The Derwent Valley and Highlands region is nestled in the heart of Tasmiania’s magnificent mountains and wilderness. The Derwent Valley boastsrolling fruit orchards and quaint villages, and hop fields and oast houses can be seen dotted throughout the landscape.
Situated north-west of Hobart, the Derwent Valley is best accessed by the Lyell Highway or “Rivers Run” as it is better known, as it follows the course of the Derwent River through beautiful forests of willow and poplar trees.The highway snakes through the Derwent Valley past hopfields and orchards towards mountains and wilderness. Decades ago explorers, bushmen, farmers and dam-builders carved a living in this wild and rugged country.
The valley’s poplar trees, which act as windbreaks, are in sharp contrast to the dense forests of the high country surrounding the valley that provide an ever present reminder of what the valley was like before white settlers cleared and cultivated the land. These mountains and wilderness areas are home to many spectacular natural sights such as magnificent Mount field National Park that has fantastic lookouts and walking trails, and Lake at Clair where you can take a ferry to the head of the lake, or try your luck at fishing for trout. The hydro electric power stations scattered throughout these mountains have not diminished the natural grandeur of the region.
European settlement began after Governor Macquarie had visited the area in 1811 and he ordered his surveyors to lay out a township which he named Elizabeth Town (now New Norfolk). The settlement grew quickly with the re-settling of 554 Norfolk Islanders in the years 1807 to 1808. Many of these folk had arrived in Australia in the First Fleet in 1788, as Norfolk Island was founded just a few weeks after Sydney. Nine First Fleeters are buried in the Methodist Chapel at Lawitta, New Norfolk.
Historic buildings of wood and stone built by them and subsequent settlers are littered throughout the Derwent Valley. Buildings include oast houses, kilns and farm building, homesteads and Willow Court. Many of these are classified or registered by the National Trust and are listed in the Council’s Planning Scheme.
The hop industry in the Derwent Valley was a significant primary industry and remains so today. The Shoobridge family contributed to the wealth and progress of hop growing in the Derwent Valley from 1849. The first record of hops in the agricultural returns of Tasmania was in the year 1854. The Shoobridge family farmed Bushy Park properties for the next seven decades, 65 years of which centred around continuous hop production. It became the most successful hop growing area in the southern hemisphere.
How to get there:
Leave Hobart via Brooker Highway, travelling north to Bridgewater. fFrom Bridgewater, you can either follow the River Derwent on its southern side via Lyell Highway, or its northern side via Boyer Road. Lyell Highway, the main east-west highway in the southern half of the state, traverses the length of the valley. It links Hobart with Strahan on the west coast.
The Best Time To Visit:
Southern Tasmania’s climate is mild and pleasant with four distinct seasons, each with its own special pleasures. Summer is mild and pleasant, with warm afternoons and long twilights. Autumn is calm, sunny and cool. Winter is brisk and bracing with snow dusting the high peaks and the air is crisp and clear. Spring is cool, fresh and green with daffodils and apple blossom brighten the countryside.