Queen's Domain and Botanical Gardens
Tasmanian Art Gallery, Australian artists, Truganini
North of Hobart to Launceston
North-west of Hobart, Strahan, National Parks
One of the most significant aspects for the development of
Tasmania is the island's geographical location. Hobart, the
capital city, lies at latitude 42║53' south, longitude 147║21'
east, making it one of the southernmost cities in the world.
The only land further south is the southern section of New
Zealand, a bit of South America, and Antarctica. This extreme
isolation allowed the development of unique flora and fauna.
The Tasmanian tiger, the thylacine, occurred only here, and
was last seen alive in 1935 (although myths persist about
sightings in the wild). The Tasmanian Aborigines appear to be
an indigenous group distinct from those on the mainland.
Most strikingly, present-day Tasmania, despite its accessible size, is a land of stark contrasts, with the settled eastern portion more 'English' than the mainland and the wild western portion containing primeval forests and some of the most untrammelled terrain remaining in the world. Today, the apples and potatoes for which the island was famed have dwindled in number as orchards disappear, but the state can now provide visitors with some of the most exquisite dining experiences in the country, with its unparalleled dairy products and seafood, especially shellfish.
Tasmania's geology is as complex as any in Australia. Its basic form proceeds from older Proterozoic rock on the northwest tip and as a tongue from the South West Cape extending inland to an area east and north of Queenstown. Sedimentary formation from the Palaeozoic era surround this tongue and are found in the northeast as well. The most arable land is found in the east and central basins between Hobart and Launceston along the island's northern coast and consists of weathered igneous deposits from the Mesozoic period. Many of the peaks, including Ben Lomond and Mount Wellington, are of dolerite extruded at this time.
Tasmania was joined with the mainland until the Tertiary Period when the Bass Strait, a rift valley, subsided. The Kosciuszko Uplift raised the island, tilting it to the south. During the three ice ages of the Pleistocene, glaciers covered as much as half of the island. Evidence of these glacial periods can be seen in the island's southwestern highlands in erosion of rock, deeply cut watercourses, and moraines. In each of these periods marine water levels were low enough to provide a landbridge to Victoria. As far as Aboriginal populations are concerned, the Yolande (100,000 to 50,000 years ago) and Margaret (20,000 to 10,000 years ago) glaciations allowed cultural and genetic introductions between the mainland and Tasmania.
The physical features most attractive to tourists include the Mount Wellington and Ben Lomond areas, the agricultural and pastoral plain from Hobart to Launceston and east along the northern coast, and the highland camping and bushwalking areas in the west and south. Ben Lomond, Mount Barrow and Mount Arthur are situated in a relatively accessible mountainous area in the northeast. The Tasman Highway east from Launceston passes through relatively tall eucalypt forest to as far as Scottsdale. At this higher elevation herbaceous groundcover and grasses predominate until the road turns south, returning to eucalypt as it drops into the George River Valley toward St Helens.
The agricultural areas to the east of Launceston are bordered to the south by the Great Western Tiers. This remarkable escarpment rises virtually from sea level to over 1000m. About 50km west of Launceston, then south an hour out of Deloraine is a tableland with numerous lakes, the Great Lake being the largest and Lake St Clair described as the most beautiful. Lake St Clair is on the eastern edge of a series of national parks extending from the southern coast nearly to the Bass Strait. These parks contain two World Heritage Areas and some areas which have been protected since 1863. The six day, 76km trek between Waldheim Chalet in Cradle Valley and Lake St Clair is a favourite with campers. Details, maps and gear are available at well-stocked campers' stores in Hobart and Launceston. Much of the equipment for camping can be rented.
Mount Field National Park, an easy drive 80km west of Hobart, is noted for its waterfalls. Russell Falls cascades in two steps into forested gorges. The walking and camping in this area varies from sedate to strenuous. Many of the best views of Russell Falls are easily accessible.
The beech trees of Tasmania, like many of the plants in the rainforest reserves in western and southern parts of the island, date from the Cretaceous period. They vary depending upon the niches in which they grow from scrub-like in the highlands to huge in sheltered areas. Similar species are found in the rainforests of Lamington National Park in the Mcpherson Range on the New South Wales-Queensland border and at Barrington Tops.
The Parks and Wildlife Service lists more than a dozen National Parks. The passes are quite inexpensive, starting at $11. While we are at it, the National Trust lists eight properties.
Tasmania, initially called Van Diemen's Land after the
Dutch East India company's progressive administrator who sent
Abel Tasman to explore the area in the 1640s, became an
independent colony in 1825, making it the second Australian
colony. Soon after the settlement of New South Wales, the
authorities realised Tasmania's strategic importance and
decided it should be settled before another maritime power
conquered it. As the frequency of French place names
throughout and around the island attest, French vessels had
explored the region extensively in the years immediately
following the Revolution. First scouted by Lieutenant James
Bowen in 1803, Van Diemen's Land as a colony began actively in
1804 with the arrival of Lieutenant Governor David Collins.
Collins is remembered in his famous First Fleet narrative for
having attempted a settlement first in Victoria. Once in Van
Diemen's Land, he moved the location of the colony from that
first sited by Bowen to a more advantageous spot at what was
called Sullivan's Cove, present-day Hobart.
How beautiful is the whole region, for form, and grouping, and opulence, and freshness of foliage, and variety of colour, and grace and shapeliness of the hills, the capes, the promontories... And it was in this paradise that the yellow-liveried convicts were landed, and the Corps-bandits quartered, and the wanton slaughter of the kangaroo-chasing black innocents consummated on that autumn day in May, in the brutish old time. It was all out of keeping with the place, a sort of bringing of heaven and hell together.
More recently, Tasmanian native Christopher Koch, author of The Year of Living Dangerously (1978), describes the ambivalence associated with Tasmania's history:
One of Tasmania's greatest talking points, at least by Australian standards, is its weather. 'Changeable' would be the best way to describe it. In the space of a few hours, especially on the Mount Wellington side of Hobart, temperature and winds can change dramatically and quickly, from scorching heat to blasting breezes and blustery conditions. On the whole, Tasmania is usually cooler than the rest of Australia. Planning of any outing must include provisions for any type of weather, from rain to heat. Patrick White, in A Fringe of Leaves (1976), states the situation poetically:
... buffeted by wind, threatened by a great cumulus of cloud, between the mountain which presided over man's presumptuous attempt at a town, and the shirred waters of the grey river rushing towards its fate, the sea.
The second oldest city in Australia, and with a
population of 184,000, Hobart is situated on both the eastern
and western shores of the Derwent River. The river was named
in 1793 by John Hayes, a naval officer who explored the region
independently and without knowledge of previous explorations;
most of the names he gave places were not acknowledged, but
the Derwent and Risdon Cove remain. Hobart was established in
February 1804 by Lieutenant Governor David Collins, when he
left Victoria and decided Van Diemen's Land was a more
appropriate location for a second settlement separate of New
South Wales. He had moved settlement across the river from
Risdon Cove, where Lieutenant John Bowen had initially
established a headquarters. Collins wrote: 'In respect to
situation, I am as well placed as I could wish. I have land
immediately about me...sufficient for extensive agricultural
purposes.' Collins named the settlement after Robert Hobart,
Earl of Buckinghamshire and secretary of state for war and the
colonies; it was actually called Hobart Town until 1881.
Governor Macquarie, ever the intrepid organiser, visited in 1811, and immediately drew up a town plan consisting of a main square and seven streets, which he also named. He also formulated regulations for future development. By the time of his second visit in 1821, buildings had trebled and faced regular street fronts.
Even today Hobart's 'Englishness' both in town planning and architecture is particularly striking. The town's gardens contain very little evidence of native flora, preferring 'cottage garden' arrangements, the plants of which do well in this climate. Houses are varied in design, and the grander ones often look like British country homes, with classical columns and Georgian proportions, constructed of sandstone or, later on, red brick.
Despite being located so far south, Hobart's latitude is comparable to that of New York City or Rome. In fact, the town's blustery weather and harbour setting, with its strong seafaring tradition, are somewhat reminiscent of American New England, although the weather is never as rugged as the American upper Eastern Seaboard. This atmosphere is not surprising, when you consider that from the 1830s onwards, Hobart was a great port of call for American whalers, who were active in Tasmanian waters until the American Civil War. The French whalers were also drawn to Hobart; Alexandre Dumas gives vivid descriptions of the town in Les Baleiniers, based on the diary of a surgeon on a French whaling ship.
The plethora of substantial buildings from Hobart's early period of settlement is so unlike anything to be seen in New South Wales that you begin to wonder why this should be. Historically, it seems that Tasmania by the 1830s, despite its grimly effective convict system, actively sought ambitious free settlers who would develop an agricultural economy. Colonists were enticed with promises of large land grants, the use of convict labour, and, as one settler approvingly wrote home in 1834, 'the scarcity of the Black Natives'.
While free settlers also began arriving in New South Wales at this time, the colonial government did not as actively encourage the development of the land and its resources. Consequently, rural agriculture was at least initially more modest on the mainland, and with less conscious emphasis on the cultivation of the trappings of English culture.
Writer Hal Porter, in his novel The Tilted Cross (1961), calls it 'a town of the dispossessed...a foundling London', which it seemed to be in its early days. Cultural aspirations were more readily pursued in Van Diemen's Land than in early New South Wales. Indeed, the first book of general literature in Australia was published here in 1818: Michael Howe, the Last and Worst of the Bushrangers of Van Diemen's Land by Thomas H. Wells. At present only three copies are known to exist, making it one of the rarest colonial books in the English language. That the modest publication concerned bushrangers is appropriate, as Tasmania was tyrannised by outlaws well into the 19C. Michael Howe was by no means the last one!
Today, Hobart is a delightful place to visit, quite unlike any other city in Australia. The sense of tradition is strong with less ethnic mix in the population, making islanders more conservative and predictably insular; but tourists will find the residents friendly, the facilities and attractions accessible and enjoyable. Currently the greatest attraction in Hobart is the availability of Tasmanian food-products; restaurant culture here is thriving, taking advantage of the superb resources available both on the island and from the surrounding sea and its islands.
Hobart is a pleasant town for walking, although its
position at the foot of Mount Wellington means that some
streets proceed steeply uphill. All of the following walks
begin at the Visitor Information Centre, conveniently located
north of Salamanca Place on the corner of Davey and Elizabeth
Streets by the wharves on Sullivans Cove.
For more distant tours, you will need a car, or public transport, details of which are given, although it is not always plentiful.
On leaving the tourist bureau, turn
left, and walk two blocks to Constitution Dock. Constitution
Dock is at the centre of the wharf area, where you can find a
variety of harbour tours, famous seafood restaurants, and fish
markets. Harbour cruises depart from the Brooke Street Pier,
about 100m east of Constitution Dock. Of greatest significance
is that Constitution Dock is the terminus of the Sydney to
Hobart Yacht Races. An alternative terminus might be the
Customs House Pub where yachtsmen often gather for a beer and
scallops after docking.
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Begun in 1945 with nine entrants, the race now attracts upwards of 200 entrants and is considered to be one of the most exciting and treacherous of blue water yacht races. The first race was initially to be a leisurely sail down to Hobart, but John Illingworth, a British Naval officer, suggested that they race. He won in Rani, a 35 foot cutter, in 6 days 14 hours. Peter Luke, sailing Wayfarer, came in last at 11 days 6 hours. D.D. McNicoll wrote a good history of the race in The Australian, Dec. 26, 2016. It is worth a trip to the continent just to experience the thrilling start of the race from Sydney Harbour on Boxing Day (26 December). The yachts must brave Bass Strait, which even in summer can present dangerous seas. A recent example of its unpredictability occurred in the 1993 race when off Flinders Island, the lead boat's skipper was lost overboard; he was miraculously found after six hours by tanker ship. Many of the other favoured boats were damaged and forced to drop out. Following the 1998 race, which was also affected by rough weather and loss of life, the race organisers reaffirmed that the yachts' skippers are ultimately responsible for deciding whether to continue or not under the conditions at sea. Unusual events aside, the end of the yacht race marks Hobart's biggest party and most exciting event of the year. Anyone visiting at this time should be sure to book accommodation well in advance, and expect to get caught up in the excitement.
Just above the docks is a raised plaza where placards
describe the wharf buildings and point to Parliament Square,
which is past Elizabeth Pier further south on Morrison Street
at the corner of Murray Street. Originally Customs House,
Parliament House was built between 1836 and 1841, by Colonial
Architect John Lee Archer. Other alterations were made in
1856, and with the introduction of responsible government, it
became Parliament House. The exterior presents a rusticated
first floor, ashlar work on the second floor. Fine interior
chambers remain intact and can be visited; the tiny
Legislative Council Chamber, which remains exactly as it was
in 1856, can also be viewed.
Across the street from Parliament Square is Customs House Hotel, built in 1846 for Charles Gaylor. Still in business, this was the hotel where many politicians resided while in town for parliamentary sessions.
Circle around Parliament Square to the left to
come to Salamanca Place. The place runs in front of a series
of seafront buildings dating from 1835-60. Originally fronting
on to 'New Wharf', these buildings were the centre of trade in
Hobart, and still represent the best-surviving examples of
Georgian warehouses in Australia. The New Wharf in front of
Salamanca Place is now called Prince's Wharf in honour of
Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who visited here in 1868.
The wharf is still the passenger terminal, and you can
sometimes see in port such cruise ships as the P & O's Sea
As with so many other place-names in Australia, Salamanca Place was named in honour of a battle in the Napoleonic Wars (hence the proliferation of Wellington place-names throughout the country). The fašades of the Salamanca Place warehouse buildings are virtually unchanged, except now they are shops, galleries, and cafes. Each Saturday (08.00-15.00) since 1972 the Salamanca Markets have been held here, essentially a more upscale 'trash and treasure', with arts and crafts, Tasmanian products, produce, and all the other kinds of stalls seen at flea markets. It is a delightful setting, exuding an old-world atmosphere.
To the east and above the cliffs behind Salamanca Place is Battery Point, the most historic area of Hobart. Its significance is in its preservation of continually occupied buildings which were built from the 1820s through to the early 1900s. Many of these structures are unequalled in Australia in terms of historical and architectural significance. The area's name stems from the battery of guns originally placed here in 1818. By 1828 they had been supplanted by a signal station (see box), which now stands in Prince's Park, at the northern end of Salamanca Place.
The Signal Station
The Signal Station became an important element in the elaborate semaphore telegraph system devised in the 1830s by the Commandant at Port Arthur, Captain Charles O'Hara Booth. By 1840, Booth had established a series of eleven stations between Port Arthur and Hobart Town which enabled messages to be relayed within 15 minutes. At its height, the coded system, using a three-tiered six-armed semaphore mast, could relay as many as 3000 phrases. By the 1850s the system was abandoned as too costly and by the 1860s the telegraph replaced this inventive device.
History of Battery Point
The area of Battery Point was first occupied by Reverend Robert 'Bobby' Knopwood (1761-1838), first clergyman in Tasmania and a notoriously colourful character in the island's early history. Taking up the ministry only when he had squandered his own considerable fortune and was in need of employment, Knopwood was fond of the bottle and loose with money. The Australian Encyclopedia describes him delicately, 'It was a brutal, hard-drinking, hard-swearing age, and Knopwood does not appear to have been in advance of his time.' He arrived in Hobart in 1804 and was granted 30 acres near Sullivans Cove by Lieutenant Governor Collins. Financial difficulties, however, compelled Knopwood to sell off plots by the end of the 1810s. Concerned about Knopwood's failing health and general dissipation, Governor Macquarie pensioned him in 1821 to land at Rokeby, in the Clarence area near Risdon Cove. Here he continued to minister unofficially until his death in 1838. His diaries, kept for 30 years, are a remarkable, if at times nearly incomprehensible (his spelling and penmanship were idiosyncratic at best), account of the early days of Hobart.
William Sorell, third Lieutenant Governor, acquired the remaining 90 acres (36.5 ha) of Battery Point, but eventually sold it to William Kermode, who developed the property, transforming the area from a rural expanse to a residential district. By the 1830s, this transformation was well under way and many buildings constructed in this era still survive.
Governor Arthur (see below), upon his arrival in the colony in 1824, decided that the waterfront road, initially a part of Knopwood's grant, should be turned over to the government for access to the wharves. This decree caused great outrage among those who had purchased the land from the original grantee. Nonetheless, Arthur was able to effect the usurpation when he found that Sorell had never signed an earlier agreement with Knopwood. This disputed strip is now the site of Salamanca Place.
George Arthur (1784-1854) was a career soldier who had already established his reputation as a colonial administrator in British Honduras before arriving in Hobart to take on the duties of Lieutenant Governor. Implacably stern and morally self-righteous by nature, Arthur imposed on the colony what to his detractors was a despotic rule. His rigid system of punishment and rewards for convicts affected not only the convicted but their overseers as well. His establishment of Port Arthur was to his mind a crowning achievement, as it made possible the implementation of his supposedly foolproof system for penal administration. Ultimately it would remain as his infamous legacy to Australian history. During his tenure, he attempted to rout the notorious bushrangers who plagued the countryside and sought to appease the growing number of free settlers by attempting to round up the Aborigines in the infamous 'Black Line' campaign. Constantly criticised by the press and even at odds with the home government, Arthur was recalled in 1837, serving further in Canada and as Governor of Bombay in 1842.
From Salamanca Place, you can enter Battery Point at
several spots. Climb up Kelly's Steps between the warehouses
at Kelly Street. These steps were built in 1839 by James
Kelly, Hobart's first harbourmaster. Walk down Kelly Street
one block, turn right on Hampden Road and walk two blocks to
the corner of Hampden and James Street, the site
of Narranya. Alternatively, at the south end of Salamanca
Place, turn left up Montpelier Retreat; walk two blocks to
Hampden Road, and turn left. On the left corner is Narryna, now the Narryna
Heritage Museum (t 03 6165 7000; open Tues. - Sat. 10.00
- 16.30 except closed 12.30 - 13.00, Sun. 1`2.00 - 16.30,
closed Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day,
and 20 October (Hobart Show Day), admission $10, $8
concession, $4 young children). Narryna was originally
built as a house for a Scotsman, Captain Andrew Haig, on two
acres bought from Knopwood in 1824. Haig constructed the first
stone warehouse on Salamanca Square, then left Hobart for nine
years. He returned with his wife and family in 1833 and began
to build this house with the help of convict architect Edward
Winch. At the time of its completion in 1836, only three other
houses existed in Battery Point. Financial difficulties
compelled Captain Haig to sell the house in 1842. Owned
privately until 1946, it was then sold to the Government which
allowed the hospital across the street to use it as a home for
In 1957, through the efforts of several prominent Tasmanians, Narryna was established as a museum depicting 19C colonial living. It contains a large collection of artefacts representing comfortable living in a seafaring community, among them, for some reason, Reverend Knopwood's death mask. Narryna provides an excellent reconstruction of everyday living, highlighting dress, kitchenware, leisure activities, including lantern slides and children's games, most of which were donated by Hobart families. Especially noteworthy is a collection of early Tasmanian daguerreotypes, some of them most certainly by Albert Bock, son of the artist Thomas Bock. Interesting stables and back rooms are reminiscent of a European open-air museum.
Walking down Hampden Road, you will see on both sides of
the street, rows of small cottages dating from the 1840s and
50s. On the corner of Stowell Avenue is a chocolate shop and
milk bar, still selling old-fashioned 'penny candies' from the
jar, even if they are no longer a penny each. It has been a
candy shop since 1886, an indication of the traditional pace
of Battery Point.
After crossing South Street, walk half a block, turn left into Arthur's Circus, a fascinating residential circle with modest if historically significant houses. The land was divided into 16 plots by Governor Arthur himself, and sold at auction in March 1847. A children's playground now stands in the central oval.
Cross Colville Street, veering right into Secheron Road, which will lead you to Secheron House. Now privately owned, it was built by George Frankland (1797-1838), surveyor-general of Van Diemen's Land 1828-1838. Arriving in Hobart with his family in 1827, Frankland's first task was to improve the harbour and waterfront. He also assisted Governor Arthur in the design of the Presbyterian church at Bothwell. He was responsible for naming the Hobart suburb of Bellerive, taking its name-as well as that of Secheron--from places he knew on Lake Geneva. The Frankland Range near Lake Pedder is named in his honour.
He received a grant of 8 acres (3 ha) at Battery Point at this time, and began to build this impressive residence. Constructed of Australian cedar, it offers a spectacular view of the Derwent River.
Return to walk along Colville Street towards Sandy Bayfor an admirable view of a variety of historic houses and cottages; indeed, each house in the entire neighbourhood is an architectural entity. The street itself was named after Lord Colville, whose grandson was the same George Frankland who built Secheron. No. 57 at the end of the street is thought to be the oldest building on the street, part of the original Gleeson's Farm which occupied the site in the 1830s.
Turn right on Cromwell Street, to find on the
left St George's Anglican Church, often called 'the mariner's
church'. Designed by John Lee Archer (nave) and James
Blackburn (tower) between 1836 and 1847, it is one of
Australia's finest examples of Greek Revival style. The church
includes a nave of five bays divided by pilasters and with
50-pane windows. Next door is St George's School, in a simple
Georgian style of stone blockwork. A very early school
building, it preceded the first state school, Trinity School.
Continue to De Witt Street, turn left; on the other side of the street is a row of cottages built in the early 1850s by Robert Logan. At St George's Terrace you have a good view down to the bay and up to the hillside residential areas.
Return to Elizabeth Street by returning to De Witt Street and walking back to Hampden Road; a turn in either direction leads to Sandy Bay Road, a busy street. At Sandy Bay Road and Harrington Street, continue along the diagonal plaza of houses into Harrington Street (one block) and enter on your right into St David's Park.
St David's Park was Hobart's original burial grounds and because it was on a raised hill with views of the sea, it also quickly became a popular picnic spot. Included here are the tombs of Lieutenant Governor David Collins, designed by John Lee Archer in 1838, and a Gothic Revival memorial to Governor Wilmot dating from 1850. When it was decided to change the place into a public park in 1926, some of the headstones were removed to Anglesea Barracks; others have been preserved in two walls leading out of the park up to Harrington Street (the graves themselves remain at rest beneath the grass). The park also includes a charming bandstand and the Salamanca Place entry way has a delightful gate with carved lions' heads.
Leave the park at the Harrington and Davey Street gateway. Across Davey Street on your left is an old stone building which stands in front of the Royal Tennis Court. In 1875, S. Smith Travers purchased this building (originally part of a brewery built in 1860) to introduce royal tennis (or real tennis, as known here) to Australia. Smith's house next door became the Hobart Trades Hall and is now part of the Commonwealth Law Courts buildings. Unlike tennis as we know it today, royal tennis relies on angled shots off sloping surfaces. Regular sessions occur on the courts, and visitors may attend. There are now courts for Royal Tennis in Melbourne and Ballarat, with plans for one in Sydney.
From here proceed down Davey Street, some two blocks, back to the Visitor Information Centre (t 03 6238 4222) to visit the Art Gallery.
The collection of colonial art exhibited on the first
floor is especially significant for its representation of the
Tasmanian landscape. The most impressive works are by William
Piguenit (1836-1914), one of the first Australian-born
landscape artists of note, and by John Glover, probably the
most famous immigrant artist of the period.
George Augustus Robinson and Truganini
George Augustus Robinson (1788-1866), a Methodist bricklayer and builder, had been appointed in 1829 to take charge of the Aborigines on Bruny Island immediately prior to Lieutenant Governor Arthur's failed 'Black Line' round up of Aborigines. Robinson suggested that he take a number of the Bruny Island people with him on an attempt to talk the Aboriginal people around Hobart into accepting relocation. After a number of trips into the interior with Truganini as his guide and protector, he had convinced nearly all of the local people to accept transport to Flinders Island. As the Encyclopedia of Australia describes the Aborigines' situation, 'removed from their regular hunting grounds, they pined away and died'.'Robinson was subsequently made Chief Protector of Aborigines and stationed near Port Phillip, a position he held between 1839 and 1849 when administration became more important than contact with the indigenous people in the region.
Truganini (1803-1876) was the daughter of Mangana, an elder in the group of Aborigines living on Bruny Island. She had witnessed her mother's death, stabbed by a white settler in a night raid, and her sisters' abduction by whalers. She was living as a prostitute in Hobart when Robinson and his guide Woorrady convinced her to accompany them on the 'conciliation' trip. Truganini is credited with saving Robinson's life by floating him across a river while under attack by hostile Aborigines during his early ventures at concilliation in Tasmania. Efforts by Robinson to 'Europeanise' the Aborigines at Flinders Island were unsuccessful. The efforts of his successors to demoralise them further succeeded in reducing the population to 54 in 1843. In 1856 Truganini was among the surviving Aborigines moved to Oyster Cove near Hobart. She died in 1876 in Hobart, seven years after her husband William Lanne (or Lanney)'s corpse had been mutilated in a gruesome conflict between the Royal College of Surgeons in London and the Royal Society in Tasmania. Her dying wish was to have a decent burial 'behind the mountains'; it was not to be, as her bones were displayed for years in the Tasmanian Museum. Her wish was finally honoured a century later when her ashes were scattered in D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
In his essay The Spectre of Truganini, art historian Bernard Smith elucidates the cultural significance of depictions of Truganini, the 'last Tasmanian Aboriginal', and Robert Hughes writes movingly of Truganini's gruesome plight in The Fatal Shore. Indeed, in the recent ABC-TV (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) series, Frontier (1997), Truganini's story symbolises the worst of white-black conflict in 19C Australia.
Several works in the gallery concentrate on the depiction
of Tasmanian Aboriginals. Intriguingly, the earliest white
settlers, unlike those in New South Wales, seem not to have
had an artistic interest in the island's native population. No
images exist until the late 1820s and 1830s, by which time
native 'containment' was nearly complete. Of greatest
importance are Benjamin Duterrau's historically significant if
artistically lamentable depictions of the Tasmanian Aborigines
and George Augustus Robinson ('The Conciliator')'s attempts to
bring them into settlements. Duterrau (1767-1851), who revered
his fellow Methodist Robinson, wanted to create an epic
historical painting of such an attempt; his The Conciliation
(c 1840), is indeed the first history painting created in
Australia. While earlier examples of Duterrau's work,
including his self-portrait on the other side of the room,
indicate that he had some painterly skills, the deterioration
in ability evident in his Tasmanian paintings may be the
result of age, or perhaps over-ambition. There is some
evidence that this version of the Conciliation was a smaller
one than that Duterrau eventually planned to make. Also on
display here are casts of Benjamin Law's brooding busts of
Truganini (see box, p 418) and Woureddy, presented
appropriately in classic pose, as the last representatives of
The most poignant portrait in this gallery is Thomas
Bock's small watercolour of Mathinna (1842), commissioned from
Bock by Lady Jane Franklin. This picture offers an appropriate
focus to consider two important figures in the cultural life
of colonial Tasmania. Thomas Bock (c 1790-1855) had been a
painter and engraver before being sentenced to 14 years'
transportation for administering a drug to cause abortion.
Upon arrival in Hobart in 1824, his skills as an engraver were
quickly put to use in the design of banknotes and
illustrations. By 1832 he gained a full pardon and had already
established himself as a portrait painter. His portraits in
pastels, watercolour and oil include those of prominent
citizens, as well as condemned prisoners and bushrangers. He
even made a post-mortem likeness of the cannibal Alexander
Pearce. It is no surprise that he would have been commissioned
for portraits by Lady Jane Franklin (1791-1875), wife of the
Lieutenant Governor John Franklin (1786-1847). When they
arrived in Hobart in 1837, Sir John was already famous as an
Arctic explorer (he would perish in an attempted exploration
of Antarctic waters). Lady Jane was an intelligent, ambitious
philanthropist. She was the first woman to climb Mount
Wellington and the first to travel overland from Melbourne to
Sydney. She involved herself in a number of projects to
improve the lot of prisoners and to advance education and
cultural pursuits in the colony (see Lady Jane Franklin
Museum, p 425).
Further galleries on the first floor house changing exhibitions on Australian 20C art, Aboriginal art, and photography.
One of Lady Jane's 'projects' was Mathinna, an Aboriginal girl brought to Government House when she was seven. Franklin's aim, it seems, was to show the 'degree of civilisation' that natives under guidance could acquire. The red dress in which Bock depicts her was her prized possession, and she wrote of it proudly in a letter to her real stepfather. As with so many of her other charitable projects, Lady Jane eventually moved on to other concerns and, when the Franklins left the island in 1843, Mathinna was abandoned. She was sent to the Queen's Orphan School and eventually joined the remaining Aboriginals at Oyster Cove. She was found dead at 21, 'intoxicated...in mud and water on the road...choked, suffocated and stifled'. The small mining town near Fingal in northeastern Tasmania is named in her honour.
Museum of Old and New Art
(MONA) from the Franklin Wharf
On the water side of the museum is the Franklin Wharf from which the MONA Brooke Ferry departs for a 25 minute ride to the relatively new Museum of Old and New Art (ferry $20, museum admission adults $28, concession $25, under 18 or Tasmanians free; open daily 10.00-17.00, closed Tues.). Located in the former Moorilla Winery, the museum displays art from the collection of David Walsh. A professional gambler, he first presented his collation at the Moorilla Museum of Antiquities in 2001. After extensive renovations begun in 2007, MONA was opened with considerable fanfare in January 2011. The museum building is largely underground. Designed by architect Katsalidis, it gives an impression of danger and ominous idiosyncrasy. The pieces displayed and the exhibits themselves can take a turn toward confrontation and even salaciousness. That said, a particularly moving piece in a purpose-built gallery is Sydney Nolan's Snake (1970-72), evoking the Aboriginal Rainbow Serpent. The great Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan wrote a good description of the Museum and Walsh's intentions is in The New Yorker article, "Tasmanian Devil, A Master Gambler and His High-Stakes Museum" (Jan. 21, 2013).
Leaving the Tasmanian Museum toward the city on Macquarie Street, you can see across the street on the corner of Argyle Street a red-brick Classical Revival style building which is now used by the Hobart City Council. It was built in 1907 as the city's public library, funded largely by the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who donated ú7500 for its establishment.
Immediately across Macquarie Street on the opposite corner is Hobart's General Post Office, a two-storey building with, predictably, a corner clock tower; it was designed by A.C. Walker and built in 1905.
Turn right at the museum's exit and continue up Macquarie Street one block to the Town Hall on the corner of Elizabeth Street. The Town Hall was completed in 1866 by Henry Hunter, one of the colony's best architects. With its three-bay Corinthian entry porch, rich interior and grand staircase it reflects the confident ambitions of a prosperous city in the middle of the Victorian period.
Across Elizabeth Street is Franklin Square, a lovely park with a famous Wishing Well fountain.
Next to Franklin Square on the same block is a complex of buildings, often referred to simply as the Treasury, although it actually has had several functions and today houses a variety of public offices that have integrated previous structures on the site. The central fašade on Macquarie Street was designed by W.P. Kay and built between 1860 and 1914. The impressive scale of this three-storey building presents a fine example of the Victorian Classical Revival style that dominated public buildings in Australia during this period. The right-hand side of the building was originally the 1830 courthouse, an important cultural centre for the early colony; the left-hand side was the 1858 courthouse.
Across the street is St David's Cathedral, a stone Gothic Revival building begun in 1868 to a design by the English architect G.F. Bradley; it was not finished until 1936. The entryway includes a west window with tracery. The tower, made of stone quarried in Oatlands, has a castellated parapet. To the south is a lovely small close with many old trees.
At 130 Macquarie Street is the J. Walch & Sons Building, dating from 1860, and housing Walch's Stationery, the oldest surviving stationers in Australia. St Joseph's Catholic Church, at 165 Macquarie Street, dating from 1841-43, was designed by J. Thomson and is the oldest surviving Roman Catholic church in Hobart.
At Barrack Street, turn left, walk across Davey Street to the entrance to Anglesea Barracks. The grounds are open routinely; the buildings are not open. The Museum is devoted to Australian military history (t 03 6237 7160; open Tuesdays - Saturdays 09.00-13.00 with a guided tour on Tuesday at 11.00, admission $5 adults, $10 family). The barracks were built between 1814 and 1879, making it the oldest occupied military facility in Australia. They were named after the Duke of Anglesea, hero of the Battle of Waterloo. Devised by Governor Macquarie on his first Tasmanian visit in 1811, the first building was the hospital, constructed in 1814. It is now the Commandant's residence. At the same time work began on the Officer's Quarters and Mess, but these were not completed until 1829. These were designed by Lieutenant John Watts and John Lee Archer and consist of three single-storey buildings with verandahs, cement-rendered bricks and slate roofs. The Officers' Married Quarters and the Old Drill Hall were completed in 1824, and contain interesting architectural details, such as the pilasters placed between each set of windows.
The military gaol, finished in 1846, is built out of local sandstone. The Garrison Tap Room from 1834 includes an interesting stuccoed brick entrance portico. Set in the most imposing location of the complex is the Soldiers' Barracks, built in the 1850s and facing the Lower Parade Ground.
Tours of the complex are available with a detailed brochure describing the barracks' history. Enquire at the barrack's museum or at the Visitors' Information Centre at Davey and Elizabeth Streets.
After touring the barracks, you may want to return to the centre of the city by catching a bus on Macquarie Street.
From the Visitor Centre walk up Elizabeth Street two
blocks to Collins Street, where Elizabeth Street becomes a
pedestrian mall known as 'Restaurant Row'. The restaurants
here, as well as others throughout Hobart, demonstrate how
Tasmanian produce is being used to create some of the best
dining experiences in the world. Halfway up the mall is the
Cat and Fiddle Arcade, an intriguing complex of shops. Enter
the arcade on the left, and walk through to Murray Street.
Outside turn right and walk 150m across Liverpool Street to
the State Library on the corner of Bathurst Street.
The State Library building is a hideous early 1960s glass and metal five-storey structure, but housed inside (along with a lending library, research library, archives, and the W.C. Crowther Tasmaniana Library) is the Allport Museum and Library (t 03 6165 5584; open weekdays, 09.30-17.00, Saturdays 09.30 - 14.00, free admission). On the library's ground floor is a small collection, a bequest from Henry Allport, heir to the Allport family, one of the earliest free settlers in Tasmania. The original generation included Mary Morton Allport (1806-95), a gifted artist and musician, who left some of the earliest artistic and literary accounts of the colony. The Allports remained one of Tasmania's leading families, producing many significant artists. The collection, based on Allport's own bequest, plus purchases through his endowment, consists of decorative arts, period rooms, as well as an impressive library of rare books and items of Tasmaniana. While the holdings are rather eclectic, and at times it is difficult to determine the collection's aim, within the atmosphere of the library it seems a sweet attempt at cultural loftiness. The library itself includes some of the most important works concerning Tasmania, Australia, and the South Pacific. The presentation of the significance of the Allport family in Tasmanian history is appropriate and warranted. The Allports' estate 'Aldridge' (c 1830) on Elboden Street stayed in the family until 1968.
After leaving the library, make a right on to Bathurst Street. At 106 Bathurst Street is the Playhouse, originally the Union Chapel. It was built in 1863 by H.R. Bastow in an unusual 'Romanesque' Revival style that incorporated a colonnade and Roman-arched windows.
Two blocks along Bathurst Street is Argyle Street; turn left to see midway down the block at no. 59, Australia's oldest existing synagogue. Before its construction, the Jewish community met at the home of Judah Solomon, who eventually donated this site in his garden for the synagogue. It was built in 1845 by James Thomson in a delightful Egyptian Revival style, a popular style for synagogues of the 1840s. At one time, the Jewish population of Hobart rivalled that of Sydney, but the population dwindled significantly by the 1870s. Services, both Liberal and Orthodox, are held on Fridays. Contact the Hebrew Congregation of Hobart for tours of the building.
Return to Bathurst Street and proceed right to Scots Church. Built in 1834-36 by J.E. Addison as St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, it was one of the first attempts in the colony at an historically accurate Gothic Revival style. The building complex includes a hall with a simple sandstone chapel of undressed block; this edifice seems to have been designed by W. Wilson in 1834. The church is the oldest surviving Presbyterian church in Australia.
After leaving the church, turn left to Campbell Street, then left again for two blocks to Penitentiary Chapel and Criminal Courts, on the corner of Brisbane Street. An extensive site, it is the remaining portion of the original military complex, much of which is now occupied by the Royal Hobart Hospital. The chapel was commissioned after the free citizens of the city complained about the convicts attending services at St David's Church. Building commenced in 1831, again from a design by Colonial Architect John Lee Archer. As well as being the convicts' church, it was also the original church for the Holy Trinity Parish. By 1857 the addition of law courts made the entire site part of the Hobart Town Gaol. It remains the only surviving example of Georgian ecclesiastical architecture in the Commonwealth. The chapel was used until 1961, the courts until 1983. Tours of the site, including subterranean tunnels, and solitary cells, were recently being conducted (t 03 6231 0911, by tour only, Mon.-Fri. 10.00, 11.30, 13.00, 14.30, Sat. sun. 13.00, 14.30, admission $15 adults, $12 concession, $10 children).
Leave the complex on Brisbane Street, turn
right back to Campbell Street, and proceed right five blocks
to the Theatre
Royal (t 03 6233 2299/1 800 650 277, tours Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11.00, admission adults $15,
concession $12, children $10). Opened in 1837 as the Royal
Victoria Theatre, it is the oldest continuously working
theatre in Australia. It was designed and financed by Peter
Degraves, owner of the Cascade Brewery. Originally a plain
Georgian structure, it was remodelled in 1857 by the new owner
John Davies. Many of the world's greatest actors and
musicians, from Ellen Tree and Sarah Siddons to Dame Sybil
Thorndike, have performed here. Laurence Olivier, who acted
here in the late 1940s with his wife Vivien Leigh, called it
'the best little theatre in the world'.
Threatened with demolition in the early 1950s, the theatre was saved largely through the efforts of novelist Hal Porter, who physically barred the bulldozers at the door. The interior is a gem of early Victorian decoration, with a domed ceiling including painted portrait roundels of the great composers; in a disastrous fire in 1984, all of these (save Wagner!) were destroyed, but they, as well as the entire interior, have been lovingly restored.
Take the bus from the Elizabeth Street Bus Station to the
Botanical Gardens (t 03 6166 0451, hours seasonal, May - Aug. 8.00-17.00, Apr. and Sept
8.00-17.30, Oct-Apr. 8.00-18.30; admission by golden coin, ie
voluntary donation, at entrances). The gardens are located in
Queen's Domain, the largest park in Hobart, which also
includes the cricket grounds, Olympic swimming pool, and Rose
Garden. These facilities are located near the Domain entrance
off the Tasman Highway. At this same junction on the other
side of the highway is the Memorial Cenotaph, an obelisk
honouring Tasmania's war dead.
The bus into the Domain ends its route a short and pleasant walk from the entrance to the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are adjacent to the Government House, residence of the Tasmanian Governor-General. Built in 1857, its elaborate castellation and grand appearance caused it to be considered an extravagant waste of colonial funds. From here, you have a grand view of the Derwent River as it is crossed by the Tasman Bridge. This bridge was opened with much ceremony in 1965. In 1975, the bulk ore carrier Lake Illawarra struck the bridge, demolishing several spans and sinking the vessel. Remnants of the spans can still be seen. The bridge was repaired and reopened.
As every tourist will be bombarded with examples of Tasmania's unique wood Huon Pine, a description of its appearance is perhaps not necessary, but its significance cannot be overlooked in an antipodean setting where workable hardwoods were so hard to come by. Huon Pine, moreover, holds a singular place in Australian history, as it contributed greatly to the rise of shipbuilding and the viability of seafaring enterprise. First discovered in the Huon River district by Robert Brown (the river and region were named after the French explorer Huon de Kermandec, who explored the region in 1792), the wood was the economic excuse for the establishment of the penal colony by Governor Sorell at Macquarie Harbour in the southwest corner of the colony. From 1821 until its abandonment in 1832, Macquarie Harbour was by far the grimmest and most isolated penal settlement of the English-speaking world, not least of all because of the treacherous efforts necessary to lumber the pine trees growing there. While slow-growing and long-lived-one tree was ringed in 1974 as being 2200 years old-Huon Pine is considered to be the best shipbuilding timber in the world. It is so durable that a sea-going vessel of its timber can remain unaffected by rot for more than 100 years.
As you can see in many of the museums and historic houses, the wood's beautiful colour and texture also made it ideal for furniture and framing. Such an economic goldmine in the days of wooden vessels necessarily led to the rapid decimation of many of the Huon forests. As early as 1879, legislation was introduced to limit the felling-beginning what remains today an ongoing and emotionally fraught battle between conservationists and the timber industry in Tasmania. Current accounts seem to indicate that at present the tree is not in danger of extinction, as it will propagate easily. Examples of the tree and an informative brochure are available at the Botanical Gardens.
The Botanical Gardens are quite a hidden treasure, being
probably the best-kept and most advantageously situated small
public garden in Australia. The gardens were established in
1818, initially as a government garden to provide food for the
colony. As early as 1826, Governor Arthur had planned
construction of Government House nearby, but this early
project was abandoned because of costs. Arthur then set
himself to the task of establishing a proper botanical
gardens. In 1828, William Davidson, a young horticulturist
from England, arrived to become the first Superintendent. Not
only did he import plants and trees from England, but he
collected native plants from the Hobart area. His house in the
grounds is now the Museum and Education Centre.
One interesting early feature is the heated wall, commissioned by General Arthur, to warm experimental fruit trees. The wall was not in operation for very long, as Tasmania's relatively mild climate made it unnecessary; it is now in some disrepair.
The gardens are beautifully laid out, with a walk along Derwent River on one side, and stunning views up to Mount Wellington behind. The grounds also include an elegant Conservatory, filled with blooming plants and lovely fountains. The Japanese Gardens were created in honour of Hobart's sister city, Yaizu, Japan. A nice restaurant with views to the river serves teas and lunch. Near to the restaurant, examples of Tasmania's most famous wood, the Huon Pine, are on view.
Travelling up Davey Street, at Southern Outlet Road turn
right to Macquarie Street which now becomes Cascade Road,
leading to the Cascade
Brewery (t 03 6224 1117; daily 10.00 - 17.00,
bookings essential for tours; Brewery Tour and Tasting (1.5
hrs., closed toed, flat shoes, fully covered from the waist
down, no loose jewelry, admission adults $30, concession $25,
over 16 $15, Cascade Story Tour (45 minutes, brewery's history
not the production facility nor a tasting) adults $15,
children $5; the Davey Street bus from Elizabeth Street
opposite the post office will pass the brewery). The brewery
itself is a delightful structure, with a seven-storey fašade
that is reminiscent of a German castle or a Victorian 'wedding
cake' style (the interior was gutted in the 1967 bushfires).
The brewery, founded in 1824 by the Degraves family, is the
oldest operating brewery in the country. Cascade Beer still
enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of Australia's purest
and best beers.
Peter Degraves was granted 2500 acres on the side of Mount Wellington by Governor Sorell. Here he established a sawmill, which prospered; in the next decade he initiated the brewery, which Degraves designed himself. Degraves was also responsible for the design and financing of the Theatre Royal. Today you can tour Woodstock, Degraves' original home. Immediately below the brewery are the Cascade Gardens, owned and operated by the company. Nestled in a cool gully, the gardens offer a soothing atmosphere in its well-kept grounds which include some of the plants originally brought by Degraves.
If you return to Davey Street and continue west, the
winding road becomes Huon road and eventually travels to the
top of Mount Wellington (the Met runs buses from Macquarie
Street opposite the post office). At 1271m high, it is one of
Tasmania's highest peaks. In his novel A Fringe of Leaves
(1976), Patrick White describes the peak as a 'shrouded
mountain looming over all', and the native Tasmanian writer
Peter Conrad in Down Home declared that 'Hobart belongs to
Mount Wellington'. Along the road to the top there is an
interesting picnic stop at the point where the earliest inn
opened in the 1860s; it was destroyed in the bush fire of
1967, also chronicled in the placards here. At The Pinnacle,
you can experience an impressive display of Tasmanian weather
at its most whimsical. A well-organised enclosure presents
spectacular views of Hobart and the entire Derwent River area;
placards describe views and give an account of some of the
intrepid early explorers to this wind-swept site. A small path
allows visitors to venture into the craggy rocks and low bush
that make up this barren landscape.
Runnymede and Lady Franklin Gallery
Drive north out of central Hobart on Highway 1, Brooker Highway. Turn left at Risdon Road, follow signs to Runnymede at 61 Bay Road, or take Bus Route 20.
Runnymede (t 6278 1269; Sept.-June Tues.- Fri 10.00-16.00, Sun. 12.00-16.00, admission used to be $8) was built c 1836 for Robert Pitcairn, Tasmania's first lawyer and anti-transportation advocate. In 1850 Pitcairn sold the property to the first Anglican bishop, Rev. Francis Russell Nixon, who made additions to the house. Finally it was acquired in 1864 by Captain Charles Bayley, who named it Runnymede after his favourite ship. Now run by the National Trust, the house has been furnished in period style, and the beautiful cottage gardens are a popular wedding spot.
Upon leaving Runnymede, turn north on Risdon Street; continue to Augusta Street and turn right. Augusta Street becomes Lenah Valley Road.
Continue c 1.5km to Lady Franklin Gallery (t 03 6228 2662; open weekends 11.00-16.00). This incongruous location for a Doric temple is another result of Lady Franklin's ambitious philanthropic activities. In this case, she had acquired 410 country acres (166 ha) with the intention of establishing a cultural and educational centre. Designed in 1843 by James Blackburn, it is a skilful example of the Greek Revival style. As the Heritage of Australia guide describes it, 'the values of convict-based society were inimical to its use as a cultural centre and it was abandoned for many years, then used as an apple shed'. It is now owned by the Art Society of Tasmania, who hold weekend exhibitions there.
Return to Highway 1, proceed north c 5.5km to Elwick
Street. The Elwick Racecourse is on the right. Turn left, then
right on to Grove Street to Anfield (100m); here is the Tasmanian Transport
Museum, Glenorchy (t 03 6272 7721; open weekends
and some holidays, 13.00-16.00, admission adults $6, children
$4, on train ride days adults $10, concession $8, and children
$5), with an exhibition of the history of trains in Tasmania,
including train rides on first and third Sundays (open 11.00),
both diesel and steam. More serious train running days
are listed on their web-site.
University of Tasmania
From the centre of town, take Davey Street to Harrington, turn left; the road will become Sandy Bay Road. At Grace Street (c 2km), turn right to the University of Tasmania. The university is the fourth oldest university in Australia, founded in 1890. Beginning with three lecturers and six students, classes were originally held in a former high school in Queen's Domain; it moved to its present site after the Second World War. Errol Flynn, who was born in Hobart, was the son of Thomas Flynn, professor of biology at the university. In 1961, Peter Loftus and Paul Fenton revived the university magazine Diogenes with this scathing editorial:
Can Tasmania ever be anything but an intellectual backwater? Will Tasmanians ever progress from their present stage-a collection of passive natives ogling at coloured beads-the ships in the dock, the snow on the mountains, the ANZ Bank, the castration of Georgian charm, pyjama-pants, television towers, and the university's soulless shiver of squares? ... Culture? There's no such animal-maybe that's why Hobart needs a zoo.
The university was also the site of Australia's most
notorious sexual harassment case, that of Professor Sydney
Sparkes Orr in the 1950s; Orr's case has been the subject of
much study, including Michael Boddy's story 'A Matter of
Mourning', W.H.C. Eddy's Orr (1961) and the more
recent explorations of the topic such as the 1993 film 'Orr'
by George Miller of Mad Max fame.
Today the university magazine Island is a widely-respected journal of literary and cultural review.
The university's architecture is for the most part undistinguished, dating primarily from the functionalist 1960s; one interesting attraction is the John Elliott Classics Museum (Classics.Museum@utas.edu.au, previously open most afternoons) on Churchill Avenue. It contains examples of art and artifacts of the ancient world, from Mesopotamia to Early Christian.
From Churchill Road, turn left into Nelson Street; cross Sandy Bay Road and continue on Drysdale Place to the Wrest Point Casino (t 03 6225 0112), the site of Hobart's claim to glamorous nightlife. When it opened in 1973, it was the first legal casino in Australia and was touted as a tourist goldmine. Designed by one of Australia's most prolific 'modernists' Roy Grounds, the tall tower of the building-yes, complete with revolving restaurant at the top-is endearingly known by locals as the Salt Shaker.
On the road out of Lower Sandy Bay to Snug and Kettering, 11km south outside of Hobart, is the Shot Tower (t 03 6227 8885; open daily, 09.00-17.30). The tower was built in 1870 by Scottish immigrant Joseph Moir. Standing 48m high, it contains 31 landings and some 300 steps to the top, where you have a tremendous, vertigo-inducing view of Derwent River and out to Storm Bay. A small museum and video presentation gives the history of Moir and his tower and explains the process of making shot, which varies little from modern methods. From all reports, the Moir family, heirs included, were amusingly eccentric, given to inventive practical jokes. The site includes a house with tea room and gift shop.
Kettering and Bruny Island
Kettering (population 318), 34km from Hobart, is a picturesque fishing village. From here you can catch one of the more or less hourly vehicular ferries to Bruny Island, today a leisurely getaway, but historically significant in the early exploration of the South Pacific (more or less hourly, pedestrians free passage, autos $70-85 depending on the season). It was actually discovered by Abel Tasman, and explored by every other prominent explorer from Cook to Bligh. Its name was bestowed upon it by the French Admiral Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni D'Entrecasteaux (1739-93), who made the first extensive survey of the channel now known by the admiral's last name. Only a thin isthmus connects the southern and northern portions of the island; at this point you can often see fairy penguins on shore.
At Adventure Bay is the Bligh Museum (t 03 6293 1117; open daily 10.00-16.00, small admission charge) chronicling the island's early history as a whaling centre; it is said that Bligh himself planted the island's first apple tree here in 1788. The building was made out of 26,000 convict-made bricks that were collected from Variety Bay. The artefacts exhibited include the remains of Cook's Tree, a tree on the bay where Captain Cook had carved his name in 1777. The tree was destroyed in a fire in 1905; a monument now marks the spot where it stood.
The Aboriginal name for the island was Lunawanna-Allonah, and these names are still preserved for two towns on the southern end of the island. It was here that Truganini (see note above), known as the last full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigine, was born in 1812. After years in which her skeleton was on display in Hobart's Museum, her wishes were finally granted in 1975, when the remains were cremated and the ashes scattered on the island.
Bruny Island has several places to stay, most of the 'holiday cottage' or caravan park variety. Bookings can be made through any Tasmanian tourist office.
From Kettering, you can continue on the Channel Highway
(route B58) south around the edge of D'Entrecasteaux Channel
48km to Cygnet (population 924), originally named Port de
Cygne by D'Entrecasteaux because of the number of swans here.
This region is still the centre of Tasmania's famous
apple-producing orchards (Tasmania is still called the Apple
Isle), although many orchards have fallen to development.
At Huonville, 17km north on B58, Huon pine was first discovered by D'Entrecasteaux and named, along with the town and the river, after his colleague Captain Huon de Kermadec. 6km north of Huonville on the road back to Hobart is Huon Valley Apple and Heritage Museum, a display and collection of all things apple.
At Huonville, you can also join the Huon Highway (route
A6) and travel south through the timber town of Franklin,
named for Sir John Franklin, who took up property here on the
river before his ill-fated journey to Antarctica in 1845. In
town is Shipwright's Point School of Wooden
Boatbuilding (t 03 6266 3586; visitor center open
weekdays 9.30-16.00, Sun. 10.30-16.00), which offers
Australia's only accredited course in wooden boatbuilding.
Further on is Geeveston (population 750), another timber
town at the gateway to Hartz
Mountains National Park (t 03 6264 8460),
a very popular park for weekend walks; the Arve River and Weld
Valleys to the west of town contain 95m tall hardwood trees,
said to be the tallest in the world. The road is sealed part
of the way, and leads to several lookouts to the Huon Valley
and forests. At Port Huon, just outside Geeveston, you can
join cruises of the Huon River. Geeveston is also the site of
Australian Paper Mills' pulp-mill, one of the largest in
Continue south through the picturesque fishing village of Dover, with three islands in the harbour known as Faith, Hope, and Charity. Finally, 21km south of Dover, you come to Southport, the southern end of the roads of Tasmania. The intrepid can continue a further 2km on to route C635 to Lune River, which boasts the southernmost post office in Australia, and the site of thermal springs and good walking trails. Nearby are Hasting Caves, impressive limestone caves discovered in 1917.
Return to the main highway and continue on to Port Arthur
(21km). The tragic events of April 1996 at Port Arthur, during
which a deranged young man shot and killed 35 innocent
visitors, must be mentioned here, if only to commemorate the
victims of this senseless slaughter and to commend the
attempts by all Tasmanians to persevere and endure. More than
any other place, this historic site captures the dichotomy of
Tasmanian life, with its romantic ruins belying an horrific
past. Notably, the Australians immediately instituted
strict gun laws and successfully called for the surrender of
many thousands of firearms to protect the safety of
everyone. Currently, gun owners register and are
required to keep their firearms in locked cupboards or under
lock and key at licensed firing ranges with the ammunition
securely stored separately.
Port Arthur Historic Site (t 1 800 659 101; open daily 09.00-17.00, admission adult $37, concession $28, chlid $17, family $90), as it is called today, early on became the most notorious penal colony in Australian history. Founded in 1833 by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, the prison intended, a contemporary document quite clearly states, 'to inspire terror and to improve the moral character of an offender'. Its main purpose was as a place of incarceration for transportees who committed further crimes while in the colony, or for those convicts deemed incorrigible and incapable of following Arthur's specific rules of behaviour. It continued to operate as a prison until 1877, some 24 years after transportation ended in Tasmania. Port Arthur came to symbolise all that was most hideous about the transportation system, although by contemporary standards the conditions were probably better than in many other prisons.
Robert Hughes, in his book, The Fatal Shore and elsewhere, has warned of the temptation to turn the site into a convict Disneyland:
Australia has many parking lots but few ruins. When Australians see the ruin of an old building, our impulse is either to finish tearing it down or to bring in the architects and restore it as a cultural centre, if large, or a restaurant, if small. Port Arthur is the only example of an Australian historical ruin appreciated and kept for its own sake (although local entrepreneurs have tried, and so far failed, to refurbish it as Convictland)...Far more than Macquarie Harbour or even Norfolk Island, Port Arthur has always dominated the popular historical imagination in Australia as the emblem of the miseries of transportation, 'the Hell on earth'.
While it is not quite that blatant, the deference paid to tourists at this most popular Tasmanian attraction does run the risk of such commercialisation. The fascination of the site lies in the incongruity of its current romantic atmosphere with the realities of its true 19c past. Arthur offered the possibility of 'reform' by good behaviour through a rigid system of steps. Convict life was obsessively proscribed, as the book of regulations (reprinted and for sale at the Port Arthur Museum) indicates. Convicts were kept at hard labour from sunrise to sunset, with two brief breaks for meals; those on the chain gangs were forced to wear chains, and to dress in the distinctive yellow and grey costumes with the word 'felon' stamped across them in several places. Conversation was forbidden, with separate cells for each prisoner. Food, while by present standards minimal, was probably more plentiful and reliable than the free poor of England would have had at the time; those in extreme hard labour received as much as a pound of meat a day. Training in trades was possible. Port Arthur was also one of the first institutions to set aside a separate facility for young offenders (Port Puer), where they were provided with training, religious instruction, and some rudimentary education.
A well-devised pocket-size map accompanies admission to the complex. The entry fee is a rather hefty sum, but includes the boat ride to the cemetery on the Isle of Dead. The guide indicates walking routes to take on the basis of time available for those who do not want to take an organised tour (of which there are many). Displays and presentations concentrate on archaeological excavation and restoration, with some discussion of social history, although little is said about the women (wives and servants) and children who were part of this bizarre social matrix.
The four-storey Penitentiary building, while badly
damaged, still gives enough evidence of its inhospitable
purpose. The Museum, which at one time was an insane asylum,
has an excellent, if limited and eclectic, presentation of
actual social conditions of the place. There are examples of
stone carving done by convicts, an example of their uniform,
excerpts from writings by soldiers and convicts, and displays
of physical remnants.
The 'Model Prison' is a grotesquely ironic name for the building reserved for the most recalcitrant inmates. Based on the ideas of England's Pentonville Prison, punishment took the form of total silence and isolation. The building included 50 cells, two 'dark and dumb' cells for those who refused to obey, exercise yards, and even a chapel in which cubicles made it impossible for prisoners to be in contact with each other. When out of their cells, 'model prisoners' were required to wear a cap over their faces which prevented them from recognising each other.
The Commandant's House has meticulous descriptions of its restoration following its many careers. After abandonment of the site, the structure became a tourist resort, the Hotel Carnarvon; in the 1880s it apparently acquired the unusual wall murals of exotic scenes, probably completed by the Mason sisters who lived in the hotel.
William O'Brien's cottage commemorates the stay at Port Arthur of its most 'high profile' convict, the Irish political prisoner, who was only there for three months. Leader of the Irish Home Rule movement, O'Brien refused to state that he would not escape, and was consequently sent to Norfolk Island, where he indeed tried to escape. As O'Brien was a highly volatile political prisoner, the government was unable to dole out the normal treatment for him; they could not afford a martyr to the cause. The authorities simply watched his activities, placing him under a kind of house arrest. O'Brien was finally given a ticket-of-leave, whence he made his way to Brussels at the end of the 1850s; in 1856, he was finally allowed to return to Ireland.
Port Arthur's Church was central to Governor Arthur's penal system; attendance at religious services was compulsory, in the belief that moral rehabilitation of the convicts might arise (as one of the descriptive plaques points out, very few prisoners were thus reformed). The colony's church, then, was a significant edifice, able to seat as many as 1500 convicts and members of the garrison. Apparently designed by convict architect Henry Laing, the foundation stone was laid in April 1836. The remaining ruins of the church (it was burned in the 1880s) give evidence of an ambitious building campaign. Religious dissent at the prison arose when the many Catholic convicts eventually refused to attend the Anglican religious services. An embarrassed government finally succumbed and allowed a Catholic priest. The Catholic church was built in 1857.
Offshore from the main complex is the Isle of Dead where convicts and other Port Arthur figures were buried, many with elaborate tombstones. While the trip to the island is included in the entrance fee, an additional fee is charged to take a longer harbour tour. Some 1769 convicts were buried in unmarked graves, while officers and free person's graves include interesting headstones. Many of them sculpted by convicts, they include the work of Thomas Pickering, recognised by his rope-like borders and penchant for flowers and verse. The grave of Henry Savery, whose Quintus Servinton (1831) is considered Australia's first novel, is one of the anonymous graves; he committed suicide here in 1840.
Port Arthur also conducts 'ghost tours' during some
evenings. Check at the Davey Street Information Centre for
availability, or at the Port Arthur entrance gate. As you can
imagine in a place with such a desperate past, legends of
lingering ghosts abound. A display in the Commandant's House
even includes supposed photographic 'evidence' of their
From Hobart travel north on Highway 1, the Midland
Highway, to Bridgewater (19km), which for years was the main
north-south crossing of the Derwent River. The original
causeway was constructed in the 1830s by convict labour in
chains, who brought by wheelbarrow some two million tons of
stone and clay. Continuing on 8km, you will come to the twin
towns of Brighton and Pontville (population 908), situated on
the Jordan River. Named perhaps facetiously by Macquarie,
being nowhere near the sea, Brighton was at one time seriously
considered to become the colony's capital. It has always been
an important garrison town, and is still the site of the main
Tasmanian military base. When passing through Brighton, look
left to see Mount Dromedary, famed as the hideout for the
legendary 'Robin Hood' of bushrangers, Martin Cash.
Convicted as an attempted murderer, Cash arrived in the colony in 1837; he was one of the only prisoners to escape from Port Arthur (four times!) by swimming Eaglehawk Bay. As a bushranger, he was famed for his courtesy to women and the poor. After many successful years as an outlaw, Cash was caught and sentenced to death in Hobart, but ended up on Norfolk Island. When that settlement closed, he returned to Tasmania and was for years caretaker of the Government House gardens; he died on his farm in Glenorchy in 1877.
Pontville is known for its lovely Anglican church, St
Mark's, designed by James Blackburn and built 1839-41. From
the entrance there is a splendid view back to Mount
Wellington. The church graveyard contains many interesting
gravestones of the Butlers, a leading Tasmanian family.
The highway now proceeds through Mangalore and Bagdad (6km
and 8km). The proliferation of such exotic place-names,
including as well Lakes Tiberias and Jericho, has two
conceivable explanations. The more prosaic is that the early
soldiers in the region had seen service in Africa and the
Levant before arriving in Tasmania; the other, more romantic,
story is that the original surveyor Hugh Germain carried with
him into the inland the Bible and a copy of Arabian Nights,
and named sites from them.
Kempton (population 226), 19km from Brighton, was originally named Green Duckholes, and was changed to honour Anthony Fenn Kemp (1773-1867). An early settler, he built Mount Vernon, a rural property named in honour of George Washington whom he had apparently met in America. Mount Vernon was located in Melton Mowbray, 6km further north on the highway. Kempton used to have seven inns, but is now becoming an arts-and-crafts village, known now as Kempton Village. Of architectural interest here is 'Dysart House', built as a hotel in 1842, and St Mary's Church, built in 1844 and attributed to convict-architect James Blackburn.
The Lake Highway (route A5) begins at Melton Mowbray and
ends in 83km at Great Lake, a popular fishing resort which is
40km in length, one of the largest freshwater lakes in
Australia. 19km from Melton Mowbray on the A5 is Bothwell
(population 370), declared a Historic Town and filled with
remnants of its 19C past; at least 20 buildings are classified
by the National Trust. Particularly striking is the quite
formal layout of the town, indicating the civic awareness of
the founders. Tourist information: Council Offices, Alexander
Street, t 03 6259 5503.
Founded in the 1820s by Scottish settlers, Bothwell is probably not the site of the very first golf course in Australia. Still, the course, located on 'Ratho Farm' (t +61 3 6259 5553), the property of early settler Alexander Reid, is still in use and open to anyone holding membership in any golf club. Appropriately, Bothwell also houses the Australasian Golf Museum on Market Place (t 03 6259 4033; open daily Sept- May10.00-16.00, June-Aug 10.00-15); it is located in the historic sandstone school house.
Of note in Bothwell itself is St Luke's Church, on Alexander Street, one block to the right off the main street, Patrick Street. Designed by John Lee Archer, the church first held services in 1831. The sculptures over the door are believed to have been carved by convict artist Daniel Herbert. The town is also the site of Nant Cottage, home in the 1850s to John Martin and John Mitchell, famous Irish political exiles, known for their 'treasonable' political writings.
Return to route A1 and continue north. 16km further is Jericho, outside which is Spring Hill, at 488m the highest point on the Midland Highway. The next Historic Town is Oatlands (13km; population 545), so named by the peripatetic Macquarie because the region reminded him of the oat-growing country of Scotland. Established as a garrison town, it still feels like one. The town possesses the largest number of remaining sandstone buildings in all of Australia, some 138 within the town boundary, including a Court House from 1829 and a gaol building from 1835. Tourist information: 71 High Street, t +61 3 6254 1212.
Most impressive, and dominating the landscape, is a
delightful white windmill, one of only four in Australia. For
years derelict, the mill complex has been restored as the
Callington Mill Historic Site, with admirably instructive
explanatory signs. Included in the complex is a steam-driven
mill for times when there was no wind. It operated from 1846
until the early 1900s, when mass-produced flour made it
impracticable. While many historical buildings remain in the
town, most are extremely small and, in the end, uninteresting
in their sameness, even if they give a good picture of a 19C
When heading north from Oatlands to Tunbridge, look for several amusing examples of topiary that local landowner Jack Cashion created from the hawthorn bushes on his property; they have been maintained with regular trimming since his death. The landscape now becomes flatter with growing evidence of the grain crops for which the Midlands are famous.
37km from Oatlands turn off to the village of Ross (population 300). Named in 1821 by Governor Macquarie in honour of the hometown of his friend H.M. Buchanan, Ross marks the dividing line between the original northern and southern counties created in 1804 by Governor King. Described by the Irish exile Thomas Meagher, who lived here in 1849, as a 'little apology of a town', Ross remains a modest village rife in historical monuments. The region possesses a large quantity of freestone, which made it possible to complete substantial structures in a Georgian style. Tourist information: Tasmanian Wool Centre, Church Street, t 03 6381 5466.
Danish author Jorgen Jorgensen was constable here in 1833, at which time he reported the town had seven pubs, a military and a convict barracks. He was forced to resign when he accused the local magistrate of allowing the theft of materials for the new bridge being built across the river.
The most famous Scandinavian associated with Australia, Jorgen Jorgensen was described by the historian Marcus Clarke as 'one of the most interesting human comets in history'. Born in 1780, he went to sea under the British flag as a boy. In 1800 he was in Australia as part of the crew of the surveying vessel Lady Nelson, which landed in Victoria. On this ship he saw the founding of Newcastle, and the establishment of both Hobart and Launceston. In 1804 as captain of the Alexander, he was instrumental in the establishment of Tasmanian whaling. After returning to England under ever more adventurous circumstances, Jorgensen ended up in Iceland, where he proclaimed himself king for nine weeks, before the British took him into custody. He then managed to find work as a spy during the Napoleonic Wars; ultimately his penchant for gambling led him into debt, and when he pawned his landlady's furniture, he was arrested and exiled for life to Van Diemen's Land. Here he again managed to wriggle his way out of the sentence, serving instead as an explorer of the inland. After receiving a full pardon in 1835, he preferred to remain in the colony working as a journalist and writer, until his death in 1841.
is this same disputed bridge which today is the best known and
most striking architectural feature of the village, and probably
the most well-known monument in Tasmania. Built in 1836, the
bridge was designed by Colonial Architect John Lee Archer, but
its fame rests on the work of the stonemasons who actually
constructed it. They were two convicts, Daniel Herbert,
convicted as a highwayman in 1827, and James Colbeck, a thief.
Consisting of three symmetrical arches, the bridge has
attractively proportioned stone staircases on either side
leading down to the river, with chain-linked stone pillars
leading to the bridge on each side of the road. In the arches of
and underneath the bridge, Herbert carved Celtic symbols along
with images of royalty, heads of animals and indecipherable
inscriptions; in all, there are 186 panels decorating the
arches. For this work he received a full pardon; his headstone,
carved by himself, marks his grave in the town's old burial
ground. The house where Herbert is believed to have lived still
stands in the village on Badajos Street.
The centre of the village, at the intersection of Bridge
and Church Streets, is affectionately known as the Four
Corners. Each corner caters to one of humankind's needs: on
the southwest, Temptation: the Man-O-Ross Hotel, established
in 1835; the southeast, Salvation: the Roman Catholic Church,
originally a store; the northwest, Recreation, in the form of
the Town Hall; and the northeast, Damnation, the site of the
original gaol, now an elegant colonial home of the Council
The entire length of Church Street, essentially the only street in town, consists of buildings of historic interest. These include the Scotch Thistle Inn, built in 1844 as a public house and now a well-known restaurant, and St John's Church of England, built in 1868 from the stones of the original 1848 church. The interior of the church is well known for its stained-glass windows, oak lectern, stone pulpit, and hundred-year-old organ.
To the north of the Four Corners on Church Street is the Uniting Church, built as a Methodist church in 1885. With pews of blackwood and a ribbed pine ceiling, the church contains a modern tapestry designed by Australian artist John Coburn, which was woven in France.
Walking up the hill to the right of the church and across the street, you can see the foundation stones of one of the two female factories in the state. Here women convicts did sewing and laundry for the town, and were allowed nurseries for their children. A gate leads across the railway to the cemeteries, including the original burial ground where Daniel Herbert and other pioneers are buried.
Return to the highway and continue north 10km to Campbell Town (population 879), an attractive town on the Elizabeth River. Another example of Governor Macquarie's orgy of self-commemoration, the town was named for his wife. The main street is the highway and is here called Bridge Street. Most of the town's major buildings are located along it. Originally another garrison station, the area soon became more important for its agricultural and wool productivity. Each June Campbell Town hosts Australia's longest-running agricultural show, initiated in 1838. The town also has a convict-built bridge, this one of red brick and built in 1836. (Tourist information: 105 High Street, t 03 6381 1353.)
Important buildings include St Luke's church, on the corner of Pedder Street, designed by John Lee Archer in 1837; the church's cemetery includes the graves of many early prominent citizens of the area. In the block between William and Queen Streets is The Grange, built in the 1840s for Dr William Valentine, a doctor and scientist who even installed an observatory in the house. It now offers tourist accommodation.
Further along on the corner of the High Street is St Andrew's Presbyterian Church. Built in 1857 and considered to be one of the best churches of this period in Australia, the interior includes an organ and desk that belonged to Bishop Nixon, first Anglican Bishop of Tasmania.
Before leaving town, you will notice on the left in a small park an odd little memorial to Harold Gatty, native son, who with American Wiley Post first circumnavigated the world by plane in 1931. After leaving Campbell Town, you enter the region known as the Norfolk Plains, covering some 5830 sq km of pastoral land. It takes its name from some of the original settlers who came in 1807 from Norfolk Island where their attempts to establish a viable free settlement had failed.
Passing through evidence of their successful agricultural
efforts for 48km, you then turn left on C521 to Longford
(c 8km; population 2027). Originally named Latour by a member
of the Cressy Establishment, a land syndicate that purchased
massive tracts here in the 1820s, Longford's history is tied
to that of some of the most prominent pastoral families in
Tasmania. The many estates in the district, built by
pioneering members of these families, bear witness to the
agricultural prosperity made possible by the area's rich soil
and successful stock-breeding. Tourist information: Council
Offices, Smith Street, t (03) 6397 7303.
Longford has been classified an Historic Town, and here you will find a succession of interesting architectural sites, most dating from after the founding of the township in 1827. Of special note is Christ Church, erected of sandstone between 1839 and 1844. The bell and clock were supposedly donated to the earlier church on this site by King George IV. The church's cemetery contains the vaults of the Archer, Reibey and Brumby families. Special mention should be made of the vault of James Brumby, who died in 1838, for he supposedly lent his name to an Australian legend, the wild horses of the high country. The story goes that when James left New South Wales for Van Diemen's Land, he could not round up his horses and they 'went bush'. When people asked who owned the wild horses, the answer was 'they are Brumby's'. Some experts are sceptical of this derivation and provide other possible sources, but it makes a good local story.
8km southeast of Longford on the banks of the Macquarie
River, just past Point Road on your right is Woolmer's
(t 03 6391 2230, accommodations and open daily
10.00-16.30, 45 minute guided tours daily at 10.00, 11.15,
12.30, 14.00, 15.30 $0 adult, $7 child, $45 family, self-guided tours adults $14,
family $32, both sorts start at the Store and Office), the
estate of Thomas Archer (1790-1850), one of four brothers who
would prosper in the area. Thomas Archer came to Launceston in
1813, and by 1818 began this estate, named after a place in
Hertfordshire. One of the least altered historic houses today,
Woolmer's is still in the hands of Archer's descendants, who
conduct tours of the residence. The original part of the house
comprises two wings at the rear which form a courtyard. After
Archer retired to the estate in 1821, he began extensive
additions, including the Italianate front, completed in the
1840s. The dining room, 'redecorated' in 1859, remains in its
original condition; many original artefacts and paintings,
including works by Salvator Rosa, are also in situ. Equally
impressive are the extensive number of outbuildings on the
complex outside the high wall surrounding the main house. At
one time, the estate supported fifty families, so several
cottages, stables, coach-houses and workman's quarters were
necessary. The coachhouse still houses the Archers' original
1913 Wolseley car.
The gardens contain many of the plants Archer imported in the 1820s. The hawthorn hedgerows along Woolmers Lane are also authentic, and are listed on the Register of Significant Trees.
Another Archer property, Brickendon (t +61 3 6391 1383; open daily Oct - mid-May 9.30-17.00, mid-May - Sept. 9.30-16.00, animal feeding starts at 10.15, accomodation available), on Woolmers Lane 2km from Longford town centre on route C520, is also part of the Archer Family Guided Tour. Built by Thomas's brother William in 1823, the farm complex still contains the area's earliest brick cottage in which he lived while building the estate. Now a museum and working farm(!), the bricks were made on the property and timber was hand-split by convict labour. On view now are the blacksmith's shop, shearing shed, and cookhouse, as well as 6 ha of gardens planted with imported species in the 1830s.
3km northwest of Longford Township is Perth, so-named by Governor Macquarie on his visit in 1821. Macquarie stayed there with early settler David Gibson, a native of Perth in Scotland, hence his choice of name. Here was located a dock for the punt-crossing of the river before a bridge was built in 1839. The bridge was washed away in the 1929 floods. A walking tour brochure is available at the Longford Information Centre. An intriguing structure along the tour is the Baptist Tabernacle on Clarence Street. Erected in 1889 by William Gibson, its unusual octagonal shape and the vaguely Indian architectural elements perhaps reflect the fact that Gibson had travelled extensively in the East.
Now travel east, cross Highway 1 and into Evandale (13km;
population 850). Named after explorer and Deputy Surveyor
George William Evans (1780-1852), the village of Evandale is
obviously conscious of and nurtures its historic sites.
Several of the earliest structures still exist as tea-rooms,
bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants. The village was not
incorporated until 1866, but settlement dates from 1809; it
has been an agricultural centre since 1811.
A township named Morven by Governor Macquarie was laid out 3km to the southeast. When a scheme was initiated to build a water tunnel from the South Esk River to Launceston, it developed instead at its present site. The Information Centre, housed in the community's original circulating library on High Street (t 03 6391 8128), provides walking tours, a family history library and local history books of all kinds. The history of the town was written by a Karl von Stieglitz, one of the few German names prominently evident in Tasmanian history. Of architectural note are the two St Andrew's churches, across the street from each other on High Street. St Andrew's Church of England, in Gothic style, was built in 1879 to replace an earlier structure of 1841. It contains a bishop's chair made of timbers from Australia's first warship, HMS Nelson. St Andrew's Uniting Church across the street, is a fine early example of Greek Revival architecture, and was built 1839-41 through the efforts of Reverend Robert Russell, the first Presbyterian minister to the district. His grave in the churchyard is marked by an impressive memorial.
Also on High Street on the way to Launceston is the town's unused 'landmark', a Gothic water tower erected in 1896. While no longer in use, it features in logos for the town and is floodlit at night as their 'ruin'. Other historical buildings include, next to the information centre, Solomon House, built in 1836 by merchant Joseph Solomon, whose son would be Tasmanian Premier from 1912 to 1914; it is now a bed and breakfast and tea room. Also on High Street is 'Blenheim' (c 1832), originally Patriot King William IV Hotel, an excellent example of hotel architecture of the period.
Evandale is the site of the annual Penny-Farthing Cycle Races, held the last weekend of February. They now attract thousands of participants and spectators, and include a race down the runway of the Launceston airport, which lies immediately out of town.
Outside Evandale to the south on Nile Road (route C416) c 10km is Clarendon (t 03 6398 6220; open daily 10.00-16.00), now preserved by the National Trust. The Red Line bus from Hobart will stop near here. One of the finest Georgian houses in Australia, Clarendon was built in 1838 as the home of James Cox (1790-1866).
William Cox and the history of Clarendon
Cox was the son of William Cox, the engineer who was a member of the first party to cross the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. After schooling in England, James arrived in Sydney in 1804, and settled in Tasmania in 1814; he was granted 700 acres in 1817. By 1819 he managed to acquire the 6000 acres that would become Clarendon; eventually his estate comprised some 20,000 acres (8000 ha). Cox was instrumental in establishing Merino sheep in Tasmania, bringing Merino stud first from James Macarthur's flock in Camden, New South Wales, and then importing them from England and the Continent. He also established cattle breeding and bred a renowned stable of thoroughbred horses, having imported the stallion Hadji Baba.
Cox became involved in politics, eventually representing his district in the first elective House of Assembly in 1856. He lived the life of an English squire, even establishing the Clarendon Hunt and a deer park, and the village of Lymington nearby (now Nile). The fortune amassed from these activities, and from his work as a merchant in Launceston, enabled Cox to commence work on this estate, completed at a cost of some ú30,000. The house remained in family hands until 1917 (James Cox had 19 children by two wives); it was finally donated to the National Trust in 1962 by the owners, W.R. Menzies.
While the architect is not known, it is possible that the
plans for Clarendon were purchased from England. The builder
was John Richards who worked with convict labour, taking eight
years to complete this impressive mansion. Its spacious
proportions are most impressive, with a high-columned Ionic
portico and large windows, reminiscent, perhaps not
coincidentally given the fact that they were built at the same
time, of the antebellum plantations of the American South.
There are six rooms on the ground floor and ten on the first,
with a kitchen and seven other rooms in the basement. A
connecting service wing included a dairy, bakehouse,
butcher's, laundry and store-rooms. The stables and barns are
still in the process of restoration, but the nine-acre grounds
have been restored to evoke garden settings of the 1840s.
The house was in need of serious repair when turned over to the National Trust; in fact, it was sinking into the alluvial soil. As 'before and after' photographs reveal, the basement had been filled in and the front portico had been bricked over. Restoration continues, and displays of the work in progress are included in the house. Artefacts of the period have been donated in generous numbers, so that every room appears as it would have in the period. Of special interest are two beautiful period clocks which still chime on the quarter hour. Despite its rather isolated location, it is one of the only public sites that does not include a kiosk or tea room (although tea and biscuits can be purchased by placing money in a tin in the kitchen, an indication of an endearing Australian approach!).
From Evandale you can join the road leading to the entrance to Ben Lomond National Park (t 03 6777 2179), some 50km east of Launceston and only 30 minutes from Evandale. Ben Lomond is the premier ski resort in Tasmania, located amidst the 16,450 ha of the park. Legges Tor at 1572m is the park's highest peak. The park consists of glacial boulders and moorland and alpine flora and fauna. In warmer seasons, the area is ideal for bushwalks, with abundant examples of cold-weather eucalypts, wildflowers, and birdlife.
Now return to Evandale and proceed 20km on Highway 1 to Launceston. The second largest city in Tasmania (population 94,000) and the third oldest city in Australia, Launceston (pronounced LON-sess-ton) lies on the confluence of the Tamar, North and South Esk Rivers. Accessible by air from Melbourne, with possible stops on Flinders or King Island, or from Hobart, most visitors will be motoring from Hobart or the ferry stop at Devonport. The Red Line buses depart from the top of George Street for northern and western towns.
Launceston's history dates from the discovery of the Tamar River by Flinders and Bass on their 1798 circumnavigation of Van Diemen's Land. They named the harbour at the mouth of the river Port Dalrymple in honour of the Admiralty Hydrographer. Settlement did not begin until Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson was dispatched by Governor King in 1804 with the express purpose of securing the northern part of the island for British settlement. First settling in George Town, Paterson moved to the town's present site in 1806. It was first called Patersonia, but by 1807 the name had changed to Launceston, in honour of Governor King's hometown. By 1824, when it was officially proclaimed a township, it had consolidated as the second city of the island, beginning a long-standing rivalry with Hobart to the south.
Launceston became a centre for anti-transportation efforts in the 1840s, and its non-conformist tradition still sets it apart from Hobart. Ironically, one of Launceston's greatest claims to fame is as the birthplace of Melbourne. John Batman (1801-39) left from Launceston in the scoop Rebecca in May 1835 to explore the area which would become the Victorian capital. Melbourne's other founder, John Pascoe Fawkner, moved here in 1819 and established the newspaper the Launceston Advertiser in 1829 before sailing for Port Phillip in 1835. Famous novelist Katharine Susannah Prichard lived here as a child in the 1880s when her father was editor of the town's Daily Telegraph. She wrote of her time in the town in The Wild Oats of Han (1928). Today the centre of Launceston is filled with late Victorian buildings, most dating from 1880-1900.
The most impressive aspect of Launceston is a
natural attraction-the spectacular Cataract Gorge and Cliff
Grounds. Only a 15-minute walk from the centre of
Launceston, the gorge was described by its discoverer, William
Collins in 1804, as a 'strange gully between perpendicular
rocks about 15 feet high. The beauty of the scene is probably
unsurpassed in the world'. The result of its unusual geology,
the area has been successfully incorporated into the town's
civic landscape. In typical Australian fashion, several walks
for all levels of fitness have been created throughout the
grounds, and a detailed brochure with maps, including walking
time and grade, is available at the Visitor
Information Centre. Tasmanian Chairlifts ((t
03) 6331 5915, adults $12 or $15 return, concession $10
or $12 return, children $8 or $10 return, 3 years and under
free, starts at 9.00 until 16.30 in winter, 17.00 in spring
and autumn, 17.30 or 18.00)) also runs a chairlift ride across
the gorge every day, weather permitting.
To walk to the gorge from the Information Centre (68-72 Cameron Street near St. John Street, t +61 1800 651 827, 9.00 - 17.00), in town, turn right from St John Street into Paterson Street and proceed west until Paterson Street becomes Bridge Road. Here the Cataract Gorge Reserve begins at Kings Park. Kings Bridge spans the gorge. This graceful open girder iron bridge was built in two sections, the earlier in 1863 designed by W.T. Doyne. Other attractions in the park, aside from the famed Zig Zag Walk to the gorge's First Basin, are the Penny Royal Watermill, erected in 1825 and now containing displays of a gunpowder mill and cannon foundry. The Richies Mill Art Centre is near the landing dock of the paddle steamer Lady Stelfox which makes daily cruises up the gorge.
An easy walk from the Information Centre on St John Street
leads around the corner east to George Street where the
National Trust runs the old Umbrella
Shop (t 03 6331 9248; open Mon-Fri 09.00-17.00, Sat
09.00-12.00) on the original premises of a real umbrella shop
and factory, opened in the 1860s by the Shott Family. It is
lined with beautiful Tasmanian blackwood and retains the
shop's original fittings. Further down George Street, turn
east on Cameron Street to find City Park, site of the original
Government House grounds which were laid out in 1820. The
elegant iron entrance gates were added in 1903. Inside the
park are the Tasmanian
Design Centre (t 03 6331 5506; Mon-Fri 10.00-16.00),
supporting local crafts with excellent examples of the
island's woodwork; Albert Hall, containing a unique
water-powered organ in a High Victorian exhibition building;
and the John Hart Conservatory presenting a variety of ferns
and flowers, as well as a monkey island with Japanese
From the Elizabeth Street car park back in town, turn right on Elizabeth Street and walk to St. John Street (50m); on the corner to the left is St John's Church. Commissioned by Governor Arthur in 1824, the church's foundation stone was laid by him in January 1825. Legend has it that the original plans, designed by David Lambe, were for a church as large as that in Hobart, but that Governor Arthur demanded that it be made smaller. The clock tower was added in 1830, and further additions made by architect Arthur North in 1901-11. The interior of the church contains some amusing carvings which depict Tasmanian animals and plants amidst biblical emblems and coats of arms. These were apparently designed by the architect North himself and carried out by Hugh Cunningham and Gordon Cumming. Note especially the choir stalls which include figures of four pairs of possums.
Turn left into St John Street and enter Prince's Square at the next corner, on Frederick Street. Originally a brick field, it became a military parade ground in the 1840s, and by 1859 was established as a public park designed by Thomas Wade. The square includes a fountain, commemorating the first water supply; the fountain was purchased at the Great Paris Exhibition of 1889.
Continue east on Frederick Street; opposite is Chalmers Church, named for Sir Thomas Chalmers and opened in 1860. A good example of Gothic Revival, it now houses the Launceston Players Theatre. Further down in the same block is Milton Hall. Built in 1842, this simple brick building with Doric portico was originally St John's Square Independent Chapel, the pastorate of noted historian and newspaperman, the Reverend John West. West preached vehemently against transportation and wrote the first account of The History of Tasmania (1852). He was instrumental in the establishment of The Examiner, Tasmania's oldest newspaper, the Mechanics' Institute, and the City Mission. (The City Mission Chapel, built in 1862, still stands at 46 Frederick Street.) In 1854 West left to become editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.
The main Post Office is on the corner of St John and Cameron Streets. As in all other Australian cities, distances between towns are measured from the post office, which perhaps explains the grandiose scale of their construction and the ubiquitous presence of a tall clock tower. Launceston is no exception. The building was completed in 1889 without a tower, but public demand led to its addition in 1909, after which time it did indeed dominate the skyline.
On Civic Square, bordered by St John, Paterson, Charles
and Cimitiere Streets, is Macquarie House, built in 1830 as a
warehouse for early merchant Henry Reed. It now houses the
local history collection of the Queen Victoria Museum.
From Civic Square, exit west on to Charles Street. The block of Cameron Street between Charles and Wellington Streets is one of the town's oldest, with a remarkably well-preserved 19C streetscape. The buildings include several impressive flour-mills and warehouses, evidence of early river trade nearby, as well as the Batman Fawkner Hotel, no. 37. The present hotel is late Victorian, but remnants of the original 1823 building on this site have been preserved at the rear. The original name was the Cornwall Hotel, Fawkner having built it shortly after starting the Launceston Advertiser. Also of interest on Charles Street is Staffordshire House at no. 56, originally Fergusson's Warehouse. A rare example in Australia of a Regency style building, it was built in 1833 for James Cox, founder of the Clarendon estate.
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (t 03 6323 3777; open daily 10.00-16.00, free admission) is on Wellington and Patterson Streets in Royal Park. Parking near the museum is nearly impossible, and you must cross busy intersections to reach it, but it is worth the effort. As a museum and gallery for such a small community, the institution is admirably well organised and intent on educational display. Opened in 1891 in honour of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, exhibits are varied, ranging from a complete Chinese Joss House (with an interesting history of the Chinese presence in Tasmania from the time of the gold rush to the present) to artefacts of convict life, and displays of Tasmanian flora and fauna. Tucked away in one dark corner is a fascinating glass case containing the hummingbird collection of the famous naturalist John Gould. The upper galleries are devoted to Australian art, including decorative arts and crafts. The gallery of colonial art, while not as extensive as that in Hobart, contains some important examples by John Glover, Thomas Bock, and William Piguenit.
50km north of Launceston on the Tamar Highway (A8) is George Town (population 5310). Considered by many to be the oldest town in Australia (as distinct from the oldest city), the area was indeed visited by Bass and Flinders in 1798, when it was named Port Dalrymple. Renamed George Town five years later by Colonel William Paterson, it no doubt would have remained the chief northern city if it had a reliable water supply. For this reason, and other more elaborate political intrigues involving Governor Macquarie and Inspector Bigge, the capital was moved to Launceston, up the Tamar River, in 1825.
Because of its age, and its importance as a port in the 1830s and 1840s, George Town today still possesses several historical sites and buildings of interest. Entering the town on route A8, the Information Centre at the far east side of town on Main Rd. The Old Watchhouse is at the corner of Macquarie and Sorell Streets (t +61 3 6382 4466); built in 1843, it used to be the gaol and is now a folk museum.
Walking up Macquarie Street, you come to Anne Street; turn left to St Mary Magdalene Anglican Church. Built in 1883 as the third church on this site, the graveyard contains interesting gravestones of early settlers. Further up Macquarie Street you find several early residences; at Windmill Point is a monument to William Paterson, founder of the town in 1804. Continuing the walk, turn right at Cimitiere Street, to no. 25, 'The Grove'. Situated in an excellent Old World garden, 'The Grove' was built c 1827 for the Port Officer, Matthew Curling Friend. It is a good example of a Georgian building, with Tuscan portico and columns.
6km south of Launceston on the road back to Hobart is Franklin House in Franklin Village (t 03 6344 6233; check for hours, Mon-Sat 09.00-16.00, Sun 12.00-16.00, $10). It is most easily reached by driving east on Bass Highway until this becomes Normanstone Road at an intersection known as Six Ways; here turn left on to Hobart Road, drive through the suburb of Kings Meadow, and in the village of Franklin, the house is on the left.
The first house owned by the National Trust in
Tasmania, Franklin House was, like Clarendon, built in 1838.
Not nearly as grandiose in scale or pretension, Franklin House
was built on speculation by brewer and innkeeper Britton Jones
on 4 ha across the road from the inn. Jones stated in his
initial advertisement for the sale of the property that the
house has 'all the appurtenances fit for the reception of a
respectable family and are finished without regard to
expenses, by the proprietor in a manner not to be surpassed in
First owned by George Horne, a keen gardener, its grounds were well established when it was purchased by William Keeler Hawkes (1804-82) in 1842. Hawkes, with his wife and three spinster sisters, arrived in Launceston in April of that year, with the intention of establishing a school. This house served for some 40 years as a boarding school, and became the leading educational institution of the colony. A strict disciplinarian, Hawkes was, in keeping with his time, free with the stick. In 40 years of teaching, according to guides at the house, he only caused the death of one student!
After Hawkes's death (he and his family are buried in the cemetery of St James's Church across the street) the house passed through several hands until it was purchased by the National Trust in 1960. At that time it was renamed Franklin House; the house has no direct connection to Sir John and Lady Jane Franklin (although two rosewood chairs in the dining room supposedly belonged to her).
The informative brochure available at the house gives an
elaborate explanation for the choice of furnishings used in
the presently restored building. It is argued that, although
officially built during Victoria's reign, the house itself is
actually Late Georgian, probably built from English plans, and
that furniture from earlier eras would be more readily
available in the colonies; thus, the furniture selected for
display is period rather than Victorian. Some rare early
Tasmanian pieces are included, as well as several fine
examples of English furniture and clockwork.
Great care has been taken in preserving the original fittings and surfaces. Of particular note are the floors and other wooden fittings of Australian cedar which Jones had imported from New South Wales. This wood was so sought after as one of the best native hardwoods that today no substantive cedar forests survive. Plantation grown cedar, heritage conservators mention, is lighter because it is harvested at a young age. The upstairs reception room is especially noteworthy, and includes the original floor-to-ceiling room partitions which were found languishing in the stables. Another interesting piece is the 18C Welsh bacon cupboard in the kitchen, made of oak and containing the original meat hooks at the back. To the side of the original house is the schoolroom added by Hawkes in 1842.
Hobart to RichmondAn alternative route from Hobart north to Oatlands (see p 432) includes several sites of historical interest. These sites will be included on several of the coach day-tours to the area; check with the Hobart Visitor's Centre for a variety of tour options. If travelling by car, leave Hobart heading north on Highway 1 c 6km to Goodwood Road/Bowen Bridge (route B35); proceed right across the bridge and immediately turn right on to route C324 towards Risdon Vale; at this juncture is the Risdon Cove Historic Site, the location of Tasmania's first settlement in 1803. A visitor's centre contains interesting relics and displays. Ironically, Risdon is also the site of Tasmania's only current prison, a pink Victorian structure that you can see from the Historic Site. Risdon Cove itself is now Aboriginal land, having been returned recently to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. The site will be used for Aboriginal cultural events, and may on occasion be closed to the public. The Aboriginal community are preparing plans for the future use of the site; t 03 6243 8606 for details.
Return to route C324 and continue north 12km to the town of Richmond (population 587). Richmond is a charming town, laid back, with a mucky little river, imbued with the Tasmanian desire to emulate an English village. Until 1872, when the Sorell Causeway connected Hobart and Port Arthur directly, Richmond was the major crossroads en route to the Tasman Peninsula. Since then, it has become a sleepy rural village, and now a tourist destination, with many substantial buildings dating from the 1830s and 1840s.
At present, Prospect House is closed and for sale. A heritage accommodation property, it was built in the 1830s by James Buscombe, a local innkeeper who was responsible for several of the other Georgian-style buildings in the town.
Turn right on to Henry Street, site of the Richmond Hotel, then left into Torrens Street. Here is an old sandstone school designed by John Lee Archer in 1834, and the old Congregational burial ground with many gravestones from the last century. Further along the same street, at no. 26, is St Luke's Anglican Church, another of Archer's designs from 1834. Built of local sandstone, the church has a square, three-level tower with a clock; made in England in 1828, it was in Hobart's St David's before being brought here in 1922.
The bridge across the Coal River at Richmond is Australia's oldest existing bridge. Completed in 1823 using convict labour, it spans 41.5 metres. Much of its charm springs from its irregularity; the arches are not uniform and one span humps at the corner.
St John's Church, on St John's Circle, is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Australia. The foundation stone was laid in August 1835. Designed by convict architect Frederick Thomas, the nave was built in 1836, the rest in 1839, and the spire in the 1900s. It is famed for its polished brown wood ceilings.
Richmond Gaol (t 03 6260 2127; open daily 09.00-17.00; adults $9, $4, family $22) predates Port Arthur, having been built in 1825 to house both local convicts and convict road gangs. The complex is nearly intact and unaltered. While the earliest elements, the original gaol and gaoler's house, were probably designed by Colonial Architect David Lambe, the additional wings were added by John Lee Archer.
Evidence of Richmond's early prominence is the complex of public buildings, including municipal buildings, court house, watch house and hall situated near the gaol, and a number of fine inns and hotels dating from the early days of settlement. In about 1832 James Buscombe built a group of buildings at 36-8 Bridge Street, now the Old Store and Granary Group. The plethora of granaries and mills in the region indicate the significance of wheat production to its economy in the 19C. Oaklodge, at 18 Bridge Street (t 03 6260 4153, daily 11.30-15.30), is looked after by the Coal River History Society. It features the office of the local doctor, Bill Clark, resident here in the early 20thc. Richmond Golf Club (t 03 6248 5450; visitor welcome, hire clubs available; par 66) is a challenging nine-hole course with spectacular water views over Barilla Bay, Pittwater and Midway Point. The course is just west of town, on Middle Tea Tree Road off of Richmond Road.
Leave Richmond via route B31 north towards Campania (6km),
then proceed 40km to connect at Jericho with the Midland
The Islands north of
Several islands lie off Tasmania to the north in the Bass Strait, the largest being Flinders, Cape Barren, and King Islands. Flinders and King Islands are accessible using Sharp Airlines (1 300 55 6694). Cape Barren Island is a short boat trip from Flinders Island. All three are known for their birding and golf courses. King Island cheese is renowned.
The Bass Highway from Launceston to Devonport and along the northwest coastFrom Launceston, head south and connect with Bass Highway (Highway 1) to travel west. Pass through Hadspen and turn left onto route B52 to arrive in 18km at Entally House which functions as a lodge and restaurant but is also open as an historic house. The House (t 03 6393 6201; open Thurs.-Mon. 10.00-16.00, closed May-Aug., $10; the Launceston city bus from Patterson Street has a stop near the house) was built in 1819 for Thomas Haydock Reibey, son of Thomas and Mary Reibey. Involved in family shipping interests, Reibey arrived in Tasmania in 1816 and received a 2600-acre (1052 ha) land grant where he built this house in 1819, named after the family home in Sydney, which had itself been named in honour of a Calcutta suburb. The house and its immediate surrounds reflect his character as an outdoorsman devoted to horses and hounds. Reibey's son Thomas (1821-1912) would become Archdeacon of Launceston and in 1876, premier of Tasmania: an extraordinary example of Australian achievement, given Mary Reibey's convict origins.
Return to Bass Highway and continue west through Carrick
and Hagley (site of a famous experimental school) and
Westbury, another Historic Town.
49km from Launceston, at the junction of Bass and Lake Highways, is Deloraine (population 2100). Astride the Meander River in a valley dominated by Quamby Bluff, Deloraine was considered in the 1950s by Emmett to be the prettiest inland town in Tasmania. The town derived its name from its surveyor Thomas Scott, who was inspired by his kinsman Sir Walter Scott's The Lay of the Last Minstrel, in which Sir William Deloraine seeks the hand of the Lady of Branksome Hall. In 1856, it was surveyed to become the terminus for the first railway line from Launceston; the line was not completed until 1871, and was always a source of great political debate. Entering town from the Bass Highway, on the right at 98 Emu Bay Road is the Folk Museum (t +61 3 6362 5280, daily 9.00-17.00, admission adults $8, children $6, groups $5 each, families $18), originally the Coaching Inn, 1865; it houses local memorabilia and agricultural artefacts and acts as the area's visitor centre. Continue south, turn left (west) on West Parade. On the left is Bonney's Inn; established in 1831, it is the first brick building and inn in Deloraine. The Deloraine Racecourse is the oldest continuously used track in Australia; it may still hold an annual steeplechase around Easter.
Continue now north on Bass Highway 50km to Devonport (population 22,700). This far northwestern tip of the island is extremely well-watered and heavily timbered in its interior. The wetter areas on the west-facing slopes are dominated by myrtle and sassafras with stringybark and peppermint eucalypts above 600m and gum-topped stringy barks below this line. Where the soil is relatively infertile, scrub and heath plants prevail. The better soils are eroded tertiary basalt flows from the north-south-running Dundas Trough and Pre-Cambrian sedimentary deposits from the coast to the Donaldson River. Tourist information: 92 Formby Road; t 03 6424 4466; 7.30-11.30.
After agriculture, timber and mining are the prevalent industries in this region. The production of decorative timbers is increasingly replacing the more destructive practices of the recent past. Numerous joineries and furniture manufacturers have showrooms in Burnie, Ulverstone and Devonport, among other locations.
Emmett's comments on Tasmania's northern coastline made during his walking tour of the island in the 1950s still apply:
If I attempted to write of each town of the rich northwest that I passed through or stayed at, I should be risking tedium for the reader, for they are, in a sense, made of the same last; though I wish to make it plain that the journey is through perhaps the very sweetest farming country in the whole of Australia.
Devonport is the landing point of the ferry from
Melbourne; those arriving in Tasmania by ferry will indeed
want to follow this route in reverse order to Launceston. The
Devonport Airport, 4km east of town, has regular flights
arriving from Melbourne. Located on the Mersey River (called
in the 1820s the 'Second Western River'), Devonport is named
after the English county. It was originally founded in the
1840s as two towns, Formby on the west bank of the river and
Torquay on the east.
Of special interest here is Tiagarra (t 03 6424 8250; contact them for a tour, they hope to be open routinely soon), the Tasmanian Aboriginal Culture and Art Centre. The centre's displays describe the life of Tasmanian Aborigines prior to European contact. A map of the locations of adjacent rock art sites allows you to view Aboriginal carvings in rocks of the Bluff. The centre is located on the north edge of town at the top of William Street.
Devonport was also the home of Sir Joseph and Dame Enid Lyons; their residence 'Home Hill', 77 Middle Road (t +61 3 6424 8055; tours at 14.00 Wed.-Sun., admission adults $15, concession $12, children $10, families), is now open to the public. Joseph Lyons (1879-1939) became in 1931 Australia's only Tasmanian-born Prime Minister. His wife Enid Lyons (1897-1981), became the first woman to hold Federal Cabinet rank, while also raising ten children.
From Devonport head west on Bass Highway 12km to
Ulverstone (population 14,000); from here turn on to the Old
Bass Highway for a scenic drive along the rugged coastline to
Penguin (population 3000), a further 12km. Along with the
roadside Giant Penguin, Penguin abounds in penguin symbols,
honouring the Fairy Penguins that come ashore nearby. Several
walking tracks along the cliffs are well posted for visitors;
maps of the tracks are available from Penguin Council
Chambers, Main Street, (9.30-5.30). Ask about the nearby
limestone caves which are South of Ulverstone on road B17
Plains (for a tour call 03 6429 1388 or email
A note about your new friends the ferry penguins is
probably in keeping. These are wonderfully cute but very
shy wild animals. Please don't bother them. If
they are disturbed they sometimes can not breed or fail to
feed their young. Do not walk among them as this will
almost surely both damage their burrows and frighten
them. If you are using a flashlight, cover the light
with a bit of red cellophane. Do not use a flash when
taking photographs. Try not to be silhouetted above the
dunes -- they seem to think that you are something coming to
From Penguin travel west along the coastal drive 15km to Burnie (population 21,000), the largest town in the northwest of the state. Founded on the deep water port of Emu Bay, Burnie was named in 1841 after William Burnie, a director of the Van Diemen's Land Company. Now an important industrial centre, it is the home of the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills and Lactos Cheese. Tourist information centre: Little Alexander Street, t 03 6430 5831.
On entering town, turn right on Alexander Street. Turn left on Jones Street to Burnie Regional Museum (t 03 6430 5746; open weekdays 10.00-16.30; admission adults $6.50, concession $5.00, children $2.50, families $15), a reconstruction of Burnie's early buildings and shops. Further along Alexander Street, at Wilmot Street is the Burnie Regional Art Gallery (t 03 6430 5875; open weekdays 10.00-16.30, weekends 13.30-16.30; free admission), housing a small collection and occasional travelling exhibitions. Continue north on Alexander Street, turn left at North Terrace. Burnie Park will be on the left at York Street. The park includes extensive rose gardens and Burnie Inn, the town's oldest building, re-erected and restored in the park in 1973.
Continue west on North Terrace, which becomes Bass
Highway. At Somerset (7km), route A10 continues south to
Tullah and Queenstown. Further west (9km) on route A1 is
Wynyard (population 4582). Located on the Inglis River,
Wynyard was once the principal port of the northwest; its
airport has daily flights to Melbourne. It is now the centre
of a prosperous farming region, with beautiful gardens and
interesting natural surroundings.
7km north of town on route C234 is Fossil Bluff, a fascinating geographical formation and for a time the site of the discovery of the oldest marsupial fossil. Continue west on route C234 to Table Cape, a volcanic rock some 170 metres above the sea, offering stunning coastal views. Return to Bass Highway and proceed 31km west to Rocky Cape National Park (t 03 6458 1480). The cape itself was named by Bass and Flinders who first saw it in 1798. The park consists of 3000 ha of heathland, with several walking trails, a bird sanctuary, and rich Aboriginal sites, in particular a shell midden in the north cave. You can also see from the lighthouse point at the end of the cape the first view of 'The Nut', the famed volcanic plug at Stanley.
Return to the Bass Highway and continue west 26km; turn north on to route B21 and travel 7km to Stanley (population 588). Just before entering the town, turn left into the Scenic Drive, Dove Cote Road and follow signs to 'Highfield' (t 03 6458 1100; open daily 10.00-17.00 Oct-Apr, 10.00-16.00 May-July), the original homestead of the director of the Van Diemen's Land Company. Designed in 1832 by surveyor Henry Hellyer, the house and grounds have now been restored. Alternately, from within Stanley take Greenhills Road, the coastal road, north along Godfrey's Beach.
Drive into town to the north. Dominated by the volcanic plug 'Circular Head', more popularly known as 'The Nut', this small village was settled in 1825 as the headquarters for Van Diemen's Land Company. Recently declared a Historic Town, Stanley has several interesting early structures, including on Alexander Terrace the birthplace of Joseph Lyons, the only Tasmanian Prime Minister, and several houses built by the ubiquitous colonial architect John Lee Archer, who died here in 1852. Alexander Terrace includes several other historic houses and inns. Archer's own home, known as 'Poet's Cottage', sits at the base of The Nut. The Stanley Burial Ground on Browns Road contains Archer's own grave and headstone. On Church Street visit the Plough Inn, restored as a craft centre; next door is the Discovery Centre, now a folk-museum and gallery (t 03 6458 1145; open daily 10.00-16.00, closed June-Aug). Entering The Nut Reserve, you can take a chairlift to the top for a breathtaking, if windswept, panoramic view. Stanley is the site of the Circular Head Arts Festival, held every September. Of note, the first submarine telephone cable from the mainland at Apollo Bay came ashore at Stanley in 1936.
The Bass Highway continues 22km west to Smithton
(population 3495), the administrative centre of the far
northwest in a rich forestry area. The highway ends a further
51km west at Marrawah, the most westerly town in Tasmania.
Author Bernard Cronin ran cattle here at the beginning of the
century; the isolated region is well described in his five
novels, including The Coastlanders (1918) and Timber
Wolves (1920), referring to the hardwood forests so
prized here. This area marks the beginning of the densely
forested regions of Tasmania's western coast.
Swansea (population 400) is the centre of Glamorgan, the oldest rural municipality in Australia. The town includes the Glamorgan Spring Bay Historical Society (t 03 6256 5077, open Tues and Fri 10.00-16.00) and community centre, housed in an 1850s schoolhouse, which is a marvellous example of a home-grown collection. Along with an eclectic collection of artefacts donated by local residents-some of them connected with the region and others as varied as Fijian baskets and German swords captured in the First World War-are two portraits of members of the Meredith family by Thomas Bock, several books by Louisa Anne Meredith, and local watercolours by 19C artists, very few of which have been identified. The place is a conservator's nightmare and an historian's paradise.
The museum also includes an anomalous billiard table.
Built to order by the premier billiard table makers, Alcock
Thomas & Taylor of Melbourne, for the 1879 International
Exhibition, the table had to be built larger than standard
size, because the half-a-ton slab sent from Italy was too big,
and the local craftsmen deemed it too risky to alter; the
frame is of a single Tasmanian hardwood. It is still available
for play, at $2 a game, although, as the present caretaker
states, the only takers are a regular group of elderly men.
The table is a splendid example of the skill of Alcock's, and
the museum is worth a visit.
The Merediths of Swansea
Swansea was so named by first settler George Meredith (1778-1856), who came with his servants, John and Adam Amos, in 1821. A son by his first marriage, Charles (1811-80), accompanied him, and would later become a prominent politician in the state. In 1838, Charles returned to England and married his cousin, Louisa Anne Twamley (1812-95); in 1840 the couple settled north of Swansea, at George Meredith's property, Riversdale. Louisa Anne Meredith became a prolific writer and artist; her My Home in Tasmania (1852) and Bush Friends in Tasmania (1860) with delightful illustrations still provide remarkable insights into 19C Tasmania. Another Meredith property, 'Cambria', built in the late 1820s, still remains, 2km north of Swansea.
From Swansea, it is about 10km along Nine Mile
Beach to Freycinet
National Park (t 03 6256 7000). This 10,000 ha park
begins 2km south of Coles Bay. Its most prominent feature is a
huge granite rock known as The Hazards. Mount Freycinet is the
highest point at 614m. The park contains a wide number of
orchid species, as well as other heathland plants and birds.
There are secluded sandy beaches, and a variety of excellent
walks with views to the sea. Off the coast 1km across Schouten
Passage and also part of the park is Schouten Island, named by
Abel Tasman in 1642 after a member of the Dutch East India
Company; the island can be visited by boat.
You will need a National Parks Pass (at the time of writing, $11) and will find an excellent park brochure at the gate. You will need to supply your own water. The park is named after Louis Freycinet (1779-1842), French naval officer on Baudin's Le Naturaliste, who in 1802 explored throughout this region. Freycinet is best remembered for his round-the-world voyage in command of L'Uranie in 1818, during which time his wife Rose disguised herself as a man in order to accompany him and kept a lively account of her most extraordinary journey, Journa de Madame Rose de Saulces de Freycinet (1927).
From Launceston northeast to St Marys
This route through northeastern Tasmania has some bus services during the week, but weekend services are very spotty, if they run at all. One road to Scottsdale from Launceston is route B81, which leads 27km north to Lilydale (population 357). 7km before the town is Hollybank Forest Centre, a lovely reserve of ash trees on the site of an 1855 sawmill; it is now run by the Forestry Commission and is open to the public from October to May. Lilydale itself is best known for Bridestowe Lavender Farm, a long-standing and productive source of lavender oil and sachets, considered the purest product in the country. It produces over 2 tonnes of lavender oil annually.
The 41km from Lilydale to Scottsdale is through heavy bush with craft shops and wineries along the way. Scottsdale (population 1980), settled in the 1850s by surveyor James Scott, is the centre of the northeast's dairying region. One interesting stop in town is Anabel's, 46 King Street (t 03 6352 3277), in an 1890 Federation building classified by the National Trust and set in elegant gardens with a 12m wistaria walk and rhododendron trees; it is now a restaurant and four-star hotel.
21km north of Scottsdale on route B84 is Bridport (population 980), a popular fishing village on the Bass Strait with excellent picnic beaches and some tremendous views from nearby Waterhouse Point out to the strait and including Waterhouse Island.
An example of the area's early architecture can be seen at 'Bowood', c 12km northwest of Bridport on route B82, at the Little Forester River. Built in 1839 for Peter Brewer, the house was constructed by ex-convict carpenter James Edwards and an American sealer Robert Rhodes, who in the 1830s jumped ship to stay in the region; Rhodes' headstone nearby states that he was from Philadelphia and died here in 1863. 'Bowood' is a private residence, but interesting to view in situ, along what used to be the Launceston Road.
From Launceston, the Tasman Highway (route A3) also
continues north 70km to Scottsdale, then east through dairy
and hops country that used to be one of the biggest timber
regions of the state until the trees were forested to stoke
the fires of the nearby tin mines. The area from Branxholme,
25km east of Scottsdale, to Pyengana and east to the coast was
from the 1870s to the 1950s a booming tin-mining centre.
The town of Derby, 8km east of Branxholme, has a Tin Dragon Interpretive Centre and Cafe (t 03 6354 1062). Also in the neighborhood is the Bridestowe Lavender Estate (+61 3 6352 8182, open May-Aug. 10.00-16.00, Sept.-Apr. 9.00-17.00).
Weldborough, c 14km south along route A3, was also a mining centre; its old Chinese Joss House, now in Launceston's Queen Victoria Museum, is evidence of the thousands of Chinese miners who came to the region during the tin boom, many of whom stayed on in Tasmania. To the south of Weldborough is Maa Mon Chin Dam, named for a leader of the Chinese community who arrived in 1875. At Weldborough Pass, 595m high, is the Weldborough Pass Scenic Reserve, a 20-minute walk through myrtle forests that offers spectacular views of the valley and out to the sea.
Pyengana, 19km south of Weldborough, is known for cheese and as the site, 13km south on route C428, of St Colombia Falls, the state's tallest waterfall, cascading 110m on to the rocks below. The falls take their name from the property here of the Quaker family Cotton, who arrived in 1828. In the 1870s, Margaret Cotton set up one of the island's first apple exporting businesses. To the east of here, the near ghost towns of Goshen, Goulds Country, and Lottah hearken back to the days of open tin-mining of the Blue Tier Mountain, now closed.
St Helens (population 1200), 18km southeast of Goshen, is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Tasmania, known for its beaches around Georges Bay and its temperate climate. The town's main thoroughfare is Cecilia Street; at no. 57 is the St. Helens Local History Room (t 03 6376 1479, open 9.00-17.00, admission $3, family $5), which is also the information centre where you can get a detailed brochure about the town's history. The History Room contains a quintessential conglomeration of local artefacts, including a black hat worn by local coach driver George Avery when in the 1880s he drove the Duke of Edinburgh through the region. Cecilia Street and side streets include other 19C buildings, including St Paul's Church of England, built in 1884, the 1874 District High School around the corner on Groom and Circassian Streets, and, at no. 5 Cecilia Street, an 1870 weatherboard house. Surveyor George Frankland, who laid out the town in the 1840s, endowed the streets and places with lofty Greek names, such as Golden Fleet Rivulet and Medeas Cove. Route C851 leads over Golden Fleece Bridge to Jasons Gates and on to St Helens Point at the end of Georges Bay, a state recreation ground. This is a great location for bushwalking and, again, this area is one of the best places to sample Tasmania's superb seafood.
Continue south on route A3 along the coast, passing
through the resort town of Scamander, known for bream fishing
in the Scamander River. At St Marys Pass, 10km south of
Scamander, is a turn-off to Falmouth, 3km further east; it is
an historic village with several convict-built structures, as
well as great views both of the coast and of the mountains
south through Elephant Pass.
The picturesque village of St Marys (population 668) sits at the junction of the Tasman Highway (route A3) and the Esk Main Road (route A4) and is at the headwaters of the South Esk River. Originally known as 'Break O'Day Plains', the town is now at the centre of a coal-mining region and is a major depot for the distribution of hydro-electric power.
Continue on route A4 to Fingal, 21km west of St Marys.
Along the road, c 10km, is 'Killymoon', built between 1842 and
1848, by Frederick von Stieglitz, with Tuscan portico and
substantial brick-walled gardens. The property is a marvellous
example of the grandiose homestead mansions so characteristic
2km north of Fingal is 'Malahide', a Georgian stone house built for original settler William Talbot in 1828. With a name like Fingal, it is not surprising that the place was founded by an Irishman, Roderic O'Connor, who arrived in Tasmania on his own ship the Ardent in 1824; his cargo included the first free Irish immigrants to the state. On Talbot Street in town is the Fingal Hotel (also the tourist information centre, t 03 6374 2121), formerly the Talbot Arms, built in 1844; true to its Celtic tradition, the hotel has the largest collection of Scotch Whisky in the Southern emisphere, 348 different brands acquired since the Second World War.
Route A4 continues on from here 27km to Avoca, at the junction of the South Esk and St Pauls Rivers. The village's St Thomas Church of England of 1842 is a local landmark, attributed because of its Romanesque Revival style to James Blackburn.
From Avoca, you can take route B42 c 11km to the foot of Ben Lomond; walking tracks at Rossarden lead to the top of the mountain. On the same road c 8km a turn-off leads to 'Bona Vista', a late Georgian style homestead built in 1845 for the famed ex-convict Simeon Lord; at one time, the bushranger Martin Cash was a horse-groom here. Back on the A4, the road continues 26km to connect with the Midland Highway at Conara Junction.
Hobart to Strahan
Leave Hobart on Highway 1 towards Launceston; at Granton/Bridgewater, continue west on route A10 towards New Norfolk (38km), another of the towns founded by Governor Macquarie and named Elizabeth Town after his wife. It became New Norfolk after the arrival of settlers from Norfolk Island in the 1820s. Entering town, turn right at signs for Tynewald and Oast House; originally one estate, Tynewald is now a guest house (03 6261 2667) and Oast House, originally the drying kilns for the extensive hop fields of the estate, the owners hope to eventually re-open it as a museum depicting the history of hop-growing in the region.
Returning to the main highway, continue west past Lachlan River. At Bathurst Street on the left, note St Matthew's Anglican Church; dating from 1823, it is the oldest Anglican church in Tasmania. Of special interest here is the lovely church garden and its striking stained glass windows.
Further west on the
main highway to the right are Old
Colony Inn (t 03 6261 2731; open daily,
09.00-17.00; winter 10.00-16.00), c 1835, now a restaurant,
museum, and B&B and The Bush Inn (t 03 6261
2256), c 1815, which is reputed to be the oldest continuously
licensed inn in Australia, although this seems to be a hotly
sought-after title by several old hotels.
Southwest and Mount Field National Parks
From New Norfolk, you can take route B62 to B61, which leads 115km west to Strathgordon and the Gordon River Power Station, where the road ends at Lake Gordon in the wilderness of the Southwest National Park (t 03 6288 1283). 35km along the road is the entrance to Mount Field National Park (t 03 6288 1149), Tasmania's oldest national park, preserved since 1863. Only 80km from Hobart, the park is one of the most visited in the state, offering great rock-climbing and bushwalking amidst the waterfalls, Huon pine, and ancient gum trees. About 50km further, immediately after passing through Strathgordon is McPartlan Pass, where a lookout enables you to see both Lake Gordon to the north and Lake Pedder to the south.
The Southwest National Park is 605,213 ha of rugged, remote wilderness, penetrable only by the fittest and most tenacious of campers and walkers. Do not undertake this trek naively. On the other hand, its World Heritage status acknowledges it as a 'site of outstanding universal value' under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Also included in this World Heritage Area here are the Franklin-Lower Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
You get some idea of the overwhelming expanse and remoteness of the region when you learn that the Gordon and Serpentine Rivers here were first explored by Lithuanian-born Olegas Truchanas as recently as 1958. Truchanas' photographs are world-famous, gracing many a wilderness society calenda
One of the best ways to experience this vast area if you
do not want rigorous and extended trekking is to take a flight
across the region. Two airlines operate flights to Melaleuca
from Cambridge, 15km outside Hobart. Check with the tourist
information office in Hobart. Ask specifically about Airlines of Tasmania
which has offered flights into the interior.
The Lyell Highway (route A10) to the western coastline proceeds from New Norfolk north towards Derwent Bridge. Continue 34km to the village of Hamilton, described by Emmett in 1954 as 'change and decay in all I see', but by Odgers in 1989 as 'one of the most charming yet sleepy of the southernmost towns'. Tourism has led to the encouraging restoration of originally derelict buildings, including several 19C cottages now offering bed-and-breakfast accommodation. On the right of the main street is Glen Clyde House, a restored inn with craft gallery and tea rooms.
Continue north on the A10 through Ouse (14km) and on to Tarraleah (33km), centre of the Tarraleah-Tungatinah Hydro-electric Scheme, which channels water from the Upper Derwent River and Lake St Clair.
Follow the A10 further north towards Bronte Lagoon; c 50m after the turn-off to route C173 is a surveyors' monument marking the geographical centre of Tasmania. From Bronte Park, it is 26km to Derwent Bridge, the final stop before entering the Western Tasmania Wilderness National Parks Area; it also marks the southern end of the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park (t 03 6492 1110), a vast wilderness area famed for its rugged walking trails, including the 85km Overland Track known to all serious bushwalkers. Lake St Clair itself is over 17km long and 200 metres deep. The visitor's centre has a number of maps and pamphlets describing the area. Lake cruises and trekking expeditions can be booked here as well. For those who would like a less arduous walk, several two-hour-long trails start at the Waldheim Chalet and at Lake Dover.
From Derwent Bridge, route A10 now continues west into the forested terrain of Western Tasmania; the 83km road to Queenstown has no shops, service stations or telephones, and can be hazardous in snowy weather. Not completed until 1932, the road now passes through the Franklin-Lower Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, the centre of Tasmania's World Heritage Area and known for its wilderness walks and white-water rapids. Short walking trails to spectacular lookouts and through rainforests are also accessible from the highway for less adventurous travellers.
At Lake Burbury, the highway skirts the lake, offering stupendous mountain views before driving down the steep slopes of Mount Owen past the once-thriving mining towns of Gormanston and Linda, and into the bizarre scenery surrounding Queenstown itself.
Queenstown (population 3600) was established as a mining town in 1896. Literally carved out of the mountains, Queenstown came into being when huge mineral resources were discovered at Mount Lyell. The field so far has produced 670,000 tonnes of copper, 510,000 kg of silver and 20,000 kg of gold. Copper Mines of Tasmania employs most of the town's inhabitants. Tourist information centre: 1 Driffield Street.
As one commentator has noted, modern-day visitors to Queenstown will think they have landed on the moon, for the surrounding hills are entirely barren of vegetation and riddled with weirdly coloured craters, a result of deforestation and the sulphur mining processes of the past. Recent efforts by the mining company to refoliate the hills have, it is rumoured, been thwarted by residents who recognise that their eerie landscape is their greatest claim to fame and the attraction of tourist dollars.
Upon entering the town, the highway becomes Batchelor Street and then turns left into Driffield Street. On the left at the corner of Sticht and Driffield Streets is the Galley Museum, a delightfully idiosyncratic collection begun by local eccentric Eric Thomas. A conglomeration of old photographs, telephones, beds, and china, the museum offers an appropriately off-beat introduction to the area's history. Across the street from the museum is Miners' Siding, an equally eclectic display of mining equipment and ore samples, as well as a set of bronze sculptures by local artist Stephen Walker which were cast in Queenstown. At the corner of Driffield and Ore Streets is the Empire Hotel, one of the only surviving hotels from Queenstown's heyday at the beginning of the century, when the town boasted 14 hotels. Three-and-a-half-hour-long tours of the mine are also available, departing from the Western Arts and Crafts Centre, 1 Driffield Street. The number of people on the tour is limited to six, so book in advance. This is one of the few working mines allowing tours to the working face.
To travel to the coastal town of Strahan, turn left just
beyond Miners' Siding where the Murchison Highway begins and
west on to route B24; Strahan is at the end of the road, 38km
Strahan (population 575), named after Tasmanian governor Sir George Strahan, is picturesquely situated on Macquarie Harbour. Originally the centre of Huon pine milling, it became a booming port during the early mining years and with the establishment of the Strahan-Zeehan railway in 1892. Today tourism is the major industry, as the town is the starting point for the popular Gordon River cruises, which circumnavigate Macquarie Harbour, passing by Sarah Island with its grim reminders of its early days as Tasmania's first and most treacherous penal prison. It was Macquarie Harbour's penal colony that was depicted by Marcus Clarke in his novel For the Term of His Natural Life (1874). Its inhumane horrors are most vividly described by Robert Hughes in The Fatal Shore (1987). Macquarie Harbour is still notoriously hazardous to navigate, with its narrow entrance and treacherous sandbars and waves that originated in South America.
Along the town's Esplanade is the elegant Customs House, one of the town's only substantial buildings. Strahan's visitor's centre (t 03 6472 6800, open daily 10.00-20.00, variable in winter) on the Esplanade will help with charter services. Further along the road is Ormiston, the residence built in 1902 by Strahan eccentric F.O. Henry, known as the Duke of Avram. The area also includes several spectacular beaches, most impressively Ocean Beach which stretches for 33km. Of particular interest at Strahan to tourists is the availability of seaplane tours, which offer exhilarating views of the coastal landscape.
From the town turn left into route B27 towards Zeehan (which can also be reached direct from Queenstown), 47km north. Zeehan (population 1200) derives its name from Abel Tasman's ship, which passed by the coast in 1642 and sighted the peak named Mount Zeehan by later explorers Bass and Flinders. At the height of the mining boom in 1901, Zeehan had 26 hotels and a population over 5000; its near demise by the 1950s perhaps accounts for the air of melancholy which still pervades the town, despite it modest resurgence as a tourist destination and with the opening of Renison Bell tin mine. Of interest is the Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy, established in 1892 and now housing the West Coast Pioneers' Memorial Museum (03 6471 6225, open daily 9.00-17.00). The museum has a characteristically eclectic assortment of mining paraphernalia, a mineral collection, a railway car, photos, stuffed animals and historical objects. Along the same street are many examples of buildings from the pioneer days, including the Gaiety Theatre where Nellie Melba and Lola Montez purportedly gave concerts.National Trust