Waratah, Tasmania

The town of Waratah was constructed to support a tin mine at Mount Bischoff. The town is built at the top of a waterfall, and water was diverted from the stream to provide water for mine sluicing and processing.

Where is it?: West. Waratah is 232 km west of Launceston; 356 north west of Hobart; 70 km south west of Burnie.

At the Australian federal election, 2007, the polling place at Waratah Primary School registered a total of 148 votes.

The town of Waratah is built around the shoreline of Lake Waratah. It is pleasant central point in the town with picnic and barbecue facilities and walks to the falls (just north of Smith Street) and the dam wall near William Street. Make sure to go over the road and inspect the Waratah Falls and the waterwheel.

Waratah's 19th century prosperity is perfectly expressed in St James Church which was built in 1880. In 1889 the Mt Bischoff mine was being lit by electricity. The mine manager, H.W.F. Kayser had the electric light connected to the church. Thus St James became the first church in Tasmania to use an electric light. The church is located in Smith Street.

Waratah Pioneer Cemetery is situated 4kms from the township. Signposted on the left side of the road 3 kms from the turnoff at the Ridgley Hwy. There are only 91 people mentioned on the headstones today as many headstones have been removed due to damage over the years.

Surrounding area

The Tarkine is Tasmania's largest unprotected wilderness area. It hosts the only wilderness landscape dominated by rainforest in Australia. Its rainforests form the largest continuous tract of rainforest in Australia, they being the largest temperate rainforests in Australia.

Balfour Track

Balfour is an isolated former mining town deep in the heart of the forests of north western Tasmania. Interesting features at Balfour are the unique settlement, historic cemetery and old mine sites. Mt. Balfour Mine, a copper and tin mine, was one of the westernmost mines in Tasmania. Balfour is close to Julius River Forest Reserve, Arthur-Pieman Conservation area, Mr Frankland (433 metres), Mt. Hazelton (871 metres) and the coastal settlement of Temma. Balfour is north of Cornnia via Norfolk Road.

Magnet Mine Trail

Magnet Mine Trail begins 1.75km west of Waratah and traverses lush rainforest on its way to the Mount Magnet mine site. The mine site has relics to explore and good places to camp. You can create a circular route using local roads, particularly if cycling. A great walk if you have the time and energy. Distance: 16km.

Corinna (69km north east) is a tiny historic mining town, set in pristine rainforest of the Tarkine region on the banks of the majestic Pieman River. One of the most fascinating spots in Tasmania, Corinna is now popular as an area of spectacular wilderness scenery with short bush walks and good trout fishing in the Pieman River.

Brief History of Waratah

Van Diemen’s Land Company explorer Henry Hellyer named the nearby Magnet Range because it interfered with his compass. The suspicion that it contained a mineral lode was confirmed by the prospector William Robert Bell six decades later when he uncapped a lode of silver-lead.

Mount Bischoff Mine

Tin was discovered at Mount Bischoff by James "Philosopher" Smith in 1871. The mine operated successfully at first. The easy ore was all extracted by 1893 when sluicing was discontinued. Mining continued open cut on the face of the mountain, and underground. The underground mine closed in 1914, but surface mining continued for some time before it also ceased after the price of tin slumped in 1929. The mine was reopened by the Commonwealth Government in 1942 to support the war effort, but it finally closed in 1947.

During its mining heyday, Waratah was attached to the outside world by only a two-feet-gauge tramway so circuitous that it turned six kilometres as the crow flew into sixteen, spread over 142 bends. To appreciate the full level of the town's isolation it is worth remembering that the road through the area was not completed until 1963.

Magnet Tramway, early 1900s