There’s something undeniably romantic about feeling like you’ve reached the far margins of the world – a place seemingly unexplored, untamed, unspoilt.  

And when you stay in this sandstone tower, set atop a rocky pinnacle surrounded by 100 hectares of pristine Tasmanian wilderness, the sensation is only intensified by the knowledge that you have it all to yourself. Welcome to The Keep, an ultra-luxe – and ultra-secluded – retreat 2.5 hours north-east of Launceston. 

“We really wanted to maintain a sense of intimacy, to create a space for guests to slow down and connect with nature,” explains Andrew Wallis, The Keep’s owner and Airbnb Host. “It’s a beautiful part of the world. There’s been a real renaissance in the north-east of Tasmania, primarily around Derby and the mountain biking tracks, and we’re glad to help put the area on the map.” 

The Keep, Launceston
Image: Chris Crerar

Since listing the property on Airbnb in mid-2020, “it’s been crazily well supported”, says Andrew, who shares hosting responsibilities with property manager Julia Seymour (above). And with expansive views out to the Bay of Fires and Blue Tier Forest Reserve, bespoke furnishings by local craftspeople and a seriously swoon-worthy outdoor bath, it’s not hard to see why.

“Especially since COVID, a lot of people want to see the natural beauty of their own country and stay in places off the beaten track,” adds Andrew. “Of course, it’s great to stay in a big city hotel and go out to amazing restaurants but people seem to want simpler things. Not necessarily less luxurious, just somewhere they can digitally detox. The Keep is isolated and that’s the whole point.” 

Here, Andrew and Julia take us inside the glamorously appointed citadel-like structure and share their tips for making the most of the ultimate solitude. 

The Keep, Launceston
Image: Rachel Vasicek
The Keep, Launceston

The stay

Andrew: “The Keep is in the middle of nowhere. A lot of guests describe it as ‘cocooning’. You don’t have neighbours for 20 kilometres in any direction; it’s surrounded by nature reserves and the original Gondwanaland rainforest. The remoteness is one of the things that makes it so special.

“The building itself is on a rocky outcrop 650 metres up. On summer nights you can see lighthouses flashing down the east coast of Tasmania; in winter you can be enveloped in cloud or sometimes above the cloud line. You feel like you’re in a different world. 

“It’s not Versailles – we don’t have over-the-top candelabras – but it’s pared-back luxury. A friend joked that it’s like walking into my mind. The interiors are definitely a reflection of my style, especially all the warm Tassie timbers and handmade furniture – including the drinks cabinet from Simon Ancher Studio.

The Keep, Launceston
Image: Chris Crerar, Jake Weisz

“We knew straight away that we didn’t want a TV. We’ve actually only had one couple complain about that – they were the first people who stayed and we thought we’d made a huge mistake. But since then everyone has said they could stay up there for days and days without screens or a lot of technology. 

“They switch off, go for walks, talk to each other, play board games, take a bath outside and watch the world go by. You can walk around naked if you like because there’s no-one around to see you!”

The Keep, Launceston

The Hosts 

Andrew: “I’m an anaesthetist and my wife is an ICU nurse. We’re based in Launceston and both multi-generation Tasmanians. We have a shack in Bridport on the north-east coast, which we also list on Airbnb, mostly because our teenage boys aren’t interested in it at the moment! So, we had a little bit of experience but The Keep is our first foray into luxury. 

“My wife and I were lying in bed, she was flicking through Facebook and saw this thing for sale – a ridiculous-looking building that the original owners had modelled on a Scottish keep, a tower built within castles during the Middle Ages. I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about it.

“We decided to set it up as high-end, quirky, Tasmanian-centric wilderness accommodation. We thought The Keep would be ideal for that. So we renovated it and filled it with food, wine and pieces from local craftspeople. There’s even a painting we commissioned from an artist in Hobart, Effie Pryer, that’s a reimagining of a Tassie Garden of Eden.” 

The Keep, Launceston

Julia: “I’ve been managing The Keep since day dot. Andrew approached me in 2019, a year before opening, so we worked on the process throughout. I live in Derby, about an hour away, and manage all the bookings and guest communication. 

“Almost everyone opts to check in themselves. If they want to see me or say hello, most definitely I can be there. Otherwise, people are paying for that exclusivity – only two people on 250 acres – so we want to honour that.”

The Keep, Launceston
Image: Rachel Vasicek

Just for you

Andrew: “The plan from the beginning was to showcase local businesses, to give guests a true taste of Tassie. We have welcome chocolates made by Federation in Hobart and homemade granola from Stillwater, a well-known restaurant in Launceston. 

“The bar is stocked with Tasmanian spirits and rare local wines and in the fridge, you’ll find pre-mixed cocktails curated by Geronimo in Launceston. We’ve got locally made bath bombs, sketchpads and pencils and all the usual stuff, like a coffee machine with lovely pods.”

Julia: “There are lots of personalised touches. I also take special requests from guests if they want a gift pack, a hamper, a note or a bottle of champers – anything that I can do, I will.” 

The Keep, Launceston

Earn points on Airbnb

The Keep, Launceston
Image: Liam Neal

Where to eat and drink

Andrew: “Most guests like to stay put at The Keep once they arrive so we provide a list of great pit stops for stocking up. East Coast Village Providore in St Helens is 45 minutes away and has lots of foodie-type supplies. If you’re coming from Launceston, Ellesmere Patisserie & Providore in Scottsdale does amazing toasties. We can also organise to have picnic boxes ready and waiting. Or Michael, our wonderful private chef, can drive up and cook a three-course meal.”

Julia: “The closest supermarket is in St Helens – too far to slip out for milk – so most guests shop for groceries beforehand, stay in and cook in the beautiful kitchen. But I do love Meresta Eatery in Binalong Bay if you’re out that way.” 

The Keep Launceston
Image: Liam Neal, Rachel Vasicek

Things to do nearby

Andrew: “Guests usually don’t want to leave. We’ve got three walks on the property – including one to see what we think is the largest myrtle tree in Tasmania and another down to the creek, which has a beautiful handcrafted bench and is a nice spot for a wine or beer in the afternoon. 

“There’s the granite fireplace, the bath out amongst the boulders and we can organise a masseuse. But if you’re staying for two or three days and want to explore, Unique Charters can pick you up in a helicopter and take you on a day trip to a local vineyard, oyster farm or on a picnic to a little island off the coast. The Bay of Fires, Binalong Bay or the waterfalls at Pyengana are all world-class, beautiful places to visit, too.” 

TIP: Earn 1 Qantas Point per $1 when you book your Airbnb stay via Qantas. Simply enter your Qantas Frequent Flyer number and last name then continue on to Airbnb. Visit this listing.

The Keep, Launceston
Image: Rachel Vasicek

The Instagram moment

Andrew: “It has to be the outdoor bath. Often the shot is of someone’s back to the camera, looking out at the vista – sometimes with a new ring on their finger! It’s 300 kilograms of handcrafted granite so it was an undertaking to install but I’m so glad we did.”

Soundtrack for your stay

Andrew: “We’ve got a Spotify playlist with lots of different music: Billie Holiday, Lana Del Ray, Hunters & Collectors, some opera and instrumental. I wanted it to feel like The Keep; a bit of a mixed bag, a bit quirky. Lots of the songs are about connection – love lost, love gained, relationships.” 

The Keep, Launceston
Image: Liam Neal

What guests say

Andrew: “It makes us really happy when people say they’ve reconnected with themselves, each other and nature. That sense of relaxation is really important.” 

Julia: “People love the bathtub. I hate tooting my own horn but I also get a lot of nice feedback about the experience overall and the personalised touches – when I’ve hand-made signs for guest birthdays or put together gift packs. My hope is for guests to leave rested, invigorated and feeling inspired.”

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