George Town: The Watch House and Bass & Flinders Centre

George Town is a small town in Tasmania’s north. It boasts a beautiful waterfront and some of Tasmania’s oldest buildings. Originally designated by Governor Macquarie as the hub of Tasmania’s north, it is now primarily a residential and tourist town, supporting the industry at nearby Bell Bay.

The Watch House

The Watch House
The Watch House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The first attraction that you should visit in George Town is The Watch House. The reason that you should visit The Watch House first is because it contains a model village of historical George Town, as it was in the early- to mid-1800s. Created by Debbie Rainbow to commemorate the 200th anniversary of British settlement in George Town, the model shows the five remaining original buildings. One of these is The Watch House. The model of George Town is a real treat as Debbie has taken the time to show the finer details of life in the early 1800s. There is something to delight people of all ages. Find a woman moving into her new home, a blacksmith hard at work and someone sitting in an outdoor toilet!

George Town
George Town © emily@traversingtasmania 2017
The Watch House Interior
The Watch House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Watch House has been a police station, council chambers and a shop. Nowadays, it has been restored to reflect its original appearance (which is lovely!) but it is more of an exhibition space than a museum. When I visited yesterday, one room contained silk paintings and scarves by renowned Australian artist Barbara Gabogrecan and another contained a portion of Christina Henri’s “Roses from the Heart” bonnet display (a tribute to convict women and their deceased children). There are two cells: one contained a doll collection and the other cell was set up to show its original use.

Bass & Flinders Centre

Bass & Flinders Centre
Bass & Flinders Centre © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bass & Flinders Centre is a relatively new attraction, which opened in 2006. The building was originally a cinema and you can still see an (enormous!) original projector in the upstairs Gun Deck Cafe. It now houses the replica Norfolk, along with various other Bass and Flinders and maritime related memorabilia. Sounds underwhelming, right? Wrong!

The Norfolk
The Norfolk © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you enter the Bass & Flinders Centre, you first see a copy of Bass’s book of maps, open to the page showing his Tasmanian explorations. It is a stunning representation of Tasmania’s north coast. Sadly, Bass died shortly after completing the book. A friendly guide will then lead you into the museum. This is where the real surprise is. The replica Norfolk is huge. In fact, they had to take the roof off (it still leaks sometimes) just to get the boat in!

The Elizabeth
The Elizabeth © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The replica Norfolk was created from Huon pine (not the original Norfolk pine) by Bern Cuthbertson and was used to reenact Bass and Flinders’ journeys in the Norfolk 200 years after the original journeys. Now a museum piece, the boat is used to show both Bass and Flinders’ voyage and the commemorative voyages. You’ll find the boat still set up as if ready to sail, with all the modern conveniences such as a torch and enamel crockery! You can climb down into the three compartments of the boat. Sit at the dining table and smell the Huon pine!

As well as the Norfolk, the Bass & Flinders Centre has several maritime delights on display. You can view Tom Thumb (Bass and Flinders’ row boat), the Elizabeth (a whale boat used to cross Bass Strait) and an old wooden surfboard. There is a small exhibition of maritime paintings, model boats, Bass and Flinders memorabilia and various other water crafts. It is an old salty’s delight! Dad, I think you need to visit!

Getting There

George Town is 45 minutes drive north of Launceston. The Watch House is on the main road (84 Macquarie Street) and Bass & Flinders Centre is just off Macquarie Street on Elizabeth Street. There is plenty of parking in George Town. Make sure that you take note of the signposted parking conditions though as some parks have a time limit or access restriction.

Cost

To visit The Watch House costs approximately $3 for adults and to visit the Bass and Flinders Centre costs $10 for adults ($8 concession, $5 student, $4 children, $24 family). I recommend purchasing a Historical Attractions Pass for $13 ($40 for families). This gives you entry to the two George Town sites as well as the nearby Low Head Pilot Station Museum, which is a bargain!

To read other posts about Tasmania’s north, click here.

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