St Marys is a small township nestled at the junction of the Tasman and Esk Highways on the East Coast of Tasmania just 10 kilometres (six miles) from the coast.
You can reach the town from the coast by crossing the mountains via St Marys Pass or Elephant Pass.
With a population of just over 600 people the town offers a range of accommodation, craft galleries, bakery, coffee shops, supermarkets and the St Marys Hotel, first built in 1867, dominates the town centre.
Nestled beneath the impressive rocky outcrop, St Patrick’s Head (694 metres/2,277 feet), St Marys is a 240 kilometre/149 mile drive north east of Hobart, via Swansea and Birchen or 130 kilometres/80 miles east of Launceston.
The first European contact with the district occurred when Captain Tobias Furneaux sighted and named the 694 metre St Patrick's Head in 1773. The early settlement of Van Diemen's Land, which mostly occurred between Hobart and George Town, took little interest in the area, later to be known as the Break O' Day Plains.
It wasn't until 1820, that the Colonial Government was looking for more land to accommodate the influx of settlers arriving in Van Diemeins Land and explorer, Henry Rice, was commissioned to see what could be found on the east coast.
After arriving at Falmouth, he scrub bashed his way up through the foothills of St Patricks Head
and discovered what he described as excellent fertile plains with ample water.
Rice continued his journey, following the Break O' Day and South Esk Rivers
all the way to Launceston where he reported his finding.
Following this, land grants were issued and settlers began moving in to the St Pauls Plains on the western end of what was to become the Fingal Valley.
In 1827, Dr Alexander Thomson was the first settler to the eastern end of the Valley, taking up residents on
his grant he named "Harefield". Soon after he was followed by Robert Legge, who named his grant "Cullenswood"
As more settlers moved into the area and Robert Legge built a church on the northern boundary of his land
in 1847, a small village sprung up around the church, appropriately called Cullenswood.
For a few years
culllenswood was the main service centre for the Break O' Day Plains. However, after St Marys was surveyed out as a town in 1867 and a hotel, blacksmith shop and other businesses were built, by the the late 1800s took over leaving to Cullenswood as a village to slowly fade away.
The arrival of the railway in 1886 led to the town's increasing importance as a service centre. The Elephant Pass route was completed in 1888 and this resulted in goods moving across the mountains to the east coast settlements of Bicheno and Chain of Lagoons. In turn this resulted in a small increase in population as the town became a service centre for the surrounding farms and coal mines.
The railway line which was once so vital to the health of the town is now closed although the railway station still stands.
Things to see:
St Marys is close to many local attractions: you can try the challenging climb to the top of St Patrick’s Head, or the more accessible South Sister Peak, for stunning forest and coastal views, there are also spectacular views from Elephant Pass.
The Coalminers’ Heritage Wall and Heritage Walk at the tiny settlement of Cornwall is a monument to the miners who hand-tunneled a coal mine beneath the Mt. Nicholas Range.
You can also visit nearby waterfalls, go fishing at Lake Leake or bush walking in Douglas Apsley National Park.
St Patricks Head - Travel east from St Mary's and, as the road starts to rise, take the turn to the right up Irishtown Road. The road quickly becomes dirt. Follow the signs. It is a not an easy walk (there are places where metal cables and ladders are used to help the climber) but the view is spectacular and well worth the effort.
South Sister Peak - Take the German Town Road and turn left at the South Sister signpost. This is an easier lookout as the main vantage point is only a 10-15 minute walk from the car park.
Christ Church - A strange little church standing in the middle of field a few kilometres to the west of St Marys. The church was built in 1847 and was connected with the large property, 'Cullenswood', which was established in 1827 by Robert Vincent Legge who arrived in Van Diemen's Land in the early 1820s.
Things to do:
Gone Rustic Studio & Gallery - Gone Rustic is a lovely gallery with a range of mixed media, textile, crochet and other art works including fabrics, original drawings, photography, art prints and cards.
Cranks and Tinkerers - This is a curious museum crammed full of interesting historical items, from cars to enamel ware, from local history to dinky toys, from books to old signs ... there's even an old Golden Fleece petrol pump.
Horse Riding - Mariton House Accommodation & Horse Riding offer horse riding for all ages and standards. There are a variety of trail rides available through the local bush including a very special ride to a secret cave complete with beautiful man ferns and over hanging sandstone.
Story Street, St Marys with Hotel, Todds Hall & Newsagency
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