Somerset is located on the estuary of the western bank of the Cam River midway between the township of Wynyard and the city of Burnie. At one time it was a town in its own right but is now practically a satellite suburb of the city of Burnie. In 1856 the settlement was named in honour of the Earl of Somerset. In earlier times it was also known as ‘Port Maldon’ and ‘The Cam’, with the latter name being used well into the 20th century.
By the turn of the 20th century, the name, Somerset, was generally known by residents as applied to a little township eight kilometres west of Burnie. In former years this town was invariably known as the Cam, which is really the name of a river on whose banks the town of Somerset stands. It was a long time in the making before the name of Somerset caught on after having its crown land parceled out in 1845 in the “township of Somerset.” Today Somerset forms part of the Burnie-Somerset urban area.
In 1904 a scene-setting description of Somerset was published in Launceston’s Daily Telegraph: “It is only somewhat recently,…that the name of Somerset is known generally by residents on the North-West Coast, as applied to a little township five miles west of Burnie on the main Coast road. In former years this town was invariably known and spoken of as the Cam, which is really the name of a river on whose banks the town of Somerset may be said to stand….This little town is peculiarly forced upon the mind of the stranger as he approaches it from Burnie, as being a quiet little place, without any ambition to rise, a kind of tranquility prevails which impresses itself on its inhabitants and peace and contentment reign…Among the public buildings of Somerset are a Town Hall, Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, and Methodist chapel… With these places of worship the people should lack nothing spiritually …”.
The residential locality of Parklands lies about 3 kilometres north-west of the town of Burnie. The 2016 census provides a population of 850 for the state suburb of Parklands. North West Regional Hospital, Tasmania's third largest hospital, is located on Brickport Road, Parklands.
Burnie Park is located on the boundary of Burnie and Parklands. The park boasts lush green lawns that are ideal for picnics. It has a children' playground, waterfall and a music shell. The Burnie War Memorial, located in the park, commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Great War.
A a dormitory suburb of Burnie, Cooee takes its name from an Aboriginal call in the bush and means 'come to me'. It is likely that the name was selected by an early explorer or European settler after hearing the call by the local Tasmanian Aboriginals as they communicated with each other. The name was first recorded for Cam Creek. During the 1970s Cooee proudly promoted its "Golden Mile" of new and used car lots and service stations.
From a regional base established by chocolate manufacturer Cadbury in the 1920s, a modern milk-processing factory was developed in 1948 at Cooee. The site was selected because of its closeness to Tasmania's rich north-west dairy region, which supplies the bulk of the company's milk. The Cooee plant processes some 15 percent of the state's milk output for Dairy Milk production. Every day, B-Double road tankers transport the processed milk south to its factory in the Hobart suburb of Claremont by road. The plant is at the corner of the Bass Highway and Brickport Road, Cooee.
An elevated platform, once part of the Cooee Siding, stands alongside an abondoned section of railway track on Cooee Point Road, Cooee. The single narrow gauge line linked Burnie and Stanley, and was opened in 1913. Known as the Far Western line, it was later extended from Myalla station (near Stanley) to Irishtown (1919), Smithton (1921) and Wiltshire (1922). From Burnie to Wynyard, the line closely follows the coastline of Bass Strait, for the majority of route between the main road and the water, before turning inland and passing through the south of Wynyard township.
In the 1970s, with the increase in car ownership, funding for highways and the loss of goods consignments, the Tasmanian Government Railways's operations suffered, and passenger services were eventually ceased across the network. Hobart suburban services ended in 1974, with passenger services ending entirely in 1978. At present the line is intact and generally clear from Burnie to Wiltshire, but is not available to traffic. Plans are afoot to lift the old track and replace it with a walking/cycling trail.
The locality of Camdale is adjoined to the north by Bass Strait, to the east by Ocean Vista, to the south by East Cam, to the west by Somerset. The name was selected because it is adjacent to the estuary of the Cam River. This area was part of the Van Diemen's Land. Company's Emu Bay block, and marked as Maldon on their charts and maps. The Cam River was first surveyed by the VDL Company in 1827 and was named by the company's chief surveyor, Henry Hellyer, after an English river in the same way as the Mersey was named.
An 1858 map shows Port Maldon to the east of the river, on part of the current locality of Camdale. Port Maldon was for a time a busy sailing ship port and also supported ship building in the area. In Bailliere's Gazetteer, 1877, it described "Maldon" as "a small hamlet in the district of Emu Bay". The playground equipment in Cam Park, Murchison Highway, Somerset, which takes the form of a ship, commemorates Port Maldon.
Despite having a relatively narrow navigale channel at high water, the port flourished between the 1860s and 1890s in both the export of timber and the building of two-masted schooners. Wharves were built on both sides of the river mouth and trade was brisk for around 30 years. The driving force behind the shipbuilding was Capt. Thomas David Lewis, who had bought some of the VDL Co.'s land at Maldon and settled there. Lewis was exporting timber to Melbourne through Emu Bay, but upon moving to Maldon, he transferred his business interests there. Capt. Lewis established the Ferry House Hotel and began operating a ferry service across the mouth of the Cam River. It was a notoriously dangerous stretch of water that had taken many lives, including that of pioneer Wynyard settler, John King. The ferry service ceased in 1862 when a bridge was built to replace it. By this time Lewis had established a shipyard in partnership with another pioneer cam River settler, Scotsman Capt. John Gibson, initally to build schooners for themselves.
The area to the east of where Cam River enters Bass Strait is called Camdale Point. It was known as Freezer's Siding for many years as an old meat works once occupied the site. Around 1914, a series of factory buildings were erected following completion of the rail line to Somerset, including the meatworks. In 1996, numerous large industrial buildings, a residence, a garden and a sea wall were removed. At around this time, East Cam Road was extended to Bass Highway. A township was laid out at the height of Cam River's industrial activity, but little interest was shown in the town's quarter-acre blocks until light industry moved into the area well into the 20th century.
The Seabrook Hotel, at the western end of town toards Wynyard, recalls the name of a 500 acre property in the area by which the area was known locally for a number of years. The property was the selection of Rev. George Wilkinson, the Anglican minister at Longford who, in 1851, left the ministry to farm in the Table Cape ditrict to the east of the inglis River, naming his property Seabrook.
Scotsman Charles Ross Mackenzie, a retired officer in the 46th Madras Ntive Infantry with the East India Comany, had migrated with his family from Scotland in 1843 and became Wilkinsin's neighbours at Longford. After Wilkinson left Longford, he persuaded Mackenzie and his family to also move to the Table Cape area, where they became neighbuours. This were initially quite tough for the Mackenzies, but after theforest covering their property had been cleared, they became one of the more prosperous potato farmers in the area. Charles' son, Charles John, eventually took over the property and entered public life, first as a member of the Tqble Cape Road Trust, and after numerous other civic appointments and roles, was elected to the House of Assembly for Wellington in 1886.
On the western side of Parsonage Point, to the west of Burnie's West Beach, is the suburb of Parklands which spreads out along the narrow strip of coastline. The foreshore is very rocky with few places to swim, but it has a walking path following the shore which is very popular. For something diferent you can also walk along the single line of abandoned railway track beside the walkway. The line was closed over a decade ago so there is no chance of being skittled by a train.
Cooee Beach commences at the reef-tied foreland and curves to the east for 600 m to the base of the low Cooee Point, which protrudes 300 m seaward. It is a sandy high tide beach, paralleled by a 50 m wide band of mid tide sand, then 50-100 m wide low tide rock flats, with sandy seafloor beyond. A grassy reserve backs the beach, with car parking at the eastern end, and the highway and Cooee township behind. There are currently no services provided by Surf Life Saving Australia for this beach.
Camdale beach commences at the reef-tied point that forms the eastern boundary of the 50 m wide Cam River entrance. The beach initially protrudes in lee of the reef and then curves to the east for 1.4 km to the next reef-tied foreland. Intertidal rock reefs dominate the western half of the beach, with a 100 m wide low tide bar along the eastern half then the boundary reef. A narrow grassy reserve paralleling the highway backs the beach. There are currently no services provided by Surf Life Saving Australia for this beach.
Somerset Beach is narrow at high tide with a sandy low gradient mid tide, grading at low tide into two sandy channels bordered by intertidal rock flats. Waves depend on wind conditions, with low wave to calm conditions during westerlies, but higher waves during onshore and easterly conditions. The entire beach is backed by a coastal reserve, with sporting facilities located at the wider western end, then Somerset road and township. The Somerset Surf Life Saving Club is located towards the east end of the beach where sand delivered by the river spreads out over the rock flats and forms a low tide ridge. The Anzac Park picnic area is located across the road from the surf club.
The disused railway tracks of the Far Western Line follow the coast through Somerset on their way to Wynyard