All too often, the Tasmanian village of Oatlands is completely missed by ‘hurried’ grey nomads who are touring the Apple Isle on too tight of a schedule. And that’s a crying shame.
One of the state’s oldest settlements, the streets here are lined by more than 150 sandstone buildings … most of which were built by convicts in the early 19th-century. Due to its central location between Hobart and Launceston, Oatlands was developed as a military base for the control and management of convicts. The prisoners were assigned to nearby farms and properties, and also worked on public buildings, roads and bridges.
While the striking Georgian townscape may appear strangely stark at first, many of the buildings now operate as cafes, stores, and craft outlets.
In other words, the community is a lot more friendly than it used to be.
With a population of less than 1,000, Oatlands sits on Lake Dulverton and is about an hour north of Hobart. Since a bypass was built, travellers now need take a detour off the Midland Highway in order to visit … but it is definitely worth the effort.
Just walking around is the best way to get a feel for the history that seemingly seeps out of the place. The most striking building is without doubt, Callington Mill, the only Lincolnshire-style windmill still operating in the Southern Hemisphere. The scenic mill was originally built in 1837 and was restored to working order a decade ago.
Visitors strolling through the town will find plenty of informative signs telling stories of the buildings and the people that make this place so unique. Other interesting buildings include the Court House built with convict labour in 1829, the old gaol, the Commissariat’s store and watch house, the White Horse Inn, St Paul’s Church, St Peter’s Anglican Church, and the imposing Holyrood House.
A railway opened here in 1855 and ran until 1949. Like much of rural Tasmania, Oatlands has faced its fair share of difficult times over the years due to drought and economic downturns … but being bypassed hit it particularly hard.
Happily though, increasing numbers of tourists are now discovering that Oatlands is well worth the detour.
Grey nomads will find a 72-hour free camping area on Lake Dulverton, and black and grey water disposal facilities are located nearby. The lake is actually an attraction in itself. Covering 233 hectares, it is regularly re-stocked with trout for fishing and to encourage the return of native birds to the wildlife sanctuary. There are numerous picnic and barbecue facilities situated at the lake, and a walking track that follows the foreshore.
Bypass or no bypass, any mainland-based grey nomad who hasn’t left time for a few days in Oatlands needs to have a serious second look at their return trip booking date on the Spirit!