Long before the First Fleet pulled into Sydney’s Botany Bay, Australia’s island state was visited by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman during the 17th century. At that time, the Apple Isle was known as Anthony van Diemen’s Land, though now goes by the name of Tasmania.
Travelers to Tasmania have the chance to step back in history, and if it’s history that you’re after, there’s no better place to immerse yourself than the small town of Richmond. Built mostly by the hands of early convicts at the start of the 1800’s, the town’s many historic sandstone buildings remain on display to this day.
There has never been a more exciting time to explore Richmond’s fascinating sandstone heritage, and, for the first time in almost a decade, the town’s most exquisite historic estate is now open to the public.
Offering 12 contemporary-styled rooms on a property with many tales to tell, Prospect House Private Hotel has quickly become one of the most unique luxury hotel experiences in the State.
Having been blown away by the uniqueness of the experience, let me introduce you to a little of the history of Richmond and Prospect House, and why you should include both on your next visit to Tasmania.
Prospect House Private Hotel: A Luxury Experience in an 1830’s Colonial Manor
A Brief History of Prospect House
Travellers flying into Hobart will quickly realise that it’s just as easy to get to Richmond as it is to get into the centre of the city, even quicker when you factor in the usual traffic that plagues the state’s capital.
While Hobart city no doubt offers a greater diversity of accommodation options and name brand hotels, you won’t find an experience quite like Prospect House.
Built in the early 1830’s, the grand profile of Prospect House is the first thing that greets visitors as they enter the town of Richmond. Sitting on top of a rolling hill that straddles Pages Creek, Prospect House reveals a fascinating history the minute you pass through its gates.
Like much of Richmond’s architecture, Prospect House was built by early convicts. At the time of construction, Richmond had become the third largest settlement on the island. It served as both a military outpost and convict station, and was set along the only land-based route between Hobart and Port Arthur.
Originally built for a man by the name of James Kestell Buscombe, the estate actually housed the convicts who built the house in the estate’s underground cellars. Today, the cellars history is well preserved, but the convicts have been replaced with Pooley Wines.
We have the Pooley family to thank for opening and restoring the grand estate, offering modern day travelers the chance to feel like a Duke or Duchess the minute they step inside this heritage-listed property.
The property transports you back in time to an old world decadence, especially when you notice historical elements like the 165 year old cobblestones that greet you in the old horse stables.
The Hotel Today
It was no easy task restoring this historic property back to its former glory. It would take the visions and skills of the Pooley family to not only make Prospect House shine once again, but also give it a modern face lift to make it the most comfortable and luxurious it has ever been.
The two-storey Georgian style building has seen a $5 million refurbishment, but has been done in such a way that preserves its rich history. The adventure begins as you make your way through the white gates and across the wooden bridge that spans the creek in front of the estate.
The intimate setting of the estate only caters to around a few dozen guests; there are 12 courtyard rooms available, and will soon be an additional suite in the main house. This suite will appeal to travellers wanting a bit more space and will offer even more exceptional views than those already provided by the courtyard rooms.
We arrived for our stay during winter, but still the estate’s gardens managed to impress. The lawns were vibrantly green and the cherry trees exploding with pink blossoms.
You can expect even more colourful blooms throughout summer and the fiery foliage of deciduous trees come autumn.
Arriving at Prospect House
Entering the main home on arrival at Prospect House, you feel as though you have walked onto the set of Downton Abbey.
Many of the rooms within the main house are open for guests to roam, and the simplistic yet glorious decor has been expertly arranged to display fine antiques in a crisp uncluttered way.
Hospitality is the main focus here, something that the owners John and Libby Pooley take seriously. You are made to feel important from the moment you arrive.
Exploring the property, we discover the old horse stables that now house bicycles that guests are welcome to use to ride into town. Of course it’s just a 10-15 minute walk into Richmond, but stop by the stables even if you’re not biking; they feature original cobblestones alongside old horseshoes, antique tools, and old-school lanterns.
Making your way into the courtyard, a lovely fire pit crackles amongst outdoor sofas. Further afield, you’ll encounter a giant chess set and lawn games.
Packages include drinks on arrival, afternoon tea, and a cooked farmhouse breakfast. Enjoy a round of off-property golf and tennis, or take advantage of one of their special add-on experiences such as in-room massages, a local vineyard tour, or a farmhouse picnic lunch.
And of course, for such a grand estate, you may wish to arrive in style. It’s easy to hire a luxury car or be chauffeured by private car transfer from Hobart airport (15 minute drive).
A Look Inside the House
In contrast to the historical feel of the main house, our King bed courtyard villa offered up contemporary design and modern amenities.
A few minor touches of history were still apparent, in the form of a vintage key instead of a card-swipe and a nostalgic alarm clock with actual bells.
The room included a Samsung tablet and free Wi-Fi, which was great for being able to look up things to do around Richmond. Stepping into the shower to freshen up, you are greeted by the sweet scent of sage and mandarin courtesy of luxury Molton Brown toiletries.
Find warmth after your shower with a bathrobe, slippers, and in-room heating. Outside your room’s beautiful French doors, a fire burns in the courtyard fire pit, providing you with a nice space for a pre-dinner drink.
A mini-bar, Nespresso coffee maker, and organic Sri Lankan teas from Poet Organic Tea Atelier help you settle in nicely.
Photos of the Guest Rooms
Dinner is an elegant three-course affair that aims to introduce your taste buds to local Tasmania flavours from the region.
The seasonal menu sources ingredients straight from the estate’s own garden, as well as local producers. Honey from the estate’s very own apiary even makes its way into a selection of the chef’s recipes.
Unlike typical restaurants which can present a loud and hectic atmosphere, Prospect House is a relaxed and intimate affair that makes you feel as though you are dinning in someone’s personal home. And it feels this way because this is essentially what you are doing!
Several dining rooms offer up a small collection of white linen draped tables set to a backdrop of warm fireplaces, and hanging crystal chandeliers.
We were started off with a trout amuse-bouche before being served seared scallops sourced from the Bass Strait as an entrée.
For mains, my husband would tackle the braised beef cheek marinated in Coal River Valley cabernet while I selected the free-range duck breast presented with a black truffle consommé alongside mushroom and chestnut ravioli. Their Strellyfield duck is sourced from just outside Launceston.
While it was tempting to wash our meals down with some Tasmanian single malt whisky, we opted for local wine. My rosé was sweet enough that I didn’t need cheat on my diet with dessert, despite the yeast pudding and basil ice cream sounding rather tempting.
After sleeping off our delicious evening meals, we awake to find more fine cuisine for breakfast. Daily homemade breakfast is included with a stay and features sourdough, granola, muesli, conserves, and made-to-order eggs.
It was delightful enjoying breakfast at the gorgeous butcher block table set to the side of the open plan kitchen among the French windows and doors.
A daily afternoon tea displays homemade biscuits, cakes, and tea or coffee.
Photos of the Dining Experience
A Look at Richmond
Prospect House is the literal gateway to exploring Richmond; a most intriguing small town known for its large collection of Georgian style architecture dating back to the early and mid-1800s.
The town’s most notable landmark is Richmond Bridge, Australia’s oldest stone bridge still in use today. An inscribed date on the sandstone bridge reads 1823.
Today, visitors pull off into the parking lot just over the bridge to feed the local ducks and seagulls that swim beneath it and of course capture an essential selfie with the nearly 200-year-old bridge.
The Richmond Gaol is another historic highlight, dating back to the same period as the bridge, having remained in use until the 1920s. You can explore the gaol and its convict cells via daily self-guided tours.
Equally worth a visit is Australia’s oldest Roman Catholic Church. St John’s Church may not be as grand as let’s say Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, but beautiful all the same. Be sure to wander out through the church’s cemetery to read the many historic sandstone tombstones.
Other Richmond Attractions
Beyond the bridge and the gaol, you can gain more insight into Old Hobart Town my visiting the miniature replica of the village that reveals what Hobart looked like in the early 1800’s.
And if you’re visiting Richmond over the weekend, be sure to check out the Saturday local Village Market near the Richmond Village Green for locally made crafts and produce.
Richmond also offers a wide range of art galleries, cafes, and antique stores. We were especially blown away by the furnishings and eclectic luxury items found in Lafayette on Bridge.
Those with kids may want to check out the nearby native animal park called Zoodoo Zoo, where sightings of Tasmanian devils are guaranteed, or Richmond’s very own and very unique museum devoted entirely to poo (mostly of local wildlife thankfully).
As you enjoy your time around Richmond, be sure to pause for a moment and recognise the Paredarerme Aborigine people who were the original landowners of the region.
While you can no doubt find more than enough to keep you occupied in Richmond, Prospect House sits a short distance from many of Tasmania’s most popular attractions.
Hobart offers up the bizarre MONA museum, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery with its many relics from the now extinct Tasmanian tiger, and the ever popular Saturday Salamanca Market with its hundreds of stalls set out along the Hobart waterfront.
Port Arthur, one of Australia’s earliest and most well preserved colonial penal colonies can be reached in under an hour and a half, and the ferries to the wildlife rich islands of Maria and Bruny can both be reached by car in under an hour.
Those not wanting to stray as far can walk the long stretch of sand offered at Seven Mile Beach just 20 minutes south of Richmond or the Ramsar Wetland named Orielton Lagoon. The lagoon offers birdwatchers the chance to spot a wide range of shorebirds including oystercatchers, godwits, stints, curlews, and red-capped plovers.
Staying at Richmond’s Prospect House places you in the heart of the Coal River Valley wine route. The estate’s owners are also the producers of Pooley Wines, which operate two vineyards in the Coal River Valley.
Established in 1985, they are the state’s first and only third generation family wine business. You can get a glimpse of their Butcher’s Hill Vineyard from the Prospect House lawns, while their Cooinda Vale Vinyard is located just a ten minute drive to the north in Campania.
Pooley Wines offers a great selection of award winning wines. They are especially known for their riesling, pinot noir, and chardonnay, but also produce fine sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio.
They have received the Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year Award as well as several awards from both the Royal Hobart International Wine Show and Royal Melbourne Wine Show.
Pop into their sandstone cellar door at the Belmont property. Tours of the vineyard can be arranged during your stay at Prospect House.
For hotel bookings, visit prospecthouseprivatehotel.com.au