George Town, Tasmania

A coastal town 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 is today a modern administrative centre. It is economically driven by the aluminium industry at Bell Bay and the tourist industry which attracts people to this attractive area of northern Tasmania.

Where Is it?: George Town is 53 km north of Launceston on the East Tamar Highway.


Memorial Hall,108 Goulburn St, George Town
Trading: 2nd Saturday of the Month  9am - 1pm
Type: General. Phone: (03) 6382 3421

Bass and Flinders Centre

Situated in George Town, the Bass and Flinders Centre is a museum primarily telling the story of British navigators Matthew Flinders and George Bass and their visit to the coasts of Tasmania. In 1798 they sailed around Tasmania in HM Colonial sloop Norfolk and proved it was an island. In 1998 the voyage was re-enacted with a replica Norfolk built out of Huon pine and Celery Top pine. Not a single nail or screw was used - all the joints are held together with tunnels. Other exhibits tells the maritime history of the region. location: 8 Elizabeth Street, George Town, Tas.

Low Head Coastal Reserve

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.

Low Head Lighthouse

Low Head Lighthouse, about 7 kilometres north of George Town on the east side of the mouth of the Tamar River, is the Low head Coastal Reserve. It is Australia's oldest continuously used pilot station. This light is now unmanned and automated. 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 near Hobart, was lit in 1832. Low Head Lighthouse, constructed by convict labor and first lit on 27 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. 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. The new tower was painted solid white from top to bottom. On 5 January 1926, a broad bright red band was painted around the midsection of the tower to improve visibility during daylight hours.

Low Head Lighthouse is home to Tasmania's only foghorn, a Type G diaphone that was installed in April 1929. The foghorn was operated by the lighthouse keepers during foggy conditions for more than forty years. The original device consisted of two Gardner Engine Company kerosene engines driving 2 Reavell air compressors, supplying air to two compressed air receivers. One of the largest diaphones ever constructed, the foghorn was decommissioned in 1973 because of technological advances in marine navigational equipment. Early in 2000, a project to restore the foghorn was launched. 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.

Low Head Pilot Station

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.

St Alban’s Anglican church

Pipers River

Pipers River is a perennial river that was named for Captain Hugh Piper. The river rises below Mount Arthur near Lilydale. It runs through Hollybank Forest, a tourist attraction, before flowing through the outer reaches of Lilydale. It then proceeds through to Karoola, Lower Turners Marsh and then Pipers River town. The river has its mouth at Pipers Heads near the towns of Weymouth and Bellingham flowing into Noland Bay, Bass Strait.

At the 2016 census, the small township of Pipers River had a population of 426. There is a tennis court, general store/takeaway, a fire station, church and cemetery. An Anglican community had been present at Pipers River for some time prior to the establishment of St Alban’s in 1912 and this is evident by the adjacent cemetery that has headstones dating back to the early 1880’s. Worship took place at nearby Alford Hall, which was built in the late 19th century. The church was dedicated in 1923, around the time of the final decline of the nearby town of Lefroy. St Alban’s church is now a private residence.

With its red basalt soil and a cool climate moderated by the proximity of Bass Strait, the small but significant boutique Pipers River 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.

Bell Bay

The port of Bell Bay is situated along the eastern shore of Port Dalrymple. It lies just south of George Town. Bell Bay hosts an aluminium smelter, manganese alloy smelter, and a power station. It is a major port for the export of minerals. Bell Bay is connected by a 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) narrow gauge railway to the main line at Launceston.

Barnbougle Dunes

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.

Also in the region: Four Mile Creek Wildlife Sanctuary (4 km south-east of George Town); Tenth Island Nature Reserve (5 km north-west of Stony Head); Bell Bay bauxite processing and port facilities; Batman Bridge; Lefroy ghost town (15 km east  gold discovered 1870).


A gold rush settlement that had a population of 5000 at its peak, Lefroy was once the fourth largest town in Tasmania at that time. Gold had been found at Nine Mile Springs at various times, but an 1869 discovery was the find of greatest significance. It was alluvial gold, unlike most of the gold though north-east Tasmania is in reefs, which requires investments of time and money into underground mining operations.

By 1874 there were around 300 persons on the diggings, including about 50 Chinese, but fresh arrivals occured daily, most of whom meet with immediate employment. The settlement had one public house, three stores and butchers’ shops, z Post Office being situated about a kilometre from the diggings at Nine Mile Springs. There was also a constables’ residence and lockup, and the Mining Registrar’s office.

With new dicoveries, the mining population moved west a little, leaving the Springs behind. Nine years later, the town was still buzzing, but now boasted a post office, school, Mechanic’s Institute, two banks, three churches, five licensed hotels, ten general stores, three butchers, four bakers’ shops, a chemist’s and druggist’s establishment, a hair cutting saloon, and even a photographic studio. The community supported an excellent brass band, a minstrel club, and even a ramatic club.

Lefroy soon fell into decline as the gold ran out. In 1884 the population had fallen to around 500, many houses were left unoccupied, whims, poppet-heads and machine-rooms stood idle. Within 18 months, there were only about 100 active miners. The town ejoyed a revival in the closing years of the 19th century when more gold was found, but it did not last. In 1919 the police officer retired but was not replaced. 1920 The old Methodist parsonage, which has been located at Lefroy for some years, was dismantled, carted to George Town, and re-erected on a site opposite the old post office.

Brief History of George Town

During the course of their circumnavigation of Van Diemen's Land now Tasmania in the Norfolk in 1798, George Bass and Matthew Flinders made landfall at what they named Port Dalrymple, now George Town, 40 kilometres to the north-west of Launceston. In doing so, they proved the existence of a strait between Australia and Tasmania. Flinders reported difficulty in locating the entrance to the channel.

George Town can claim to be one of the earliest European settlements in Tasmania. As early as 1804 Lieut. Col. William Paterson camped on the site for a few weeks before settling on York Town on the West Arm of Port Dalrymple as the site for a first British settlement in northern Tasmania he had been apointed to establish.

Paterson ran the HMS Buffalo aground at what is now known as York Cove and 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. Paterson soon determined that a site on the opposite shore was a better site for his new colony and established it there, naming it York Town.

Humbug Point Reserve

The town of George Town we see today would never have come into existence were it not for the new NSW Governor, Lachlan Macquarie, who made his inaugural visit to Port Darlrymple in 1811. Macquarie hated both what remained of the settlement at York Town, and the village of Launceston that had replaced it, and believed York Cove to be a far better location for the settlement than either of Paterson's choices. He promptly had a townsite surveyed and instructed everyone to move to the new settlement. The locals were not amused and many refused to go. The new townsite was laid out in 1816.

Macquarie named it after the English king, George III, and the bay on which it stood, York Cove. The streets are today still known by the names he gave them. As was his habit, the two main street were named after himself and his wife (Macquarie and Elizabeth Streets), the others honoured Queens Adelaide, Victoria and Ann, and King William. British politicians Wellington, Bathurst and Goulburn also got a nod, as did Paterson. Commandants and governors Cimitiere, Arthur, Franklin and Sorrel were honoured later as the town grew.

Interestingly, George Town's street names are almost identical to those of Launceston, escept for Macquarie Street, which is missing from Launceston. As Maquarie did not like Launceston and wanted nothing to do with it, it is unlikely he would have bothered to name or re-name Launceston's streets, nor would he name a town's streets and leave his own name off. I suspect both town's street names were made uniform at a later date, as Launceston contains names that are "copybook" Macquarie names, yet George Town honours commandands and governors that hadn't been appointed to their positions when Macquarie had Geporge Town laid out in 1816.

George Town continued to grow in fits and starts. During Macquarie's time it was an important centre and regional centre, but then slumped back into insignificance. In the 1830s, it became the most important port on Van Diemen's Land's north coast, being particularly active in its trading with the new colony of Victoria.

It slumped again in the 1840s during a time of recession, only to be revitalised in the 1870s when gold was discovered at Lefroy, 15 km east of the town. After the discovery of gold Lefroy became a thriving gold mining town with a population reaching 5000 towards the turn of the century. Lefroy, which is now little more than a ghost town, is well worth a visit.