Step back in time to the 19th century with a visit to the Heritage Highway’s impressive colonial estates. Discover what life was like for the well-to-do owners and their staff in the days of grand homesteads, farm villages, and convict labour. We’ve listed five stunning historic estates you can visit today for an atmospheric glimpse into colonial life.
1. Woolmers Estate
Together, Woolmers Estate and Brickendon Estate make up one of Tasmania’s World Heritage Convict Sites. Woolmers, near Longford, is one of Australia’s finest examples of a 19th century pioneer farm. The estate holds a wide range of collections, acquired by six generations of the Archer family between 1817 and 1994.
Take a guided tour of the main homestead and a self-guided tour of the out-buildings for a fascinating insight into rural colonial life. Original buildings include: family accommodation, workers’ cottages, a former chapel, blacksmith’s shop, stables, bakehouse, pump house and gardener’s cottage. To really immerse yourself, stay a few nights in their beautifully restored cottages.
2. Brickendon Estate & Farm Village
Check out the convict-built Gothic chapel, Dutch barns, chicken house, blacksmith shop and tool shed. Explore the historic garden, with soft plantings of roses and perennials near the Georgian homestead, an orchard and original shrubberies, and 1830s trees, including oaks, elms, cedars and pines.
Brickendon is a great day out for the whole family – feed the animals or give gumboot tossing a crack! Stay overnight in a historic farm cottage.
3. Clarendon House
Clarendon is set among luscious parkland on the banks of the South Esk River, at Nile. This grand colonial estate was built in 1838 for wealthy English wool grower and merchant, James Cox. Although Clarendon was convict-built, Mr Cox was known to treat convicts well, and later helped to end transportation and convict labour.
Take a guided tour of the elegant three-storey Georgian house and explore the site to view the servants’ quarters, heritage walled garden, colonial farm buildings, and rare avenue of elms. Entry includes the gardens, Clarendon Fashion Collection with precious gowns from the 1830s to 1960s, and the Norfolk Plains Heritage Centre. Clarendon is currently open Thursday to Sunday, but opening hours change over the cooler months, so check the National Trust website.
Somercotes (c. 1823) is one of the original Tasmanian estates, near Ross, and is still inhabited by descendants of the original settlers. It’s a working cherry farm, and you can purchase delicious freshly picked cherries from the farm shop (in season).
Opt to stay a few nights in their beautifully restored cottages. Relax in your self-contained accommodation, wander the cottage gardens and admire the buildings, double-thatched dairy, and unusual stonework of the barn. Ponder the mysterious ‘doorway to nowhere’, the last remnant of the once-prestigious (then bankrupt) 19th century boys school, Horton College.
5. Shene Estate & Distillery
Shene Estate & Distillery is an iconic convict-built property at Pontville. The striking estate is home to the Kernke Family, who have lovingly restored the site with incredible attention to detail. Book yourself in for a tour and a family member will show you around, sharing stories about Shene’s convict past, its links to the royal family, remnants of life over the past two centuries, spirits (ghostly and liquid), and what daily life is like at the historic site.
The award-winning Poltergeist Gin and triple distilled Mackey Single Malt Whisky are produced in the distillery onsite. Pop by Shene’s roadside stall on Sundays to get to know your local makers and pick up a bottle or two.
We love it when you share your adventures with us!
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