Historic town which was once the richest tin
mine in the world.
Waratah is an attractive settlement in the heart
of Tasmania's west coast wilderness. To
appreciate the full level of the town's
isolation it is worth remembering that the road
through the area was not completed until 1963.
The town is located 232 km from Launceston and
356 km west of Hobart.
The town came into existence in 1871 when
James 'Philosopher' Smith (who has been credited
with saving the economy of Tasmania with his
mineral discoveries) found the Mt Bischoff tin
There was a time in the 1880s when the Mt
Bischoff mine near Waratah had the reputation of
being the richest tin mine in the world. This
was based on the fact that the mine was
established with a capital of $58,000 and it
paid investors over $2 million in return. By the
time it closed in 1935 it had produced 81,000
tonnes of tin and provided a dividend equal to
£200 for every £1 initially invested. At its
peak the town, which now has only a few hundred
residents, had a population in excess of 5,000.
In 1981 the Que River Lead and Zinc Mine,
with an investment of over $20 million, opened.
Seventy houses were built for workers and, at
the time, it was estimated that the mine would
have a life of 20 years.
Smith's Hut and the Museum
Things to see:
Located in Smith Street and formerly the town's
Court House it is an ideal starting point. You
can get a copy of a self drive tour of the town
from the Roadhouse which also has a key to the
museum. Next to the museum is the Philosopher
Smith Hut, a recreation of a simple dwelling
which was typical of the accommodation used by
miners in the 1880s and 1890s.
St James Church
Waratah's 19th century prosperity is perfectly
expressed in St James Church which was built in
1880. In 1889 the Mt Bischoff mine was being lit
by electricity. The mine manager, H.W.F. Kayser
had the electric light connected to the church.
Thus St James became the first church in
Tasmania to use an electric light. The church is
located in Smith Street.
The town of Waratah is built around the
shoreline of Lake Waratah. It is pleasant
central point in the town with picnic and
barbecue facilities and walks to the falls (just
north of Smith Street) and the dam wall near
William Street. Make sure to go over the road
and inspect the Waratah Falls and the