Tasmania History and Heritage

Launceston Cathedral

The second oldest settlement in Australia, Tasmania's capital city Hobart was settled shortly after Sydney. Although Launceston went on to be Europe's third Australian settlement, Tasmania's history goes back much further than that. The arrival of the first Europeans in Tasmania in 1642 was marked by the Dutch discovery of the land which they named Van Diemans Land. Followed by French explorers, these new arrivals left their mark in the names of the mountains, bays and headlands. Eventually settled by the English, Tasmania was built up by colonies of soldiers and convicts who established towns and farmland.

The Georgian architecture and stately homes of the state are a testament to the European influence on Tasmania and despite their bold grand designs were hand chiselled, a reminder of the harsh conditions of the old convict days. Particularly evident in the historic sites scattered across the state, the convict heritage can be seen in places like Richmond, the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur, the Old Hobart Gaol, the hand-carved bridge and Female Factory in Ross and the penal settlement of Maria Island which even pre-dates Port Arthur.

However, Tasmania's history goes back thousands of years, beginning with the indigenous Aboriginal people who inhabited the land 10,000 years ago during the last ice age. Their presence is evidenced by ancient carvings and hand painted artworks in ochre, charcoal and blood on the walls of caves across the state. Popular Aboriginal sites include the Tiagarra Aboriginal Centre in Devonport, the Rocky Cap in the north west, Bedlam Walls near Hobart, Wybalenna on Flinders Island and the Henty Dunes on the west coast. These ancient sites are both sacred and fragile, so visitors are asked to respect this when they visit.