New Norfolk in Tasmania's Derwent Valley is on the banks of the Derwent River. It has a population of around 5000, but proudly lays claim to having one of Australia's few traditional town squares. It is one of the state's largest centres and was first explored by Europeans in 1793 by Lt John Hayes. When the river became too shallow, the party rowed to a point upstream close to New Norfolk's present site. The town was established in 1807 when the prison was closed and early townspeople planted hundreds of poplar trees. In autumn, the trees form a golden entrance to the town.
Denis McCarty, an Irish rebel, was transported to New South Wales as a convict. In 1803, he was one of the first to arrive at Tasmania's Risdon Cove and by 1808 he had converted from convict to police constable and built the first house in the area.
By late 1808, 544 people, made up of free settlers, soldiers and convicts, arrived in the then Van Diemen's Land from Norfolk Island, and while they did cause stress upon the local fragile economy, they helped form a basis for the settlement. Their presence was responsible for the name being changed from Elizabeth Town bestowed by Governor Lachlan Macquarie to New Norfolk.
The centre of the lucrative hop-growing area has several old oast houses along the roadside. They are no longer used as drying kilns but their presence does give a sense of history. Some have been converted into homes, restaurants and art galleries.
The town has many old buildings, including The Bush Inn, one of Australia's oldest drinking houses, and St Matthews Anglican Church, the oldest in the state and boasting wonderful stained-glass windows. Fortunately, New Norfolk has not yielded to over-development and is a gentle place to wander, even though it could involve a visit to the historic asylum!
Antique hunters love New Norfolk and nine specialists in town can help collectors discover Australian colonial furniture, Georgian silver or Art Deco treasures.
Roslyn Chapman has been a collector longer than she can remember and her husband gave her the ultimatum of getting rid of everything or opening a shop 20th Century Artefacts opened four years ago.
You can choose between purchasing that piece of Wedgwood you have always wanted, a ventriloquist's dummy, Bunnykins, snuff bottles or even Barbie dolls. They specialise in pianolas, records, gramophones and sheet music.
The Drill Hall was built for the training of soldiers on their way to WW1. Now, it is a beautiful antique store where browsing is rewarding. They have furniture English and French glass, china, silver-plate tableware, cutlery, fine linens, rugs, mirrors, lamps and pictures. The ever-changing array attracts locals on the lookout, as well as discerning visitors.
The Oast House museum, gift shop, craft market and tea room was a working establishment between 1867 and 1969. It is on a hill overlooking what were once extensive hops fields and has fascinating displays explaining how the crops were farmed and processed. The Hop Museum tells the story of beer brewing since the sixth century BC to today.
The Oast House fully licensed restaurant and café serves lunch, morning and afternoon teas every day and dishes up modern Tasmanian fare in a 19th century setting.
Woodbridge is Australia's newest and Tasmania's only Small Luxury Hotel member. It offers elegant accommodation in a convict-built Georgian mansion. All suites have river views (some from the shower). There is a wonderful variety of accommodation, each room having a name appropriate to the area. Some rooms have an open fireplace, but rest assured, in every way, they all have history.
Dining ranges from breakfasts worth waking for, picnic hampers and gourmet dinners which showcase why the Derwent Valley produce is so well regarded.