Small and quaint with an old-timey village atmosphere, Evandale is one of the prettiest towns along the Heritage Highway. It’s also one of Australia’s best preserved historic towns and is classified by the National Trust as a Georgian village, with much of its infrastructure built by convicts.
Evandale, which lies along a bend in the South Esk River is home to a little over 1,000 people, is located just under 20 km southeast of Launceston and a little over 180 km north of Hobart. To get here, you need to take National Highway 1, which is known as the Brooker Highway, for the section between Hobart and Granton and then the Midland Highway from Granton to Launceston. Near the town of Perth, the B41 creates a detour off the Midlands Highway, to take you to Evandale as well as to Launceston Airport.
Before colonisation, the territories of the Ben Lomond and probably the Panninher of the North Midlands people met in the area that later became Evandale. In 1811, Governor Lachlan Macquarie camped along the river and founded the town, which he named Honeysuckle Banks, as a military outpost. At the time there was only one settler in the area. David Gibson lived at Pleasant Banks, about 4 km to the south and across the river on land he had been granted in 1809. Today the mansion Gibson later built is a private home just off the B41. Gibson was known to have had friendly relations with the local Aboriginal people, even leaving them the carcasses of slaughtered livestock.
In 1816 Captain Andrew Barclay, a Scottish mariner, was granted 500 acres closer to where Evandale now lies and a year later he received another 300 acres. He built a large cottage that he named Trafalgar and which was later sketched by renowned Tasmanian artist John Richardson Glover. George Collins was granted land a little to the south in 1820 and in those early days, Barclay and Collins quickly became the largest landowners in town.
During the 1820s, the town continued to grow but relations with the Aboriginal people soured, with violent clashes becoming commonplace. In those days, the town went through several name changes, including being called Collins Hill, New River and Morvern. In 1829 it was named Evansdale in honour of George Williams Evans, a surveyor. In 1836 the name was changed again, to Evandale.
The town’s first inn was the New River, built in 1832. It was later rebuilt and eventually became Blenheim House, which stands in High Street. High and Russell Streets are still home to many buildings dating from the 1820s to the 1840s. One of the area’s most impressive heritage buildings is actually about 10 km south of town. Clarendon House dates from 1836 and is a magnificent Georgian mansion.
One of the famous names associated with Evandale is John Glover and in Falls Park there is a statue of this landscape artist, who lived nearby in Deddington. Every year in March, Evandale hosts an art competition known as the Annual Glover Prize.
In May, it’s time for Agfest, one of the most visited agricultural shows in Tasmania. Probably Evandale’s quirkiest annual event though is the National Penny Farthing Championships, which usually takes place on the last Saturday of February as part of the Evandale Village Fair.
A great time to be in Evandale if you can’t make it to one of the annual events is Sunday mornings. From 8:00 to about 13:30 every Sunday, Falls Park in Logan Road comes alive with the Evandale Sunday Markets, where you can buy anything from local produce to crafts and bric-a-brac. Twice a month the Evandale Light Railway Society runs a train as part of the market-day activities too. It’s also a good idea to pick up a booklet from the Evandale Tourist Information Centre and spend half a day or so to take a self-guided heritage walk through town to appreciate all the old buildings.