Exploring Devonport and Surrounds

Devonport is the third largest city in Tasmania with its fortunes based on the fact that it is the port for the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Melbourne. Consequently it’s known as “The Gateway to Tasmania”. The fertile district around the Devonport area is known as “Australia’s market garden”. It ihas mild summers and cool, moist winters that help to produce nearly half of Tasmania’s vegetables – notably onions, potatoes, peas, carrots and beans.

Our late arrival last evening led to us sleeping in and having a late start this morning. Our venue for breakfast was at one of the excellent franchises of Banjo’s Bakery in the main street in town. Banjo’s is a renowned Tasmanian business that makes excellent pies, cakes and bread items. There’s nothing like one of their bacon and egg toasties with a coffee for breakfast!

Our tour notes only had a short list of attractions in Devonport but we managed to spend the day exploring some interesting sights around the area. At the mouth of the Mersey River, we could look back to the wharf where our ferry docked last night. It’s a rather industrial part of town.

On the nearby bluff is a lighthouse that was was built of bricks on a stone base in 1889 at a cost of £1,559. It was first manned and lit by kerosene, then automated to gas in 1920 and finally changed to electricity in 1952. It’s a bit unusual with vertical red stripes on the side facing the sea. 

A little out of town is the Don River Railway. It was built in 1854 to transport timber from the Don River Valley. The present railway uses a section of line built in 1916 by BHP to carry limestone from quarries at Melrose to the port. This railway closed in 1963.

The current railway is owned and operated by volunteers from the Van Diemen Light Railway Society Inc. It runs every day with trains every hour between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. It offers a short journey along the Don River to Coles Beach.

After paying a modest $5 visitors fee, I was able to wander around the entire site taking photos. I remember visiting this railway some fifteen years ago and it now has many more locomotives than I remember from that earlier visit. It is reputed to have the largest collection of historic locomotives (both deisel and steam) in Tasmania.

Another special attraction in Devonport is the National Trust property of Home Hill. This modest residence was the family home of Joseph Lyons and his wife  Dame Enid. Joseph Lyons (1879-1939) was a school teacher who was born in Stanley He was Tasmania’s Premier in 1923-28 and Australia’s 10th Prime Minister from 1932-39. Dame Enid Lyons (1897-1981) was the first woman elected to Federal Parliament, as a Member of the House of Representatives in 1943. She was also the first woman to serve in federal cabinet as part of the Menzies Government in 1949-1951.

Home Hill was built in 1916 and was extended over the years to house the Lyons’ eleven children. It survives with a large collection of original contents and provides an unexpected insight into Australian political and family life during the mid-20th century. Unfortunately the house was not open today but I could walk around the garden and see it from outside.

After a couple of hours, we had visited all of the significant attractions in Devonport, so we decided to drive along the coast through the towns of Ulverstone and Penguin to Burnie.  It’s a lot different from our last drving trip when we would travel up to 500 kilometres in a day through the outback. Here, we have planned our days to travel a maximum of 150 km each day with some days doing much less.. Our itinerary does not include the section of coast between Devomnport and Burnie (around 45 kilometres by road) so we spent a few hours today exploring the scenery along this part of Tasmania’s northern coast.

We began with a drive along a pretty valley in which it is clear that local farmers are making the best use of the fertile soils in this area. This hillside of onions has been recently harvested, leaving a nice repetitive pattern that is interesting to photograph. The young beetroot seedlings in the foreground provide a nice juxtaposition.

This view of the Forth River valley shows the nature of the area.

By Tasmanian standards, Ulverstone with a population of around 12,000 people is a large city. It has the biggest, and probably the ugliest, war memorial of any town in Australia.

Penguin’s name comes from the small colony of Little Penguins that inhabit the coast (previously known as Fairy Penguins).

We came across some interesting views along the coast that provided some very photogenic scenery,

Burnie is quite an industrial town that was famous for its paper pulp mill. It closed in 2010 causing considerable unemployment. That closure changed Burnie  forever. The Pulp Mill, which had been in operation since 1937 was the basis of the city’s industry,. Since then, the city has reinvented itself as a substantial tourist city (it is the largest city on the island’s north west coast). It stresses opportunities to see the dusk arrival of the local little penguins; an excellent local museum; interesting journeys to waterfalls in the hinterland; and the best seafood available on the North Coast. A new wood chip mill has since replaced he old Pulp Mill and uses feedstock from plantatons rather than the old growth forests as previously.

We were back in Devonp[ort in the late afternoon. Tomorrow, we head to one of my favourite places in Tasmania – Cradle Mountain.




One thought on “Exploring Devonport and Surrounds”

  1. Happy New Year and thanks for another excelleny trip description. Best wishes.

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