Located in the beautiful Derwent Valley near the township of New Norfolk, the Salmon Ponds Heritage Hatchery and Gardens at Plenty, is a fantastic day trip from Hobart. The scenic drive will take you approximately 45 minutes and don't worry, you don't have to be an angling enthusiast or fishing nut to enjoy this beautiful spot as there is so much to see and do for all ages and abilities.
When the Ponds opened in the mid 1800s, they were designed to be like an English Park - a place where you could take elegant strolls and picnic by the water under the shade of a beautiful oak tree. Since they first opened their gates way back then, the Ponds and Hatchery have been made available for public use and they are as popular as ever thanks to the management and maintenance of the Inland Fisheries Service.
When you arrive, you enter the visitors information centre and pay your entrance fee. Individual entrance fees start at $6.00 and a family pass will cost $22.00. Everyone is given a visitors sticker and a map of the area and then off you go on your explore. The first thing you see as you enter the gardens are the fish feed machines. Just a word of warning - make sure you bring along a few $2.00 coins. The fish can only be fed with the pellets provided. There are several feed machines located throughout the gardens and one tub of food costs $2.00. You do receive a lot of food for this amount but there are quite a few fish to feed and children being children, have a tendency to throw huge fistfuls into the ponds at one time. Hence why every single fish that we saw was so fat!
When you first look at the ponds you can be forgiven for thinking that there aren't any fish in them at all. As soon as you throw a few pellets into a pond it will take only seconds for a raging spectacle to begin. Fish appear out of nowhere and do their best interpretation of a fast spin on a washing machine trying to secure the pellets before their colleagues do. They flip, they thrash, they jump and they dive just to secure a measly little pellet. This sight can be a bit daunting at first, especially for the little people in your lives!
As the ponds are not protected by guard rails, fences or the like, you do indeed have to be careful that your kids or even you for that matter, don't end up in the drink. There are safety signs everywhere but it is very important that you don't let your children wander off without you. You aren't allowed to touch or catch the fish either (although there is a little fishing spot that has been specifically created for people with disabilities to enjoy the art of angling). All of the fish that you see are being specifically bred to help maintain the aquaculture industry of Tasmania.
Although it is called the Salmon Ponds you are mainly feeding trout. When the ponds were first created, they released salmon bred from eggs shipped all the way from England into the river near the hatchery, as well as a small amount of trout. The salmon obviously weren't keen on the local area so kept on swimming but the trout decided to hang around, hence why they then concentrated their efforts on the humble trout.There are several different species of trout living in all of the different ponds throughout the gardens as well as Atlantic Salmon. There are Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout and even Albino Trout. All of the fish that are raised in the hatchery are actually from eggs harvested from wild fish. You can learn all about the process in the Museum buildings located on site.
After you have finished feeding the fish take a wander throughout the park and you will stumble upon the Historic Trout Hatchery, the Angling Hall of Fame as well as the Museum of Trout Fishing. The Museum is housed in a quaint cottage circa 1865. Inside you will find all sorts memorabilia that demonstrates the changing face of angling in Tasmania over the course of hundreds of years. Children may find the museum and other historical buildings quite dull, so don't be surprised if they run straight through them in order to find another feed machine where you will have to part with another $2 coin! If you have run out of coins, encourage the kids to run down to the Plenty River which borders the parklands and see if they can find a resident platypus.
On your wander you will find toilet and picnic facilities located throughout the gardens - there are even BBQ facilities where you can enjoy your BYO lunch in stunning surrounds. If you weren't organised enough to bring your own picnic you can enjoy a meal at the onsite licensed restaurant called Pancakes on the Ponds. They specialise in sweet and savoury crepes but they also prepare other meals such as burgers and sandwiches. If you are just after a cool drink or ice cream, these can be purchased at the gift shop where you can also stock up on souvenirs and post cards to take home and show your family and friends.