Tuesday, 17 June 2014


It's no secret I have a bit of a thing for escapism…'s where I've been hanging out for the last little while. Curiously, it's the allure of the Stockholm Archipelago that has been fuelling our most recent escapist fantasies. As usual, there are no half measures in our family…..yet instead of going so far as to actually buy the tickets and workshop the myriad details involved in yet another extended leave of absence from Hobart……we are leaving a wake through the waterways of Southern Tasmania in our boat:

and restoring an historic boat shed…..five minutes drive from our home:

It's our loose interpretation of Southern Tasmania meets Northern Europe…..and for us, it's the best of both worlds. I'm starting to see what Proust meant when he wrote 'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.' Thank you words of wisdom found in a Baci wrapper.

Dreams of boats, boat sheds and archipelago's all collided over the Queen's Birthday long weekend when, with fabulous friends and our combined assortment of children, we staged an actual escape to Satellite Island…..which rises out the waters of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel…..between Gordon on the mainland and Alonnah on Bruny Island:

Satellite Island is uninhabited……except for Richard the manager who lives in his own cottage over near the disused fish farm, a wild roaming herd of deer and free ranging chickens. To really set the scene, you arrive by water…..we moored at the boat house jetty under the cover of darkness by the guidance of torches and candlelight. The boat house is perched over the water and is all tricked up for accommodation as it has a double bedroom and a cavernous bunk room…..which easily fit all of our children. Big roll a doors in each room open directly onto the panorama…...which I imagine must be utterly superlative on a still, summery day. There are sun lounges and a fire pit on the surrounding deck….which was the perfect location to toast marshmallows and watch as the wintery sun sank into the icy waters:

Evocatively named, the Summer House is accessed by stairs which lead all the way from the boat house to the top of the cliff where it nestles amongst the trees…..the windows frame vast expanses of sky and watery view and you can see the twinkling lights of Alonnah in the distance (the closest pub and shop are there). Inside, there is a shack aesthetic going on, decoration is embellished in the vernacular…..lots of driftwood, wicker baskets, corrugated iron in one of the bathrooms, candles and stones, antlers and a slow combustion fire….with piles of magazines (Satellite Island was on the front cover of  'Country Style' in March) and books.

I'll admit that I was somewhat panicked by the preparation involved for life on a desert island…..for three nights. Our fishing abilities are notoriously appalling. So, I resorted to lugging an enormous Le Creuset French oven with lamb shanks….slow cooked with a melange of vegetables and herbs, white wine, tomato passata and a hint of anchovy…..over on my lap.  Like magic it was transformed into soup with the leftover meat shredded and the addition of water, pearl barley and a grating of grana padano. Wild oysters shucked off the rocks,  local cheese from the Bruny Island Cheese Co and Grandvewe at Birch's Bay, home made pizzas and a bbq took care of other meals. Of course, my husband couldn't resist showing off his eggs benedict one morning for breakfast….hollandaise being my own personal cooking nemesis as I have the innate knack of ALWAYS being able to make it separate…..which never fails to reduce me to tears. He makes it seem so effortless.

We circumnavigated the island at low tide along the rocky shelf:

And explored vistas from the cliff tops:

Being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic tones of the tide ebbing and flowing underneath the boat shed was enchanting as were seeing the first weak, wintery rays of light coming through the picture window signalling morning….yet I'm sorry to say that I struggled with dreadful insomnia, paranoid that our three year old would wake in the middle of the night in the summer house (we'd strategically positioned one set of parents in each 'house' to keep an eye on children) and feel compelled, in the dark, to navigate the perilous cliff face stairs down across the unfenced deck surrounding the boat house to try and find us…..or that I'd need to reverse the journey to get to the loo. Why is relaxation with small children so elusive?

Anyway, our boys spent their stay in what can only be described as adventure heaven. They fashioned their own bows and arrows from collected sticks and feathers…..serendipitously there was a ball of string on the bookcase…..and entertained themselves for days (rain and shine) stalking the island's deer and working out where they were with their compasses:

Happily, it was more in line with 'The Dangerous Book for Boys' than 'The Lord of the Flies'. I'm all for children creating their own fun and we shamelessly ban technology on family holidays to try and show them what life was like in the good old olden days…..way back when we were children. Imagine our delight when the boys, unprompted,  said that our trip to Satellite Island was the best family holiday ever…..except for Legoland!

Now that we've consciously opened our eyes and are really looking at our surroundings…...instead of yearning for foreign climes (although I am guilty of doing just a little bit of that too….Oh, Uzes how I ache just reminiscing about you!)….there's no denying it, Southern Tasmania in winter, really is an amazing place.