Derwent Valley travel guide

The Derwent Valley, just north of Hobart, is a step back in time to quiet country roads, bucolic scenery and the relics of early settlement.

By Kendall Hill
The Derwent Valley is the entry point to the World Heritage-listed wonders of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and the South-West Wilderness. The Rivers Run touring route takes in all the local highlights from picturesque oast houses or hop kilns and colonial architecture to the magnificent mountain ashes of the Styx Valley, home to the outhern hemisphere's tallest tree. Whether up hill or down dale, there's always something to admire.


The hub of the Derwent Valley is an impeccably English village of stone houses, poplar avenues and a town square. Settled by Norfolk Island immigrants at the start of the 19th century, it can lay claim to one of Australia's oldest pubs, the circa 1825 Bush Inn on Montague Street, and Tasmania's oldest church, St Matthews on Bathurst Street.
As well as being a gateway to the Tasmanian wilderness and west coast, New Norfolk is renowned for antique shops brimming with colonial, deco and Georgian treasures. Swoon over the pricey pieces and 19th-century department-store interiors at the The Drill Hall Emporium. Stay in a convict-built Georgian mansion at Woodbridge on the Derwent, a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World group. Regional food and wines dominate at Woodbridge's Pavilion dining room and the hotel has kayaks and bicycles for guests to work off the excess along the Derwent River.


The big attraction of touring this slice of Tasmania is surrendering to the charms of peaceful rural roads. Even the smallest towns can have surprising secrets.
Book well ahead at the wildly popular Agrarian Kitchen, a farm-based cooking school in Lachlan run by Gourmet Traveller contributing food editor Rodney Dunn and his wife Séverine. Based in a 19th-century schoolhouse, this unique gourmet experience combines beautiful surroundings with heirloom produce, rare-breed animals and delicious meals.
At Hayes, Two Metre Tall runs a hop-to-tap artisan brewery on a 600-hectare farm. Handmade ales and ciders are crafted for "flavour, sustainability and truth of origin". On the way there, pull over at Pulpit Rock for postcard valley views.
At Bothwell, a picturesque hamlet settled by Scots in 1822, the finest Caledonian customs endure. Nant Distillery produces Australia's only highland single malt whiskey, using Tasmanian barley and pure highland lakes water. The nearby Ratho golf links is Australia's oldest golf course and possibly the only one where sheep still tend the greens. The tiny town itself is charming, with almost 60 buildings on the Tasmanian Heritage Register.
The waterfalls, rainforests and tarns of Mt Field National Park, an hour north-west of Hobart, provide the perfect setting for platypus, echidnas, Bennetts wallabies and Australia's only deciduous winter tree.
See art history in the making at Derwent Bridge, near Lake St Clair, where artist Greg Duncan is hand-carving the history of the central highlands in wood to create a 100-metre long sculpture, The Wall in the Wilderness.
Try some terrific cool-climate wines along the way, like Derwent Estate's standout pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling at Granton.
And don't miss the Salmon Ponds at Plenty, about 9km from New Norfolk. Established in 1864 using imported English salmon and trout stock, this historic hatchery has supplied the state's lakes with around one million fish each year. Tour the grounds, absorb the history and, if the urge to cast a line strikes, you're in luck  - the Derwent Valley boasts some of Tasmania's best trout fishing.
This online feature was published on the Gourmet Traveller website in October 2012.