The Derwent Valley takes its name from the mighty river that rises at Lake St Clair and includes rich farmlands, rural settlements named by Scots and Irish settlers, and rugged escarpments and forests.
It’s a valley of tough pioneers, explorers, bushmen, dam builders and bush rangers. Their stories begin in the historic town of New Norfolk, with its fine collection of heritage buildings. Look for Australia’s oldest Anglican church, the quaint toll house by the bridge, and the Oast House Museum, where the scent of hops still lingers on. Further on are the Salmon Ponds where the first brown trout were hatched in the late 1800s. Today, their descendants provide some of the world’s finest fly fishing in Tasmania’s many lakes, rivers and streams.
Beyond historic farming settlements of Hamilton and Ouse, the highway climbs into the highlands, crossing rivers where power stations harness the boundless energy of falling water. It reaches the stark beauty of the Central Plateau where 10,000 years ago glaciers scraped the rocks bare, carving the cliffs and digging out the bed of Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake.
Turning off the westward highway, your route travels through to the lake country, where once a thick ice cap blanketed the land. Today, a myriad lakes, all teeming with trout, sparkle across the plateau. Largest of all, the Great Lake stretches from the fishing settlement of Miena to Breona in the north, where the partially unsealed road begins to descend through tall forests with cascading waterfalls.
Descending south-eastwards from Miena, the landscape gradually softens, and the place names reflect a European heritage – Nant, Cluny, Dennistoun – and Bothwell, a stately town on the edge of the wild country. It was Nant that John Mitchel, the Irish journalist and member of the Young Irelander political group, was housed until he escaped with the help of the New York Irish.