Once utilitarian storage and workshops for rivercraft, the boatsheds occupy a north-facing aspect in Cornelian Bay, a cove just to the north of central Hobart and the Tasman Bridge. The spot is adjacent to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and the houses and sports grounds of the now aspirational inner city suburb of New Town. Grave stones of the historic Cornelian Bay Cemetery can be glimpsed through trees on the opposite side of the cove, and while the beach at the top of the bay is more mud flat than golden sands, the area is popular for recreation, including kayakers, families and legions of dog walkers. A popular cafe/restaurant occupies a formerly utilitarian building adjacent to the children’s playground.
The boatsheds themselves are easily spotted, but access is slightly hidden along a narrow walking path. In keeping with the aspirational fortunes of the surrounding suburb, the boatsheds themselves have become desirable in recent years, with their original use overthrown to become places of leisure and pleasure for those fortunate enough to own or acquire them. Some serve as workplaces during the week; peaceful retreats for writers and studios for artists and musicians. On sunny afternoons, many become gathering places for friends and families, with dining tables and barbecues on the decks.
The land side faces of the sheds can be enigmatic to the casual walker; but increasingly many of the sheds are showing signs of having recieved the attention of renovators and interior designers, with carefully selected colour palates and decorative features visible from the exterior. Local government bylaws prohibit the sheds becoming dwellings, but water, power and sewerage services are laid on.
Whether or not one is fortunate enough to know friends with access to one of these sheds, I enjoy the sense of leisure and relaxation that they embody; a place to escape, at least for a short time, the pressures of daily life.