National Park from Swansea
Beautiful historic township looking across to
Freycinet National Park
Located 134 km from Hobart, 133 km from
Launceston and 67 km from Campbell Town, Swansea
sits on Great Oyster Bay and gazes across at the
rugged mountains of the Freycinet National Park.
It is a pretty setting and it boasts a very
substantial number of historic homes and
buildings which give this fishing and holiday
destination a distinctive charm.
The first European to explore the Swansea
area was a Captain Cox sailing the brig Mercury
from England to Sydney Town. He sailed up the
eastern coast of Tasmania and, having heard
rumour of vast colonies of seals, on 3 July 1789
sailed along the western shore of Maria Island
and into a stretch of water he named Oyster Bay.
He described the bay as 'being quite landlocked
and sheltered from the wind in every direction.'
Cox noted that the area was already inhabited by
Aborigines who, from the evidence of their
middens, were obviously living off the oysters
and shellfish. They disappeared into the
hinterland but Cox observed smoke from their
Numerous sailors passed through the bay over
the next twenty years but it wasn't until the
1820s that Europeans settled in the district. In
1821 there were three families in the area. It
wasn't until 1827 that any sort of substantial
community was established in the area. It was in
that year that Captain George Hibbert of the
40th Foot Regiment established a military
outpost at Waterloo Point (near the present site
of the Swansea Golf Club). It was a typical
military post with accommodation for the
soldiers, a guard house and a commissariat. By
1852 it had hardly developed. One observer wrote
that it was little more than 'One struggling
street, its chief feature a long wooden pier,
erected by the inhabitants with government aid,
the white cottage of an English clergyman on the
point to the south ... and a few whitewashed
buildings.' None of these buildings now remains.
The town remained under military control
until 1860 when the Glamorgan municipality, the
first rural municipality in Tasmania, was
In spite of this Swansea started to grow. By
1830 there were 150 free residents and 170
convicts and assigned servants. The most common
access from Hobart at this time was via Campbell
Town. Between 1835-45 convicts worked on a road
north through the mountains to Avoca and on a
road south to Hobart. In 1831 the post office
was established and in the late 1830s a number
of substantial buildings - Morris's Store,
Schouten House, the Black Swan Inn - were all
built showing an increasing prosperity.
The town continued to grow. It eventually
became the most important service centre on the
lower eastern coast of the island and, in recent
times, it has proved to be a popular holiday
Things to see:
Swansea Bark Mill and East Coast Museum
Located at 96 Tasman Highway the Swansea Bark
Mill and East Coast Museum was built by the
Morey family in the 1880s (circa 1885). This
historic machinery plant originally processed
black wattle bark which was the basic ingredient
used for tanning leather. It is possible to see
the machinery working today. The East Coast
Museum, which is attached, has extensive
displays recording the early history of the
district. It is open from 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.
Contact (03) 6257 8382 for more information.
Morris' General Store
Now an impressive three-storey building on the
main road through the town, Morris' General
Store started life as a single-storey building
in 1838. The two additional storeys were added
as business expanded. It is a simple rectangular
structure with hipped iron-clad roofs and
Located in Noyes Street the Council Chambers was
constructed by James Hurst in 1860. It is
characterised by a lean-to verandah, a hipped
iron roof, arched windows and the foundations
and main walls are constructed from painted
rubble with brick quoins and opening surrounds.
There is some evidence that the materials used
to construct the Council Chambers came, in part,
from the military outpost at Waterloo Point.
Now an attractive 'colonial accommodation'
destination, Meredith House is located at Noyes
Street. The land originally owned by Charles
Meredith, husband of noted colonial artist and
poet, Louisa Anne Meredith, was subsequently
purchased by J.A. Graham who had the existing
two-storey Georgian House built in 1853.It was
variously known as Laughton House and in the
1930s it was called Canberra. At one time it was
used as school.
All Saints Church
All Saints Church on the corner of Noyes and
Wellington Streets was completed in 1871. It is
a Gothic church and was designed by H. Hunter.
It was constructed of roughly coursed
fieldstone, it has dressed sandstone trimmings
to buttresses and gable copings.
Schouten House was built by a Mr Champion of
Hobart Town in 1845 as a wedding gift to his
daughter Theresa. It became known as the Swansea
Hotel and the southern wing was used as a
brewery. When Theresa died in 1855 it was sold
and became a Grammar School. By 1860 it had
become a private residence.
Now known as Oyster Bay Guest House and located
at 10 Franklin Street, Resthaven was built in
1841 and operated initially as the Black Swan
Inn. In 1870 it became a store and then became a
private residence which was occupied by a number
of different doctors.
(7.5 km south of Swansea) a convict
bridge built in 1843
Located 7.5 km south of Swansea, Spiky Bridge is
a convict bridge which was built in 1843. It was
constructed from fieldstones which were laid
without mortar or cement. The parapet features
fieldstones laid vertically which gives the
bridge a spiky appearance. It has been claimed
that the spikes were designed to prevent cattle
falling over the sides.