Ross: why do tourists still include the town on their Tasmanian itinerary? A Midlands Highway bypass could have signaled the death of the small community. But for those driving the route between Launceston and Hobart, Tasmania’s two major cities, a slight detour brings you right to the door step of this very appealing town. The entrance to Ross alone… quiet streets lined with Elm trees, colonial sandstone buildings. Aaaah, the serenity!
Ross Tasmania: Beautiful, Historic Town
Most people would agree that Ross makes a convenient place to stop when travelling in central Tasmania. The abundant parking is free; the public toilets are clean (very important); and there’s a pleasant space to safely stretch your legs. You can also grab a coffee, a bite to eat and refill the petrol tank. But some would argue that Ross has much more to offer, and I would be among them.
The Tasmanian tourist authorities quite rightly promote the colonial-era history of the region. Like its Heritage Highway cousin of Oatlands, Ross takes full advantage of the picturesque sandstone buildings lining the streets. Without having an overtly commercial push into tourism, the town of Ross has a tranquil ambiance.
Macquarie River Convict Heritage
Dating back to the early 1800s, Ross can play the convict draw-card well. Settled in 1812 on the banks of the Macquarie River, local agricultural and military operations combined with a strong convict contingent to shape the community. The Ross Female Factory is considered a significant convict archaeological site and is open to the public.
Another well known historic feature of Ross is the elaborately carved, sandstone bridge crossing the Macquarie River. Following the construction in 1836, the high quality of the work was apparently considered worthy reason to grant the convict stonemasons their freedom.
Church Services in Ross
Aside from the convict heritage and military monuments on show, Ross can also boast its share of fine Tasmanian church buildings. Several samples line the aptly named main street (Church Street), including the St Johns Anglican Church, dated 1838 on the service board.
At the southern end of Church Street, beyond the Four Corners crossroad*, the spire of the Gothic-style 1885 Uniting Church is visible over the adjacent Class Wood (in possibly an old school house? An assumption only, considering the appearance of the building and the name of the business).
There’s no doubting the core business of Class Wood though: woodcraft!! Items including hand made Tasmanian boxes, plates, bowls, turned apple & pear souvenirs, pens. Can’t show you pictures, unfortunately. They discourage photography in their store, and I do make every attempt to respect privacy.
*At the intersection of Bridge and Church Streets in Ross are the buildings dubbed Temptation (Hotel), Recreation (Town Hall), Salvation (Church) and Damnation (former Jail).
Tasmanian Wool Centre & Heritage Museum
The central location of Ross during settlement was significant: established as a station for soldiers, the town was also important as a horse exchange for coach services. And the fertile, flat country proved perfect for sheep farming. With a reliable supply of water from the Macquarie River and ground capable of producing good food, Ross was established as the Tasmanian capital for superfine merino wool.
You can gain an insight into the Midland’s wool industry at the Tasmanian Wool Centre. There’s an exhibition showcasing wool, where visitors can touch, feel and smell the sheep’s coats in various stages of production. Another museum houses a display of early life in Ross. And naturally, there’s a retail component; purchase the finished product in a range of styles and colours.
Antiques, Collectibles and Lunch
If you’re not in the market for a woolly wardrobe, the antiques and treasures in Ross might be more to your liking. There are several antique shops in town. Some are lined with exquisite and expensive goods. Others focus on junk; and I say that in the nicest possible way! Whatever your fancy, the best way to really discover the hidden secrets of Ross, is to take to the cobbled streets and walk. You might just need that woollen beanie after all.
So with all this walking and shopping and exploring; photographing bridges and buildings, you will surely work up an appetite. Or at the very least, a thirst? The Man O Ross Hotel is the house of Temptation in the Four Corners crossroad.
And if there’s one thing the Heritage Highway is famous for with the Tasmanian people… it’s the bakeries! Every bakery in Australia claims to have the best pie, or the best vanilla slice, so I won’t even attempt to go there. But I am brave enough to say that you can choose from some delicious options in Ross.
In fact, if you’re prepared to walk about 30 metres from the main intersection, you can buy a very delicious bowl of sweet potato, carrot and chilli soup at the T Spot tearooms. Clearly the place to go for the gourmet tea drinker, this quaint little cafe has a nice selection of comfort food, a few tables by the fire and friendly service.
Ross is rapidly moving up the list of my favourite places in Tasmania. And tasting the delectable-looking scones from the T Spot is high on my must-do agenda! In fact, with an attractive caravan park on the Macquarie River and a sprinkling of bed and breakfast options, I might even have to extend the next day trip to a whole weekend. Am I just full of good ideas, or what?