Blessed with good river and sea fishing waters, fantastic temperate dive sites and stunning beaches, Orford is a popular holiday spot on Tassie’s East Coast. The area around this seaside village, which is home to around 600 people, also offers plenty of bushwalking and bird-watching opportunities. Moreover, it’s only 73 km northeast of Hobart along the Tasman Highway, the A3.
The original inhabitants of the Orford area were the Paredarerme, also known as the Oyster Bay tribe. HIstorians estimate that they were the largest of the Tasmanian tribes. They tended to migrate inland during the warmer months but stayed on the coast in autumn and winter.
A convict called Thomas Prosser escaped in 1808 and was recaptured in the area, inspiring the names of the river and the bay. In 1825, a whaling station and a garrison were established along Prosser Bay, mainly to support the convict station on nearby Maria Island. Five years later, continuing conflict between the Aboriginal population and the European settlers in Tasmania prompted Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur to establish the Black Line, which was a human chain of settlers driving the Aborigines south-east to the Tasman Peninsula. The Black Line was a spectacular failure, though, with only two Aborigines, a man named Ronekeennarener and a boy named Tremebonenerp, captured. This happened on the morning of 25 October 1830 and the man leading the patrol was Edward Walpole, a nephew of Horace Walpole, the fourth Earl of Orford.
As a reward, Walpole was granted 1,000 acres at Prosser Bay in 1831. He named the property Strawberry Hill, after his uncle’s London residence, but he soon sold his land. The name Orford stuck, though.
The early settlers of Orford were mainly farmers, fishermen and timber workers. The site was never a good port because of a large sandbank at the mouth of the Prosser River. In addition, the track to the south of town was considered the worst in the entire colony and got the sarcastic name of Paradise Gorge.
Construction on the Convict Road started on the northern side of Paradise Gorge in about 1844, when the Paradise Probation Station was also built. The probation station was abandoned three years later and work on the road came to an end, although the Paradise Gorge road was widened on the southern side in 1861. Today you can still walk along the Convict Road to the ruins of the probabtion station, which was destroyed in a bushfire in 1856.
The first bridge across the Prosser River was completed in 1866. A key figure in the building of this bridge was the Colonial Treasurer and Minister for Lands and Works at the time, Charles Meredith. Meredith’s wife was the artist and writer Louisa Anne Meredith and while they were living in Orford, they built Malunnah, a beautiful sandstone house still standing in Prosser River Road. Also in the late 1860s the Shelley Beach Quarry, at the time known as the Prosser Bay Quarry, started producing sandstone that was used in buildings such as the Melbourne Town Hall and Melbourne Post Office.
It was after the quarry closed in 1882 that Orford became popular mainly as a holiday village. Today, Raspins Beach is an especially popular camping spot while Darlington Vineyard produces cool-climate wines that will go perfectly with the day’s catch. Orford is a great destination for outdoor activities: camping, fishing, boating or just enjoying the beach. The best views of Orford and the surrounding area are from Thumbs Lookout in Wielangta Forest.
Public Toilets in Orford.
Walpole Street, Orford. Open 24 hrs.
Raspins Beach, Tasman Highway, Orford. Open hours – unknown.
A Great Australian Secret Team Experience :
One Sunday afternoon around lunch-time we were returning from a photographic trip along the East Coast of Tasmania when we stopped at the Gateway Cafe in Orford (pictured above). The cafe was really busy. We really felt like fish-and-chips but it wasn’t listed on the menu. We asked the lady serving us if they could possibly make 2 servings for us and she replied with a smile, saying that of-course they could but we would have to wait a short time because we were 3rd in line for special orders. She suggested we take a seat and perhaps read the Sunday Tasmanian for a while and the meals would be brought out to us. About 15 minutes later another smiling, chatty lady brought our boxed meals to us and we went on our way, to eat sitting in our car.
We can very easily say that they were among the best fish-and chips we have ever had and we raise our hats to the Gateway Cafe, their friendly, happy service and great food!