George Town

A coastal town located on the east bank of the mouth of the Tamar River, George Town is Australia’s third oldest European settlement and Australia’s oldest town.

George Town can claim to be one of the earliest European settlements in Tasmania. As early as 1804 William Paterson camped on the site and by 1811 a permanent settlement had been established by Lachlan Macquarie and named after the English king, George III.

Paterson ran the HMS Buffalo aground at York Cove and, apparently nonplussed by his misfortune, duly ran up the flag, fired three volleys in the air, and played the national anthem. A memorial to the event stands on Esplanade North at Windmill Point - continue west down Macquarie Street from the Main Road.

Today George Town is a modern administrative centre. It is economically driven by the aluminium industry at Bell Bay and the tourist industry which attracts people to this attractive area of northern Tasmania.


Memorial Hall,108 Goulburn St, George Town
Trading: 2nd Saturday of the Month – 9am – 1pm
Type: General. Phone: (03) 6382 3421

Where Is it?

53 km north of Launceston on the East Tamar Highway.

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Brief history

The town grew in fits and starts. There were times when it was an important centre but these were matched by periods when the town slumped back into insignificance. Between 1834-1840, it became the most important port on Van Diemen's Land's north coast, being particularly active in its trading with the new colony of Victoria.

It slumped in the 1840s only to be revitalised in the 1870s when gold was discovered at Lefroy, 15 km east of the town. Lefroy, which is now little more than a ghost town is well worth a visit. After the discovery of gold in 1870 it became a thriving gold mining town with a population reaching 5000 around the turn of the century. Now there are only the ruins of a few buildings.

Things To See And Do

Low head Coastal reserve

The waters off Low Head, according to National Geographic, is one of the top five diving spots in the World with magnificent marine life. On this peninsula, Fairy Penguins nest and come home at dusk to feed their chicks. In 1995, the ‘Iron Baron’ hit the Hebe Reef coming in to the Tamar and oil contaminated the penguins. In a massive operation by the local people, all the contaminated penguins were rescued, washed, fed and rehabilitated in various backyard swimming pools and returned to their nests. Not one bird was lost and the colony thrives. George Town Council operates penguin viewing tours.

Low Head Pilot Station

The longest continuously operating pilot station in Australia, Low Head was established in 1805 to guide vessel into the Tamar River estuary. The estuary narrows where it passes between Garden Island and George Town. The Low Head settlement, including Pilot’s Station Museum Complex, was establiashed in 1835. Today it is a working complex which represents the earliest collection of surviving pilot buildings in Australia. It has been perfectly preserved and is one of the best publicly accessible historic sites in Tasmania.

Bass and Flinders Centre

Situated in George Town, the Bass and Flinders Centre is a museum primarily telling the story of British navigators Matthew Flinders and George Bass and their visit to the coasts of Tasmania. In 1798 they sailed around Tasmania in HM Colonial sloop Norfolk and proved it was an island. In 1998 the voyage was re-enacted with a replica Norfolk built out of Huon pine and Celery Top pine. Not a single nail or screw was used – all the joints are held together with tunnels. Other exhibits tells the maritime history of the region.

Surrounding Area

Pipers River wine region

With its red basalt soil and a cool climate moderated by the proximity of Bass Strait, this small but significant boutique wine region was established in 1974. With a climate close to that of Champagne in France, it is known simply as ‘Sparkling Tasmania’. Many of Tasmania’s premium sparkling wines originate here. It is particularly suited to the aromatic white varieties.

Redbill Point

Matthew Flinders and George Bass sailed up here in 1798 but chose the wrong channel and became grounded A rising tide washed them off. Middle Island was used as a quarantine station initially but cannot have been very effective as you can walk across at low tide! Cruise ships dock at Inspection Head at Beauty Point and there are two tourist attractions – Seahorse World and Platypus House. Tasmania’s only thermal power station stands on the bay.

The port of Bell Bay is situated along the north shore of Port Dalrymple. The Australian Maritime College, which also has a campus in Launceston, and has students from all around the World.

Barnbougle Dunes

The Barnbougle Dunes are a hidden gem and home to one of the world’s top Links golf courses. The golf links, built on undulating coastal dunes, is the work of famed golf architect Tom Doak and Australia’s Michael Clayton. The breathtaking landscape upon which the course has been created mirrors the wild coastal links courses of Scotland and Ireland and as Barnbougle continues to develop with age it looks set to follow in the footsteps of these great courses. Barnbougle Dunes has been ranked the No.1 Golf Links public course in Australia and No.7 in the world.

Also in the region

Four Mile Creek Wildlife Sanctuary (4 km south-east of George Town); Tenth Island Nature Reserve (5 km north-west of Stony Head); Bell Bay bauxite processing and port facilities; Batman Bridge; Lefroy ghost town (15 km east – gold discovered 1870).

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