New Norfolk is a diverse and bustling historic town located in the Derwent Valley, approximately 40 minutes north west of Hobart by road. Situated along the banks of the picture-perfect Derwent River, New Norfolk has always personified a true representation of Tasmanian life… ever since early Australian settlers called it home.
The town’s claim to fame combines stunning Tasmanian countryside with iconic industries and a fascinating (and often dark) colonial history. The Barracks at Willow Court, constructed in the very early 1800’s for invalid convicts is part of this so called ‘dark’ history and now very interesting to visit. Locals are friendly and welcoming and create a strong community fabric spanning the furthest reaches of the region. Since the 1800s, New Norfolk has acted as a natural economic hub for the valley’s multiple industries and continues to do so today.
Visitors to New Norfolk are drawn to historical features, natural landscapes, fresh produce and many unique antique shops.
Oast House Hop Museum
This Oast House at the bottom of Tynwald Park was established in 1867 and for a century it served as a functioning oast house for local hop growers. Nowadays, it is a museum dedicated to the history of growing hops in the area. Another notable oast house in the area is the Valleyfield Oast House, one of the oldest buildings in the region.
The Bush Inn
The Bush Inn is a local watering hole overlooking the Derwent River in the heart of the town. Built in 1815 and licensed by Mrs. Anne Bridger in 1825, the Bush Inn became the first licensed inn in Australia and also the longest continually licenced premises in Australia. It still holds such title to this day.
Arthur Square is one of the oldest squares in Australia and was established as an official town meeting area in 1811. It now serves as a park and picnic spot and a recreational area for locals and visitors.
St. Matthews Anglican Church
St. Matthews Anglican Church is the oldest church in Australia and was constructed in 1824. It is known for its fascinating stained glass windows.
The Barracks at Willow Court is an impressive stone building built in the very early 1800’s as a barracks for invalid convicts and prisoners. In 1830, after falling into serious disrepair it was expanded under the supervision of Major Kendall and Colonial Architect John Lee Archer. Later it became The New Norfolk Hospital for the Insane and subsequently part of the Royal Derwent Hospital, the oldest and longest continually operating mental institution in Australia. Willow Court received its name from the willow tree planted in its courtyard, the cuttings of which are reputed to have been taken from the grave-site of Napoleon. Willow Court Antiques in the Precinct there is the most extensive and interesting antiques outlet you will possible ever visit.
Natural Sites of New Norfolk
Pulpit Rock and Peppermint Hill lookout provide camera-ready panoramic views of New Norfolk and surrounding countryside. Sights from both lookouts are especially spectacular in autumn when the changing trees leave visitors quickly running out of space on memory cards.
New Norfolk’s History
New Norfolk is Tasmania’s third oldest town and was established in 1807 when settlers were transferred to the area from Norfolk Island’s fading Penal Colony. They brought with them skills necessary for establishing a settlement and were promised generous grants, mostly in the form of land and a dwelling. They were assigned convicts to assist in the preparation and clearing of their new farmland and were given a year’s supply of clothing and food from the Government stores.
By 1808 the population of Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land) had become 544 and comprised of free settlers, soldiers and convicts. Among the early settlers in New Norfolk was Betty King, the first white female convict to be transported to Australia. Betty King married a private in the First Marine Regiment and lived in New Norfolk for 89 years. King was one of the last surviving first fleeters and was buried in the cemetery at Lawitta in 1856.
New Norfolk received 30% of the new settlers from the motherland of Great Britain and at that time came to be known as The Hills. Visit New Norfolk and you’ll see why this name was chosen.
New Norfolk’s History: A Timeline
- In 1811 Governor Macquarie visited Van Diemen’s Land and renamed the town as ‘Elizabeth Town’. The name was not popular among the locals, and after much protest they succeeded in naming the town ‘New Norfolk’, due to their association and history with the Norfolk Island settlement.
- Development in New Norfolk progressed steadily and in 1818 the first arterial road linking the town to Hobart was built. A regular coach service between Hobart and New Norfolk began in 1829.
- New Norfolk got its first colonial hotel, the Bush Inn, in 1825 and in 1836 a convict hospital was completed. This became the New Norfolk Hospital for the Insane and later the Royal Derwent Hospital.
- On 1st June 1832 New Norfolk’s Post Office was built and in 1840 the first bridge across the valley was built.
- Hops became the primary commercial crop of the region in 1846 and still remain a major industry in the Derwent Valley.
- In 1864 salmon hatcheries were set up at the Salmon Ponds in Plenty, marking the beginning of widespread fish rearing still practiced today.
- New Norfolk had the honor of playing host to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868.
- New Norfolk was added to the state’s railway network in 1887.
- In 1888 New Norfolk made telecommunications history when the Bush Inn Hotel received Australia’s first trunk telephone call from Hobart.
- The Municipality of New Norfolk was established in 1906.
- Hydro-electricity reached the town in early 1900s.
- In 1926 by the Pioneer Woodware Company established a peg making factory in New Norfolk. The factory produced 1.4 million pegs every week and was the main supplier of cloth pegs in Australia. Prior to the local production, pegs were imported from America.
- In 1939 construction of Australian Newsprint Mills (now Norske Skog) at Boyer began and became the major employer in the area.
- In 1948 the peg factory was completely destroyed by fire, and not long after reopening was struck by flooding from the River Derwent. The factory still stands today and is home to a number of local businesses.
- In 1960 much of New Norfolk suffered major flooding.
- In 1999 the Royal Derwent Hospital (Willow Court area) closed.
New Norfolk’s Industries
The surrounding valley’s favorable climate, fertile soil and abundance of fresh water were quickly identified as being ideal for crop growing, and before long, hop plantations spread across the region. Hops are used in brewing beer and acts as a flavoring and stability agent.
Much attention was given to beer manufacturing and as a result hops became a cash crop in New Norfolk. Oast houses were built to dry the hops and can still be seen all over. The Two Metre Tall Brewing Company is the local micro-brewery.
Fruits like raspberries, blueberries, cherries, plums, apples and grapes are also grown in and around New Norfolk. In late summer and autumn many locals pick the abundant blackberries growing on the sides of the roads.
In the early days salmon hatcheries were set up and the eggs of brown trout were shipped to Tasmania. Fish farming soon emerged as a profitable industry and while vastly modernized, still remains a primary industry in the area. In 2006 a new hatchery was built with the capacity of rearing 500,000 fish per year.
The antique industry has gained strength in New Norfolk and the town is now known as the antiques capital of Tasmania, the first being Drill Hall Antiques in Stephen St. The largest antiques center is Willow Court Antiques on George St and many tourists even say it is the largest in Australia.
In 1938, Australian Newsprint Mills (now Norske Skog) started to establish it’s newsprint mill along the banks of the River Derwent at Boyer, seen on the drive between Bridgewater and New Norfolk. The mill started production in 1941 and was Australia’s first mill to produce newsprint. New Norfolk was chosen as an ideal location because of its proximity to the River Derwent, which made transportation of raw materials (logs) and the finished newsprint easy. Tasmanian log plantations were within close proximity and electricity was abundant due to the hydroelectric system in the area. Upon establishment the mill was capable of producing 30,000 tonnes of newsprint per year however in 2014 the capacity increased to 290,000 tonnes per year.
Accommodation in New Norfolk
All Saints and Sinners B&B 93 High Street, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 1877
Bush Inn. 51 Montagu Street, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 2256
Deb’s B&B. 15 Circle Street, New Norfolk. Tel : 0418 708 321
Explorers Losge. 105 Derwent Terrace, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 1255
Heimat Chalets. 430 Black Hills Road, Black Hills. Tel : 03 6261 2843
Junction Motel. 50 Pioneer Avenue, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 4029
Magnolia COttage B&B. 74 Derwent Terrace, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 1228
New Norfolk Hotel. 79 High Street, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 2166
Oakdale B&B. 10 Oakdale Road, New Norfolk. Tel : 0438 120 817
Old Colony Inn B&B. 31 Montagu Street, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 2731
Rosie’s Inn B&B. 5 Oast Street, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 1171
SHingles Riverside Cottages. 115 – 117 Glenora Road, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 1836
Swallow’s Nest. 1358 Glenora Road, Plenty. Tel : 03 6286 1144
Tynwald 1830’s Mansion. 1 Tynwald Road, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 2667
Woodbridge on the Derwent. 6 Bridge Street, New Norfolk. Tel : 03 6261 5566
Public Toilets in New Norfolk Area.
Malbina Cemetery, Molesworth Road, Sorell Creek – 24 hrs.
Millbrook Rise Boat Ramp, New Norfolk – Daylight hours.
Tynwald Park, Hobart Road (Lyell Hwy) – Daylight hours.
Stephen Street, New Norfolk – Daylight hours.
Derwent Valley Council Chambers, Circle Street, New Norfolk – Daylight hours.
Caltex Service Station, Cnr Montagu and Burnett Streets, New Norfolk – 24 hours.
New Norfolk Caravan Park, The Esplanade, New Norfolk – 24 hrs.
Page Avenue, The Esplanade, New Norfolk – Daylight hours.
Rocks Road, New Norfolk – Daylight hours.
Coles Express Service Station (Shell), 27 Hamilton Road, New Norfolk – Variable hours.
Molesworth Recreational Ground, 600 Molesworth Road, Molesworth – 24 hrs.