I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published March 5th 2017
Searching for treasures in Tasmania
It's starting to get cooler in autumn in Tasmania, so it's a great time to go scavenging around the State.
Most people who visit Tassie travel around looking at beautiful scenery, national parks, quiet country towns and famous attractions like Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart, the Lavender farm at Lilydale, Port Arthur, Cradle Mountain, Lake St Claire, Freycinet National Park, Launceston Gorge, Liffey Falls, Queenstown on the West Coast, wildlife parks and lots of other beauty spots.
I grew up in Launceston and have been to all those places. I go down there now from Brisbane mainly to catch up with family. My sister, brother in law and I love to scavenge around markets, op shops, antique shops, garage sales and dump shops. I love the excitement because you never know what treasures you will find.
We went to country markets in Deloraine, Exeter and Evandale in the North, and St Helens on the East Coast. We also checked out op shops in Deloraine, St Helens and Launceston and antique shops in Westbury, Hagley and Launceston.
You experience different things at country markets than at urban ones. At the Deloraine market I saw a young boy tying fishing flies to sell ,and a young boy and girl giving a whip cracking display. At that market I also saw lots of attractive young women in long dresses with their hair tied up and covered in caps. They looked like Amish people and I'd never seen them in Tasmania before. I asked one of the girls about their dress. She told me they were a Christian group called Mennonites and believed in the Bible. She had a Canadian accent and said a lot of them had settled around the Deloraine area. There is also a group around Gympie in Queensland. They were selling fresh strawberries and vegetables, jam, cakes, and quiches. We enjoyed one of their quiches that night for dinner.
I met a couple from Brisbane selling things on a stall. They said they moved to Launceston to escape their adult children. The Deloraine market is on the first Saturday of every month.
The Exeter market is on the first Sunday of each month. It had an interesting collection of stalls and artistic characters. Mick, a wood turner was selling his Tasmanian woodwork and unusual large watchbands and a talented glass maker was selling stained glass bowls, jewellery and decorative hangings. I met another Brisbane couple at this market. They went on a holiday to Tasmania and ended up buying a house on the water at Kelso and moving down there to live. They love it. The man told me he had been digging up some old wooden drains and had found some really old bottles and an old gun. He bought himself a metal detector because he reckons there is a lot of treasure on his property because it is very old.
I found my best piece of treasure at a junk shop in Hagley, "Tasmanian Trash Transformers", The owners used to run the tip shop in Deloraine but have now moved to Hagley where they have been for six months. I asked the owner where they got all their stuff and he said "years of carefully selected junk".
My treasure was a large Mountain Designs backpack, which I got for $8. It looked almost new apart from a small hole in the inner lining which I sewed up easily. I imagine it could have been chewed by a Tasmanian tiger cat, devil or raven. I had a tiger cat trying to get into my tent once when I was camped in the middle of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair area. My niece told me about her recent experience when bushwalking up there. She said they left their packs while they went for a short walk. Luckily they hadn't gone far and returned to find ravens rummaging through the packs scavenging for food. The birds had even undone zips on the side pockets. Bec said they had seen the warning signs, but ignored them, as they couldn't see any birds around. She said they must have been hiding, waiting for unsuspecting bushwalkers to leave their packs unattended.
Mountain Designs packs are high quality and cost hundreds of dollars new. It is a Queensland outdoors company started in 1975 by Rick White. I once went rock climbing with Rick on Mt Tibrogargan in the Glass House Mountains many years ago. I remember it well because I'd never been rock climbing before and climbed in the rain in my socks. I'd moved to Brisbane a year before.
I imagined some poor Queensland bushwalker got so traumatized by bushwalking in Tasmania and probably having their pack chewed by a wild animal in the mountains that they threw their pack on the dump. I have a good friend in Brisbane who years ago did a gruelling trip to the Western Arthurs in South West Tasmania. She was so exhausted after the trip she sold her expensive Macpac Olympus tent cheaply to her boyfriend's Tasmanian cousin. She has regretted it since.
The Evandale market, close to Launceston is on every Sunday and is usually very busy with locals and tourists. It has a large range of stalls selling a wide variety of interesting things. Matthew Simms is one of the local characters at this market. Matthew carves and paints dolls with wooden bodies and wooden joints and makes clothes for them. He also paints, and his unique artworks have been described as having a kind of classic impressionist style. He told me he has recently had some of his paintings displayed at an art gallery. I'm sure they would be a good investment. He has been going to the market for four years.
There were lots to see and do in Westbury where I was staying. I always try and visit old Bill. He has an amazing assortment of old stuff and some real treasures. His large yard is full of old brass beds, furniture and rusty objects. He told me he collects and sells things for something to do. It's obvious he has been doing it for a very long time. When I was there I met a couple from Melbourne who were filling up their car with treasures. The woman told me she loves rust. She said she heard about Bill's place from a shopkeeper in Launceston. She usually comes by plane, but this trip she brought her car over on the ferry so she could take stuff back to the mainland. I left her loading some old wheels and numerous other bits and pieces onto the footpath. Bill's place is just down the road from the Westbury hotel. You can't miss it, as there is a lot of antique furniture on the footpath.
I also visited Devil Antiques and Tassie Pickers in Westbury. A young fourteen-year-old boy started Devil antiques years ago in a shop attached to his house. His parents ran it while he was at school, but he used to go to auctions and buy the antiques. I first visited the shop a few years ago. This trip I called in and asked his father how things were going. He said his son was now at university studying law in Hobart. He was 19 now and had recently bought a house, using money from the shop for a deposit. He also had a couple of part time jobs. One of these jobs was as an antique and collectables auctioneer in Hobart and Launceston.
Justin runs Tassie Pickers on Meander Valley Road at Westbury. He has lots of interesting old collectables, old wares and memorabilia for sale. He has a large collection of antique bottles, garagenalia and old tools. He wanted to go to the Toowoomba Swap Meet in February this year to buy and sell things, but he couldn't get a booking to get his vehicle back on the ferry for several months so he was very disappointed and had to cancel his trip.
I got the opportunity to check out East Coast scavenging when we went to my sister's beach house at Scamander near St Helens. We visited the St Helens market that is on every Saturday morning, and we always call in for coffee at Lifebuoy Café and Quail Street Emporium, and the art shop and gift shops next door. Jane runs the Quail Street Emporium and always has a shop full of antiques and old treasures you won't find anywhere else. I bought a lovely hanging from the art shop of a sea turtle and dugongs this trip. On another visit I bought a lovely boat on a huon pine stand from Stephen who runs the gift shop next door.
We didn't have time this trip to visit the "Shop in the Bush" which we usually do. It's a very interesting shop six and a half kilometers outside St Helens. You can spend a long time browsing the book collection, jewellery and a whole range of other interesting treasures.