This interesting former tin mining town, which wanders along a hillside overlooking the Ringarooma River, retains the atmosphere of its pioneering history. A classified historic town, it lies about halfway between Launceston and the east coast and therefore has become something of a natural stopover point for travellers.
Where Is it?: 96 km north west of St Helens, 104 km north east of Launceston on Tasman Highway.
The village of Derby hosts the Derby River Derby every October. The annual friendly river race features homemade or inflatable rafts.
In 2015 a network of Mountain Bike trails (MTB) opened in the wooded hills surrounding Derby. Encompassing 125km of purpose built mountain bike trails with options to suit all skill levels., the trails are called Blue Derby and stretch out to the Blue Tier area. Mountain bike tourism has transformed the town and mountain bike and trail running events have been held, with many guided tours also available. In April 2017, Derby hosted a round of the Enduro World Series. It was the first time the Enduro World Series has been held in Australia.
Derby Tin Mine Centre
The town is proud of its mining heritage and its Derby Tin Mine Centre and The Trail of the Tin Dragon tells of Derby's early days and gives an opportunity to pan for gold and find your own nuggets. It is also the site of the Briseis Mine; in it's heyday one of the richest tin mines in the world. Experience the power and fury of 'A Billion Litres Of Water with nowhere to go', in the epic story of the Tin Rush and the miners who sought their fortune from this remarkable metal.
Over the road from the Tin Mine Centre is one of the town's real novelties - the National Bank, which has a reasonable claim to being the smallest bank in Tasmania and one of the smallest in Australia.
Cascade Dam and Tunnel
One of the tunnels that was constructed at Derby during its hayday, is still accessible through the hill on the eastern side of the Casacde River, up river from the bridge on the Tasman Highway. The tunnel was used to wash away the tailings from various mines. With a good torch and the willingness to get wet, you can walk up this tunnel. There are other tunnels constructed during the mining era at Derby, however most are no longer accessible.
To visit Cascade Dam, take Krushka Street (at the Derby Town Hall) and follow this bitumen road around to the left onto Cascade Dam Road (unsignposted). 300 metres from the town hall you will come to a Y junction where you need to take the right (upper) fork as it continues up the hill. 2.7 km from the start you will come to another junction where you went to continue straight ahead (up the left fork). There is a small home made sign reading "Cascade Dam 4kms" here. 5.2kms from the start, after a short downhill section you will pass a track heading off to your right, this is where you turn off to head up towards Rattlers Hill. A 4wd vehicle is best if you plan to explore the area. There is limited phone coverage, and you may not see another person, so make sure you are self sufficient.
If you are interested in the mining history of the area, follow the Rattlers Hill route up to the Mount Paris Dam which is a further 8.7kms from the junction, and then from the Dam continue out onto Mount Paris Dam Road (300 metres), turn left and follow this road for 1.1kms until you see Carnac Road (signed) on your left, turn here and go up the short hill to a T Junction (300 metres), turn left again and along Carnac Road for 2kms which brings you back where you started from. Total additional distance is around 18.5kms.
Mt Paris Dam
Mt Paris Dam, on the Mt Paris Road, is the only surviving pillar and slab dam in Tasmania. Originally named the Morning Star Dam, it was built across the Cascade River using only shovels and wheelbarrows in 1937 and was connected by an 11 Km water race with the Mt Paris Mine. The mine closed in 1970 and the dam fell into disuse. In 1985, a hole was blasted into the 16 metre high wall to release the water. In the middle of the dam, most of the vegetation has now grown back, the only indication it was ever any different is the dam wall which still rises starkly before you in the middle of the bush.
The tiny settlement of Moorina (10 km west) was originally a tin mining centre. It now has a virtually non-existent population. The only interesting landmark in the town is the solitary Chinese headstone and small oven in the cemetery (turn off the main road it is clearly signposted) which recall the fact that in the late nineteenth century hundreds of Chinese arrived in the area to work in the tin mines. Moorina was once known as Krushkas Bridge (after the Krushka brothers who settled in the area and opened the Derby mine) but was later renamed Moorina, after Truganini's sister.
Trail of the Tin Dragon
The Trail of the Tin Dragon has been developed to create a trail of experiences between Launceston and St. Helens that tell the tale of our past mining history. Spanning the rugged North-East,the Trail of the Tin Dragon winds its way through stunning scenery and historic townships. The Trail tells the story of tin mining in the North East of Tasmania, focusing on the European and Chinese miners who sought their fortune and risked all for this most remarkable metal.
The Trail of the Tin Dragon is the untold story of the North East of Tasmania. It is a Chinese story. It is a story of Tin mining, of boom and bust, flood and drought, riches and poverty, hope and despair. It is a story of racial hatred and racial harmony. A story of human transience and the power of nature. The trails begins at Launceston, and passes through Branxholm, Derby, Moorina, Pyengana and St Helens. In Western legends and myths, the dragon is usually depicted as a medieval fire-belching monster, representing evil, or a beast to be vanquished by moral force and valour. For the Chinese, the dragon symbolizes goodness, strength, fertility and change.
The area had been surveyed in 1855, but was not settled until 1874, when George Renison Bell discovered tin in the area. The Krushka brothers discovered a large lode of tin, and set up a mine (named The Brothers Mine) in the area, assuring the town's economic future. The town was originally known as Brother's Home until renamed Derby (believed to be after Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom). Brother's Home Post Office opened on 1 August 1882 and was renamed Derby in 1885.
Derby reached its peak in the late 19th century, when its population reached over 3,000, and the Brothers Mine (renamed the Briseis Mine after the winner of the 1876 Melbourne Cup) was producing upwards of 120 tonnes of tin per month. On 4 April 1929, the Briseis Dam used by the mine burst after heavy rains and the Cascade River flooded the town, killing 14 people. The mine was closed, but re-opened five years later although it never reached the same level of output as it had in the last century and closed in 1948.
Derby was served by a branch railway line which extended from Launceston to Herrick, 4 kilometres short of Moorina. The line through Derby station opened on 15 March 1919 and ran through the hills 2 km from the town. The railway closed in April 1992.