We were told prior to leaving Launceston last Sunday that the small towns and villages in Tasmania’s Midlands are generally agricultural based and most have a very strong focus on maintaining their historic past in conjunction with creating tourist opportunities in their town. We found this to be so true.
On departing Ol’ Macs Farm on Sunday, we made brief visits to the villages of Perth and Campbell town on our way south. They were not long stops but just an hour or so to stretch our legs. We arrived at around lunchtime at the village of Ross, the navigator’s namesake. Ross is an historic town on the Macquarie River and located 78 km south of Launceston. Ross became an important stopover on road journeys between Launceston and Hobart. In 1891 the town was developed as a base for the local garrison and a female convict settlement. Between 1848 and 1854 approximately 12,000 female convicts passed through the Female Factory, the name given to female prisons.
The navigator was keen to have a look around to see if there was any family links. As luck would have it, none were found. We spent an hour or so in the town, had a lovely lunch then continued on our way south.
Our next stop was Oatlands. Oatlands, 115 km south of Launceston, is an important historical village on the shores of Lake Dulverton. The town is thought to have the largest number of colonial sandstone buildings in any town in Australia with many of them being built by convict labour. The centre piece of the town is the Callington Mill. Situated in the centre of the town the flour mill was built in 1837 and was restored to working order in 2010. It is a stunning bit of architecture. The townsfolk provide travellers with a free park up directly behind the mill and just off the main street. That was us for the day – Oatlands was our home for the night.
Monday morning we continued south as far as the village of Melton Mawbray, hooked a right then drove north along the Lake Highway. We had only been about an hour into the drive and it started pouring down. The road access to many of the lakes had turned into mud so we decided not to risk getting bogged at this late stage of the journey. We continued along the Lake Highway, through the steep and torturous Great Lake Conservation area and back onto the plains at Poatina. The rain was easing but the chance of finding somewhere ‘dry’ to park for the night was very slim. We decided to carry on a further 70km to the town of Deloraine.
Situated on the Meander River in the central north of Tasmania and along the Bass Highway, Deloraine is a predominantly rural farming town. It is also well known throughout Australia for hosting the annual Tasmanian Craft Fair in November each year. The Fair attracts around 34,000 people annually, there are 13 venues and over 200 stalls operating around the town. Because of this and the towns large population of artists, Deloraine is considered a cultural centre. Unfortunately for the navigator our visit did not coincide with the Fair however we did spend the night at Deloraine so she should have a look around the many craft shops and centres in the town.
Tuesday was a tour day. There was still quite a bit northern Tasmania we wanted to visit so after departing Deloraine we drove west through to Mole Creek. Mole Creek is very much a tourist destination in the form of arts and crafts however the nearby Mole Creek Karst National Park and its show caves, Marakoopa Cave and King Solomons Cave, have been popular with tourists for 100 years. Also nearby is the Trowunna Wildlife Park which is known for Tasmanian Devil conservation and a successful breeding programme.
From Mole Creek we drove to Sheffield then onto Lake Barrington. We had every intention of staying the night at Lake Barrington but unfortunately we were too large to fit into any of the remaining sites. After a quick look at Wiki Camps (our Australia Travel Bible) we made our way to a free camp called O’Neills Creek Reserve at Gowrie Park and at the base of Mt Round. Another attraction of O’Neills Creek was that it was only about 50km from Cradle Mountain and because we had a spare day on Wednesday, we had decided to return to the mountain and undertake another trail. O’Neills Creek was another winning spot within a forest reserve, beside the creek, on flat ground and very quiet. By nightfall we had been joined by ten other vans and tents for the night.
On Wednesday morning we departed the Creek at around 8.30am and was on the mountain by 9am. On our last visit to the mountain there was clear skies and a warm day. On this visit it was cold, cloudy and a wind off the mountain. Once we had dressed for the weather, we caught the Park bus to Dove Lake and commenced our exploring. We managed to get to parts of the National Park we missed on our first visit. We could not attempt the climb to the top of the mountain as the cloud base was down and we saw not point in taking a risk at this late stage of our journey. After coming out of the Park we made our way back through Sheffield and onto Railton where we spent the night. Another lovely little free spot behind the Railton Hotel. Tasmania sure loves the traveller over here.
Today (Thursday) is our last day on the road in Tasmania. We departed Railton this morning and made our way 20km to the town of Latrobe. Latrobe is on the Mersey River and is approximately 8 km south-east of Devonport. When we first started our journey in Tasmania we were told we must visit here as there was a ‘quirky’ shop that stocks just about anything in the entertainment area. The shop was built in 1870 and consists of twentysix rooms with each room having different categories of entertainment product for sale. The products a sourced from throughout the world. When you visit Tasmania you must come to Latrobe and go to ‘Reliquaire’. We spent about two hours there but could have spent longer had we had the time. You can visit them online at www.reliquaire.com.
Our plan is to stay in Latrobe overnight tonight then drive in to Devonport tomorrow. We will stay with Paddy Haddock and his wife Yvonne until Sunday then catch the ferry back to Melbourne on Sunday night.