Growing up in Hobart, I have many fond memories of heading to our family shack along the coast of Southern Tasmania. It had been years since I had returned to this southernmost part of Australia and I was eager to share the area with my American husband.
Basing ourselves in Dover, this region is defined by a culture of holiday homes; you won’t find high-rise cookie-cutter hotels here; it’s authentic living in seaside towns, from cosy waterfront studios, to beach-side bungalows, and locally owned villas in forested surrounds.
Surrounded by wilderness and relaxation, we were fortunate to stay at what must be Dover’s most unique and stunning property, a turn of the 20th century farmhouse that has been very much renovated into a luxury holiday home.
Known as the Peninsula Experience, this unique and secluded property actually boasts two separate houses which includes The Cape House and The Boat House. This is our experience at The Cape House.
The Cape House: Our Stay in a Turn of the Century Luxury Farmhouse in Southern Tasmania
Location: Your Base for Far South Tasmania
Dover may be one of the southernmost towns in Australia, but it’s still only a 4 and a half hour drive from Devonport at the very top of Tasmania where the Spirit of Tasmania docks.
From Hobart, the exceptionally scenic drive to The Peninsula Experience in Dover is just over an hour, though taking a slightly longer scenic route takes in the beautiful Esperance Coast Road along the Huon River.
Dover and its surrounds were the ancestral land of the Nuenonne Aboriginal people before it became a 19th century convict probation station. As the years progressed, the settlement started shipping Huon pine to Europe, notably used in the construction of Admiralty Pier in Dover, England.
Dover today is a wellness destination, and an important local fishing port. It sits right at the southern end of the Huon Valley region, and is the most practical base for exploring Far South Tasmania, combining dramatic wilderness with very comfortable infrastructure.
The region is full of full of orchards, wineries, cellar doors, beaches, caves, thermal springs, waterfalls, and is the gateway to the southern forests and World Heritage Wilderness Walks.
Though that’s if you can tear yourself away from the 250 acres of wilderness on the private gated Peninsula. With wildlife, wilderness, water-views and a wine rack stocked with local labels, the Peninsula Experience is a destination in itself.
The Peninsula Experience
The entrance to Peninsula Experience with its two houses sits just off Blubber Head Road, a road that most likely takes its name after the shore-based bay whaling that took place in the region during the 1800s.
Both the Cape House and Boat House reside on a private peninsula far removed from busy streets and crowds, quite ideal in the current global situation.
It’s the perfect place to relax as you really feel removed from it all. Though this is solitude without isolation; Dover provides a number of services such as being able to stock up on groceries and get fuel when you need to break out of your private bubble.
As you enter the property, you pass through what looks to be a traditional Japanese torii gate which fittingly is said to mark the entrance to a sacred place. The road first leads past The Boat House, the smaller of the two houses with its single large king bedroom and striking water views.
A bit further along, after passing a number of animal crossing signs that elude to the healthy wildlife population that also calls the peninsula home, we arrive at the Cape House.
Although we had been teased by photos of the house, we quickly realized they failed to capture just how beautiful the place really is. While the exterior keeps the charm of its historic farmhouse history, the interior blows you away with chic modern design and furnishings.
The Cape House
The Cape House boasts 3 bedrooms, each with king sized beds, and two sparkling contemporary bathrooms. Relaxing spa-like music plays throughout the house as we put away all our belongings in the ample closet and storage space.
Light pours through the house thanks to floor to ceiling windows which each provide impressive views of the surrounding bushland and coast off in the distance. Though the first thing you notice is the impressive exotic artwork that adorns the walls.
The interior of the house gives off the vibe of a luxury 5-star hotel lobby but with the cosiness of a wilderness cabin. Furnishings look to be hand-carved (such as the gorgeous tribal-looking coffee table), and exposed beams of Tasmanian timber.
We put our groceries away in the fully equipped kitchen (a farmhouse style kitchen with modern appliances) before settling into the comfortable wicker couches to enjoy one of the fresh local Tasmania apples which were provided.
Planning tip: Many who travel to the region come to relax and take in the wineries like Home Hill Winery and Kate Hill Wines. Though the Cape House has a fully stocked wine rack with local labels from around the region (for purchase).
The home is well set up for extended stays, offering up a large laundry, private barbecue and outdoor dining area, and glorious sunken 8-person outdoor hot tub on the deck, which we would end up enjoying under a clear night sky full of constellations.
Being on such a vast private property with no light pollution, if you’re traveling during winter (September is the best), this is also the perfect place to spot the Southern Lights. Track them with real-time maps via Aurora Forecast or by joining the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group for real-time alerts.
There’s also fast free Wi-Fi, direct dial telephone, selection of books and games, and a large flat screen TV with DVD player.
There are plenty of ways to stay warm at the property, a necessity since it can get a bit chilly this far south. Electric panel heaters are complimented by a lovely wood fireplace which is stocked with plenty of firewood and kindling. There are also plenty of warm blankets as well as plush robes to wrap yourself in.
The Property: You Won’t Need to Leave
The surrounding property is what really sets the Peninsula Experience apart. Roughly 250 acres of private land surrounds you on Esperance Point. No matter which way you look, there is something notable to look at.
To the east you have DÉntrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island, to the north you have Little Roaring Bay Beach and the Huon River, and westward faces Port Esperance Bay.
To the south, the sea splits between Southport and the Cape Bruny Lighthouse, where if you happen to have exceptional superhuman telescopic eyesight you would be able to make out Antarctica, since that would be the next piece of land you would hit!
Wildlife at Your Door
The peninsula is home to a number of iconic Tasmanian animals including devils, pademelons, echidnas, bandicoots, and various Tassie endemic birds. You don’t even need to step outside the Cape House to see a number of animals.
As the sun begins to set, pademelons make an appearance on the lawns just outside the windows. As darkness descends, possums come out to play and the calls of tawny frogmouths can be heard.
During the day, all kinds of birds claim the deck railings and posts including striated pardalotes, black currawongs, scarlet robins, and yellow wattlebirds.
Also on the property is a small 625-square-metre Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) which assists animals that have been injured or debilitated and need a sanctuary to get better before hopefully being fully released back into the wild.
The sanctuary allows the animals to be monitored until their release and guests are welcome to observe any animals that may be living inside the fenced area during their stay.
Walks & Trails at the Peninsula
Outside the house, and still on the private property, there are over 8 kilometres of trails to explore. We managed to tackle more than half of them during our stay.
The well-marked trails would be suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Provided in the house are detailed maps and a complimentary booklet that details the various walks and natural history of the area.
The various trails pass through dry sclerophyll forest, pebbly beaches, and buttongrass heathland.
Eleanor’s Walk is a 30 minute, 1 km walk that overlooks D’Entrecasteaux Channel, which we took to connect with the path the leads down to the small rocky beach. Be sure to look for the salmon farms offshore and sea eagles gliding overhead.
On the other side of the peninsula you have the Seal Rocks Trail which is a bit longer and leads to another rocky shoreline. A variety of fungi can be seen along the trail during the autumn months as well as Aboriginal bush tucker along the shoreline that would have included limpets, abalone, and oysters.
Other tracks include Orange Peel, Blue Rope, and Birdsong which are short but aptly named since it was packed with birdlife. We managed to spot well over a dozen birds in just 15 minutes.
Although we missed seeing the rare endangered swift parrots that are said to migrate to the area every spring/summer season to breed, we did spot what looked to be Tasmanian devil scat which proved they were indeed hunting the grounds as we slept.
With all of the above on the property itself, you’ll have more than enough to keep you occupied, and I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to leave. Though there is no shortage of things to do and see in the Huon Valley!
Some of the most notable attractions include guided tours through the impressive Newdegate Cave in the Hastings Caves State Reserve as well as the Tahune AirWalk canopy walkway in the Tahune Forest.
You can also cruise the peninsula waters or book a fishing charter. Kayaking tours offered by Esperance Adventures is another great way to get on the water to experience places like Port Esperance Bay, Recherche Bay, and Lune River.
Ordering some apple pie and organic apple cider from Willie Smith’s Apple Shed is a must and budding geologists and fossickers will want to try their hand at uncovering fossil ferns and colourful agates in the Lune River fossicking area.
Just be sure not to stray into the protected Southport Lagoon Conservation Area and Lune River Fossil Site which prohibits digging or the removal of natural objects. You can pop into Lunaris Gemstones in Lune River to get directions to the fossicking area and purchase a range of local and international fossils and minerals.
Convinced? Here’s How to Book:
To book a stay at the Cape House, visit peninsulatas.com.
You’ll have the option to book either the Cape House or the Boat House, the two holiday homes which share the 250 acre property (note that children must be 12 years or older).
Both are part of the collection by Essentially Tas; a range of unique, handpicked luxury accommodation in Southern Tasmania.
The Peninsula Experience is about an hour and a half from Hobart Airport and just an hour from the city centre (3.5 hrs from Launceston, and 4.5 hrs from Devonport if arriving with your own vehicle from Melbourne, on Spirit of Tasmania).
If you’re looking for a stylish ride, the Peninsula Experience has teamed up with Overdrive Car Hire which rents luxury and sports cars. Or, if you really want to arrive at in style you can come by helicopter since there is a helipad just steps from the Cape House.
This option is part of their Fly-Drive Package which will fly you from Hobart Airport to the property where a rental car with then be provided for you to drive to nearby attractions and then return back to Hobart at the end of your stay.