The 19th century town of Oatlands has a distinct colonial charm. The well-preserved Georgian streetscape offers a complete representation of an early European settlement in Australia.

Just a 1 hour drive north from Hobart or a 1.5 hour drive south from Launceston, the mostly convict-built village is popular for day trips or weekend getaways. We’ve put together 10 tips for exploring this gorgeous sandstone town.

1. Count the historic sandstone buildings

There are more than 150 historic sandstone buildings at Oatlands—the largest collection of any town in Australia! Wander the quaint streets and admire the shops, inns, cottages, and former military buildings. See how they’ve stood the test of time and try counting them (hint: there are 87 in the main street alone).

Image: @alifelesscity/Instagram

2. Take a self guided walk through Oatlands’ convict past

Oatlands dates back to the 1820s and is one of Tasmania’s oldest settlements. The town was originally developed as a military base to manage the convicts who were assigned to work on buildings, bridges and nearby farms, so there’s plenty of colourful history to sink your teeth into!

Explore the town on foot and check out elegant churches and heritage sites dating back to colonial times. There are informative signs around town that tell stories of sheep farming, bushrangers, convicts, and fascinating local characters (including Tasmania’s most feared hangman). If you want more juicy details, pick up a copy of Stories from the Sandstone.

Image (Oatlands Gaol): @natalie.m.jones/Instagram

3. Search for a sign

If you’re looking for a sign, Oatlands has a few! Many of the buildings around town still display old signs from another time. There’s Bob Geary’s boot making and repair shop and an old hardware store, among others. Once you start looking, they’ll start to jump out at you.

If you’re wondering about the people behind the signs, some locals might remember tidbits from childhood or conversations with older relatives that may shed some light.

Image: @signs.of.australia/Instagram

4. Visit the Callington Mill Historic Site

The sails of Callington Mill are visible from the Heritage Highway, luring folk in from the road. Callington Mill was built in 1837 and is the only working mill of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although guided tours of the mill are unavailable at the moment, you are still welcome to visit the site and take a stroll around the precinct. On select Sundays from 1pm to 5pm, have a go at learning a heritage trade at the Callington Mill Blacksmith’s Forge (find more info and booking details here).

Image: @flowerqueen123456/Instagram

5. Browse the shops & have a bite to eat

Oatlands is home to some very cool shops and cafés. Do a spot of antiquing—you never know what you might find! Pop into the local galleries and admire the artwork.

Stroll along the main street and pick whichever eatery takes your fancy. On offer, you’ll find great coffee, pancakes and crepes, European style food, home-cooked style food, counter meals, slices, homemade pies, and more. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it!

Image (The Pancake & Crepe Shop): @tassiefoodguide/Instagram

6. Follow the Topiary Trail

If you have a sharp eye, you might notice some rather curious green creatures around town. The Topiary Trail was designed by Tasmanian sculptor Stephen Walker and made by a local resident. There are leafy characters growing in several locations—see how many you can meet!

Image: @meercat_missy/Instagram

7. Relax at Lake Dulverton

Lake Dulverton is a waterbird sanctuary on the outskirts of town. It’s a popular place to unwind, with lovely walks, fishing, picnic areas, birdwatching, and even bouldering. You can also camp here for free in the RV rest area.

Image: @nise41w/Instagram

8. Browse the stalls at Oatlands Community Market

The Oatlands Community Market is held on the first Sunday of each month, from 9am to 1pm in the Oatlands Community Hall. Meet the local makers and growers and pick up something special, such as homemade cakes, handmade cards, goat milk soap, glass painting, photography, and bric-a-brac.

Image: @oatlandsmarket/Facebook

9. Play Skulduggery

If you fancy yourself a detective, put your sleuthing skills to the test with a game of Skulduggery. See if you can solve a true crime committed in Oatlands in the 1830s. Forgery for Fools involves the nefarious dealings of publican, gaoler, trickster and black-guard George Dudfield. Will you get to the bottom of all this ruckus?

10. Stay a few days

Being one of the country’s oldest settlements, Oatlands offers some charming heritage accommodation. Stay a while and enjoy a taste of colonial life with all the modern conveniences.

Our picks include: Oatlands Manor, Amelia Cottage, Forget-Me-Not Cottage, Lakeview Cottage, The Heritage Post Office, The Jenny Wren (becoming a private residence from 25 June 2018), and Oatlands Lodge Colonial Accommodation.

Image (The Jenny Wren): @mmeeah/Instagram

We love it when you share your adventures with us!

Tag @midlandstasmania and use #MidlandsTasmania or #HeritageHighway and we’ll share our favourite photos on InstagramFacebook, and in our Blog.

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Our Guide: Chasing the Aurora Australis Along the Heritage Highway
Eight Day Trip Ideas for the Southern Midlands
Fly Fishing and Flying Saucers: 5 Things to do at Cressy
Step Back in Time at these Five Colonial Estates

Header image:

Isabel Galloway