By Laura Pattara
September 8, 2020 | 3 minute read
When the Newton-Brown family first purchased Picnic Island, a speck of pristine natural treasure just off the coast of Freycinet National Park, they built a small shack and used it for barefoot camping weekends. Clem Newtown-Brown proudly states that they were way ahead of the trend, partaking in the ‘tiny house’ movement before it was even a thing.
They used a dodgy little dinghy to cover the short distance from Coles Bay, and spent days on end making campfires, soaking up the peace and quiet, fishing off the rocks and watching a colony of local penguins make their daily scuttle to their protected burrows. When the family decided to develop the island and build a stunning collection of eco-cabins, they built on the very same spot the original shack once stood.
Covering merely one hectare, Picnic Island is part of the Schouten archipelago, a collection of small and large islands found at the southwestern tip of the Freycinet Peninsula. This is one of Australia’s most pristine corners and an exceptional haven for flora and fauna.
For thousands of years, local Aboriginals groups came here by hand-carved boats. They fished the waters around its shores, dived for shellfish and hunted birds, the remnants of their shared meals the only tangible legacy left behind.
* At the time of writing, activities and places mentioned in this guide are at varying stages of recovery from COVID-19. Please check government and business websites for specific details on opening times and any restrictions before you travel.
Retired Victorian politician Clem Newtown-Brown and his wife, Jane, are the inspirational brains behind Picnic Island accommodation, developing it in conjunction with acclaimed Tasmanian architect John Latham. Together they built a maze of luxury cabins designed to blend in with the island’s pristine wilderness and to soak up the startling views.
Clem and Jane were adamant that all environmental precautions would be taken during the process, ensuring the colony of penguins would not be disturbed and any impact on the local flora and fauna would be kept to an absolute minimum.
Now Picnic Island offers an unrivalled, nature-drenched experience, together with creature comforts and blissful peace. Staying on this private island, just a few hundred metres off the shores of Coles Bay, you get a slice of Freycinet paradise to yourself. Your backyard view is the dramatic rocky cliffs of the Hazards Mountains and the luscious wilderness of Freycinet, the most famous (and perhaps most beautiful) nature reserve in Tasmania’s East Coast.
Picnic Island oceanfront accommodation is beyond perfect for romantic escapes, family getaways and group vacations, offering a sublime yet authentic and rugged experience, where sea kayaking, fishing, bird-watching, dolphin spotting and night-time penguin visits become the norm of your everyday life. Pack plenty of prime Tasmanian wine and cheese when you visit– and perhaps, a great book – and come discover how relaxing, rewarding and soul-reviving a stay in Tasmania can be.
Away from the bustle of Coles Bay yet close enough to make a stay easy and enjoyable. Clem Newton-Brown is quite right. Picnic Island isn’t just one of the most astonishing places you could visit in Tasmania. This is heaven on earth!
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