Ormiston, a Pumphouse & The Western Wilds.
About 4 years back I had the opportunity to stay at the then recently opened Pumphouse Point. It was a weekend of indulgence spent with my then new colleague come friend, confidante and partner, Joy.
But it didn't start at Lake StClair and Pumphouse Point. No, it started in Strahan at Ormiston House.
As I recall it was my birthday which was spent with newly made friends that were then operating Strahan's Ormiston House B&B. I got to meet big Richard, Pam, Mark, Sarah, and many other longer term operators from around Strahan and then a whirlwind swept through the door and immediately starting hugging everyone...even me and she didn't even know me yet!...Hello Kiah.
Yes, I remember the largely unknown variety of cheeses, way too much booze and laughing more than a lot...loved it!
It struck me when I first visited Ormiston what a fantastic job Mike and Carolyn had done restoring this grand old house some 15 years prior. Old Frederick Ormiston Henry's spirit would be pleased with the reno job, chuffed with the interesting little museum under the stairs to the second story 'widow's walk' viewing space. And old FO would be beaming over the meticulously appointed rooms with doors adorned with polished plates bearing the old family members names.
Guests are more than simply catered for, you are pampered by a genuine friendliness with everything all delightfully in period. There is no denying the feeling of aristocratic opulence when walking the hallways to the dining room and the bar.
Yes, the restoration is done so beautifully and I was amazed by that fact alone but the clincher is the attention to detail, the personable service and follow up contact sometimes weeks after guests had stayed. Carolyn and Mike didn't just operate a fine accommodation house, they lived it, loved it, sometimes loathed it, poured themselves with heart and soul into every unrelenting day of it. Some people would ask, 'Oh why would anyone do that?'
Well, to achieve the highest level and sustain it for almost two decades! That's why. And that's also why it is being written about here. A remarkable achievement such as the redevelopment of Ormiston House would not have been possible without the remarkable people with a passion to drive their vision into actuality.
Our own experience at Ormiston was not the top end luxury often reflected with glowing reviews such as, 'More than you could ever want. We had the most wonderful experience' or 'I was made to feel so special'. There was no turning the bed down, warming the slippers and finding a chocolate treat under the pillow for us....Oh no no, we are the industry colleagues that smuggle six packs of cheap champers and knobs of weird cheese into the back door of the kitchen while the guests, usually driving something Euro, are arriving in the front gate to check in at which point they would set of a very strange sounding alert tone 'MEEEEEEAAAaaarr' and then appear in the kitchen monitor. After greeting and check in, the guests are to be fed and watered whilst being made feel all Downton Abbeyish as they jiggle a little bell 'Jingalingalingaling' for service that would send Mike or Carolyn into a fast stride to cater for whatever whim it is to be sated whilst we often got a laugh watching the monitor.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen safely out of sight, copious amounts of cheap champers is being rapidly consumed as cheese gets tasted, discussed, rated and then devoured. Our friendly chatter soon turns to banter, progresses to hearty exchange and escalates to raucous enjoyment and laughter.
Yearrrp, we would all get a little loose behind the scenes at Ormiston House and just when you thought it was safe to abandon ones inhibition....Jinalingalingaling.... 'Oh FFS, What Now!'
But seriously....It took the most remarkable people with vision, drive and passion to make Ormiston House exceptional.....such dedication!
Carolyn Nissen and Mike Fry....
Take a deep bow and always be proud of this most wonderful thing you did do.
When joy first introduced me to Caro, Mike and all at Ormy I was a little meek, being a newbie to the industry it was impressive to see a classy operation from the inside. Well, the ex Navy man and a darling of the Hilton Hotels chain, what a pairing!
Was a surprise in several ways for me. After the wonderful experience at Ormiston havin' a ball the paracetamol was starting to numb the next morning nastiness one will experience from drinking way too much Eaglehawk Brut. The occasion of my birthday, industry colleagues decided, would be a justifiable cause for a serious Ormiston House Hootenanny helped by the fact that it is late May and visitor numbers had slowed to the usual figures of almost no one. A fact reinforced by every operator at Ormiston that night with the usual late May small talk exchange of, 'How's things'.....'Ah it's dead!'
Joy drove us back to the Q and when we came to the intersection my whole self was expecting the car to turn right and head into central Queenstown but it didn't! When I sat up again I asked 'Where are we going?' which prompted a smirking reply, 'never mind'. It wasn't hard to work out as we wound up the 90+ bends out of Queenstown, past Horsetail falls and over the Gormy gap.
Now I couldn't quite remember what we had for dinner the night before, I think it was some kind of chicken dish, anyway, I could remember discussion about a much anticipated newly opened upmarket accommodation created from the redevelopment the old Lake St Clair pumphouse.
We were going to Pumphouse Point!
Yearse...I thought I may have to show a little surprise and be polite to Joy whom I hadn't really known for that long at this stage and she had organised this as an unexpected surprise. There was no need to fein surprise, it is magnificent.
Now I could bang on with details but I'll keep it short because the place had not long opened for business and there were clearly a number of functional design factors still being worked over. Our stay was over 4 years ago now and I'm sure that the relatively few minor issues we encountered have been fixed up. We spent the next day walking some 16Kms about St Clair and spent another relaxing night in the Pumphouse. Snow topped Mt Rufus and Mt Olympus standing over the lake are a sight to behold and when taken in from the pumphouse looking through the windows it all makes a unique pleasant sensory experience. I aim to stay again as something that was even in the early stages already up there with the best of them was set to get even better.
This really is on a higher platform than most.
The Western Wilds.
When people stay at Pumphouse Point they get high end luxury in a wilderness setting. The wilderness aspect is our angle of course and we had a booking come through from our Hobart based agent Tas Vacations. The brief from TasVacs was,
'A couple are very interested in an exclusive NO DAMS experience with transfers and all inclusive from Pumphouse point.'
' Yeah OK, providing lunch in the wilderness will be necessary and The Paragon experience will be inclusive, oh yes, we had immediately started to plan a bespoke wilderness experience for Pumphouse point guests.
High end, totally exclusive, the best of everything. Food, always a critical consideration, was prepared by Joy in The Paragon kitchen then packed into reusable containers and bags including heating and serving instructions. Joy really knows food and her standards are the highest so that box has a big tick in it. It's up to me now to get the heating, serving and all else just right.
Right...we are equipped, licensed, ready, willing and able....Grab the Satphone....Now' lets go!
A short video from some of the days adventure.