I am a freelance writer, photographer & fitness instructor. I enjoy hiking and kayaking and writing walking guides. Visit our website www.greataussiewalks.com.au or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/greataussiewalks
Published July 27th 2016
From probation station to a village in paradise
Orford has scenic walking trails. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Located 73 kilometres north-east of Hobart, lies the Tasmanian village of Orford. Named by Edward Walpole, after his relative Horace Walpole, who was the Third Earl of Orford, the town is centred on the mouth of the Prosser River on the southern section of Prosser Bay.
First explored in detail by Europeans in 1802, when the French sailor, Nicholas Baudin visited the Orford area, the village was originally established as a mainland port for the convict settlement on nearby Maria Island. Due to the narrow channel at the mouth of the Prosser River and the location of substantial sandbars, the river proved unsuitable for larger vessels resulting in the main port being relocated 6 km north to Triabunna. The first European settler in the area was the Commandant of the Darlington Penal Settlement on Maria Island, Major Thomas Lord. Whaling stations established along the coast in the 1820s led to the development of the Municipality of Spring Bay in 1860.
Sanda House the oldest house on Orford is now a Bed & Breakfast. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Today, Orford is home to a supermarket, cafes, a primary school and seaside accommodation, including the Sanda House Bed and Breakfast, the oldest house in Orford. The small population increases with tourists looking to cast a line from the Prosser River Bridge, visit the beaches or walk one of the scenic trails in the area.
A beautiful 2 km coastal walk along the cliff tops from East Shelly Beach to Spring Beach takes in the quarry, which provided sandstone for buildings in Hobart and Melbourne, including the Melbourne General Post Office and Melbourne Law Courts. The quarry operated in the area from 1870 to 1890. The remains of the tram lines used to transport the stone from the quarry to be loaded onto ships are evident at Shelly Beach. A short but steep climb to the ridgetop provides views of Maria Island as you walk towards Spring Beach.
Remains of the tram tracks used to transport stone from the quarry. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
For those with an interest in history, cross the bridge at Orford to the Old Convict Road which travels alongside the Prosser River to the ruins of the Paradise Probation Station. Built by convicts serving sentences of hard labour, the actual year the road was created is unknown. Used to access the Probation Station during its operation from 1841 and 1855, when a new Probation Station was completed at Buckland, the road is now a 45 minute flat walking trail through the scrub land.
Heading 7 km south of Orford, the scenic Three Thumbs Lookout walk is a two hour walk from the picnic area, through the eucalypts in the Wielangta Forest to the Lookout at the Trig station where walkers are rewarded with amazing views across Mercury Passage toward Maria Island.
Views of Prosser River from the bridge. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
For enthusiasts of aquatic activities, Orford is home to beautiful beaches including Raspins Beach in the north and Spring and Shelly beaches in the south, as well as an artificial reef and dive site. The dive site, created from scuttling of the ship Troy D in the Mercury Passage, lies about 1 km from Maria Island. The unpolluted water and abundance of aquatic life make this a fine location for scuba diving. Millington's Beach, located 500meteres from the Orford Bridge, has a playground for the kids and a picnic area for family fun.
Orford is a quiet relaxing place to visit, whether you stay for a few days or as a stopover before catching the ferry from Triabunna to Maria Island.