Many people use Deloraine as a stopover on their way to the Western Tiers or the Tasmanian Wilderness Heritage Area. While this picturesque little town undoubtedly makes a great base from which to explore Tassie’s natural wonders, it’s also becoming a destination in its own right, especially for those who love history or are artistically inclined.
The town lies on the banks of the Meander River. The original inhabitants of the area were probably the Tommeginne-speaking Pallittorre people whose territory was in the nearby Quamby district. However, the Luggermairrernerpairre people from the Great Lake area may have frequented the Meander Valley too.
Europeans looking for land to settle explored the area in the early 1820s and it was the surveyor Thomas Scott who named the town after a character in Sir Walter Scott’s poem ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’. In 1825, people could buy leases here but it took some time before the settlers started moving in. The first bridge across the Meander River was built in 1828 and three years later Bonney’s Inn, still the oldest building in Deloraine, was built. By 1836 there was a post office and in 1848 the elegant Deloraine Hotel opened. However, the town developed so slowly that in the 1850s, the government resorted to selling land at only £1 per acre, which drew many new settlers to the district. Harvey’s Mill opened in the 1850s, as did Bowerbank Mill, which was designed by the first Tasmanian-born architect, William Archer, and built in 1853. The striking St Mark’s Church of England, still a major Deloraine landmark, followed in 1859 while the Baptist Tabernacle dates from 1880. In 1871 the railway linking Deloraine to Launceston was opened, making this one of the first railways in Tasmania. A locomotive near the old Electric Power Station commemorates this event.
You can pick up a guide to Deloraine’s historic buildings at the Visitor Information Centre, where you’ll also find the Deloraine & Districts Folk Museum. In front of the building is a statue of Malua, a legendary racehorse. Horseracing became an integral part of Deloraine life, with the racecourse dating from 1853, according to some sources. For well over a century, Deloraine also hosted the Tasmanian Grand National Steeplechase.
Today Deloraine is mainly an agricultural town, which means that there is plenty of fresh produce to buy from farms in the area. You can also shop for arts and crafts in the many galleries and workshops in town. Mary Street is particularly interesting to stroll down because of all the sculptures lining the street. Another option is to pick up a brochure and follow the Great Western Tiers Sculpture Trail, which leads into the countryside surrounding Deloraine.
Once a year, usually in early November, Deloraine becomes a hive of activity during the Tasmanian Craft Fair, the largest of its kind in Australia. This is the main event on the town’s social calendar and it would be a good idea to book your accommodation in advance if you plan to visit during this time. The town has a variety of accommodation options.
There are many fascinating day trips you can take from Deloraine too. Among these are Mole Creek Karst National Park with its caves, the Cradle Mountain area, Trowunna Wildlife Park in Mole Creek and the stunning Liffey Falls.