Derwent Valley Drive

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.

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

Length of drive: 185 km

Features and Attractions: Richmond; Oatlands; Kempton; Bothwell; Ouse; Bushy Park; New Norfolk

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.

The Drive

Take the Brooker Hwy north out of Hobart to Bridgewater. From there, follow the Derwent River to New Norfolk, or take the following scenic drive:

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 Melton Mowbray 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.

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.

New Norfolk

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.

Where Is it?: 35 km from Hobart on the Lyell Highway between Hobart and Queenstown.

There are numerous historic buildings in New Norfolk. These include: St Matthews church is the oldest church in Tasmania. Sections date from 1823; The Methodist Chapel is the oldest church of that denomination in Tasmania (1837); Old Colony Inn, another early hostelry, is now a folk museum; The Toll House, built in 1841, displays and sells Tasmanian produce and local crafts.

  • More about New Norfolk >>

  • Pontville

    The tiny village of Pontville, located just a few kilometres from Brighton, became an important stopping point on the road from Hobart to Launceston in the 1830s and effectively replaced Brighton which, at one time, had been promoted as a possible future capital of the island. From this time on it became one of the major suppliers of stone for the whole southern region of Tasmania.

    Where is it?: 35 km north of Hobart on the Midlands Highway.

    The area around Pontville was first explored by Europeans in early 1804 and by 1806, with serious food shortages in Hobart Town, expeditions of soldiers were being sent into this area to kill kangaroos and emus. It is claimed that during one of these expeditions Private Hugh Germain, a well educated member of the Royal Marines, started giving various local sites exotic names. Thus, only a few kilometres north of Pontville, lies the incongruously named village of Bagdad and Pontville is actually situated on the banks of the equally incongruously named, Jordan River.

    It is said that Germain travelled through the area with a copy of The Bible and the Arabian Nights and delighted in giving places names like Jerusalem, Jericho, Jordan, and Lake Tiberius. In fact the headwaters of the Jordan River rise in Lake Tiberius before flowing through Jericho.

    By the 1820s there was a small settlement at Pontville but the real development of the village occurred in the 1830s and 1840s when it took over from Brighton and became a major centre for the district and an important traveller's stopping point on the road between Port Dalrymple (Launceston) and Hobart.

    Pontville was developed on land which was originally owned by William Kimberley. In 1838 this land was sold and a number of important buildings - the Police Station (1839), the Courthouse (1842) - were constructed.

    By the mid 1840s the town was thriving with a population of over 2000 people. By the 1860s there were six flour mills operating in the area. Although the town's growth occurred in the 1840s many of the old buildings predate this period of development.

    The Sheiling: The Sheiling, located behind St Marks Church of England, dates from about 1819 and was originally constructed as two separate cottages. The strange name is nothing more complex than the Gaelic for 'cottage'. The land was sold to William Kimberley in 1818 and he built the cottages on what was the main road through the village. It is likely that the house was used by the local police at one stage. It was converted into a single private residence in the early 1950s.

    The Row or The Barracks: Similarly 'The Row', known sometimes as 'The Barracks', near the bridge over the Jordan River, was built in 1824 as accommodation for soldiers. The building is a combination of five cottages - three with roof dormers and two larger cottages with three bays. As a row of dwellings it is an important feature of Pontville. It is now accommodation.

    The Old Post Office: Further along the Midland Highway, near St Mark's Church, is the Old Post Office which was built sometime before 1830 to house the Officer's Mess. There is some evidence that in the 1850s, when a timber verandah was added, it was a coaching inn. In 1861 it became the Pontville Post Office. It is currently an antique and gift shop.


    A small and charming Georgian colonial village which is registered as a classified historic town. The district was first settled by Europeans in 1814 and was known as Green Ponds - a name which is still retained as the local municipality. The town is full of quaint Georgian cottages, shops and farm buildings. The Heritage Highway bypasses Kempton, however it is worth stopping by to explore.

    The major historic buildings in the town include the National Estate listed St Mary s Anglican Church, a sandstone Gothic Revival building which was probably designed by James Blackburn. It was completed in 1844 and is notable for its square tower, its interesting cemetery, and its position as a central feature of Kempton s townscape.

    Silhouette Trail: A cut-out stage coach at the highway exit to Kempton marks the start of the Silhouette Trail on The Heritage Highway. In the paddocks along the highway, fifteen larger than life black steel cut-outs define the Trail and reflect on the region's frontier days: stage coaches in full flight, bushrangers, sheep farmers, gold-panners, surveyors, convict road gangs, railway workers, soldiers, a hangman, emus and Tasmanian Tigers amongst them.

    Melton Mowbray

    Melton Manor, which is just about all that remains of the Melton Mowbray settlement in the Tasmanian southern midlands, is a sprawling complex over 3 levels. Since its construction in the mid 19th century the Melton Manor hosts have accommodated military, landed gentry, government officials as well as transported convicts. The convicts not faring at all well as they were secured in an underground cell devoid of any facilities or light which was the norm during the period of history.

    Melton Manor was regarded amongst the esteemed as a prominent destination for race horse and hound hunt enthusiasts and was renowned for hosting such events. Mr. Blackwell (the original owner) was revered for his sporting accomplishments amongst peers and was often sought for coaching. In the early 20th century a ballroom was constructed which was beacon to the districts residents and enhanced Melton Manor's popularity as an entertainment venue and travellers retreat. The building, now known as The Melton Mowbray Hotel, features a secret convicts cell and hidden servants' quarters.

    The Hotel was built by Samuel Blackwell who came to Australia in 1840 from Melton Mowbray in England. A decade later, Blackwell was granted a stage coach licence for a two-wheel vehicle to run between Green Ponds and Bothwell for 12 months. A year later he bought land at Cross Marsh (now Melton), and in 1858 he built a large two-storey inn which he named Melton Mowbray after his birthplace in England.


    A designated historic town, Oatlands is said to have the largest collection of pre-1837 buildings in Australia. 87 such buildings are located in the main street while a total of 138 sandstone buildings are found within the town boundary.

    Where is it?: South. 79km north of Hobart, 113km south of Launceston on the Midland Highway.

    Oatlands Spring Festival (October long weekend); National Working Bullock Festival

    Oatlands grew in the colonial days as a result of it being the ideal stopping place between Hobart and Launceston, a role it still plays for travellers between Tasmania s two largest urban centres. It is also a close enough destination to both Hobart or Launceston for a day s drive, and well worth the effort.

    Lake Dulverton, behind the town, is regularly restocked with fish from the Oatlands District High School Aquaculture Centre.

    There are some amusing and amazing topiaries (trees and bushes clipped to particular shapes) at St Peter s Pass, and in Oatlands itself. The Oatlands topiaries continue an old tradition and are made by local residents to designs by Tasmanian sculptor Stephen Walker.

    Callington Mill: The Callington Mill complex, built by John Vincent in 1837, was the major flour mill for the region. The complex of stone buildings includes a five-level windmill tower, a granary, steam mill, stable and miller's cottage.



    Parattah and its surrounding area is home to about 100 families, and contains many historic buildings, such as a farmhouse which was once home to Hudson Fysh, one of the founders of Qantas, and a historic railway station. The main street contains a number of attractive dwellings dating from the town's heyday. The village retains the original general store, the impressive Tudor style Parattah Hotel and a number of historic churches.


    Campania (40km south) is small village with historic churches, wineries. Coal River Valley market is held on the second Sunday of the month. Campania is in fact one of the most important wine-producing regions of Tasmania, and has had commercial vineyards since the mid-19th century.

    Grapevines were first cultivated by George Weston Gunning at Campania in 1825, a cask of wine being produced the following year. Gunning also pioneered the cultivation of hops at Campania, a crop essential for the development of the brewing industry in Tasmania. Campania Estate was the childhood home of Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith, Chief Justice and Premier of Tasmania. In 1920, Campania Estate was subdivided into twenty-six lots for soldier settlement.

    The town had its beginnings when Francis Smith purchased land on the Coal River in 1829, and named his property Campania Estate. The completion of the Tasmanian Mainline Railway in 1876 saw the construction of a railway station on part of the Campania Estate. Around the railway station a township rapidly grew, including several stores, a hotel, flour mill, church, school and sale yards. Campania was proclaimed a township in 1882.

    Chauncy Vale Wildlife Sanctuary (39km south): As one of the oldest private conservation areas in Tasmania, the Chauncy Vale Wildlife Sanctuary presents 380 hectares of native bushland to explore. While there are many walking options available in the area, the 6km Brown's Caves loop is perhaps the most accessible and rewarding. This route offers an interesting mix of local history, cave formations and abundant wildlife while strolling through open dry sclerophyll forest. Alternative routes, wildlife guides and historical information are all available from the information boards at the start of the walk. A 2 dollar donation is required upon entry.


    Founded in 1816, the tiny historical village of Jericho is one of the oldest townships in Australia. Like its better known neighbour, Oatlands, the main road of Jericho contains some fine examples of early colonial sandstone architecture, and constructions including examples of convict cut culverts, bridges and walls, many of which date from the 1830s. A mud wall, a relic from the convict probation station, is appropriately known as the Wall of Jericho.

    • More


      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. It was here that the famed Irish political exiles John Mitchell and John Martin lived during their stay in Tasmania in the 1850s. Both had been arrested for treasonable writings

      Where Is it?: Bothwell is 76 km north north west of Hobart; 350 metres above sea level.

      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.

      As a classified historic town, Bothwell has 18 buildings classified by the National Trust and a further 34 listed. These include St Luke's Presbyterian church (1831); Wentworth House (1833); Nant Mill, a massive rough-masonry building erected in 1857; Clifton Priory, on Barrack Hill overlooking the township. The Anglican Chapel of St James, at Montacute, a nearby hamlet, was built by Capt. William Langdon in 1857. It is one of the few surviving 'estate' chapels. A hitching rail and ring are still outside the post office.

      Golf and Bothwell: Australia's first golf course - on the grazing property Ratho at Bothwell - is still in use today, and the Bothwell Golf Club. The Australasian Golf Museum has the largest display of historic and modern-day golfing memorabilia outside of St Andrew's, Scotland. The Museum has its home in an old school house on Market Place in town.


      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.

      Meadowbank Lake

      Meadowbank Lake, 8km north west of Hamilton, is a catchment of the Derwent River hydro electric scheme located between Hamilton and Ouse. Meadowbank Lake, created when Catagunya Dam was constructed in 1954, is an excellent trout fishing and aquatic area. Access via Dunrobin Bridge. The lake is also popular with water skiers with two designated ski zones south of Dunrobin Bridge.

      A camping and picnic area is located at Bethune Park on the western side of Dunrobin Bridge. A picnic area, public toilets and boat ramp are located on the eastern side of Dunrobin Bridge.

      The Catagunya hydro electric Power Scheme was an important step in the rapid post-war development of Tasmania's hydro-electric resources. Tasmania had the cheapest electricity in Australia, and the demand for electricity was doubling every ten years. Two thirds of the demand arose from a small number of large industries. The State government saw cheap electricity as a means of attracting more industries and the Hydro-Electric Commission as a large employer of labour. At the same time, the construction of hydro schemes was capital-intensive and funds were sometimes restricted. Strenuous efforts were made by the Hydro-Electric Commission staff to embrace new ideas in order to produce the most economical designs, of which Catagunya Dam is an example. It was an exciting and challenging time for the hydro-electric engineers.

      Mt Bethune Conservation Area

      Mt Bethune Conservation Area is 362ha. reserve of natural bushland, located 4km east-south-east of Ellendale. The majority of the 43 ha property comprises beautiful dry inland Silver peppermint (Eucalyptus tenuiramis) forest. Adjacent to Mt Field National Park, it is a popular spot for campings and bush walks.

      Bethune Camping Area, beside Meadowbank Lake, is a grassy camping and picnic area witg sites that can accommodate big rigs. Perfect for waterskiers and anglers, there s a launching ramp close by on the eastern side of Dunrobin Bridge. The lake is the final section of the Derwent River Hydro-electricity Scheme and the last of the catchment s 10 power stations is at the foot of the Meadowbank Dam downstream. As the campground is on Hydro land, campers can stay for a maximum of 7 days. Access is through a gate on Ellendale Road, just west of Dunrobin Bridge, 2 km from the Lyell Hwy. Bring water and firewood.


      Ouse, 15km north west of Hamilton, 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.


      A tiny village on the River Derwent, Greta was formerly known as Macquarie Plains. Gretna is home to one of Tasmania's most memorable monuments, a memorial to the Hamilton district's 22 fallen soldiers of The Great War (1914-18). Perched on a hill on the side of the Derwent, Gretna's memorial was built by Mrs A Walker of Clarendon to remember her nephews - Guy Davenport and Arthur Davenport - who were killed in the war. The memorial sits prominently at the southern entrance to the village. It also contains a plaque which was added for the 75th anniversary of Armistice Day.


      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). The Derwent Valley Railway line reached the town in 1909. Due to confusion between the town of Russell and Russell Falls further up the road the towns name was changed in 1919 to Westerway. It was named by, and after, W H Westerway (1851 1930), the main resident and responsible for many developments in the area. He built an accommodation house and store where Coniston siding is now, owned the Coffee Palace at Glenora and started a livery business driving tourists to Russell Falls.

      Westerway railway station was important as it was the starting point for the pack horse journey to the long abandoned Adamsfield osmiridium mine. As the timber industry became more important to the area, a sawmill was built and the number of timber mills in the area increased and the train line was used to transport logs to Boyer and Hobart. The Derwent Valley Railway was, until recently, used by tourists to visit the area.

      The station was the starting point for the pack horse journey to the Adamsfield osmiridium mine. As the timber industry became more important to the area, sawmills were built and the railway was used to transport logs to Boyer and Hobart. By the 1990s, alternative transportation made the continued use of the railway unprofitable and by 1995, no trains ran beyond New Norfolk. However, the Derwent Valley Railway was, until recently, used by tourists to visit the area. The Westerway station building has been restored by volunteers at the Derwent Valley Railway.


      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.

      The 3' 6" gauge railway line in Maydena was once used for hauling timber and osmiridium ore, as well as a way point for the Dam builders up at Strathgordon. A portion of the disused rail track is now being used by a pedal powered 'Rail track riders' tourist attraction.

      Mt Field National Park

      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.

      The eastern slopes of Mt Field and Brown Mountain are a natural backdrop to Ellendale township, the northern slopes are clearly visible from the Lyell Highway. A large proportion of the region is visible from Mt Field National Park, all of which are of high aesthetic values. Community needs for the present and future generations will be decimated if this area is to be clearfelled. Clearfelling will result in the ecological genocide of a unique part of our environment.

      • More >>

      • Magra

        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. Thomas Shone arrived in the Derwent Valley in December 1816 from Sydney, having served four years of a sentence for passing a forged note in Shrewsbury, England, where he worked in a solicitors' office. His pardon came gift-wrapped with a 60 acre land grant and three convicts, and with the Van Diemen's Land hierarchy trying to 'domesticate' the areas outside of Hobart Town, Shone was given a wooded tract of land just outside of the fledgling township of New Norfolk.

        Cash's Cave remains in the heavily bbushranger Martin Cash and his gang kidnapped a neighbouring farmer, James Bradshaw, and used his identity to gain entrance to the house. Once inside, they herded the family, servants and friends into the living room, until 16 people were at gunpoint. Removing valuables from their person and from the house, the Cash gang made off back into the hills, eventually being captured finally in August of that year, after a celebrated foot chase through the streets of Hobart.

        Plenty Salmon Ponds


        Plenty (11km south east of New Norfolk), situated on the main road between New Norfolk and Bushy Park, is a small village, formely a location of hop growing. Plenty Salmon Ponds is the oldest trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere - in operation since 1864. It includes Museum of Trout Fishing and Hall of Fame. The settlement was first known as River Plenty, but by 1895 its post office had been renamed Plenty. The town is notable as it was the location of the first introductions of brown trout outside their native range.