5 km north of George Town is Low Head, a sheltered harbour which is now a classified historic town. Apart from its status as a popular holiday resort location (East Beach is a popular surfing location and Lagoon Bay is ideal for children), the tiny settlement has a 12 m high lighthouse which overlooks the entrance to the River Tamar. It was built in 1888 to replace the original lighthouse which was constructed by convicts in the early 1830s.
The nearby pilot station (the oldest in Australia it was completed in 1835) houses a Maritime Museum which includes memorabilia salvaged from the many shipwrecks on the north coast as well as some interesting, early diving equipment.
The river track between Pilot Bay and the lighthouse is the best place to watch the fairy penguins come ashore at dusk.
Where Is it?
On the coast near Groege Town, which is 53 km north of Launceston on the East Tamar Highway.
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.
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.
The oldest building on the site is Pilots' Row. It was a terrace of four apartments, each with four rooms, to house the pilots and their families. It dates from 1835 and was designed by John Lee Archer, the colonial Architect. It replaced earlier wooden pilot buildings. Pilot's Row houses the museum.
As the station grew other buildings were added. These include the Coxwain's Cottage (1847), Boat Crew Cottages (1859, 1860, 1861, 1962), the School House (1866), Pilot's Cottage (1917), Church, Octagonal Chart Room, Workshop and Boat Shed.
Location: 399 Low Head Rd Low Head. Ph (03) 6382 1143. Open 10am - 4 pm daily except Christmas Day. Entry fees apply.
Low Head Lighthouse is in Low Head, Tasmania, about 7 kilometres north of George Town on the east side of the mouth of the Tamar River. It was the third lighthouse to be constructed in Australia, and it is also Australia's oldest continuously used pilot station. This light is now unmanned and automated.
Several serious shipping accidents occurred near the mouth of the Tamar River early in the history of George Town. The first and most infamous of these occurred on 15th June 1808, when the Hebe struck a reef between Low Head and Western Head at the entrance to Port Dalrymple. The ship was wrecked on the rocks at the mouth to the Tamar River, which have since that day carried the name Hebe Reef. Responding to this ongoing threat to shipping, the local Committee of Pilotage recommended in 1826 that a lightstation should be built at Low Head.
Australia's first lighthouse, Macquarie Lighthouse in Vaucluse, New South Wales was lit in 1793. Australia's second lighthouse, Iron Pot Lighthouse at the entrance to the River Derwent was lit in 1832. Low Head Lighthouse, constructed by convict labor and first lit on 27th December 1833, became Tasmania's second and only the third one to be built in Australia.
The presence of Low Head Lighthouse has undoubtedly prevented numerous shipping accidents since its first operation in 1833, but by no means all of them. Since the loss of the Hebe in 1808, nine more vessels have been lost on Hebe Reef. The most recent was MV Iron Baron, chartered by BHP Shipping. On 10th July 1995, nearing the end of a voyage from Groote Eylandt with a load of manganese ore, MV Iron Baron ran aground on Hebe Reef. All crew were safely evacuated but the accident resulted in the worst oil spill in Australian history.
The original tower, 15.25 metres high, was known as the Georgetown Station. Designed by Colonial Architect John Lee Archer, who was responsible for the design of many other Tasmanian lights, it was constructed of local rubble with a coat of stucco to make the structure durable. By the 1880s, the original stone tower had fallen into a state of disrepair. It was demolished in 1888 and replaced with the present double brick structure with a new lantern room and apparatus, designed by Marine Board architect Robert Huckson.
Low Head Lighthouse was staffed by a superintendent and two convict assistants who were locked in their quarters overnight. Low Head Lighthouse was the only Tasmanian lighthouse to be built with attached quarters.
Tasmania's only foghorn (also manufactured by Chance Brothers) is a Type G diaphone that was installed in April 1929 at Low Head Lighthouse. The foghorn was operated by the lighthouse keepers during foggy conditions for more than forty years.
One of the largest diaphones ever constructed, the foghorn was decommissioned in 1973 because of technological advances in marine navigational equipment. The device fell into disrepair over the next few decades. Early in 2000, the Low Head Progress & Heritage Association in conjunction with the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (the present owners of the equipment) began a project to restore the foghorn. The device became operational again in April 2001. Today, the foghorn at Low Head Lighthouse is one of only two functioning Type G diaphones in the world, and it is sounded every Sunday at noon.
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.
Explorers 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.
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.
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.