When my Dad was a boy, his parents took on the role of caretakers for a landmark Hobart building: the Shot Tower. He used to race his three siblings up and down the tower’s steps. Today, I walked those same steps. Located on a winding, tree-lined stretch of the Channel Highway between the suburbs of Taroona and Kingston, the shot tower is an unexpected sight. Built in 1870 by a Scotsman, Joseph Moir, the tower has an unusual history.
The Shot Tower was constructed in order to make lead shot (ammunition). Molten shot was poured through a colander from varying heights (to create different sizes of shot) into a tub of water below. The largest shot used at the time could be created by pouring molten lead from a height of 150 feet. Joseph Moir, the Shot Tower’s owner-builder, built his tower 149 feet high with landings at various heights. He used stone from a nearby abandoned convict probation station and took on many roles as part of the construction process, with the assistance of two stone masons. The tower took eight months to build. After this, Moir had to experiment with the shot-making process; his unique recipe remains unknown. The Shot Tower operated for 35 years, run by Moir or members of his family, until making shot became unaffordable. A series of caretakers have preserved the history of the tower (including members of my own family) and it is now operated by Parks and Wildlife. Why visit the Shot Tower? Three reasons: history, beauty and mathematics.
The Shot Tower was Australia’s first shot tower, is the tallest such tower in the southern hemisphere and is the only sandstone shot tower in the world that is still standing. It is well worth a photograph! Once inside the building, take the time to look at the small but intriguing display at the base of the tower. You’ll see three sewing machines for making shot bags, a cabinet containing various sizes of shot recovered from the site, an explanation of the shot-making process and Joseph Moir’s desk, among other things. Inside the tower actual, you can climb the stairs down to the base of the tower and/or climb to the top. The bricks are gorgeous; be sure to admire the structure as you walk, including the tower’s tapering walls and the views through slits in the walls.
At the top of the tower, you’ll find one of the original cauldrons used to melt the lead before you step outside and take in the astonishing view of the Derwent River. A viewing platform allows you to walk around the tower and it’s a view that is well worth the climb! For children and for those who are just plain interested in how many steps high the tower is, count the steps is a must. I missed count on the way up as I stopped to take too many photos and I’m not convinced that I counted correctly on the way down either so you won’t be getting any stair numbers from me!
Entry to the Shot Tower costs approximately $8 per adult and $4 per child. Children under 4 are free. Everyone who climbs to the top receives a souvenir sticker and you can purchase more souvenirs from the gift shop located at the base of the tower. There are tea rooms and toilets on site. The tower is open from 9am – 5pm every day of the year except for Christmas Day.
Drive from Hobart through Sandy Bay (on Sandy Bay Road), past the Alexander Battery, and you’ll wind your way into Taroona. It is a beautiful suburb that has embraced its history, the surrounding bushland and its river views. We stopped at The Picnic Basket, a cafe that has the honour of being the best petrol station conversion that I’ve seen yet! It’s worth a stop just to admire how they’ve zoned and decorated the site. Once you’ve had your cuppa, keep driving on the main road through Taroona and you’ll eventually see the shot tower (you can’t miss it). Enjoy standing at the top of Australia’s first shot tower and seeing one of Australia’s most beautiful views!