Overlooking Bass Strait on Tasmania’s northwest coast (an island state of Australia, south of Adelaide and Melbourne), Burnie was settled by Aboriginals long before the island’s discovery by European explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. Paying homage to its industrial heritage, Burnie has proclaimed itself a “City of Makers,” replacing once-thriving paper, chemical and lumber plants with artisanal cheese makers, a single-malt whisky distillery, ceramic workshops and handmade paper. The abandoned paper mill in town employed 3,000 workers until about 10 years ago. We were very impressed with the ongoing, but successful so far, transformation of the city from an industrial city to one catering to creative artists and tourists. This being Australia, exotic flora and fauna are also part of the scene, from diminutive fairy penguins, echidna and platypus to lush gardens, nature reserves and waterfalls.
Our first day in Burnie we joined a group that headed south from the city on the coast of the Southern Ocean inland towards Cradle Mountain. Our route first took us east along the coast towards Devenport, passing through Ulverstone and other seaside towns along the way. Our first stop was for a guided visit to Home Hill, once home to Joe Lyons, Tasmania’s only Australian Prime Minister. Further on, Devenport Bluff features numerous aboriginal sites. Around midday, we arrived at Ghost Rock Winery in Port Sorell for a tour and wine tasting and a gourmet lunch featuring Tasmanian seafood, cheese, veggies and smoked meats, along with a glasses of wine. The winery is on the “Cradle to Coast tasting trail” which features Tasmanian farms, cheese makers, wineries, etc. that are open for visits; this reminded us of our local Sonoma County, California, USA, “Taste of Sonoma Trail”.
On our drive after lunch to Cradle Mountain [see our next blog post], our route south took us through Sheffield — in the foothills of striking Mount Roland (42 miles (67 km) from Burnie) — known as the “Town of Murals” for the 60 or so paintings which decorate most of the buildings, depicting the town’s history in a colorful display of al fresco art. We found it interesting that many small towns in Tasmania have found a theme, like “Town of Murals” to develop as an attraction to draw tourists to the town.
Sheffield has gone so far as to have created the annual “International Sheffield Mural Fest” whose winners are on display outdoors at the Mural Park in Sheffield. At the park, we found an informative sign that asked “Why are these murals different?” It explained, “The murals in and around Sheffield were painted by dedicated artists whose main aim was to bring the region’s history to life, and tell the stories of our early pioneers. A true picture from the past. Here in Mural Park, the murals were painted during the International Mural Fest, Sheffield’s annual week-long mural art competition. They are the personal interpretation of a themed poem by the nine finalist artists as they compete for the major prize. These works add a contemporary perspective to Sheffield’s murals.”