What is it like to own a private island? We ask Clem Newton-Brown, the owner of Tasmania’s Picnic Island to take us behind the scenes and explain what it is like to be the custodian of a unique piece of Australia.
How did you end up buying a private island in Tasmania?
I heard about this little island in a newspaper article and tracked down the owner. I pestered him for two years before he agreed to sell. When we bought it I never thought it would be possible to open a tourism accommodation on it. Our family just used it for camping trips and we loved the raw beauty and rugged experience of flying down from Melbourne, blowing up a boat, loading it up with supplies and trying our best to land it on the rocks without sinking it. My kids have had some experiences growing up that will stay with them for life.
When approval was granted for the lodge it enabled us to provide a much higher level of comfort than our camping days while maintaining the essence of living on a deserted island.
What makes this location so special?
There are less than a dozen freehold islands in Tasmania and Picnic Island is the smallest. It was originally part of an early settler property and the settler used to send his convicts out to cut sandstone when the whales weren’t running. You can still see the sandstone in his original homestead nearby and while digging the foundations I unearthed a beautiful rectangular sandstone block with all the pick marks they had left behind almost 200 years ago. It now sits as a hearth under the suspended fireplace.
The island is located just around the corner from the world famous Wineglass Bay and Freycinet National Park with the spectacular Hazards mountain range as a backdrop. There are hundreds of penguin and shearwater burrows on the island which makes for a great spectacle at night when the birds return to their burrows to feed their chicks.
Who is your place best suited to?
It is great for families with kids – it is an experience that they will remember for life. If you rent it as a couple it is obviously a very romantic option too, to have a whole island to yourself. And for a group of friends to hang out together, wind down, and cook some amazing meals in our well fitted out kitchen it is also perfect.
What are you most proud of?
My brief to Tasmanian architect, John Latham, was to create something that reflected the Tassie shack culture of absolute waterfront experiences but in a simple and stylish manner. I am really proud how this little building looks like it has been on the island forever, sitting unobtrusively in a seabird colony with its copper walls burnished to a lovely patina. The rough cut deck that winds from the jetty up to the bedrooms and ‘Birdhouse’ dining area anchors the buildings to the sea, the land and each other. There are so many stories behind the provenance of the local materials used and the adventures had by a team of builders and craftspeople. It is an amazing lodge to spend time in because it is totally authentic and unique.
What else is in the area?
There are just so many things to do in the Coles Bay / Freycinet area. Boat trips, kayak expeditions, walks, quad bike tours, oyster farm visits. However, most people are amazed at how the time slips by just hanging out on the island, fishing, reading, cooking, swimming and falling into the rhythms of the natural world. In addition to the seabirds we often have visits from dolphins, seals and whales.
Why do you love Tasmania?
Tasmania is probably the most incredible place on earth. Its clean environment, incredible beaches and wilderness are legendary. Add to this the early Australian history, heritage buildings, fine food and wine and a thriving arts scene and you have the perfect holiday package. Since the pandemic started Tasmanian holidays have been highly sought after as a safe destination for visitors – and it seems every mainlander is now looking for a bolthole by the sea in this amazing part of Australia!
What’s the best way to access your private island?
Unfortunately I can’t let you land your chopper on Picnic Island due to the nesting birds. However, we have two jetties that allow access in most weather conditions with local water taxi operators. We are only 800 metres from shore so it is a quick trip.
Picnic Island is available now for private rental. Mention Journeys to Come when you book. We will also be running hosted experiences at various times, including retreats for kayaking, photography, yoga, art and cooking. In coming months we will offer day trips to the island when it is not booked out.
To book visit www.picnicisland.com.au