Pyengana, Tasmania

Pyengana is a rural farming region with sites of such significant natural beauty and it is well worth leaving the highway that bypasses it, and stopping to savour a little of what it has to offer.

Where Is it? 27 west of St Helens, off Tasman Highway.

Pyengana is not nor has ever been a town, but a community that grew around the home of pioneering settlers George and Margaret Cotton who settled here in 1875 and raised a family of nine children at a property they called St Columba. The name recalls Saint Columba (521-597), a Gaelic Irish missionary monk who propagated Christianity among the Picts.

Pub In A Paddock

In 1880 a family with 15 children built a private homestead up the road from the Cottons. A decade later, a hotel license was granted for the property = known affectionately these days as The Pub in the Paddock. It has been continuously licensed ever since and visitors can experience hospitality of a bygone era with hearty meals and open fires. It has six rooms for accommodation and a tea room.

Pyengana Dairy

Up the road from The Pub in the Paddock is another Pyengana institution - Pyengana Dairy Company. Its renowned Clothbound Cheddar is produced by John Healey using the original method established by his great grandfather at the turn of the 20th century. With such a long history of production, Pyengana Clothbound Cheddar is one of Australia s oldest specialist cheeses. Attached to the dairy is the Holy Cow Cafe, a wonderful place to do a little cheese tasting, or to stop and enjoy a light meal as the cows on the other side of the fence jostle for a spot on the laser-guided milking machines.

St Columba Falls

Not far from Pyengana is St Columba Falls, one of Tasmania's highest waterfalls, with water plunging 90m from the Mt Victoria foothills to the valley of the South George River. There is a delightful walk from the car park to the falls through one of the most captivating rainforests you will see in a long time.

Halls Falls (see below) is a smaller, cascading waterfall, but its location in beautiful forest makes up for anything it may lack in size. The water that tumbles over these two falls is the reason the region became known as Pyengana. It is the Aboriginal word for 'two rivers'. These days the two rivers are called North and South George. South George flows through the valley and spills over the top of St Columba Falls. The Falls is part of the St Columba Falls State Reserve, featuring a picnic and toilet facilities, with limited parking along the road.


The area around Pyengana had several tin mines such as the Anchor Tin Mine and Battery situated in the Pyengana Pass. Fifteen kilometres beyond Pyengana are the remnants of the mining village of Lottah where massive anchor stampers stand silently. These rusted tin crushing machines were driven by a waterwheel. At its height Lottah was home to 150 miners and their families as well as shopkeepers hoteliers etc, It had a school, two hotels, a working man's club, billiard rooms and two churches. Lottah even had its own 18-member Australian rules football team, a trainer and coach.

Lotta Anchor Mine waterwheel

In 1903, the correspondent for the Hobart Mercury provided a vivid snapshot of the town:

“This is a township, three miles from Gould's Country, and situated 1,500ft above the sea level. It has a population of about 500 or 600, but if the Anchor tin mine was to cease working, the number of inhabitants would decrease to about 100. The township owes its existence to the mine, for the country round is mountainous, and only suitable for grazing cattle, though in one or two places small patches could be cultivated, but not without a good deal of difficulty. There is a little dairying carried on, but just about sufficient to meet local demands. Therefore, the resources of the locality are limited, and, beyond mining operations, there is little to record….

Lottah township is composed of many cottages, the majority of which are small, and tenanted mostly by miners. Being in such a high elevation, the drainage of the township is good, and, in consequence, fevers and such like are of rare occurrence. The two hotels, the Lottah and Jubilee, are licensed by Messrs. A Woolley and G. Macmichael respectively, whilst the general store of Messrs J C. Macmichael and Co. is the leading establishment in that line. The post office, in charge of Mrs Charlesworth, is close to the Lottah Hotel, whilst on the hill beyond the Jubilee Hotel is the new police station, a rather handsome building. The general place for holding entertainments, etc., is in a building which was used as a tin shed in connection with the Anchor mine. It is close to the mining manager's residence, and 35 chains from the post office. A remarkable fact about Lottah is that it does not possess a church of any denomination, which is rather singular for such an old place. The spiritual welfare of the people, however, is not neglected, as the State School building is used for holding divine service….”

A collapse in the price of tin in 1913 marked the beginning of the end of Lottah which was entirely dependent on the Anchor Mine. The decline of the town was swift. In 1920 the Daily Telegraph reported:

“Several more houses here have recently been sold, and will shortly be removed. Two churches, one hotel, and the well-established Post Office, however, still remain intact. They will doubtless, weather the depression until such time as there is a turn in the tide of local affairs”.

When the mine was eventually closed in 1950, the site was abandoned and all that remained was something resembling a moonscape. It has since been reclaimed by Mother Nature. There are few people living today who have any recollections of Lottah during its prime. Once on the main thoroughfare between St Helens and Scottsdale, Lottah can now only be reached via a gravel road. It has no shops and just a few houses, a far cry from when St Helens was created merely as a poret to service Lottah and the Anchor mine.


Poinmena, another tiny mining town in the Blue Tiers, is also a ghost town. The township once stood on the site of the Mt Poimena walking trail car park. There is very little left to suggest it was ever a township, only signposts advising what used to be there and minimal signs of actual excavation.

Blue Tier Reserve

The Blue Tier Reserve is an exposed plateau with a rich mining and natural heritage. What makes the Blue Tier Forest Reserve so interesting is its long history in mining and forestry operations. The first Europeans came to this area after some miners who were working in the Mathinna goldfields discovered some rich tin deposits in some of the creeks in this area. The breathtaking beauty of the Blue Tier belies its amazing history of toil, hardship and lonliness for those who sought to make a better life for themselves and their families through mining for tin.

The news spread quickly and the area was settled in 1878 as a mining town. Back then the town was made up of a pub, two hotels, a blacksmith, butcher, three stores and a few residential cottages. The Blue Tier area also has a history in forestry operation. From 1945 to 1952 two sawmills were in operation with one run by a French family who milled celery top pine; while the Nichols mill focused on myrtle. There is a range of walks from a short 400m circuit, which is wheelchair friendly, to a 10.5km walk one-way to Weldborough for the more adventurous.

Halls Falls

Halls Falls in the north east, is located up near Blue Tier, and is the first attraction along the way to the Anchor Tin Mine Site and Blue Tier. There are also a number of picnic tables near the information booth, and some old mining equipment. The walk to the falls is only 30 minutes return, however if you want the full experience it is recommended that you dedicate about an hour and a half. The falls are one of the prettiest in Tasmania and are well worth leaving the main road to visit. What it lacks in sheer size it makes up for in quiet beauty.

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.