The Derwent Valley is famous for its historic villages. You can take a drive from Hobart, visiting the southern section of Midland Highway, Tasmania's first main road that was built by convict road gangs, before returning to Hobart via the Derwent Valley. 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.
The stretch of Lyell Highway between Bridgewater and New Norfolk, which follows the River Derwent, is particulary pretty, especially in the early morning with the river is calm and the reflection on the water of the hills is mirror-like. New Norfolk, the regional centre, is a picturesque Georgian town (19km south east), centrally located and the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding areas.
A picturesque Georgian town (19km south east) set idylically on the banks of the River Derwent. New Norfolk is centrally located and is a perfect base from which to explore the surrounding areas. Mount Field National Park with its rugged beauty and seclusion is only 30 minutes away. New Norfolk is a recommended day trip destination from Hobart. The stretch of Lyell Highway between Bridgewater and New Norfolk is particulary pretty, especially in the early morning with the river is calm and the reflection on the water of the hills is mirror-like.
Bushy Park is a quaint village of old houses, deciduous trees, moral fervour, and hop fields which seem to envelop every building and road. The tall wooden and metal frames holding up the hop vines are broken by lines of Lombardy Poplars, with neat and unusually shaped oast houses scattered in the fields away from the road. The Derwent Valley Community Market operates on the 3rd Sunday of each month in the old hospital grounds - lots of bric-a-brac, fresh produce and crafts.
A town of just under 1,000 people, Magra is situated in the Derwent Valley a few kilometres north of new Norfolk. It consists mainly of dwelling houses and farmland. Accommodation is also available as the area is popular with tourists. Notable features of Magra itself include the surrounding hills and the plantation of Lombardy Poplars. In the graveyard of the Methodist Church at Magra (22km south east) is the grave of Betty King, the first white woman to set foot on Australian soil. The area now known as Magra was originally called Back River after the small river near Stanton homestead, the home of one of the earliest white settlers, Thomas Shone. A typical rectangular symmetrical Georgian house, it was built in 1817 from convict bricks produced on the property. Stanton is a Tasmanian Heritage Listed property noted as being significant to the history of Tasmania.
Nubeena is a small, sleepy and attractive holiday and fishing village, in spite of being the largest town on the Tasman Peninsula. Nubeena lies at the head of Wedge Bay on the western flank of what is virtually an island guarding the eastern entrance to Storm Bay. Further offshore is Wedge Island which is an important nesting habitat for the shearwater. Nubeena is 113km south east of Hobart and 12 km from Port Arthur. The town is halfway along the west coast of Tasman Peninsula, on Parsons Bay, which is a narrow continuation of Wedge Bay. From Port Arthur (A9) it on a circuit drive - via Saltwater River - back to the main road at Taranna (B37), a picturesque alternative to driving straight from Port Arthur to Taranna.
A charming and unspoilt historic Georgian village. Like Oatlands and Ross, Hamilton is still sufficiently removed from the over-commercialisation to offer the visitor an opportunity to experience what the villages of southern Tasmania were like in the 1830s and 1840s. It is the perfect place to stop, stretch one's legs and enjoy a tea or coffee breack on the journey from Hobart to the west coast. The origin of the town’s name is unclear although it was named by Governor Arthur, either after Hamilton on the Lower Clyde in Scotland or in honour of his friend William Henry Hamilton.
Ouse, 15km north west of Hamilton, is a small rather quaint rural Central Highlands village on the Lyell Highway, situated on the junction with the Victoria Valley Road and on the banks of the Ouse River. Ouse is the settlement where convicts James Goodwin and Thomas Connolly broke out of the South West Wilderness four weeks after their escape from Sarah Island. Like so many of the towns on the Derwent River it was explored and settled soon after the establishment of the settlement at Hobart Town. However settlers did not move into the area until the 1820s. In its early years the settlement was known as Ouse Bridge but by the 1860s it had been reduced to The Ouse or Ouse.
The Gordon River Road from New Norfolk to Strathgordon passes through the small town of Westerway. 68 kilometres west of Hobart on the Tyenna River, Westerway was first was known as Russell or Russelldale, being named after Surgeon J J Russell, one of the party who discovered a set of waterfalls 3 km from Fenton Forest (although these are not the present day Russell Falls). Three religious denominations were once represented at Westerway. However, no churches now exist in the township.
Maydena, alongside the River Tyenna, is a town on the Gordon River Road, to the south west of New Norfolk. To get there, drive through the Bushy Park Hop Fields, past the Styx Valley, turn left at Westerway, past Mount Field National Park and Russell Falls, through Tyenna and Fitzgerald townships and then up to Maydena itself. Gordon River Road continues to Lake Pedder, Lake Gordon and Strathgordon, in the Southwest National Park of Tasmania.
16km west of Bushy Park, Mt Field National Park is one of Tasmania's most loved national parks. The park has a wide variety of scenic features and wildlife and offers a great range of facilities for day visitors. Few other national parks in Australia offer such a diversity in vegetation, ranging from tall swamp gum forests and massive tree ferns at the base of the mountain, through rainforest along the Lake Dobson Road, to alpine vegetation at the higher elevations.
A classified historic town, Bothwell is the southern gateway to the central Highlands. In season Bothwell is also known as the gateway to some of the best trout fishing in Australia. Bothwell is the home of Australia's first Aberdeen Angus stud. The town, laid out in 1824, was populated by mainly settlers of Scottish descent and today still has a distinct Scottish flavour. True to its Scottish Bothwell has one of Australia's top whiskey distilleries, Nant Distillery, housed in the historic Nant Mill. Here you can sample the fine single malt whiskeys made using pure local Highland waters.
Tarraleah Power Station, located on the Upper Derwent River, was opened in 1938. The nearby township of Tarraleah was originally built in the 1930s by the Hydro Electric Commission to house Tasmania's pioneering hydro electricity officers and management. After a multi-million dollar redevelopment, the former Hydro construction village has become a 120 ha estate that comprises Tarraleah Lodge with accommodation, dining options. Fresh water trout fishing, boating, bushwalking, mountain biking and kayaking are all popular activities in and around the township. Tarraleah is also home to one of the highest altitude golf courses in Australia.
Saltwater River is a small community on the western shore of Norfolk Bay on the Tasman Peninsula. The Saltwater River area contained two penal settlements. One was an agricultural settlement, which produced vegetables, wheat, and had a piggery. The other was a coal mine, known amongst convicts for its hellish conditions. It is now on the Australian National Heritage List as the Coal Mines Historic Site. Today, only ruins exist at the site, which includes underground cells.