10 things to see and do in Campbell Town, Tasmania, Australia
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
As the only major resting place on the Midland Highway, Campbell Town is perfect to stop for fuel, toilet breaks and to grab something to eat at one of the many food outlets that line the highway. It is 68kms (42 miles) south of Launceston and 134kms (83 miles) north of Hobart. The population in 2016 was 996.
The town is worth an extended stop. New South Wales Governor Lachlan Macquarie named the river after his wife Elizabeth way back in 1811. In 1821, on his second tour of Van Diemens Land, he named the town after his wife’s maiden name.
1. The Red Bridge
The Red Bridge spans the Elizabeth River and is the oldest bridge anywhere on the National Highway. This surviving brick arch bridge was completed in 1838. It was convict built and at its height it employed 220 men. An estimated 1.5 million bricks were laid here. As well as being practical it was built to be aesthetically and architecturally beautiful.
2. The Foxhunter Return and the Book Cellar
On the banks of the Elizabeth River and across the road from the Red Bridge is an outstanding colonial Georgian coaching inn, the Foxhunters Return.
Built by convicts around 1833 it is now in use as The Book Cellar. This is the same extensive cellars which it is said that convicts were housed overnight during the building of the bridge. It is definitely worth a visit to see the architecture of the cellars. The Book Cellar has both old and new books and an extensive collection of books on Tasmania.
3. Tree Carvings
Eddie Freeman, from the nearby town of Ross, carved three trees that stand near the Red Bridge. The carvings depict the history of the town. One depicts the wildlife found along the river.
Another depicts Dr Valentine who viewed the Transit of Venus here in 1874. The airplane and globe honour Harold Gatty (more about him later on), and the sheep and wool acknowledge the fact that Campbell Town Show is the longest running in the southern hemisphere.
The third tree depicts a British soldier supervising a convict building the bridge. These sculptures are amazing and created using only a chainsaw and a chisel.
4. Convict Bricks
The Convict Brick project is located on both sides of the main street and was started in 2003. The rows of bricks are dedicated to the convicts that came to Australia. This privately run project sold bricks to individuals or descendants. The convict details are identified on the brick. I checked with the museum in the Town Hall and they were able to confirm my ggg-grandfather did have a brick and the location of it.
5. Valentine Park
Valentine Park has more going for it that first meets the eye. Grab a coffee from a nearby takeaway and enjoy wandering around the park. Firstly, the toilets here are really CLEAN! There are three double sided information boards that give you more details of the town you are in.
There is a huge cut tree, 7.8m long with a girth of 218cm.
A statue of Eliza and the ram stands proudly at the main street entrance to the park. Eliza Furlong (nee Jack) was incredible! In the 1820s she walked 1,500 miles through what is now Germany selecting the best flocks of Saxony merino sheep. In 1929 the Governor granted her family land near Campbell Town.
The descendants of these sheep are still grazing in Tasmania today, and their wool is highly prized. On her trek, Eliza sewed gold coins in the hems of her skirts for safe keeping. If you look closely at her statue you can see golden coins glittering.
The transit of Venus sundial was built in 2004 to commemorate the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun. The event was last observed at The Grange by scientists from the United States Naval Observatory in 1874. I sat on the sundial which is made from old agricultural machinery, and adjusted the plough disc until the light of the sun shone through a small hole in the centre of the disc. The date was given by counting the number of dots since the beginning of the month to the dot where the sun is shining. I am happy to report it was 100% correct!
6. The Grange
Built in 1847, this was originally the home of English Doctor William Valentine. It was built to resemble an English Manor house As a doctor in town, he helped set up the first public hospital and gave his services free for the first three years. Today the Grange is used as a function centre and meeting rooms.
7. Harry Gatty Memorial
A memorial to an adventurous man has been created in a town park. Campbell Town born Harold Gatty (1903 – 1957) navigated the American pilot Wiley Post and his aircraft “Winnie Mae” in the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1931. This took eight days. During the Second World War as a Group Captain in the R.A.A.F. he was Director of Air Transport for the Allied forces in the Pacific area. It seems that Harold was a true Tasmanian son. US President Herbert Hoover asked Harold to become a US citizen, but he refused.
“Harold Gatty later wrote a survival manual issued to US aircraft in WWII, which included a map of the world. It showed no inland towns or cities - except one. Campbell Town.” – www.theexaminer.com
8. Town Hall
The town hall was built in 1939 and is an excellent example of Art Deco design. The W.H. Tofft memorial tower commemorates Dr Walter Tofft who was a medical officer at the local hospital for 24 years. Inside is the town museum and visitors centre manned by very helpful volunteer staff. A room here gives a brief history with memorabilia from the 111 Australian General Hospital that was located nearby in 1942.
9. Lake Leather
This awesome shop sells genuine leather handbags from Australia, travel bags, tote bags, luggage, belts, boots, shoes, wallets, purses and more. There are many unique and original items here and it was a pleasure to browse through their wares.
10. Old Churches and buildings
Several of the old churches have been purchased by individuals and are now private residences. Visitors can only see them from the outside.The Brickhill Memorial Church was built in 1879.
The Church promotes itself as where Scotland and Tasmania meet. Built in 1857, it will be reopening in 2022 as an historic cafe and gardens. Their facebook page states: Take a step back in time watching the projection on the internal walls showing the history of The Church, the local area and Tasmania.
St Lukes Church of England was opened in 1839.
St Michaels Roman Catholic Church was established in 1857.
St Lukes School was built by voluntary contributions in 1845.
The hospital was built in 1855.
Campbell Town in Tasmania is a fabulous town to spend time investigating both a fascinating past and the interesting present.
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