Although it’s just 40 minutes from Hobart, the Derwent Valley feels like a world away from everywhere. It’s a quiet, rural region covering 4,111 square kilometres. The peaceful Derwent Valley serves as the gateway to some of Tasmania's most spectacular wilderness areas, including Mt Field National Park and the Western Tasmanian World Heritage Area.
The locals claim Derwent Valley to have the best of everything Tasmania has to offer saying it’s bigger, deeper, wilder, even weirder than any other region. It’s said to have the oldest pubs, the purest rivers, the quietest tracks, and the deepest caves. That’s some claim! It’s certainly an area of breathtaking beauty, abundant produce, and rich history.
Driving through the Derwent Valley often takes visitors a lot longer than anticipated. There are so many tempting places to stop along the way - for a rainforest walk, a village pub meal, to discover some history, buy local produce, or sit and take in the tranquility. The rural scenery, dotted with historic villages along a picturesque Derwent River is in stark contrast to its rainforest wilderness and spectacular waterfalls.
For tens of thousands of years, from the Big River Nation Aboriginal tribes to the first European settlers, to the present day, the Derwent Valley with its fertile lands and clean waters has been an important destination for those who’ve called it home, or just been passing through.
Today’s Derwent Valley remains a fertile region, a hub for a variety of fresh produce and premium wines, a centre for adventure and water sports, and some of the best accommodation Tasmania has to offer.
The Derwent Valley’s main town is the third-oldest European settlement in Tasmania. Between 1807 and 1808 evacuees from Norfolk Island settled in what was then known as Elizabeth Town, which was eventually, appropriately renamed ‘New Norfolk.’
New Norfolk was called the first ‘capital’ of Tasmania and ships used to come up the river and drop anchor in the calm, safe waters. Some of the early New Norfolk buildings remain such as the Bush Inn and the Anglican Church of St Matthews. Many original oast houses (for drying hops) farm buildings, and homesteads are scattered throughout the countryside, protected by the National Trust.
During the Second World War, Australian Newsprint Mills established a large newsprint mill, downstream from New Norfolk. The company built many community amenities still in use today. Sheep and hops are major industries in the area. From the 1850s, the Derwent Valley became the most successful hop-growing region in the southern hemisphere.
In 2022, the Derwent Valley population was estimated to be 11,236 with a density of 2.74 people per square kilometre.
The original inhabitants of the Derwent Valley region were the Leenowwenne people of the Big River Nation, also known as the Midlands people. The Big River people supported five aboriginal groups, with four of them based along the Derwent River. They inhabited an extensive area from the Derwent Valley to the Central Highlands, including the Great Lake and Great Western Tiers.
The Derwent Valley Council area is 4,111 square kilometres.
The beautiful, clean Derwent River snakes its way along for 239 kilometres.
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