Orford Forest Drive

A day trip with a difference - travel east from Hobart but instead of turning south at Copping towards Forestier and Tasman Peninsula, head north and follow the Wielangta Forest Drive to Orford. It is an unsealed but well maintained Forestry Tasmania trail through Three Thumbs State Reserve and Cape Bernier Nature Reserve. Return to Hobart from Orford via Tasman Highway.

Distance: 164 km

Location: Southern Tasmania

Features and Attractions: Ptt Water, Three Thumbs State Reserve, Cape Bernier Nature Reserve, Marion Bay Lookout, Mercury Passage and the towns of Sorell, Orford, Buckland and Richmond.

The drive is a loop, commences at Hobart and travelling in an anti-clockwide direction.

Leave Hobart via the Tasman Bridge, travelling east along Tasman Highway as if you were going to Port Arthur. 20 km after passing through Sorell, turn left into Kellevie Road. This turnoff is 1 km before Copping (48km from Hobart). Near Copping there is a turnoff to Marion Bay Lookout, which has forest views one way and ocean vistas the other.

At Kellevie, the road becomes Bream Creek Road, then Franklins Road. This section of the road is unsealed, and is the beginning of a 20 km long Forestry Tasmania trail known as Wielangta Forest Drive. This trail passes through Three Thumbs State Reserve and Cape Bernier Nature Reserve before reaching Rheban and Mercury Passage, with views to Maria Island. Continue on a further 10 km to the town of Orford (30 km from Copping).

About halfway between Copping and Orford in the heart of the Wielangta Forest, the Sandpit Forest Reserve picnic area provides a great stopping point for a picnic in one of the two stone shelters once used by Aborigines. Wielangta walk is a 2 hour return walk that follows the route of an abandoned tramway to the remnants of the old timber milling township of Wielangta. The mill operated from 1911 to 1924, with cut timber carted on trams down the coast to Rheban where it was loaded onto a jetty and shipped off. There is another shorter walk through the rainforest (20 minutes return) at Robertson's bridge.

The Forest Mosaic Platform explains the various forest types along the drive and the ways in which wet and dry schlerophyll forests are managed and various parts are reserved, while other areas are grown for future quality timber products. At the Northern end of the drive to Orford a narrow road leads to a picnic area with panoramic views over Maria Island and the East Coast. The bushwalk to the Three Thumbs starts just downhill from the lookout.

Return towards Hobart via Tasman Highway and thev village of Buckland, which has an interesting old church which has a 400 year old stained glass window. 10 km after Runnymede, turn right into Fingerpost Road towards Enfield (51 km from Orford). At the T-intersection at Enfield, head towards Richmond (8 km) by turning left. Richmond is the most well known of Tasmania's georgian villages and a stop here is almost compulsory. Return to Hobart (27 km) following the signs.


A centre serving a rich and well developed pastoral and agricultural region, Sorell also supports fishing and timber getting industries. Its name recalls William Sorell, who was Lieut. Gov. of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) between 1817 and 1824.

Where Is it? Sorell is located on the Tasman Highway at the junction with the Arthur Highway 13 km from Richmond, 25 km east of Hobart, 31 km from Dunalley, 53 km from Orford.

The arrival of cherry blossoms is a time for celebration at the Sorell Fruit Farm which has an annual Cherry Blossom Festival during September and October.

Most visitors to Tasmania know Sorell as a place they pass through on their way to Port Arthur from Hobart. Known for its interesting shops, pubs and eateries, Sorell also has a number of historic churches - St George's Anglican Church, Scot's Uniting Church and St Thomas's Roman Catholic Church. All three are three National Estate listed.

St George's Anglican Church: Gordon Street, Sorell. There are three National Estate listed churches in Sorell. Of the three, St George's Anglican Church is the most impressive. Built in 1826 and rebuilt in 1883, is of a gothic style, characterized by its gabled iron roof, with closed eaves and walls. The walls are made of coarse sandstone and have buttresses at regular intervals. As well as the church, there is an adjacent graveyard, featuring graves dating back to the 1830's, and grounds which now contains the Sorell Visitors Information Centre and a small park. Whilst the church is of a simple design, but up close the workmanship is outstanding.


A rural centre set among orchards, Copping is best known for supplying fruit for the tables of Hobart.

Where Is it?: Copping is 39 km east of Hobart ; 7.5 km north of Dunalley, on the Arthur Highway between Dunalley and Sorell.

Part of the Bream Creek district, it was named after Captain Richard Copping, who purchased a property here from George Moore in 1860 upon which he settled three of his half-brothers as tenant farmers. Captain Copping established his own property Rochford Hall nearby at Kellevie.

Copping gained notoriety when it was revealed that Port Arthur mass murderer Martin Bryant lived there for a number of years in the 1980s. Many properties were destroyed in Copping during bushfires in January 2013.

Colonial and Convict Exhibition: Not to be missed if you are passing through this village is the Copping Colonial and Convict Exhibition at the local museum. On display is an original cell door from the Port Arthur penal settlement, which was in use between 1833 and 1877, as well as thousands of other items relating to the convict era and the history of settlement in southern Tasmania. Housed in a big shed, the museum is open during regular business hours, seven days a week. Vines & Designs at the Copping Museum is a cafe, art galley and gift shop that also warrants a visit.

Marion Bay

The sands of Marion Bay, to the immediate north of Forestier Peninsula in Tasmania's south east corner, forms some of the most beautiful beaches you will ever find in Tasmania. These beaches are used mainly by surfers, but the water is safe for swimmers provided you take care.

The settlement here, accessed from Bay Road opposite the Copping turnoff, is little more than a huddle of beach shacks among the coastal dunes near the tidal flats, otherwise the area is deserted and unspoilt. A large sand spit formed where Bream Creek enters the bay is ideal for beach walks, shell collecting and bird watching. Migratory Little Terns have been discovered breeding here and there have been sightings of numerous birds that are far from their normal breedings grounds.

Hellfire Bluff

The arc of Marion Bay extends northwards from the sand bar which separates Marion and Blackman Bays to Hellfire Bluff, which is a short distance across the water from Cape Leseur, the southern tip of Maria Island.

Those who love the area are walkers, kayakers, surfers, fisherman and beachcombers. Tasmania's biggest party, the Falls Music Festival is held at Marion Bay each New Years Eve. There are also several vineyards producing medal winning reds and whites. Bream Creek is famous for monster pumpkins, on display at the Bream Creek show every March for over 100 years.

Brief history: Abel Tasman first anchored in the southern part of this large bay in 1642, after having been blown out to sea whilst attempting to enter Adventure Bay on Bruny Island. He named Frederick Henricx Bay (now Blackman Bay). The next day, an attempt was made to land in the larger Marion Bay to the north; however, because the sea was too rough the ships carpenter, Pieter Jacobszoon, swam through the surf and planted a pole with the Dutch East Indies company mark carved into it and the Prince's flag atop. Tasman claimed formal possession of the land on 3rd December 1642, and named the bay Frederick Henricx Bay, honouring the Dutch Prince. Not finding enough good water, Tasman moved on and continued his search, traversing the east coast of Tasmania.

The bay was later named after the Breton navigator Marion du Fresne, who arrived in his ship the Mascarin  with the 'Marquis de Castries' in March 1772. Marion recorded that "one sailor found numbers of crayfish, lobsters and huge crabs,and the oysters there are good and abundant". Marion's landing is the first recorded sighting and description of the Tasmanian people by Europeans and it set the pattern for future encounters - one of the Tasmanians was shot dead by Marion's men. Marion then sailed to New Zealand where he was killed by Maori in the Bay of Islands.

Sandpit Forest Reserve

About halfway between Copping and Orford in the heart of the Wielangta Forest, the Sandpit Forest Reserve picnic area provides a great stopping point for a picnic in one of the two stone shelters once used by Aborigines. Wielangta walk is a 2 hour return walk that follows the route of an abandoned tramway to the remnants of the old timber milling township of Wielangta. There is another shorter walk through the rainforest (20 minutes return) at Robertson s bridge.

The Wielangta Forest covers an area of approximately 37, 500 hectares, has a mixture of land tenures and contains a mosaic of production forest and reserve areas. Wielangta has been a working forest from the early days of timber harvesting to the present day and offers schools a range of experiences for exploring forest environments.


Situated on a substantial coastal inlet called Prosser Bay, Orford is an attractive coastal hamlet. The village is centred around the mouth of the Prosser River. Beyond Prosser Bay are the waters of the Mercury Passage, with the strong relief of Maria Island providing a spectacular backdrop to the view.

Where Is it?: Orford is 78 km north east of Hobart, on the Tasman Highway.

Orford has several clean, picturesque beaches - including Raspins, Millingons, Spring and Rheban - with a popular campsite at Raspins Beach. Nearby is the well-regarded 9-hole Orford Golf Course and the Darlington Vineyard.

There are several walks, including the Convict Trail along the remains of the original convict road built between 1841 and 1855 by the Prosser River, the coastal walk along the cliff tops between East Shelly Beach and Spring Beach. The views across Mercury Passage to Maria Island look as if it has been pulled from a picture postcard. The scenic Thumbs lookout in the nearby Wielangta Forest offers a spectacular view of the region.

Prosser Bay and the Mercury Passage provide excellent fishing, with flathead, trevally, trumpeter, abalone and southern rock lobster (crayfish) sought-after species.

Maria Island

Offshore from Triabunna across Mercury Passage is Maria Island, an uninhabited, serene place where the visitor feels they have left civilization behind and stepped into another world. The main attraction is the beautiful scenery and wildlife, however the remains of the abandoned convict settlement of Darlington adds to its uniqueness and sense of isolation. A day trip is just enough time to get the feel of the place, but to explore it in detail you would need much more. Passenger ferries to Maria Island leave daily from Triabunna.

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    Located 63 km north east of Hobart on the Tasman Highway, Buckland is a quiet rural village noted for the beauty and historic importance of its St John the Baptist Anglican Church.

    The district around Buckland was originally known as Prosser Plains. It was settled in the 1820s and the oldest house in the district 'Woodsden', which lies north east of the town, was built in 1826. In 1846 Governor Franklin renamed the tiny settlement Buckland, after William Buckland, Dean of Westminster (1845-56) who as a noted geologist (he had been appointed Professor of Mineralogy at Oxford University in 1813) had tried to reconcile geology with the Bible. The Buckland timber mill operated from 1948 until 1981.

    The town's Tasmanian Bushland Garden displays endemic and rare Tasmanian east coast plants. The Garden also has picnic facilities, a landscaped quarry and waterfall. Next door, at the Pulchella Nursery, you can browse the selection of native Tasmanian plants for sale.

    Today Buckland's historic features include the Buckland Hotel, which was licensed in 1845 (although extensively modified the original bar still exists) and St John the Baptist Church (turn at Sally Peak Road). The church was constructed as a replica of the church at Cookham Dean in Sussex, England. Brockley Estate is a stunning 1841 colonial homestead offering accommodation in total seclusion.

    St John the Baptist Church

    St John the Baptist Church: The importance of St John the Baptist Church is partly its age - it was built in 1846 to a design by architect Crawford Cripps Wegman - but more so for its East Window. There have probably been no other historical Australian stained glass windows more talked of, argued about, or written of, than those in the Chancel of St John the Baptist Church at Buckland. The windows comprise the main triple light east window depicting the life of St John and the crucifixion of Jesus and the two light window to the left of it with depictions of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as their alter egos of; the winged man (Matthew), the winged Lion (Mark), the winged bull (Luke) and the Eagle (John). The entire east window is made up of ten individual panels of varying sizes and shapes to form a lancet shape overall.

    There has been much speculation about the age of the windows with some people claiming that it was originally designed for Battle Abbey in England, a church which dates from 1094. The story is that before the famous Battle of Hastings, which was actually fought at Battle in Sussex, William the Conqueror vowed that if he won he would build an abbey to commemorate his victory. Legend has it that he built the Abbey where the English king Harold II had fallen. The church was pulled down during the Reformation and it is thought that the window may have found its way out to Australia.

    The problem, however, is that experts believe the window in St John the Baptist Church was created sometime in the fourteenth century (some 300 years after the Battle of Hastings). The mystery of the window probably started because it is accepted that the Reverend F. H. Cox, who was Rector of the church from 1846-48, brought it to Australia when he emigrated from Sussex. One account even has Lord Robert Cecil, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, giving the window to Cox before he departed from England. Whatever the story it is still remarkable to see a fourteenth century church window in a church which wasn't built until 1846.

    The legendary tales about the window's origin will no doubt continue for many more centuries. The simplest explanation of the window's origins, as it was originally stated in The Mercury newspaper in 1850, is that it was the work of Irish born artist Michael O'Connor in London in the late 1840's. The perpetuation of the pre-Reformation legend probably started because of the window's unique design showing more 'medieval' depictions of the figures yet still having Gothic Grisaille patterns in the surrounding decorative work.

    • The Mystery of the Window >>

      The church's graveyard is also of particular interest. A recent wood sculpture in the church grounds picks up the theme of Jesus  baptism from the church's historic stained glass window.


      The small village of Nugent is notable for its local hall, in which many small gatherings occur for the locals only, maybe extending to nearby towns such as Sorell, Buckland and Dodges Ferry. It is a stereotypical "small country town", an ever shrinking group of small establishments. Nugent is 46 km north-west of Hobart and 35 km west of Richmond.

      Nugent is home to the fishery and game hunting property, Redbanks Fish and Field. Redbanks is a renowned wild fishery (the fish grow naturally in the lakes) and pheasant shooting location. People come from Britain, New Zealand, Europe and America for pheasant shooting and trout-fishing. Visitors can navigate their way through numerous outdoor activities including clay target shooting, archery, javelin and rifle shooting under the guidance of accredited coaching staff. Redbanks was bought in 1980 by current owner Lindsay White, a fifth generation farmer of the district. After farming cattle and pigs, Lindsay decided to shift direction and evolve Redbanks into a tourism-based business.

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        Nugent was first inhabited in the early 1800 s using convict labour to clear some of the land in the early days of the settlement. The community thrived and there were 17 dairy farms and a butter factory up until late in the 20th century. On the closure of the Nugent butter factory, Nugent cream was sent to Bream Creek for processing and to the Cadburys chocolate factory throughout the 1900 s.

        Timber was the other main enterprise in the district with 40 mills providing timber for the local, interstate and overseas markets. Nugent was a thriving community with a school, footy and cricket teams (of course!), a church, community hall and post office. Despite changing times from the 1960 s through to the 1980 s which saw the closing of dairies and sawmills and a resultant declining population, Nugent retains a real sense of community. In 2000, local residents successfully lobbied for ownership of the church and hall which are used for community events and regular social get-togethers. There has been an influx of families taking up residence at Nugent in recent years, with many people commuting to Hobart to work.