After Hobart and Launceston, historic New Norfolk was the third planned settlement in Tasmania. Official attempts to name the town were basically ignored by the inhabitants, with ‘the Hills’ and ‘Elizabeth Town’ failing to stick. In a lot of ways, that may have set the tone for the general ‘go your own way’ mentality often attributed to the residents.
Hop Plants and Oast Houses
Hops made their debut in the area in 1846 and that’s where our interest really begins. The most well-known feature of the town was the Oast House on the Lyell Highway. Only in operation for a little over two years (1867-1869), the Oast House made its way into the modern tourism trade, operating as a museum and tea house until it was destroyed by fire in 2009.
With the major draw-card destroyed, there was a serious drop off in interest in New Norfolk… though this is completely unwarranted. The Oast House was good, but it was far from ALL.
The Bush Inn
The truth is, there is a heap to see and do in New Norfolk, especially if you’re interested in history. My personal favourite location is the Bush Inn. At the time when I was a frequent patron, they did a smoked rainbow trout to die for! My father used to love watching me eat it. He said what was left at the end reminded him of Fred Flintstone’s comb. In food, as in life, Dad’s usual approach is a little ham-fisted.
If you’re after a little bit of scandal, you could always track down Licensee Tom Atkins and ask him about secret convict tunnels which have been rumoured to start in the basement and run off underneath the historic New Norfolk township!
I am of the personal opinion that New Norfolk also has the highest proportion of antique stores relative to town size of any place in Australia! You can’t turn around without falling over one. Slightly dim rooms, piled floor to ceiling with everything from junky buttons to the Narnia wardrobe. They’re also uniformly run by friendly retirees who’re more than happy to answer your questions about their wares, and all the local history they know.
Grave of Betty King
One such conversation might lead you out to Magra, about 3km north of New Norfolk proper, to the grave of Betty King. Local lore suggests that Mrs King (then miss Thackery) was the first white woman to set foot on Australian soil. Or it might have you water-gazing near the New Norfolk Bridge, where the sunken hulk to the river steamer ‘Emu’ is still sitting.
If you’re after a touch more excitement, or a family outing with the kids, you can’t go past the Salmon Ponds. There’s a museum and heritage buildings for mum and dad, a licenced pancake restaurant and the kids can feed the fish. Located about 10 minutes from historic New Norfolk, this picturesque spot is well worth a visit.
Cassandra Wunsch is a third-year journalism student at Open Universities Australia. She lives in Hobart with her husband Florian and daughter Taliesin, and would like to continue to write full-time when she graduates. Her personal blog is www.10percentinspired.com