I’m not sure if it was the wallaby welcome party or that we were unlocking a door to perhaps the world’s first fully zero-emission house, but I felt a wave of natural calm on stepping into Tamar Solarhome.
As a worldly collective, we are learning to tread more lightly. Off-grid, low emission, enviro-friendly terms are thrown about with fashionable abandon, but Tamar Solarhome has taken it to a new level. It’s not just ‘off grid’ until that moment guests need the generator. It’s not just ‘brochure green’ but arguably the world’s first house that is 100% off-grid and 100% electric. There is no wood fire or gas for heating and cooking, there is no backup generator. No powerlines stretch overhead and it’s no hybrid car needing a plug in for juice. What’s more, it’s fittingly on the doorstep to some of northern Tassie’s finest natural assets.
Pushing open the thick triple-glazed glass door, it’s immediately apparent that staying in this solar home doesn’t mean a dip in modern comforts. It’s warm, state-of-the-art and appointed with everything from an ethanol eco fire to an induction glass cooktop. Wandering through the two-bedroom secluded haven, I pull open grand French doors – the master bedroom spilling out onto the deck. Walking back by the bathroom, I pause. The generous bathtub just begs to bathe in Tasmanian rainwater.
After studying a masters in sustainable building design in the UK, homeowner and architect David Macfarlane chose Greens Beach in northern Tasmania to test his solar concept home. It took two years to devise his storm and fire-proof dwelling. He selected the location based on its challenging climate and natural seclusion. Choosing this harsher environment allowed Macfarlane to test the sustainability of his off-grid features and monitor for warmth, power outages, and energy efficiencies, using the highest quality products available.
Completing the build in 2017, Macfarlane lived in the property for one year to test the solar home’s performance. The home, with its 25 solar panels, performed well beyond his expectation. He has now opened its doors for others to enjoy.
Nestled on an acre of bushland, the home is just an hour from the Launceston Airport. Greens Beach is a small community at the Tamar River mouth that I hadn’t spent much time exploring, so I was delighted to see the myriad of walking trails and tips provided by David. Directions to the sheltered swimming beach and a walking trail leading past the wallaby welcome crew seemed a suitable evening stroll for us.
Weaving through the casuarinas and tea trees, it didn’t take long to reach Greens Beach where the sun was sinking in spectacular fashion, casting final light over the colourful boathouses lining the shore. Out on the horizon, Low Head Lighthouse commenced its dependable recurrent glow.
Retreating back to the Solar Home, a quick gas lighter flick and the eco fire licks into flame. It’s ambient company for a moment of stillness, musing over the selection of coffee table books before dinner. Although we don’t light up the pizza oven, I make a mental note the home can accommodate four, making it ideal for an evening of woodfired pizza and chatter into the night. For us, dinner is a selection of regional treats from an area famed for its Tamar Valley wines and rich bounty best collected en route. Naturally, the bath then calls.
I wake early in king-sized luxury to the sound of the sea. The room is awfully cosy and if there wasn’t a DeLonghi coffee machine waiting, the rise may have taken longer. We took coffee to the deck and hatched a plan. World class golf at Barnbougle Dunes? Platypus House? A wander to Badger Head via Copper Cove? With every booking allowing for early check-in (any time after 11am) and late check-out through until 4pm there was time to take a longer 6-8 hour Badger Head hike departing from nearby Springlawn at Narawntapu National Park.
A few things fascinate me about this coastal walk. First, we are pretty much guaranteed to see wildlife – Badger Head was documented as containing over 200 species of native fauna within just a two kilometres radius. Next, the idea of walking four pristine sandy kilometres along Badgers Beach to Badger Head sounds like the ultimate head-clearing sojourn. Finally, I want to see where Australia’s first female pirate used to hang out! Badger Head is named after Charlotte Badger, a convict escapee who roamed the region back in the early 1800s.
The walk rewards in every way, complete with echidna and wallaby encounters. Down on Copper Cove I stumble across thousands of beautiful shells, all pushed against shoreline boulders by the moving tides. They have me down on my knees like I’m hunting for treasure Charlotte Badger-style. I’m lost in time at this remote cove before being nudged to begin the return trek. It’s no surprise the late Steve Irwin handpicked land here for a wildlife sanctuary just before his death – it’s simply stunning.
We get back to solar home-base by mid-afternoon with plenty of time to freshen up and bid farewell. It’s a genuinely pleasant feeling to know that our stay has involved treading gently, all the while feeling relaxed and indulgent. I eye that wood fired pizza on the way out, with a silent promise of return.
To receive a complimentary bottle of the region's wine on arrival, simply note Tailored Tasmania Promo in the Comments Section when booking.
Bookings must fall between July 1 and August 31, 2019. Visit Tamar Solarhome to book your escape.
YOUR DARK MOFO GO-TO GUIDE
Dark Mofo. It’s beguiling and hypnotising. Under the cover of Tasmanian darkness each June, all manner of experiences unfold. But how does one navigate beneath those 20-metre glowing red crosses in the chilled night air without FOMO fears they’ll miss a highlight. What’s down that dark laneway? Why are people lining up there? What shall we feast on? How do we make the most of this year’s dark forest-themed festival?
Wrap your mitts round this must-do list and stride out into the Dark Mofo night.
1. WINTER FEAST
It’s the biggest feast yet and there will be much cooking over fire at this year’s Winter Feast. It's where the winter hungry come to feed. Familiar faves like the Heavy Metal Kitchen will be there and new experiences like ordering an Unholy Water – perhaps a Behold Fashioned from the Void’s range? This Dark Mofo exclusive has much rum. There’ll be guest chefs, live music and far too many indulgent eats and drinks to list here. Just be sure to pull up a pew at this winter banquet ... and more than once.
Princes Wharf 1
Friday 14–Sunday 16 June
Wednesday 19–Sunday 23 June
2. DARK FAMILY TIME
Bring the kidlets down to the Winter Feast between 4-5pm for free sessions of Fire + Ice. They’ll learn all about native ingredients and hear stories from Tasmanian Aboriginal elders. They’ll try native periwinkles by the fire circle and smash local spuds on a long table. Who knows, they may even learn how to whip you up a native dinner.
Want to submerge your kids in the sound of an electrically-charged wave ... transcribing patterns of solar wind and the Aurora Australis? Drop into the Long Gallery at the Salamanca Arts Centre for Coronal Mass (also free.)
Fire + Ice
Princes Wharf 1
Friday 14–Sunday 16 June
Wednesday 19–Sunday 23 June
3. DARK PATH
This 4-kilometre path of darkness is accessed at the Regatta Grounds and leads through Queens Domain and the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens too. By the River Derwent, venture into the All This Coming and Going with its 12 shipping containers – an installation about humankind’s fatal relationship with the ocean ($15). Want to see a Tassie Tiger? Head to Beaumaris Zoo for 6th, a ‘digital de-extinction’ of the legendary icon (free). Enclosure is another goodie.
If you’re feeling like tea and scones at Government House book your place with a $15 donation to the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (pre-bookings essential) for Take This, For It Is My Body. Aboriginal performers ensure you’ll get more than the traditional European fare. There’s so much along this path, but half the joy is happening across it in the dark.
Friday 14–Sunday 16 June, 5–10pm
Wednesday 19–Sunday 23 June, 5–10pm
Regatta Grounds + Queens Domain + Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
4. TALISKER IMMERSIVE BARS
Talisker have something super special planned along Dark Path – The Talisker Wilderness Bar. Keep an eye out for a rustic boat shed-inspired bar, aglow with flames from open log fires. They’ve been making single malt scotch whisky since 1830 and have conceived some Dark Mofo specialties including the Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate and Talisker Spiced Hot Toddy, complete with spices and topped with an Aussie gum leaf or two. Pair it with a Tassie blue cheese jaffle. You’ll also find Talisker at the Winter Feast!
5. FREE STUFF
David Walsh is a kind man – there’s always plenty of free stuff to experience for those who lost their wallet in the forest or missed ticketed gigs. Tip – the Winter Feast is free nightly after 8pm and all night on Sunday June 23. Yay. Take the Dark Path. That’s also complimentary but we can’t say where it might lead. Wander alongside Hobart’s Centre for the Arts and peer in the windows … don’t be surprised if some windows of Panopticon III: The Garden of Earthly Delights hold very, very random oddities.
The Ogoh-Ogoh burning and purging is free too (this year an enormous swift parrot), along with that much-loved Ryoji Ikeda beam known as Spectra that seared its way into the hearts of locals during the first Dark Mofo festival. It'll be out at Mona. There’s lots more free stuff including the Nude Solstice Swim … you couldn’t pay me to join as a local in fear I might bump into a former colleague but this bare-bottomed tradition grows bigger every year. For church-goers, Coronal Mass is another freebie.
6. FROLICK IN A FOREST
Oh, we haven’t mentioned there’s A Forest to explore. Prepare for serious noise, art, performance and ‘the violent undergrowth of human nature.’ It’s $20 timed entry on the hour up in Melville Street and really, we’re having trouble visualising ‘an industrial vacuum pump sucking at empty oil drums,’ virtual reality violence and a durational performance with an artist pressing up against melting ice. We don’t really know what to say but to go! When you leave and can't sleep ... drop into 'In the Hanging Garden' (image below).
Wednesday 12–Sunday 16 June, 5–10pm
Wednesday 19–Sunday 23 June, 5–10pm
There are so many more ticketed events and happenings out at Mona that we literally must stop here …. to rest and prepare for the dark nights ahead. So, get with the program here and follow this handy map when lost.
See you in the darkness ...
Words and images: Alice Hansen (unless captioned otherwise)
Your launch pad for exploring Tasmania like a local.