With so many country towns striving to offer a tourist attraction point of difference with painted silos, big things, and rusty sculptures, Railton in Tasmania certainly deserves full marks for originality.
Billing itself as the ‘Town of Topiary’, the streets here are lined with well over 100 shrubs and hedges that have been trimmed and shaped into a variety of eye-catching figures.
The ‘we-can-be unique’ idea was born back in 1999 when local businessman Neil Hurley kicked things off by creating a horse and farmer working a plough as a living monument to the pioneers of the area.
More – much more – was to follow.
Today, there are topiaries depicting everything from Ned Kelly and the last ‘living’’ Tasmanian tiger to crocodiles, spiders, steam trains … and even a mother and baby elephant! While it is not known how many hedge trimmers and garden shears are stashed away in this fascinating community located about 23 kilometres south of Devonport, Census data shows there are about 1,000 green-fingered residents.
Railton was first surveyed in 1853, and the early settlers were mainly farmers and timber workers. A tramway was built here in the 1860s, and the railway came through in 1885 as the Deloraine-Latrobe line was completed.
While it is the topiary which will initially tempt grey nomads into town, there are plenty of other points of interest. The main street is startlingly wide as it was built to make turning easier for the bullock teams making their way to the railway station.
Also of interest is the huge cement plant, which has been operating here since 1923 and reportedly produces in excess of one million tonnes of cement a year. The high-quality limestone cement has been used to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge, stands at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and many other great construction projects around the country.
Another place well worth a look is Sykes Sanctuary, 40 acres of bushland with abundant birdlife and walking tracks that was donated to the people of the area by Norman Sykes, an eccentric conservationist who gave up city life to live close to nature.
Along the reserve’s trails are two giant stone monuments complete with mathematical equations which are said to explain how the universe was made! Keen hikers will also enjoy a trip out to Stoodley Plantation Forest, located about five kilometres south of town.
A trail, which takes about 60 minutes to walk, leads visitors through a magnificent forest with a variety of trees to marvel at. Flower-loving grey nomads will no doubt also enjoy a visit to the Henry Somerset Orchid Reserve, which is nationally renowned for its diversity of native terrestrial orchids.
After all that sightseeing, the perfect way to cap off a busy day is to head out for a beer at the Seven Sheds Brewery, Meadery and Hop Garden, which offers cellar door sales, tastings and tours.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Railton currently offers free camping at the Esplanade for self-contained vehicles only, although the Kentish Council appears set to introduce a $10 camping fee in the near future.