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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

The ghost town of York Town in Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania is a state full of history. It was the second Australian state to be populated by European settlers in the eighteenth century, after New South Wales. Tasmania was originally known as Van Diemens Land. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman named the island state in 1642, after his sponsor, the Governor of the Dutch East Indies.

In May 1804 a British garrison set up a camp on the current site of George Town, a perfect location with both sea and river access. Yorktown was also an 1804 settlement established just a short distance downstream on the banks of the Tamar River. By 1808 it was barely inhabited though, with the residents relocating to the much preferred Launceston 50km away.

Today, all the buildings have gone and the landscape has returned to nature. There is little evidence of any human settlement. The York Town Historic Site has been established and is an interesting site to visit. Interpretive signs along the walkpath provide information for you to imagine the time centuries ago when pioneer settlers hoped to establish their homes in this new wilderness, far from the comforts and family in England.

A 15 minute walk through glorious, natural bush takes you from the carpark to the historical site. The walk is flat and suitable for all abilities. It is wheelchair accessable.

Signs have been strategically placed with animal and flower pictures. This assists visitors to identify these fauna and flora if they sight them.

Lt Governor William Patterson and his wife Elizabeth had a cottage here. There was a brick guardhouse, gaol, military barracks, stores and convict huts.

Supply ships would arrive on the river. but food shortages meant that the settlers took to hunting native animals in the surrounding bushlands. The residents were often starving and the convicts colluded to escape or rob the stores.

In August 1806 there were 124 male convicts and 11 women convicts, out of a total population numbering 276. The men would get timber and make bricks, the women carried out domestic duties.

Three streets of weatherboarded houses homed the soldiers and their families. A hut has been erected on the site to demonstrate the size of one.

There have also been a few cheeky cutouts of soldiers established in the area, to enhance your imagination, as well as bring a smile to your face.

The site is peaceful and quiet now. I found it lovely to walk around the area and read the signage and remember those long ago pioneers.

The carpark/picnic area has clean toilets, a free gas barbeque and seating available.

The York Town site is a ten minute drive from Beaconsfield, and just under an hour drive north-west of Launceston. It is a perfect place for a picnic and a stroll down memory lane.

Happy Travels!

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