A visit to the convict-built village of Ross offers a captivating glimpse into another time. Ross was originally established as a garrison in 1812, and also became an important coach horse change and livestock market.
Today, Ross is registered on the National Estate and is one of the finest heritage villages in Australia. Here are 10 things to do when you visit.
1. Ponder your fate at the Four Corners
The main crossroads at Ross are said to represent ‘Temptation’ (the Man O’ Ross Hotel, c. 1835), ‘Salvation’ (the Roman Catholic Church, c. 1920), ‘Damnation’ (the old Town Gaol, now a private residence), and ‘Recreation’ (the Town Hall). Don’t stop at the crossroads for too long, choose a corner and let your destiny unfold!
2. Wander the village
Wandering the village is a joy. Grand old elm trees line the main road (which are particularly stunning in autumn) and charming Georgian buildings offering a glimpse into colonial life. Pop into the gorgeous shops and do a spot of antiquing. Step inside one of the eye-catching red phone booths and transform into superman. Grab a bite to eat in one of the local cafés. See the town’s iconic landmarks, such as the historic Ross Bridge, with your own eyes.
3. Admire the beautiful Ross Bridge
The Ross Bridge (c. 1836) is one of the town’s most photographed landmarks, and is recognised as the third oldest bridge still in use in Australia. The bridge was designed by colonial architect John Lee Archer and built by convicts. The sandstone used in its construction was quarried locally, ground and cut by convict chain gangs.
Two skilled convict stonemasons, Daniel Herbert and James Colbeck, worked on the bridge’s construction, earning conditional pardons upon its completion. Take a close look at the 186 intricate carvings on the arches (believed to have been carved by Herbert)—you’ll spot animals, birds, insects, plants, Celtic designs, and heads of local characters.
4. Visit the Ross Uniting Church
From the Ross Bridge, wander up the hill and check out the Ross Uniting Church (c. 1885). The gothic style church looks like something out of a fairytale! Features include hand-carved sandstone walls, Tasmanian blackwood pews, an oregon ceiling, an Italian marble font with carved cherubim, stained glass windows, and a modern French tapestry depicting the tree of life.
5. Eat at famous bakeries
First things first: vanilla slice. Try the delicious treat at the Ross Village Bakery, which is famed for its uncanny resemblance to the classic 1989 anime movie Kiki’s Delivery Service. The bakery has an original semi-scotch brick wood-fired oven, which has been operating on the site for more than a century. Nearby, Bakery 31 is also famous – for their amazing pies (tip: try the scallop).
6. Explore the Ross Female Factory Historic Site
The Ross Female Factory was built in 1833, and originally housed the convict chain gangs employed on the Ross Bridge. Between 1847 and 1854, the site operated as a probation station for female convicts and their babies. The site included a chapel, dining rooms, hospital, nursery, solitary cells, dormitories, and an outer courtyard.
Although there are few visible remains above ground today, the site is recognised as the most archaeologically intact female convict site in Australia. Visit the Overseer’s Cottage and see the display. You might also like to follow the Ross Heritage Trail that runs past the site.
7. Pop into the Tasmanian Wool Centre
Get ready for the colder weather with a visit to the Tasmanian Wool Centre. Browse the woolly goods in the shop, check out the recreated shearing shed, feel different breeds of sheep’s wool, and visit the Heritage Exhibition gallery to learn about the beginnings of the wool industry and town heritage.
The Visitor Information Centre is located within the building, where you can chat to friendly locals and get tips, information and travel advice.
8. Play Skulduggery and solve a true crime
Put your skills as a super sleuth (and history buff) to the test and see if you can crack the case in ‘The Arch Villains’ Skulduggery true crime game based at Ross. Discover why the Ross Bridge took so long to build, grapple with the mysteries of Dr Zweigle’s code breaker, and find the sinister truth behind the 1834 Christmas Day riot. Best of luck to you.
To hear more stories of yesteryear, step inside Ross’ iconic red phone box, Dial a Local, and listen to local residents spin a yarn or two about village life over the decades.
9. Participate in town events
If you can, line your visit up with one of Ross’ annual events. The Post Vintage Car Club’s Picnic at Ross, the Ross Marathons, and the Ross Rodeo are all fantastic. Movie buffs, the Ross Film Society hosts a monthly movie night at the historic town hall.
The Ross Village Market is held on the third Sunday of the month, from 9am in Church Street. Peruse the local handicrafts, fresh produce, and home baked goods and pick up a sweet keepsake.
10. Stay awhile
Ross is situated almost perfectly between Hobart and Launceston—the perfect base for exploring the surrounding regions. There is some lovely heritage accommodation on offer.
Christopher Hall’s Colonial Accommodation is convict-built sandstone Heritage-listed house (c. 1846), tastefully furnished to reflect a bygone era. Ross Hotel (c. 1835) is one of the town’s most iconic buildings, and has a range of rooms on offer—let the colonial decor of this historic watering hole take you back in time. Nearby, Somercotes cherry farm offers unique self-contained cottage accommodation on one of the original Tasmanian colonial estates (c. 1823).
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