This is our story of Tin Dragon Cottages over the past two decades: We are tree-changers, passionate about North East Tasmania. We have jumped feet-first into tourism. You, our wonderful guests, are helping us to feel our way. What an adventure! Made a few mistakes, encountered some ugly resistance, but still having fun.
The Beginnings of Our Story
We first met while bushwalking on the West Coast of Tasmania in the late 90’s. Graham was leading an organised walk on the old Abt railway from Queenstown to Strahan. Because my Mum had just died, I had decided to take my elderly Dad on a father-daughter bonding walk.
Well, our friendship developed over the next year or so – till Graham decided to leave Hobart. In Hobart he had owned Building, and Spa and Sauna businesses. So, he moved North to join me in Scottsdale. At the time, I had employment with UTas and Defence Science as a researcher.
Together we developed a notion, to start a tourism business in the North East. Our vision was –and still is–for thoughtful hospitality with an emphasis on both local and natural history.
Establishing a new business is not easy!
Tourism professionals and even our bushwalking friends didn’t believe tourism could be successful in the North East. They kept saying “….but there’s nothing in the North East – just forestry and farms! “ “There are no iconic tourism attractions.”
It took us a year, but in 2001 we found our ideal property: 36 Acres on the Ringarooma River in Branxholm. Graham quickly commenced construction of five self-contained cottages. He harvested and milled timber onsite, including hardwood beams and macrocarpa pine for all the joinery. Stone was sourced from Mr Victoria for cottage construction and landscaping. Most of the work was done by Graham, with just a few trades people assisting.
Trouble in paradise
Unfortunately we quickly ran into problems with some Branxholm residents and then our Council, which cost us greatly in delays and money. It was a very stressful time! …And in the midst of this stress our son, James was born.
Problems accessing water
We had started construction without too much difficulty, but the Council had been refusing us a connection to the town water supply, despite our property being fully inside the town’s water district.
We had to find a water supply. So we established a water licence and forestry lease to collect water from a creek 3km away. Our water connection was about 1km downstream of the town’s water connection into the same creek.
Meanwhile we had been subjected to the traditional “Branxholm Welcome” – hopefully a practice that has died out now! This involved numerous acts of vandalism, such as pouring washing powder into our septic tank and damaging our electric fences to let our neighbour’s dairy herd onto our construction site!
The criminal vandalism culminated with the serious destruction of our 3 km water pipeline! Our Council then dried up the creek by illegally raising the level of the town weir. Three years later, after taking our Council to a Tribunal, the illegal weir was removed allowing water to flow back into the creek.
Meanwhile, we had to build new water infrastructure. This consisted of rain-water tanks, water pumps and a complicated network of underground pipes to collect rain water from every roof on our property. But we were back on track to open our business!
We opened in late 2008
On a bright sunny day in late 2008 the State Tourism Minister opened Tin Dragon Trail Cottages to about 120 guests. It was our great pleasure to have descendants of the Moy family present at the opening ceremony and to have Norman Moy give the opening address!
Our cottages—Ah Moy, Ah Ping, Chintock, Fon Hock and Ah Back, celebrate the hard-working Chinese families who mined for tin near Branxholm. We also developed a short sculpture walk through Henry Ah Pings tin-mining lease on our property. The walk features sculptures by Folko Kooper. At the start of the walk you can read posters describing Henry’s story.
Over time, Graham has planted numerous endemic native trees and grasses and we have been rewarded by the return of quolls, bandicoots, wombats and abundant other native animals and birds. An area that was a muddy cattle camp on the river bank is now a thriving wetland with burrowing crayfish and native hens and platypus.
After all the years of dispute, we still had our water licences and forestry lease in place. So Graham being a most resourceful person, took advantage of these permissions and the nearly 100m elevation of the creek above our property to construct a micro-hydro power system. He did this with minimal assistance—mostly just the help from our 70 year-old friend, Ron!
More recently Graham also installed solar PV with battery storage (Tesla power walls) so that our property generates up to 210 kWhr per day. We are carbon negative—meaning that we put more renewable power into the grid than we use!
Our story into the future
Our core business is short-stay self-contained accommodation. But we also have a workshop space for individuals and groups. This latter venture opened just before the Covid-10 border closures. However we have hosted a few groups including photographers and bushwalkers. We are now planning to host art retreats.
Our accommodation may not be considered “luxury”, but we have endeavoured to provide thoughtful hospitality. We aim to make our guests feel comfortable and “at home”. We see our property as a retreat into nature where guests can enjoy bushwalks, native wildlife, the river and our farm—chooks, alpacas and vegetable gardens. It is a place where romance and friendship can thrive!