Distance: 198 kilometres
If you’ve ever hankered for the sort of brooding, tempestuous landscapes that backdrop the novel Wuthering Heights, Tasmania’s Midlands Highway will work a treat.
Short on distance, but big on intrigue, this Tasmania road trip will flush the cheeks of history lovers, foodies and art fans.
Generously sprinkled with intact 1800s villages, posturing mansions, too-cute cottages, erstwhile coach inns and picnic spots of painterly beauty, this inland route is – unsurprisingly – also known as the ‘Heritage Highway’.
- Vivid convict history around every bend, with must-sees in Brickendon and Woolmers estates.
- An excess of splendid sandstone buildings.
- Markets, bookshops and antique stores galore.
- Atmospheric lodgings, eateries and cafes, typically in convict-built structures.
- Sigh-inducing moors and plays of light that necessitate frequent stops.
- Tamar and Coal Valley wine regions.
- Streetscapes barely changed since chain-gang days in villages such as Ross, Oatlands, Longford, Evandale and Richmond.
Day 1 – Launceston
Launceston is wrapped by hills piled high with unbroken heritage architecture. Find your feet by hitting the pavement in this wonderfully walkable city replete with ambient cafes and eateries.
City Park, with its fine Victorian embellishments is a good place to start. Queen Victoria Art gallery is the largest regional gallery in Australia and there are many others nearby including Design Centre Tasmania and the evocatively set 1842 and Mill Provedore.
Laid-back Launceston is an excellent base for exploring northern Tasmania. Just outside is early-colony trophy home, Franklin House. Alternatively, drive past orchards and lavender fields to the Tamar River wine region.
Day 2 – Deloraine
Morning is the most atmospheric time to walk through Launceston’s Cataract Gorge; the birds are chatty, the peacocks are strutting and the nearby cafes smell enticing.
Evandale, a National Trust-classified Georgian village is just 19 kilometres away and there’s a ripper of a Sunday market. Nearby Clarendon House has tea rooms in the conservatory.
Journey 50 kilometres west and you’re in Deloraine, a picturesque, National Trust-classified town beside the Meander River. There are plenty of galleries and antique stores, but if you’re feeling active, the rainforests of Liffey Falls or the Mole Creek Karst National Park might hit the spot.
Day 3 – Georgetown
Passing lavender and berry farms, drive north through the Tamar Valley to the Esk River entrance. Georgetown, 57 kilometres from Launceston, is Australia’s third-oldest European settlement, with an informative museum in the old lock-up.
A scenic bike track links Georgetown with Low Head (bikes can be rented from Georgetown Visitors Centre), a cluster of whitewashed maritime buildings that shimmer under Norfolk Island pines.
If you’re still here in the evening, look out for penguins at Low Head Coastal Reserve.
Day 4 – Longford
Saunter just 20 kilometres south of Launceston and you’re in another century at the town of Longford.
If you can prise yourself from the antique stores, head to nearby World Heritage-listed Woolmers and Brickendon Estate, whose colonial homestead, gardens and farm buildings look unchanged from convict times.
Day 5 – Campbell Town, Ross & Oatlands
Journey south to Campbell Town, a once important coaching stop turned sheep-farming hub. The convict-built Red Bridge and circa 1834 Foxhunters Return Inn mandate a refreshment stop here.
Elms line the streets of Ross – just 12 kilometres further – and there are horse paddocks right in the village. This cosy settlement amid the moors is best known for its ornate convict-built bridge and the Ross Female Factory, Australia’s most intact female convict site.
Oatlands – another 37 kilometres on – boasts Australia’s largest collection of convict-built structures in a village setting. The skyline is dominated by Callington Mill, recently restored to working order and supplying Companion Bakery with flour for organic sourdough.
Day 6 – Richmond
Surrounded by the Coal River Valley wine region, the one-time estate town of Campania warrants a leg-stretch. It’s only another nine kilometres from here to Richmond, a steadfastly Georgian riverside village so pretty it brings on swoons.
Once an important military post, these days the rows of early 1800s buildings host more refined pursuits such as galleries, tea rooms and boutiques. Beyond Richmond’s wide streets and endless church spires, Pooley Wines is worth a visit for the Georgian buildings alone.
Day 7 – Hobart
Hobart’s mountain-framed harbour, arts scene and must-do Salamanca Markets are just a 27-kilometre drive from Richmond. Be sure to take a walk through historic Battery Point. But beware; the bakeries are bewitching!
Words and photographs: Melissa Rimac