Australian Traveller Reader Susan Smith has firm ideas on where to go for the best drive in the country – Tasmania. Follow her now, if you can, along the gently curving roads of Tasmania.
Favourite Recommends: Tassie’s Winding Roads
AT Reader Susan Smith from SA’s Flagstaff Hill has firm ideas on where to go for the best drive in the country. Follow her now, if you can, along the gently curving roads of Tasmania.
When driving north from Hobart along the Midland Highway, after leaving the outer suburbs, make a left turn onto the Lake Highway at the small town of Melton Mowbray and follow this road along, making a right-hand turn onto Lower Marshes Road.
This is a side trip of perhaps some 30km through the most amazing countryside past wonderful photo opportunities – including an apparently derelict slate mansion with the most beautiful stone outbuildings on a heavily wooded section of road. It’s down a windy strip of bitumen through beautiful rugged countryside, where eagles perch on unidentified decaying farming relics of a bygone era, watching the occasional passers-by. Then it’s back onto the Midland Highway just before Jericho.
First settled in 1816, Jericho is a very early settlement. There, in the grounds of St James Church, you’ll find the grave of the first Australian-born soldier to win the Victoria Cross: Colonel Bisdee. The Old Jericho Rd contains interesting convict constructions, stone walls, bridge, culverts etc – and the site of The Probation Station, which housed more than 200 convicts working on the road. In April 1826, the paddocks to the left of the station originally known as Fourteen Tree Plain played host to the first horserace in the state.
Back onto the highway once again, follow the road until you have the opportunity to turn off to Oatlands, a small military outpost settled in 1821, which has in its main street the most sandstone settlers’ buildings in Australia. Well worth an hour or two of anyone’s time to explore. Park your car and take a walk through the town, have morning tea at one of the many cafes, visit the glorious Callington Mill and outbuildings, browse in the charity shop and generally soak in the ambience of times long past.
“What,” you ask yourself, “could be more appealing than Oatlands?” Then you arrive at Ross, arguably one of Australia’s most appealing convict-built stone villages. Cobble-style paths and old, tall elm trees line the main road and give this picture-perfect town an air of tranquillity. On the way into town you’ll cross over the Ross Bridge, designed by John Lee Archer, Australia’s third oldest bridge, and possibly the most beautiful of its kind left in the world. The detail of its 186 carvings by convict stonemasons was deemed of such high quality that it won the men a free pardon. The main crossroads of the village is said to represent Temptation (Man O’Ross Hotel), Recreation (Town Hall), Salvation (Catholic Church) and Damnation (the gaol, which is now a private residence).
Park your car at the top of the hill by the wonderful old church, which is worthy of many a photo opportunity, and take the path to the site of what is known as the Ross Female Factory. Built to house the chain gangs employed on the Ross Bridge and then expanded to house the convicts who worked on the Hobart to Launceston road, it later became a probation station for female convicts and their babies. The buildings were converted from a chain gang station, modified and extended to include a chapel, dining rooms, hospital, nursery, 12 solitary cells, dormitories and an outer courtyard. The Ross Female Factory only accommodated two classes of convicts – the crime class and the hiring class. The hiring class, being mostly single mothers, were taught how to sew, clean, cook, launder and care for their children. They were considered more likely to become worthy citizens than the much harsher, less-appealing habitual criminal of the crime class, from whom they were kept apart.
Continue on alongside a marvellous convict-laid dry stone wall to the old cemetery at the top of the hill and marvel at the tenacity of these early pioneering folk, whose children died in infancy, whose husbands died at sea, or in conflict with the local Aboriginals, whose wives died in childbirth and who rarely lived into their 50s.
Another attraction not to miss is the Ross Bakery, with its original woodfired oven, which has the capacity to bake more than 300 loaves and has been operating on the site for more than a century and turns out the most amazing sweet and savoury temptations.
Even if you’re like us and leave Hobart at first light, by now you’ll find the sun setting low to your left and you’ll join the ribbon of cars heading north along the main highway . . . tired and with fond memories of your day spent taking the roads less travelled.