Elizabeth Town is not really a town at all, just a collection of houses and business alongside Bass Highway midway between Devonport and Launceston. Though it has a population of around 500, it's one of those places that if you blink you might miss it. But if you do miss it, you will miss out on some of the best gourmet produce of Tasmania's north-west.
Elizabeth Town is at the heart of a thriving agricultural region known for its dairy products and small fruits, which makes it a great place to stop for morning or afternoon tea, or lunch. The choice of places to eat and what to eat is remarkably wide, and the quality is of the highest standard. You can eat in or take away, and by take away we aren't just talking about meals. You can buy chocolates, dairy produce, fruit and fruit products straight from the farm or factory in what has become a mecca for foodies.
Where Is it?: Bass Highway between Devonport and Launceston.
Visitor Information Centre: River Road, Bells Parade, Latrobe. Ph (03) 6421 4699
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm
When you've just come off the Spirit of Tasmania ferry and you've eager to sample the delights that Tasmania has to offer, a great place to start is Christmas Hills Rasperrty Farm and Cafe at Elizabeth Town. The house speciality - Morning Craving - is my absolute favourite. The cafe is open all day, and serves everything from light snacks to full meals. At the counter you can purchase from a range raspberry-based products, all made from raspberries grown right there in Elizabeth Town.
The cafe is placed in a charming setting, the rear dining area looks out over lawns and a lake, surrounded by native vegetation. During warmer months, the tables and chairs provided for outdoor dining are very popular. After your meal you can take a short walk around a lake, and maybe spot an alpaca or two.
Van Diemens Land Creamery
Van Diemen ice cream is loved all over Tasmania, and is now availble from their Elizabeth Hills cafe-come-ice creamery attached to the factory. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the ice cream being made through the production room window. Like meals and snacks are available at the cafe but the big attraction, of course, is the ice cream. There are over 40 different flavours and combinations to try, some most unusual but all deliciously tasty. All are available in a variety of sizes to take home. Van Diemens Land Creamery is on Bass Highway opposite the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm.
Anvers Confectionery was commenced as a cottage industry November 1989, by Igor Van Gerwen, who came to this country from Belgium. In 1991 Igor was approached by a Japanese businessman who ordered a one of order of 3000Kg of truffles. As Igor did not have the facility to produce such a big order, the Japanese Gentleman paid the order in advance so that a proper factory could be build and staff trained. These rest, as they say, is history.
House of Anvers is now a flourishing small business, with a product range including everything from hand made chocolate truffles, chocolate oranges, fudge to moulded pralines. At Anvers' traditional European style coffee shop, the specialty of the house is of course chocolates, hot chocolate in many flavours, chocolate desserts and more chocolate! Belgian breakfasts and light Tasmanian fare luncheon are served, together with a range of teas and espresso coffees for the morning and afternoon break. Location: 9025 Bass Highway, Latrobe.
Elizabeth Town Bakery Cafe
When John Spicer was granted an inn licence in 1862, it was the start of a business that continues to this day, as the Elizabeth Town Bakery Cafe. At the age of 22, John was transported from England to Van Diemens Land for 15 years for highway robbery. In the early 1860s he established a drapery business at Whitefoord Hills, now Moltema, and built the Saddlers Arms Hotel at Elizabeth Town. It became a populay coaching stop on the highway from Launceston to the Coast.
After John's death, the Saddlers Arms was sold to his son-in-law Charles Slater, who built the present building which was known as Slaters Hotel in 1904. Later it became known as the Elizabeth Town Hotel and in 2004 the hotel was completely renovated and transformed into what is known today as the Elizabeth Town Bakery Cafe, an iconic licensed gourmet bakery. Location: 5783 Bass Highway, Elizabeth Town.
The Cherry Shed and Cafe
In season or out of season, you can call in at The Cherry Shed and enjoy the taste of local cherries any time of the year. The cherry products available from The Cherry Shed are all made on site from their own fruit, and from their own orchard. A point of interest in the restaurant are the columns which have been paved with cherry stones, and the tables with cherry motifs.
On a poroperty that has been in the Bennett family since the late 19th century, a few kilometres from Elizabeth Town on Bass Highway, you'll find Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm - a true cheese lover's delight! With fresh-bottled milk, decadent farm ice-cream, creamy butter and of course, an array of fine cheeses, Ashgrove's busy farm shop has a constant stream of locals and tourists popping in to not only sample the local produce, but also to watch it all being made.
The factory behind the shop is where milk and cream are bottled, while 200 metres up the hill, there's a dairy where part of the herd of predominantly Friesian and Jersey cows are milked. Ashgrove actually has three farms, each with its own dairy, and all are within sight of the farm shop. The furthest the milk has to travel for bottling or transforming into cream, butter, creme fraiche or cheese is about five kilometres.
The land around Ashgrove is some of Australia's most fertile and, with a temperate climate and plenty of water, it is perfect for dairying. The cows graze outside year round and from late spring until autumn, the paddocks supply all their food, apart from the small amount of grain they eat twice a day to keep them amused while they are on the rotary milking machine.
Brief History of Elizabeth Town
The name 'Elizabeth Town' was originally intended for the southern Tasmanian town of New Norfolk. In 1820, Governor Lachlan Macquarie passed through the area where the town now stands, instructing that a town be laid out there, and that it be named Elizabeth Town, after his wife, born Elizabeth Campbell (1778 – 1835). The area had recently been settled by former residents of Norfolk Island, who had been transfered to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) when the colonial outpost on Norfolk Island was closed by the British Government. In 1825, the former Norfolk Islanders successfully lobbied to have Elizabeth Town's name changed to New Norfolk in honour of their former home.
Around that time, a settlement on the newly created road between Latrobe and Launceston began to form, following the granting of land there. A town was laid out based on 10 acre (4.0 ha) allotments; a subdivision of town lots was planned, but never eventuated. The locality was named 'Elizabeth Town', for no other reason than that the name had become available, having just being made redundant by the re-naming of New Norfolk.
This all happened after Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie had left the colony, never to return. It is not known if they ever found out that the New Norfolk settlers has rejected the name the former Governor had chosen for their village, or that the name had not been abandoned totally, but used for a new settlement in Van Diemen's Land's north. Macquarie would have been pleased that the name had not been abandoned totally, but would probably have had mixed feelings about it being given to a town in an region of Tasmania that he had never visited.
Until the 1970s, when some land was further subdivided on the east side of what is now the Bass Highway, the town area had only three houses and had not become a population centre. Consequent to the subdivision more dwellings were built and there were more than forty by 2002.
At the 2006 census, the Elizabeth Town area had a population of 502. John Spicer built and opened a hotel on the road from Deloraine north to Devonport in the 1850s. Just prior to 1900 the then owner, Charles Slater, demolished the building replaced it with the current structure. Slater had used money from a lottery win to build the new hotel. The hotel, which sits by the Bass Highway, is now run as ETC—the Elizabeth Town café.
Elizabeth once had a school, tennis courts, a Catholic church, an Anglican church, post office and a hall. Of these only two church buildings remain converted to houses. A post office opened on in September 1860, with a resident post master, and closed in 1969.
In 1891, a travelling correspondent passing through Elizabeth Town noted: “This delightful picturesque, rural village is just the place for the overworked or invalid to seek change and rest from the turmoil and bustle of busy life. The village Inn, having the old fashioned sign of ‘The Saddlery Arms’ has been kept for nearly 40 years by the veteran landlord, Mr John Spicer”.
Anglican services were first held in the Elizabeth Town state school. The foundation stone for the Anglican Holy Cross church was laid in January 1892 and it opened for services in January 1893. This church was replaced in the 1950s and a five sided apsidal sanctuary was built in 1955 and dedicated in August of the same year. The building was remodelled and had a vestry added in 1966. The church celebrated its 60th anniversary in December 1952, but by was only used for Christmas services. The church closed and a decision to sell it made in 2011 by the Parish of Deloraine to sell this in 2011. The building is now a private dwelling.