We Loved the Historical Anchor Stampers in Lottah, Tasmania

We Loved the Historical Anchor Stampers in Lottah, Tasmania

We found the Anchor Stampers and it was one of the most interesting things we’ve come across on this trip to Tassie! I have lived here for most of my life and had no idea this place even existed. It really is great returning to my home state as a tourist.

The old Anchor Tin Mine was located on the southern footslopes of the Blue Tier and our visit to these rusted tin crushing machines was part of a half day trip to the Pyengana/Lottah region on Tasmania’s East Coast.

Pyengana Dairy

Our afternoon began with lunch at the Pyengana Dairy, a beer at the Pub in The Paddock (where sadly Priscilla 1 and Priscilla 2, the beer-drinking pigs, were hiding away in their little pig-house), a walk to the 90 – metre – high St Columba Falls and a visit to the incredible old Don Mine. It was an action-packed day, that ended with the short walk into the old Anchor Mine to view the old tin stampers.

Pyengana Dairy

Pub in the Paddock

St Columba Falls

Don Mine

We followed the GPS to Lottah where we found – nothing. Chris looked over at me while we were driving along the narrow, windy road surrounded by dense bush and said ‘great, another wild goose chase!’ But we were in the right spot and if you looked around, there was actually plenty to see. If we had more time, we would have included the Halls Falls Walk in the day’s adventures!

Given what we were seeing (which was nothing), you would never have known Lottah was once a bustling mining town and home to 150 miners and their families. The town had everything the residents needed including two hotels, a post office, general store and police station. Although any church goers weren’t catered for as interestingly, there was no church of any denomination. Lottah was once a main thoroughfare for those traveling between St Helens and Scottsdale but now the only way to get there is via a gravel road. This road runs alongside the beautiful Groom River that looks to have some stunning swimming holes – if you can find your way down to them! Lottah no longer has shops, and there remain just a few houses – which is so very different to a time when St Helens was built just to service Lottah and the Anchor Mine.

The Anchor Stampers signs are dotted along the road and not hard to see. Pull into the large, circular car park where you will find the beginning of the short 30 – minute – return walk.

 The track itself is a formed path that takes you gradually downhill with a couple of sections of reinforced dirt steps and past a few remnants of the mining days. You walk past the old dam and along what we think is the dam wall. It’s a bit overgrown in places with prickly plants like thistles and what appeared to be blackberry bushes, so be careful – I nearly tore a hole in my jumpsuit!

As you approach the first viewing platform, the two 10-head heritage stampers from the 1930’s loom up from the forest wall giving you a sense of being transported to another time; a time when there were no trees here, just a clearing with a working tin mine where hundreds of men laboured away, from 1880 until its final closure in 1996.

 Walking further down a little path, you will see that here are two different Stampers – one is the Thompson, brought across from Castlemaine in Victoria, and the other is the Salisbury, manufactured in Launceston (as you can see stamped on the front of each machine).

The stampers are huge and rusty and you can get right up close and even touch them- just mind the spiders!

The informative signs on both viewing platforms give a great explanation of what it used to be like here, and how tin mining has played such a huge part in Tasmania’s history.

As with most of Tasmania’s walks and hikes, be aware of snakes, leeches and ticks. Thankfully we only ended up with one leech on us this time! Our trip to the Don Mine delivered two leeches to Chris and five to me. Eek!

The Anchor Stampers are well worth a visit. I rate this little-known attraction a 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sarah Island Tasmania

Sarah Island Tasmania

We love old stuff! And boy is Tasmania full of it 😁

An isolated penal settlement established in 1821 known today as Sarah Island was a huge hi light of the Gordon River Cruise for us. In fact, when making up our mind as to the cruise being worth both our time (which we were running out of rapidly!) and our money, this was the decider.

You’ll find this little island in the remote reaches of the Macquarie Harbour and if you choose to cruise (😆)- you’ll be able to hop off the boat and explore the island for about an hour like we did.

The cruise itself seems to be suitable for most people, although we found the younger kids from other families were quite bored, some were seasick and others just didn’t like being restricted for so long. There was also a lady with a walking frame who managed quite well, even with the walks on Sarah Island and through the rain forest.


Short Video

Longer video (with tour guide talking – very funny!)

Upon seeing how beautiful Macquarie Harbour is, and Sarah Island in particular, it’s hard to imagine that back in the 1820s, this was the scene of unimaginable torture and despair.

After disembarking from our vessel, we were given the choice of a guided tour or to explore the island ourselves … we chose the tour and it was fascinating! We were led along the walking tracks around the island that link each site by a member of The Round Earth Theatre Company. These guys put on a nightly play in Strahan ‘The Ship That Never Was’ which kind of takes up where this tour ends, and it’s the longest-running play in Australia! Needless to say, our guide was pretty good at keeping our attention.

There were 7 puzzles which he shared enthusiastically and left us pondering as he led us around the tiny island.  When at the last stop and all the puzzle pieces fell into place, there was many a ‘aha’ moment as people were calling out the answers.



At the beginning of 1822, the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was established, with Sarah Island as its base. This island was intended to strike fear into the hearts of convicts and was where they worked usually in chains, under terrible conditions in the rainforest, felling huge Huon pines for boat building.

James Kelly named Sarah Island after Sarah Birch, the wife of the merchant who had paid for the voyage. Which voyage? The one in about 1815 where he sailed through Hell’s Gates and became the first European to visit Macquarie Harbour.

The island had a few other names as well such as Devils Island, and … um … a few other names that I can’t remember as there was so much information to take in!

This place was a banishment settlement for the worst criminals sent directly from the transport ships in Hobart, those who’d escaped and been recaptured or had committed further crimes while serving a sentence.

Here there was a constant lack of food, not enough space even for these inmates to sleep lying on their backs and as a result constant illness and despair was felt by these 500 men.

They were funneled from all over the Australian colony to this harsh, windswept and barren island. So harsh that execution was considered a mercy and ‘liberty or death’ was a common cry. This was a place filled with blood, brutality, and even cannibalism.

Sarah Island was also the most secure of the penal settlements as any convict who tried to escape not only had to get across the harbour but also had to slash their way through the dense rainforests of the west coast.

There were many escapes (about 160, although very few were successful) including one by James Goodwin who escaped (in a very clever way) and because he knew so much about the uncharted wilderness was promptly employed in the surveyors department!

Alexander Pearce was a prisoner who escaped not once, but twice. His story is fascinating and gruesome. You may have heard of cannibalism on the island – well… this is your man (one of). He escaped along with 11 others who due to extreme hunger drew lots and killed the loser who then became food for the others. This continued until Pearce was the last man standing. He was found with human flesh in his pocket and was tried for murder in Hobart.

At about this time Matthew Brady (now infamous although many (including me) had no idea he was held at Sarah Island) stole a boat and sailed to the Derwent River. Brady was convicted for stealing a basket and some butter, bacon, sugar and rice. During the time he was held he received over 350 lashes for attempts to escape and other crimes.  He eventually managed to escape with a small group of men, and they spent 2 years roaming Tasmania as a bushrangers.

He was known as a bit of a gentleman as he always had lovely manners while robbing his victims and some people even helped him out. There are many stories verifying the fact that he only resorted to violence only in self-defence.

Eventually in 1826 he, along with others, was charged with stealing a musket and bayonet, stealing horses, setting fire to a property and murder. He was hanged on May 4, 1826.

There is a beautiful lookout ‘Brady’s Lookout’ on the West Tamar Highway, Rosevears, that offers sweeping views over the Tamar River and surrounding areas.


Sarah Island was a slave labour camp where good quality ships and boats were built on the slips. For a while it was the largest operation of its kind in Australia

with over 130 workboats being built and launched sideways on a slipway. 250 tonne was the largest of the big boats that was launched stern first down a slipway on rollers.

 You can still see the large planks of wood under the water near the shore if you have a good pair of polarized sunnies. I couldn’t see anything until I put Chris’s Oakley’s on!


The island was fairly self-sufficient with all of what you’d expect to see in a small town including an open cut quarry where they ground their own wheat.

Wandering the well-defined paths past what remains of the penitentiary, bakehouse and solitary cells, you can’t help but imagine how bad it truly was. And while not much remains in the way of buildings (don’t expect Port Arthur!) it is still hauntingly beautiful. I actually prefer the crumbled bricks and stories of Sarah Island.

The Sarah Island penal settlement was closed in 1833 after the establishment of the penitentiary at Port Arthur.

If you tour the island as part of the Gordon River Cruise, you will have an hour to explore. We couldn’t believe how quickly the time flew by! And yes, we could easily have spent more time there. 

This is one place you MUST see as it gives a chilling insight into the horrors of convict life and is especially unnerving given how incredibly beautiful the surrounding wilderness is.


To book your Sarah Island adventure (which is just part of the amazing Gordon River Cruise), head over to https://www.gordonrivercruises.com.au/


Highfield House Stanley, Tasmania

Highfield House Stanley, Tasmania

Today is our first full day in the cosy coastal village of Stanley here on the North West Coast of Tasmania. The weather has been typical for a Tassie Summer with rain, strong, gusty winds and cold temperatures broken up with moments of brilliant blue sky and hot sun.

Today has been mostly the cold, windy and rainy type, but that suited us just fine as we spent the majority of the day indoors. We had a late breaky after a sleep in (we didn’t wake until 6am!) and then we jumped in the car to go adventuring.

We wound our way along the streets beneath The Nut and found ourselves climbing towards a spectacular view of the Nut jutting straight up from the water’s edge.

For some miraculous reason the clouds had parted, and we were presented with a view so breathtaking that Chris risked life and limb to capture it – quite literally! He was lining the Nikon up ready to hit the trigger when he let out an almighty groan and spun away from the fence towards me. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen! Of course, I was concerned, but never the less … I couldn’t help but laugh. The look on his face was priceless, and what made things even better was the fact that I was in the middle of taking a panorama shot and Chris was right in it. He’d been shocked by the electric fence and I’d captured the very moment he spun around in agony!

Being the resilient man that Chris is (one who cares nothing about pain), he got over it pretty quickly with a few deep breaths and got some epic shots not just from there, but also from the ruins we stumbled upon just around the corner. The ruins of this 1836 convict barracks provided the exact shot that he was after. And I got the shot I was after – Chris taking the shot!

It turns out that the 73 convicts assigned to help establish Highfield had occupied this building for about 2 years. ‘What was Highfield’ I wondered as I climbed back into the car and we kept driving.

We only had to drive around the bend to discover that Highfield was right there in front of us; a historic manor that sprawled across green pastures with incredible gardens and views across to Stanley, The Nut and Bass Strait and beyond.

We couldn’t drive past as we had promised the kids, we’d find some ‘old buildings’ and they were begging us to look inside. Chris and I really wanted to go through as well, so we pulled into the almost empty gravel car park and started wandering down one of the many paths through the impeccably kept gardens and around to the back of the house.

Aylah turned the brass door knob and pushed the big green and glass door open ever so carefully. This house demands your respect from the moment you enter the grounds.

What we walked into was a long corridor with walls lined with artwork, rooms filled with antique furniture and … and … Charli and I got carried away and turned right and found ourselves in a dining room complete with a table, chairs, china cabinet, piano, marble fireplace and the sounds of a dinner party in progress.

Chris’s voice calling my name dragged me back to the present and we followed it until we found him in the office with a lady from Parks and Wildlife Service. She explained where we were, a little of the history and how to make the most out of our visit. We were given a map with the layout of the property that had all rooms numbered and a little bit of information about them. There is a very reasonable admission price of just $12 adults, $10 concession and $6 for kids, Or if you’re a family like us with 2 adults and 3 kids, just $30.

Highfield House is regarded as the ‘birthplace’ of European settlement in Tasmania’s north-west. From here, the London based Van Dieman’s Land Compan (VDLC) explored and settled the area. Edward Curr, the chief agent of the VDLC, started construction in 1832 and it took about 3 years to complete.

Originally the settlement covered about 350,00 acres but has now reduced down to around five acres.

The Van Diemen’s Land Company had the intention of making a fortune from fine merino wool like others were in Tasmania at the time, but they misjudged the terrain and lost most of their sheep within the first 3 years.

Stud livestock, implements, craftsmen and indentured labourers from England (along with convicts assigned form Hobart) arrived in October 1826.

Over a period of 25 years, their original investment of £600,000 gave them a return of just £34,054.

We were told a little about those who lived there including the Curr family who had no less than 15 children, all who were sent back to England about aged 4 to do their schooling. All except little Juliana who died tragically at just 2 years of age when the family dog who was pulling her along in a little cart raced off to fight another dog and dragged her under a fence causing her to knock her head. Her grave is out in the yard marked with a tomb that is surrounded by honeysuckle and sweet briar in a beautiful alcove.


We heard much about Edward Curr and thought he was a grumpy old man, so imagine our surprise when we found out he was just 27 years old!

The house represents an important part of Tasmanian historic heritage, and you are able to walk through and experience what life would have been like back in the early 1800’s.

We agreed that we would all stick together and we headed down to room 2. Room 1 was the Butler’s Pantry that is now reception.

Room 2 is The Gallery where you ‘went to meet the characters who envisioned the enterprise and those who lived, loved and worked in the house and around the estate’.


Here we saw the faces of many familiar people including Matthew Flinders and George Bass. They were of course the first Europeans to charter the Bass Strait in 1798 and responsible for mapping and naming many of the geographical landmarks including Circular Head and Cape Grim.

This room also had a marble fireplace, 3 large bay windows overlooking the gardens and various pieces of furniture scattered around.


We walked through and into room 3 – The Drawing Room, or ‘The Room of First Impressions’.

‘From the windows the wonderful view belies the wild and almost impossible task that the first settlers faced tackling the impenetrable bush accessed only by sea or hazardous trekking over unchartered mountains and marshy plains.’

The girls immediately claimed this room as it was a room reserved for entertaining guests and where the ladies came after dinner when the men retired to the gallery to enjoy their port and cigars.


Here we found more incredible artwork, yet another marble fireplace, another piano, an old black singer sewing machine, a few other bits and pieces including some chairs and a couch that said ‘no bottoms please’ but had obviously had more than a few park themselves on it! It was a little ‘saggy’ in places.

We consulted the map to find that room 4 is The Study, or ‘The Room of Despatches’. Things started getting interesting in this old green room that was filled with books, desks, writings, an intricate hand drawn map of the area and even markings of the children’s heights scribbled onto the wall next to the wooden fireplace.

Room 5, The Dining Room or ‘Room of Conversations’ is where Charli and I were in at the very beginning. The dining table is covered with snippets of conversations that may have been discussed.

Room 6 is The Cellar or ‘Room of Provisions’ and was described by the kids as ‘this could be Minecraft!’ It smelled musty and had low ceilings, wooden beams and a cobblestone floor. There is a huge list of all the provision needed to start a settlement that you can read through.

Room 7 is the Master Bedroom or ‘The Room of Reflection’ and is where all three kids nearly jumped out of their skin when a recording of someone crying started to play from behind some clothing! There is an incredible view across the gardens from the window which can be seen from the wooden 4 poster bed that the kids described as ‘too small for even us to sleep in!’ The ensuite sure made us appreciate the one we have back home!

Room 8 is the Children’s Bedroom or ‘Room of Games and Laughter’ and has a giant game of snakes and ladders that entertained the kids for quite a while. The names of all 15 children are on the wall along with their birth dates.

Room 9 is the Guest Bedroom or ‘The Room with a View’ and boy does it have a view – the window overlooks The Nut!

Room 10 is The Nursery or ‘Room of Changes’ and is my favourite room in the house. The stroller parked in front of the window overlooking the garden is the picture that has been etched into my mind forever.

Room 11 is The China Closet or ‘The Room of Remnants’ and is filled with broken and discarded china.

Room 12 is The Kitchen or ‘The Room of Abundance’ and is set up like a working kitchen; there is even a recipe book sitting on the island bench and butter making equipment along the walls.

Room 13 is The Chapel or ‘The Room of Preaching and Piety’

Numbers 14-19 were buildings like the stable, threshing barn, cart shed, straw barn. Some of these buildings have been set up to host weddings and functions. I’ve seen some wedding images online and they are truly beautiful – dripping with old-time romance.


We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Highfield House and are so glad we decided to stop by.

‘Highfield may be made from bricks and mortar, but it means much more than that. Highfoeld represents both the capacity of human endeavour towards both enterprise and disaster.

Curiously the house was built at a time when the Company was on the verge of ruin.

On this most spectacular site at the edge of the world, this is the story of either enterprise or folly. Success or tragedy. You decide!’