6 Places to Turn Back Time in the Western Wilds

Strahan / Paul Fleming

Step back in time and unravel fascinating colonial history, discover ghost towns and learn the stories of the pioneering characters that survived in the Western Wilds.

1. West Coast Heritage Centre

Front of early theatre
Gaiety Theatre / Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

The seven hectare site in the centre of this intriguing West Coast mining town incorporates four historic buildings – the Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy, Zeehan Post Office, Police Station-Court house, and the Gaiety Theatre-Grand Hotel. There are also a range of outdoor and underground displays.

The centerpiece is the grand Gaiety Theatre, restored to its former beauty. When the theatre opened in 1898, a troupe of 60 performers from Melbourne played to 1,000 keen spectators every day for a week. At the time, it was the largest concert hall and theatre in Australia.

Our advice? Set aside at least a few hours to explore the entire complex – you’ll need them.

2. Gormanston

old photo of a town below a mountain range
Gormanston circa 1952 / Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

On the slopes of Mount Owen lies Gormanston, a ghost town with less than a dozen people still living in its old, colonial buildings. It was built as a company town for the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company in 1891. The town had more than 2,000 residents at its peak in the early 20th century. These days, its houses are dilapidated and the town overgrown. Concrete slabs mark where the schools, hotels, shops and local government once serviced the bustling activities of the town's miners and their families.

3. The Paragon Theatre - Queenstown

Inside a theatre
Paragon Theatre / RoamWild

The art-deco Paragon Theatre in Queenstown, complete with antique projectors and original theatre posters, regularly enjoyed capacity crowds of 1,150 from opening night on 28 October, 1933 through to 1985, when dwindling audiences forced its closure. Today, dedicated locals are working to restore its remaining original features. During the day you can take a self-guided tour for a small fee. Or during the warmer months, treat yourself to dinner and a classic movie.

4. The Ship That Never Was - Strahan

Actors in convict dress
The Ship That Never Was / Rob Burnett

At the Richard Davey Amphitheatre you can watch The Ship That Never Was, Australia's longest running theatre production. The play tells the dramatic and hilarious true story from 1834 when ten convict shipwrights hijacked the last ship built at Sarah Island – just as it was about to set sail for the new prison at Port Arthur.

5. Linda

Ruins beside highway
Ruins of the Royal Hotel, Linda / Ollie Khedun

The forgotten town of Linda was once home to 1,000 residents but now lies crumbling as the environment reclaims the land. In 1912, 42 miners perished in the cold, dark tunnels beneath Mount Lyell and the ghosts of these miners are said to still roam the bush around Linda today. For keen photographers, Linda is the perfect place to capture some of the old beauty of Tasmania's colonial past.

6. New Norfolk

Willow Court New Norfolk
Willow Court, New Norfolk / Kathryn Leahy

New Norfolk is the third oldest settlement in Tasmania. It was established on the banks of the River Derwent by evacuees relocated from Norfolk Island after the island prison was abandoned in 1807.

Its historic past is evident in the many early buildings found in the town including one of Australia's oldest pubs and Australia's oldest Anglican church, St Matthews. It also has one of Australia's few traditional village squares.