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Weekend Away: Villa Howden, Tasmania

Villa Howden’s warm interior. Villa Howden, Tasmania.
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Anthony Dennis finds a touch of provincial France at Villa Howden near Hobart.

THE SETTING

Joseph-Antoine Raymond Bruny D’Entrecasteaux would be proud, perhaps even a little nonplussed. It’s more than 200 years since he explored Van Diemen’s Land, and sitting there, not so far from the channel that now bears the French navigator’s surname, is a little palatial piece of faux France, right down to the antique shutters dating to the 18th century (the one in which D’Entrecasteaux himself was born) on the windows. Everything else here at Villa Howden, nestled on the banks of North West Bay, part of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, just 15 minutes’ drive south from central Hobart, is pretend provincial France, and a pretty good impersonation it does, too.

THE SPACE

There are 10 suites, ranging in size from nearly 32 square metres to more than 54 metres, all with the same features but each with their own distinctive style. In keeping with the Gallic air there’s a croquet and petanque court, as well as a separate all-year-round saltwater swimming pool – sensible, since Tassie’s summers can be as fleeting as a French president’s marriage. The light-filled public spaces of Villa Howden, which began life as a residential folly in the 1970s, could, to some, feel just a tad cold and artificial, but the overall effect is persuasive, with the Gallic theme thankfully restrained.

THE KIT

The rooms (sorry, suites) feature all of the accoutrements of a luxury small hotel, such as an always-welcome espresso machine, as well as an iPod dock, flat-screen television, bath robes and slippers, and a soft mini-bar included in the room tariff. But our favourite feature is those antique shutters that make us feel, at least momentarily, that we really could be in France, rather than on the semi-rural outskirts of a comparatively prosaic Hobart. On a twee note, the “do not disturb” sign is actually a teddy bear that you are encouraged to leave outside to “guard” your suite should you wish not to be bothered.

COMFORT FACTOR

The suites, some with water views and Juliet balconies, are spacious and comfortable. And, really, with so much to do in this stunning corner of the world, you needn’t linger in them too long. There are a number of private guest areas, including a guest library, a piano lounge, a sunroom, a terrace and a deck that overlooks the bay.

THE FOOD

The 48-seat restaurant, in the space where the indoor pool used to be located, is surprisingly good. It’s certainly worth securing a table during your stay instead of heading into town. The menu features confidently prepared dishes using a range of fine local Tasmanian ingredients. At weekends Villa Howden buzzes with outside visitors attracted to the high-teas in the restaurant. Devonshire teas are served Monday to Friday, as well as charcuterie boards, mezze platters and cheese boards.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

Hobart and its restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and museums are just 15 minutes’ drive along the Southern Outlet motorway. And Villa Howden is perfectly placed for a drive down to the seaside town of Kettering, the departure point for the 20-minute vehicle ferry across to Bruny Island, a gourmet and natural wonderland.

THE VERDICT

Villa Howden’s a lovely, if not inexpensive, alternative to staying in central Hobart. It’s a retreat far enough from the city to feel like you’re in the countryside, but close enough to enjoy the myriad delights of the Tasmanian capital and its surrounds.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Hobart Airport, take the Tasman Highway/A3 to the city heading over the Tasman Bridge and into the CBD. Continue straight onto Davey Street/A6, taking a slight left onto the A6 signposted towards Kingston/Huonville. Follow the A6 by taking the right-hand lane. At the roundabout take the fourth and last exit onto the Channel Highway/B68. Turn left on to the Howden Road just after the North West Bay Golf Course. Villa Howden is 800 metres on your right.

ESSENTIALS

Villa Howden, 77 Howden Road, Howden, Tasmania. Suites start from $345 a night, including breakfast for two, soft mini-bar and Wi-Fi. Check the website for accommodation packages. Phone 03 6267 1161, see villahowden苏州美甲培训.au.

The writer stayed as a guest of Tourism Tasmania and Villa Howden.

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