The history of the Midlands region is intrinsically linked to the extraordinary road building that occurred in Van Diemen’s Land in the first half of the 19th century. Which is why the region is often referred to as the Heritage Highway.
An overland route through the Midlands was pioneered by the Surveyor General, Charles Grimes as early as 1807; remarkably it is the route we continue to travel today. By 1819, there was a rough and winding track of about 160 miles between Hobart Town and Port Dalrymple in the north, well worn by cattle, sheep and carts.
It was the task of a Major Thomas Bell of the 48th Regiment to construct a road from the Derwent River to St. Peter’s Pass near Oatlands. Known as Bell’s Line of Road, it would ultimately become part of the finest highways in the Australian colonies. Some of Bell’s original road can still be seen from the Heritage Highway passing through the Southern Midlands. Look out for dirt farm tracks winding around and across hilly, rural properties.
As you journey through the historic heart of Tasmania, spare a thought for the convict road gangs, many of whom laboured under appalling conditions to open up the interior of a fledgling colony whose very existence remained in the balance.