The little town of Tunbridge, in the Southern Midlands, came into existence back in 1809. It was originally known as Tunbridge Wells, after the famous English spa town. Tassie’s Tunbridge quickly grew into a busy coaching stop for people travelling between Hobart and Launceston.
Today, the Midland Highway bypasses the town, so it retains a quiet charm. Pull off the highway, admire the 19th century buildings, and imagine what life was like during Tasmania’s coaching heyday. We’ve put together some tips on things to do.
1. Delve into the town’s coach stop history
Back in the days of horses and carriages, Tunbridge was home to three coaching inns: the Tunbridge Wells Inn (c. 1825), the Victoria Inn and coaching stables (c. 1843), and the York Inn. The Heritage-listed Tunbridge Wells Inn is an excellent example of a single storey Old Colonial Georgian inn and farmhouse. If you’re curious about the actual coaches, there’s an original Samuel Page coach on display in the park.
2. Admire the historic buildings
Step back in time and admire the 19th century buildings (most are now private residences). Tunbridge Manor (c. 1840s) particularly stands out, and was originally built as a staging post for the early transport days, offering accommodation, food, drink, and stabling for the horses. Another great spot is Bowerman’s General Store, a handsome two-storey Georgian building with a five bay facade and slim columns.
Other buildings include the Colonial Homestead (c. 1820) and the Blind Chapel, which is now the Masonic Hall. The Blind Chapel was built with no windows on one side so the parishioners couldn’t see across to the pub (better not tempt them).
3. Discover abandoned buildings
If only the walls could talk! Old buildings have such character and their untold stories can really capture the imagination. Notice abandoned cottages and churches, imagine how they looked in their heyday, and daydream about the people who lived there in another time.
4. Visit the Tunbridge Convict Bridge
The Tunbridge Convict Bridge was built by convicts in 1848, and is a rare example of a sandstone bridge with timber decking. It is also the oldest single span bridge in Australia! Find it at the northern end of town, spanning the Blackman River.
5. Do a spot of antiquing
Antique enthusiasts, visit Tunbridge Collectables and see what gems you can unearth. They specialise in Doulton, Carlton Ware, and Murano Glass.
6. Head along to the Tunbridge Market
Search for treasure and do some socialising at the Tunbridge Country Market, with local produce, arts and crafts, bric-a-brac, and more on offer. The market is held on the second Sunday of each month, between 9am and 3pm, in the Tunbridge Hall.
7. Learn about the area’s flora & fauna
To the east of town, the Township Lagoon Nature Reserve features pre-settlement remnant native grassland and is highly protected. The reserve has the highest concentration of threatened plant species in the state, including the endemic Tunbridge buttercup and Tunbridge leek orchard. It is also home to a salt-pan lagoon, habitat to the endangered salt lake slater.
Many amazing native animals call Tunbridge and surrounds home, including waddling echidnas. Gaze skyward for birds of prey, such as majestic wedge-tailed eagles.
Just south of Tunbridge, spot the Tasmanian emu sculpture. The species ran wild across Tasmania, thriving in the open ‘park land’ of the Midlands, until the mid-1800s, when early settlers hunted it to extinction. The Shadows of the Past Silhouette Trail reflects on aspects of the region’s colonial history, so keep an eye out for the 16 sculptures between Tunbridge and Kempton.
Stay nearby at Ross (16 km to the north) or Oatlands (26 km to the south). Travel tips and information are available at the Ross Visitor Information Centre, at the Tasmanian Wool Centre. To see what’s on, check out our Events Calendar.
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