Spiky Bridge near Swansea on the east coast is a quirky feature with convict heritage. It’s well known and promoted as an attraction in the region. But you could easily miss the turnoff to the carpark between Buckland and Bicheno. The beautiful Tasmanian beaches on the opposite side of Tasman Highway are quite breathtaking, after all.
Spiky Bridge: Read All About It
As with many heritage attractions in Tasmania, the people in charge have provided signage. There’s an information board telling the visitor all about Spiky Bridge. You can also read about the Rocky Hills Probation Station and the convict workers responsible for the construction.
The blurb from the sign is often paraphrased on travel websites… Major de Gillern was the boss man at the probation station. His buddy Edward Shaw wanted some improvements made to the road between Swansea and Little Swanport.
Rather than wait patiently in turn for his repeated requests to be granted, Edward took the Major on a wild ride through the gully, highlighting the hazards for Tasmanian travellers. And what do you know? Major de Gillern promptly rounded up a gang of convicts and got the job done!
Spiky Bridge Truth… or Fiction?
So that part of the Spiky Bridge legend must be factual. Well it’s written there in black and white! The other oft-quoted claim concerns the vertical spikes on the top of the bridge. Cows were apparently prone to falling over the edge into the steep gulley. If a cow did fall from the top, it would definitely do the poor creature some major damage. But I’m not completely convinced about the cow theory.
Maybe when the convicts were forced to build the bridge in 1843 for their superintendent’s mate, they wanted to extract some revenge. One bright spark may have stuck in a rock, the wrong way around, and started a trend. Either way, the vertical stones are clearly responsible for the naming of Spiky Bridge.
And the jagged rocks have also managed to bring ongoing attention to the Spiky Bridge as a part of Tasmanian history. Hopefully the lives of many cows have been saved in the 168 years since it was built. And many people will probably continue to appreciate the clever (or sneaky) construction techniques for another 168 years to come.
Spiky Bridge is located 7.5kms south of Swansea. The turnoff is on the western side of the Tasman Highway, opposite the east coast beaches of the bay. Across Great Oyster Bay are views to the mountains of Freycinet National Park. And with any luck you’ll visit on a sunny day with clear blue skies in every direction.
Another 7kms further south in the Swansea region is another interesting bridge, again named in a practical manner. Three Arch Bridge is actually underneath the existing east coast road, which has been constructed over the top.
Mayfield Beach is highlighted by local experts as the place to go for rock and beach fishing. If you don’t manage to land a catch of seafood, the Swansea Barkmill Tavern and Bakery attached to the museum dish up some delicious food.
I can personally recommend a toasted focaccia with chicken, cheese and avocado from the bakery section. And I have it on good authority that their version of caramel slice is pretty good as well. Okay, so that was mine too! Next time: wood-fired pizza from the tavern department.