. We immediately felt cosy while moving through the Hobart Traffic. Seriously anyone from Hobart who complains about Traffic should spend a few days in Sydney or Melbourne.
While the Touareg is relatively big, it doesn’t feel it at all while we navigate through the suburbs to find the freeway out of Hobart. First stop is the historic village of Richmond, a charming little hamlet with a historical convict built bridge. Built somewhere in the 1820, the bridge, which is the oldest in Australia, provides a focal point for the Food and wine lovers that flock to this escape on weekends.
After a quick whistle stop and a glimpse of the 50 or so beautiful examples of Georgian architecture, we head off for the next stop at Bothwell and another warming coffee. Even though it’s about 24km from Hobart, it was enough time to settle into the Touareg.
The effects of a long drive down to Sydney the night before departure and the flight were alleviated with the awesome massage front seats. Both occupants are treated to the luxury of a menu driven choice of massage options from full back, to one side or lumbar massage. How good is this!
Bothwell for Coffee and Scones
Onward to the next stop at Bothwell, about an hour’s drive further north. We pass through a number of smaller towns such as Tea Tree, Mangalore, Bagdad and Kempton along the way, while enjoying the natural countryside.
Bothwell is another tiny town that is full of history and about 50 heritage listed buildings. Often described as the gateway to the Central Highlands, the surrounding district endows visitors with opportunities for bushwalks, hunting and fly fishing for the elusive Brown Trout that provides excellent eating.
We were treated to a delicious hot chocolate and feast of giant freshly baked scones with jam and cream at the local coffee shop Sealy’s Store. This reminded me of Sunday morning tea at home when I was a kid. The proprietor is also a VW fan, especially the nostalgic Kombi and in her youth had a split window Kombi. If only we all knew to keep such vehicles.
Again the wind was super chilly, so getting back into the warm comfortable environment of the Touareg made us appreciate just how a luxury SUV can enhance the experience of touring around. By this stage we had also come to appreciate the quietness and smoothness of the Touareg. The suspension soaked up the road irregularities along the way and with more than enough power from the V6 diesel, provided an engaging drive through the windy roads. The best was yet to come though.
Onward to Pumphouse Point
Bothwell to Pumphouse Point is a bit under two hours’ drive climbing through the mountains and thick forested National Park. It was also snowing and had been the previous night, so we were treated to the sight of snow filled trees and an unusual feature for driving in Australia, snow on the road. However with the Touareg’s selectable drive modes, we simply selected Snow mode and happily proceeded without worry, still exercising caution for black ice.
There was also about 60km of gravel road that was wet and slushy from rain and melted snow, again we selected the appropriate drive mode and the traction was excellent. The benefit of VW’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive system is that it allows the driver to select from a menu of drive programs to ensure the best possible traction at all road speeds, in all weather and road conditions. It never abrogates the responsibility of the driver to maintain concentration, rather enhances the safety.
The final drive into the Lake St Clair region was stunning, with snow everywhere. We were lucky I guess to have arrived at this time as we don’t get much of an opportunity to do much snow driving. One feature that was appreciated in the VW Touareg is the ability to change the colour of the heads up display to a blue that contrasts against the white of the snow on the road. The other luxury we indulged was the ventilated front seats set to warm, very toasty.
Located at the southern part of the famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Lake St Clair is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The Aboriginal people of the area called the lake Leeawuleena, meaning sleeping water.
Not only is the lake a beautiful location, but the history is that it was carved out by ice during several glaciations over the last two million years. Like a lot of things in Tasmania, the lake has some unique features. It is the deepest freshwater lake in Australia (167 metres/ 547 feet) and the headwaters of the Derwent River.
The history behind Pumphouse Point is rich and interesting and rather than reproduce it here, you can read all about it on their website.
Guests have a choice of three locations to stay at the retreat, the original Pumphouse itself, the Shorehouse, where the meals and main facilities are and the exclusive Retreat, hidden on the edge of the lake, surrounded by native bush.
We stayed in the Pumphouse with views over the lake and my bathroom had a view over the walkway. Good for me not so much for people walking along it, luckily there is a discreet curtain.
The room itself is spacious with a cool design, with a sunken lounge, step up to a bar kitchenette area and behind he bed is the Ensuite, with heated floor tiles.
There is a communal bar area and each floor has a lounge area with books and games, a fire and magnificent views over the lake.
The rooms have a premium larder filled with tempting food and beverages for you to purchase during your stay. Enjoy local cheeses, cured meats, and hearty soups and much more – it’s like a deli in your room! With whites, reds, bubbles, beers and our island’s famous cider, you need only journey six steps from your couch to toast out the day.
All meals are taken in the Shorehouse, communal style, and the unique feature is that there is an honesty system in place. If you have a drink from any of the bars, simply mark it down on your room number card. The whole atmosphere makes you feel instantly comfortable.
The food and wine delights are an experience and the owners have teamed up with local producer Coal River Farm to bring a range of local produce to the table.
The area around Lake St Clair offers a wealth of walks, ranging from leisurely 45 minutes strolls to overnight bushwalks, as well as beautiful forests to explore. Lake St Clair is also the end point of the famous Overland Track, which runs from Cradle Mountain in the north to Cynthia Bay on the southern shore of Lake St Clair. Try fishing, boating or the ferry service travelling the 18 kilometre length of the lake, and meet bushwalkers completing the Overland Track.
Given the location, just a few hours’ drive from Hobart, the tempting gourmet delights and the fact that it is surrounded by nature, it’s no surprise that Pumphouse Point runs at near 90% occupancy, with attractions for all seasons. It’s popular with the well healed eco tourists and they have a strict no children under 18 policy.
Unfortunately, like a lot of these quick overnight visits, as soon as we arrived it seemed we were hoping into the Touareg again for the drive back to Hobart and the airport. We took a more direct route back, through the lakes district and stunning scenery. Travel time is about two and a half hours and the many features of the Touareg made the drive a relaxing experience.