Even though it seems like an almost sleepy town overshadowed by bustling Devonport, Latrobe is one of those destinations that will continue to surprise you. It boasts something for everyone, whether you prefer nature, foodie experiences, history or simply the quirky things in life.
Located on the banks of the Mersey River, Latrobe is home to about 4,000 people and is effectively a commuter suburb of Devonport, 11 km to the north. Launceston is a little more than 80 km to the southeast. You can reach Latrobe from either Devonport or Launceston by taking the Bass Highway, also known as National Highway 1.
The original inhabitants of the Latrobe area were members of the North tribe who spoke Tommeginne. They tended to spend winters along the coast and would then move inland when the weather turned warmer.
The first European settler here was Edward Curr, a manager with the Van Diemen’s Land Company, who moved to the area in 1826. His property was a little to the northeast at what is now Northdown. Curr moved to Circular Head, today known as Stanley, in 1827 and in 1828 Captain B.B. Thomas, a superintendent with the Van Diemen’s Land Company, took over the land at Northdown.
At the first point where it was convenient to cross the Mersey River, a settlement soon grew and in 1846 this was named Latrobe, after Charles Joseph La Trobe, who was then acting as lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen’s Land. The oldest house in Latrobe is Sherwood Hall, which was completed in 1850. In 1855 Robert Bell and Henry Bentinck built a wharf and a store near Sherwood Hall and this part of town became known as Bell’s Parade.
From 1870 to about 1895 Latrobe was Tasmania’s third largest settlement and a bustling port, but it went into decline by the end of the century as Devonport grew in importance. You’ll still find several historic buildings dating from Latrobe’s heyday, including St Lukes Church and Vermont from the 1860s, the Lucas Hotel from 1870, Hamilton House from 1872 and Frogmore from 1880. The Court House was built in 1883 and now houses the Court House Museum.
In 1891 Latrobe hosted the first woodchopping championship in the world. This took place at Bell’s Parade where you’ll now find the Australian Axeman’s Hall of Fame and Timberworks. Bell’s Parade is also the site of Henley-on-Mersey, an Australia Day celebration that includes a woodchopping competition, sheaf tossing, egg throwing and ferret races.
It’s probably not surprising that a town that holds ferret races would also be the place to see one of the world’s weirdest animals. Latrobe calls itself the ‘platypus capital of the world’ and at the Australian Axeman’s Hall of Fame and Timberworks you can find out more about this egg-laying mammal and also see the Big Platypus, one of Australia’s Big Things. To see the real-life, smaller version, you can go on a guided tour or simply take a walk in the Warrawee Forest Reserve.
There are several other interesting walks around town and to ensure that you have the energy for this, you may want to stock up on the heavenly Belgian-style goodies at the Anvers Chocolate Factory. If you still don’t feel relaxed, a treatment or gong session at The Quiet Cone will leave you stress-free and rejuvenated.
Latrobe has a range of accommodation options suited to different budgets, so you can easily stay a while and explore.