Have you ever wanted to stay in a place that’s been called The Lost Town? It piqued my interest as soon as I read about it and I knew we had to stay, especially so when I saw all the pretty coloured houses.
Tarraleah in Tasmania was once a flourishing town with a population of up to 2000 people. That was until the 1980s when it was basically deserted and remained empty and lost to the world until many years later.
Why was it lost? What happened? Where did all the people go?
I had fun imagining all sorts of events (with my overactive imagination in turbo mode) but the true story was almost as interesting.
History of Tarraleah
We have to go back in time to the 1920s when Tarraleah was chosen to be a hydroelectric town, due to its high rainfall and mountainous landscape. The first cottages were built to attract quality engineering staff and their families to the area. At one stage the town boasted 3 pubs, 2 churches, workshops, sports ovals, post office, butcher, police station, supermarket and a school.
A lot of migrants lived there at one time and from all accounts life was tough in the early days. Many Polish, Germans, Italians, Greeks and Croatians worked on the construction over the years.
Fun fact #1. Apparently during WW2 the power station was considered a wartime target and was blacked out and had its own army guard.
After 50 years of construction work the job was completed and the need for the number of staff was diminished. In 1996 the town was officially closed and the majority of the houses were sold, cut up and loaded onto trucks for relocation around Tasmania.
But now Tarraleah has been restored to its former glory and it honestly feels like going back in time to the 1930s and 40s.
At this time of year everything in the town is closed but I managed to get one of the houses for the night – it was actually a choice between a cabin in the caravan park or one of the restored cottages – yes I chose the cottage!
When I booked I was told we would need to bring all our own food as nothing was open due to it being out of season. The house had a fully equipped kitchen so we were able to stop for supplies along the way and cater for ourselves for the night. We were also informed that the power supply would be turned off in the town the following morning at 8.30am due to maintenance being done. I’m glad we were warned.
We were given number 14, the Engineer’s house. It was a delicious yellow, had 3 bedrooms with queen beds, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, sunroom, sitting room with wood burner, TV, aircon, high ceilings, polished Tasmanian oak floors, comfortable and time appropriate furniture – and it was simply delightful! The cottages have all been restored to their former glory, Art Deco is the term that comes to mind and is used in the tourist brochures for a very good reason.
The lights were on, the aircon was warming the house and the fire was laid ready to light in the lounge room. It was welcoming, relaxing and we felt immediately at home.
The pictures show the range of colours of the cottages and this is just a small selection! We had the yellow one. Aren’t they superb?
Where is it?
Tarraleah is located halfway between Hobart and Strahan in central Tasmania and is about 70 kilometres from Hobart. We drove from Port Arthur and it was a pleasant drive following the river Derwent most of the way. We stopped for supplies at New Norfolk.
What is there to do?
There’s a 9 hole golf course, lots of bush walks, the Tarraleah waterfall and highland cattle to feed. The hydro system is interesting and there is a viewing platform showing the six steel pipes dropping 584 metres to the power station below. Kayaking, fishing, bike riding and whiskey tasting can be arranged.
The Highland Bar sounds a fun place to eat and drink, as does the Teez cafe – unfortunately we couldn’t experience any of these due to visiting out of season. But it sure sounds like a fun place to visit.
Where to stay?
There are lots of choices and all budgets are catered for (in the warmer months) – the luxurious Tarraleah Lodge; one of the 16 restored Art Deco cottages; the Old School has been converted to studio apartments or there’s the caravan park with units available. Most accommodation can be booked by phoning 0362890111. Considering the fact that everything was shut the price we paid for the cottage was probably a tad high but it was full of character and the experience was well worth it in my eyes.
Tarraleah has virtually no phone coverage and don’t even think of asking about wifi! If you are desperate to check your phone you can go to the area near the church where you may be lucky to pick up a signal.
Fun fact #2: Tarraleah means Forrester Kangaroo
All this information was gleaned from reading the extensive notes in the in-house booklet and various tourist brochures. I loved reading the stories of the people and the history of the town.
It reminded us of our own hydro town in Cabramurra NSW (the highest town in Australia), very near to our home town. It was part of the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme which was a mammoth effort to build with migrants from all over the world involved in the construction. The next day when we found ourselves driving through snow and the landscape was a familiar white, we could quite easily have been back in our own backyard.
Just in case you are wondering, I’m not employed by Tasmania Tourism to encourage you to visit, I just love the place and want to share our travels 😊
I’ve started a series of Tour de Tassie posts highlighting our travels throughout late May 2017 – here’s the first one about our adventures on Maria Island in case you missed it. I also featured the variable weather in Tasmania in this week’s Wordless Wednesday post.
I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting Tarraleah with us!
Have you been to Tasmania? If so what was your favourite place? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time!
PS. You can also find Deb’s World in these places: