One of the problems in preparing a trip to Tasmania is that there is too much to see. I like to check out tourist web-sites that set out the top ten or 15 places to visit in a destination when preparing an itinerary. The job then becomes a balancing act of what to leave in and what to leave out. Of course, if you have endless time in your tour, this is not a problem, you can visit all the places on your list. If there are time constraints, you have to cull! This issue arose the day we had set aside for visiting Port Arthur on the Tasman peninsula from Hobart. I decided that Richmond wasn’t far off our route so we could squeeze a visit into this convict town and still have plenty of time to see as much of Port Arthur as we required. After all, Richmond is generally in the list of top 15 places to see in Tassie. Port Arthur is meant to be an hour and a half (95 Km) from Hobart but this doesn’t take into account road works or whether the swing bridge over the Denison canal is open for boats taking a short cut to avoid going all the way around the Tasman peninsula. Our trip from Richmond to Port Arthur was a slow one so we lost the time to stop at Eaglehawk Neck! Richmond was too attractive a town to hurry our visit.
Richmond is one of the oldest towns in Tasmania, established not long after the colony was set up in Hobart. It lies on the Coal River, named when the first explorers came upon coal deposits. The famous bridge in Richmond was built by convicts between 1823 and 1825 and is the iconic landmark of the town. It is the oldest bridge in Australia that is still in use. It is surrounded by a gorgeous park area and the day we were there, it was host to a lot of families, both human and avian. There are not a lot of places where you can walk past duck nests where the ducklings are not flustered by visitors.
After we had inspected the wavy lines of Richmond Bridge, we jumped in the car for a quick tour of the town. On a hill behind the bridge we noticed a sandstone Church with a spire. It was St John’s Church and has the distinction of being the oldest existing Catholic Church in Australia. Its foundation stone was laid in 1835 and it was constructed by 1837. Its claim for being the oldest church is based on the fact that other churches in the colonies were built before St John’s but they have either been burnt down or replaced with new churches. St John’s is a survivor. On the left below is a 19th century photo of the area around St John’s.
For those with more time on their hands, there is a walk around town set out on the map here, issued by Clarence Council. Perhaps the walk should start at St John’s Church before heading down to the famous bridge and then on to the rest of town. St Luke’s Anglican Church (#6 on map) is the oldest Anglican Church in Australia, built in 1836.
1. Richmond Bridge; 2. Richmond Court House; 3. Congregational Church; 4. Oak Lodge; 5. Old School House; 6. St. Lukes Anglican Church; 7. Richmond Gaol.
By the time we finished our inspection of St John’s and its associated grave-yard, it was morning tea time. Like the tourist town it is, there were plenty of places to choose from and the cafe we chose had a frontage on the main street with a beautiful garden out the back.
One of the features of Richmond is that it is almost a 19th century town preserved into the 21st century. It has retained its sandstone buildings, many in the Georgian style. After morning tea, even though it was time to hit the road for Port Arthur, we couldn’t help going for another stroll around town, inspecting the gardens and the houses.