Colonial Villages Drive

This drive begins by visiting historic villages on the southern section of Midland Highway, Tasmania's first main road that was built by convict road gangs. The route then heads north-east to a number villages in the southern foothills of the Central Highlands, following Lakes Highway that ultimately passes Arthurs Lake on its way to Launceston. The return journey passes through the historic villages on the lower Lyell Highway, following the River Derwent as it winds its way through hilly terrain towards Hobart.

Location

From Hobart, travelling east then, north and north west. Full day.

Length

185 km

Features and Attractions

Richmond; Oatlands; Kempton; Bothwell; Ouse; Bushy Park; New Norfolk

The Drive

Take the Brooker Hwy north out of Hobart to Bridgewater. Continue north on the Midland Highway to Brighton and Pontville. Once an important stopping point on the road from Hobart to Launceston, Pontville is home to a number of convict built, pre-1820s buildings including a soldiers barracks. Continue north through the villages of Mangalore, Bagdad and Dysart to Kempton, a charming Georgian colonial settlement which is registered as a classified historic town. Dysart House, now privately owned, at the southern end of town, is an exceedingly handsome mansion. North of Kempton is Melton Mowbray, a village that never quite grew to its full potential.

At Melton (as it is known by the locals), turn left and follow Lake Highway through Aspley to Bothwell. This little village, laid out in 1824, had a strong Scottish element in its early population which is evident everywhere in its buildings (see photo gallery). It is claimed that the first game of golf in Australia was played here in the 1820s. In season, Bothwell is known as the gateway to some of the best trout fishing in Australia. Leave Bothwell, taking Wentworth Street, and follow the signs to Ouse, another small Central Highlands town. It was in the hills around Ouse that bushranger Martin Cash roamed. Nearby are Cluny Dam and the Repulse Dam; both are small but typical Hydro Power Station dams. Millbrook water mill off Victoria Valley Road dates back to 1843.

South of Ouse on Lyell Highway towards Hobart is Hamilton, a pretty colonial-era town on the Clyde River. Hamilton is full of history, from pristine Georgian cottages that now house craft galleries or offer bed and breakfast accommodation to a convict built schoolhouse. Jackson's Emporium, built in 1856, is a quaintly different kind of department store specialising in Derwent Valley products. Continue south through Gretna to Rosegarland and turn left towards Bushy Park.

The hop capital of Tasmania, it is a fascinating historic destination, a slice of Europe with its old houses, hop kilns, deciduous trees and hopfields which seem to envelop every building and road. Mount Field National Park, with cascading waterfalls, deep gorges and a large variety of plants and trees, is accessed by road from Bushy Park. Follow Glenora Rd through Plenty (with its superb Salmon Ponds) to New Norfolk, so named because the town's founding pioneers were re-settled from Norfolk Island in 1808.

The richness and variety of its historic buildings, the old Oast Houses and the gentle undulations of the countryside on either side of the Derwent River make this one of the most attractive places in southern Tasmania. The state's oldest church, The Anglican Church of St Matthew, is in New Norfolk. Return to Hobart, taking the picturesque drive alongside the River Derwent via Lyell Highway.

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