When my wife told me she booked a room in Norfolk Bay Convict Station I expected to spend the night in a refurbished prison offering to experience the 19th century life of a British convict transported to Van Diemen's Land for the term of his natural life. In fact, it was built by convicts as a warehouse and the Australia's first railway station near the place where ships from Hobart unloaded. Later it was converted to a guesthouse where the owners tried to preserve the period atmosphere. Not being an expert on the convict era I can't tell how successful they were in their endeavour but the place did look anachronic.
On arrival I expected to get just a greeting and keys for our room. Instead, Lynton, the host, welcomed me so warmly and spent so much time showing me around the place that I felt like a prodigal son. He told me about the history of the station, showed the self-serve wine cellar and even offered to share a flathead that he was cooking for his dinner. Regrettably, I had to decline as we had already bought some meat to cook on a BBQ, but I visited the cellar and selected a local Pinot Noir to match the grilled meat.
After dinner we moved to the common room where we enjoyed a liquid dessert - complimentary port and sherry. The room looked like something resurrected from Charles Dickens's novels - wood and leather, bookcases and a fireplace. I browsed the shelves and found a book with old Aussie jokes. Most of them were of an historical interest only but I liked the one about a recruit who was asked about his religion and replied "I am not fussy. What are you short of?"
I've seen common rooms in other guesthouses but they never felt so cosy and peaceful. The one in Convict Station looked like a great place to meet other people and have a relaxed chat toasting new acquaintances with a glass of sherry. But it was still low season and there was just one other couple in the house who enjoyed being introverts, or maybe just didn't like sherry.
Just like everything else in the house our bedroom was unusual. What was unusual? Well, it was quite large, but I've stayed in larger rooms. It had a fireplace, but it wasn't functional. There was an ensuite bathroom which was half a level higher and we had to go upstairs to take a shower. Now, this one is hard to beat, but it's hardly something to brag about. What did impress me though was stars. I didn't notice them until I switched off the lights. We went to bed, I turned on my back, looked up and there they were - yellow-green, scattered all over the ceiling, diluting the darkness with their warm glow. They reminded me of a glow-worm tunnel and I watched them in fascination until I drifted into sleep.
Next morning we had to leave and I did it with some regret. Usually I treated travel accommodation just as a place to spend a night. Convict Station was different - I would gladly stay there for a few days enjoying the atmosphere of that hospitable guest house and indulging in dolce far niente - just reading books, walking around, maybe fishing. Norfolk Bay was teeming with flathead, and Lynton offered fishing tackle and bait but we had to continue our trip. Hmm... I wonder if my wife fancies a winter holiday in Tasmania.