In the middle of Tasmania lies a plateau dotted with lakes, and next to the biggest lake sits the Great Lake Hotel. In the quiet of winter it is a great place to shelter from passing snowstorms.
For much of the year the highland lakes are popular with fisherman, but I'm not into fishing - I just like out-of-the-way places bypassed by most tourists. Another lure is the offer of budget accommodation in an area which receives the most regular snowfalls outside the mainland ski resorts. I stayed there one winter, arriving just as snow began to fall.
The Great Lake Hotel is a country pub with more accommodation options than your typical drinking establishment. I stayed in a cheap and basic fisherman's cabin, but there are also nicer motel and hotel rooms, plus sites for campervans out the back.
Wherever you lay your head, most people end up in the main bar area, with its restaurant and verandah. In cold weather, the roaring log fire forms a cosy centrepiece, with the grand view of the lake outside the window adding to the charm. It feels even more cosy if you can gaze out the window and watch the snow falling outside.
Apart from its vantage point next to Great Lake, the hotel is a focal point for the locality of Miena. This community of highland fishing shacks is the nearest thing to a town on Tasmania's central plateau. The hotel, with the adjoining general store, forms the hub of the community - something I gained a sense of in my longer than expected stay.
The snow which fell upon my arrival at the Great Lake Hotel closed the roads to two wheel drive vehicles, and it was three days before I could safely drive away. Even then it took a bit of snow shovelling before I could reach the road.
Looking back, the enforced lingering made me slow down and appreciate an area which is truly unique in Australia, and which few visitors to Tasmania get to see. Finding a cosy refuge at the Great Lake Hotel made it possible.
Some clarification: The snow I experienced was unusually heavy and persistent. Normally the snow around Great Lake is much lighter, with lengthy snow-free periods between falls - even in winter.
Great Lake Hotel website