The town of Pontville is one of Tasmania’s oldest settlements, and is around a half hour drive north from Hobart. On one side, the town overlooks the Jordan River. The vast plain on the opposite side was once a travelling route for Tasmanian Aboriginal people.
Today, Pontville is rich in heritage and charm—we’ve put together some tips on things to do when you visit.
1. Learn about the town’s beginnings
Pontville was established as a garrison town in 1821. In the early days, the town boomed for its timber, sandstone quarries, and proximity to the Southern Midlands‘ hunting grounds, which had been fire-stick farmed by Tasmanian Aboriginal people over thousands of years. By the mid-1840s, Pontville was a thriving settlement of more than 2,000 people, and an important staging point for travellers between Hobart and Launceston.
2. Explore the town
Pontville offers an intriguing glimpse back into the 19th century. Discover historic churches and cemeteries, ruins of the first shops and garrison buildings, grand Georgian residences, a cosy inn, and historic accommodation. Enjoy hearty country fare in the local pub (c. 1835) or dine in at Twelve Stones Restaurant in the old Uniting Church building (c. 1874). Another church of note is St. Mark’s, a rare example of the Romanesque-style, designed by convict architect James Blackburn.
Near the bridge over the Jordan River you’ll find another local landmark. Lythgo’s Row, also known as The Barracks, was built in 1824 as accommodation for soldiers. Today, The Barracks offers charming heritage accommodation.
3. Tour Shene Estate & Distillery
Shene Estate & Distillery (c. 1819) offers a fascinating insight into Tasmania’s colonial heritage, with its striking Gothic stables (c. 1851) and atmospheric barn (c. 1846). Since acquiring the property in 2006, the Kernke family have worked hard to conserve the site as well as breathe new life into it as a living museum. Book a behind-the-scenes tour and a family member will show you around, telling captivating tales about Shene’s colourful past, including its direct links with King George III.
Taste their award-winning Poltergeist Gin on tour, or pop by the quaint roadside stall on Sundays between 10am and 4pm to pick up a bottle and meet the makers (and perhaps pat the distillery dog).
4. Enjoy a concert in the Ballroom at Epsom House
Epsom House (c. 1829) began as an inn and a blacksmith’s shop, and has been known by several names: The Blacksmith’s Arms, The Castle Inn and Brighton Hotel (1835), the Tasmanian Inn (1853), The Epsom Hotel (1860), and now, Epsom House. The house features a rare ballroom, 2 acres of English gardens, and grand period accommodation.
Talented Australian and international classical and jazz musicians regularly perform in the stunning ballroom. Join Epsom House’s mailing list for information on upcoming concerts and events.
5. Walk the Jordan River Trail
The Jordan River Trail (4.5 km / under 2 hours) is a historic/cultural walk that begins near Andrew Street and heads north along the left bank of the Jordan River. The track takes you to the ford across the Jordan, follows a footpath to the Midland Highway, winds past the sports ground and equestrian centre, and continues along the river to Hartley Court. A detour into the Pontville Historic Precinct is well worthwhile. Cyclists and dogs on leads are welcome. Please note, the track is subject to occasional flooding after heavy rain.
6. Browse the local market
The Brighton Market is held on the first Sunday of the month, undercover in the Brighton Memorial Hall at Pontville Park. Browse the local goods, including second-hand bargains, plants, bric-a-brac, jewellery, art and craft. There is a good selection of hot and cold food for sale.
Pontville makes a great base for exploring the many attractions of the Southern Midlands. From Pontville, you can drive 10 minutes south to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, 20 minutes north to Chauncy Vale Wildlife Sanctuary, or 25 minutes east to Wobbly Boot Vineyard and the Coal River Valley wine region.
To see what’s on, check out our Events Calendar.
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