Revamped Penny Royal given a new life | Photos

Image: Scott Gelston
Image: Scott Gelston

IN less than a month, the builders will be gone, the lake will be refilled and children will be firing cannons and panning for gold, while their parents enjoy delicious Tasmanian food and wine.

A site that has been shut to the public for almost 10 years has finally been given a new life.

That site is Penny Royal.

After 18 months of construction by about 100 Tasmanian tradesmen – and $15 million later – the refurbished Penny Royal will have a ‘‘soft opening’’ on Friday, March 4, and an official opening on Friday, March 18.

Northern businessman Josef Chromy owns the site and he, alongside the JAC Group and the site’s original developer Roger Smith, have refurbished the gunpowder mill into an adventure park, food and wine precinct and historic attraction.

The site, which previously closed in July 2006, will be free to enter, with small costs for the children’s activities and higher costs for the adventure amusements.

Walking into the complex brings back many memories.

The entrance is in the same spot, but is a grand staircase rather than two small ones. A disabled lift platform will be installed in coming weeks.

An ice-creamery, serving Van Diemens Land ice-cream, is the first store you come across on the right hand side of the entrance.

The start of the iconic barge ride remains in the same place, to the left of the entrance, although it has been revamped.

The barge, or dark ride as it is called, takes visitors back to 1825 and tells the story of Tasmanian bushranger Matthew Brady.

‘‘The premise of the story is Matthew Brady is on the run in the gunpowder mills, it’s 1825 and he is being chased down by bounty hunters,’’ JAC group's Dean Cocker said.

‘‘They have tracker dogs onto him and all these ghosts of people executed in 1824 and 1825 like Alexander Pearce, Musquito and escaped convicts are all hanging around, because Brady is about to join them.’’

Animatronics, by Sally Corp in the United States, and videos featuring Tasmanian actors tell the story, with words and songs written by Mr Cocker.

A short film, that is shown on a water screen half way through the 500 metre water mill dark ride, was filmed using the replica of the Norfolk at George Town’s Bass and Flinders Centre.

Mr Cocker hoped people got excitement and an understanding of Matthew Brady’s life during the ride.

‘‘A lot of people in Tasmanian know about Bradys Lookout or Bradys Lake, but they don’t actually know the story,’’ Mr Cocker said.

‘‘It’s almost 200 years ago that all of this was happening.

‘‘It was like to be sent to the end of the earth, so we want to highlight that, make people think about that and appreciate the changes that have happened over effectively what is only four generations.’’

The Iron House Brewery is at the far end of the site next to a rock climbing wall.

A rope walk hangs above the site from the cliffs, which Irish Riggers from Hayne Engineering helped construct and helped train locals with how to run it.

There are 10 different rope walk bridges with three options to finish – a 50 metre zip line, a 100 metre zip line or a 20 metre cliff jump, which has a five metre free fall.

Two restaurants are on site.

One restaurant features a cellar door, that sells the new Relbia Estate wine, while the other Penny Royal Wine Bar and Restaurant will be open to the public and also available for function hire.

Outside the restaurant is where diners can watch films on a 20 metre wide, by eight metre high, water screen.

Looking over the site from the restaurant deck, Mr Chromy said he was very happy with the development.

‘‘It is world-class,’’ he said.

‘‘There is nothing better in Tasmania and not much better in Australia.’’

He said he would be zip-lining and cliff jumping when the attraction opened.

Mr Cocker said clearance had been given by TasWater to fill the site’s lake, despite Launceston being on stage one water restrictions.

‘‘They recognise it as an important development for the community,’’ Mr Cocker said.

A gondola-style chairlift, that is proposed to carry people one kilometre from the refurbished site to the Cataract Gorge’s First Basin, will be a further site addition.

Mr Cocker said the JAC Group hoped to have an application to the Launceston City Council about the proposed gondola by September.

About 100 people are expected to be employed at the site once it opens.


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