History of Devonport
The city of Devonport began as two settlements on opposite banks of the Mersey River. Formby on the west bank and Torquay on the east drew settlers in the 1850s with the discovery of coal in the area. Timber soon became the dominant industry, and Torquay built a wharf to handle lumber shipments in 1859.
In the mid-1880s the Mersey River sandbar was finally dredged to support the growing shipping industry. The two settlements became a stop for steamers to Melbourne and the railway from Deloraine. The area became an important crossroads, and in 1890 citizens of both settlements voted to incorporate as the town of Devonport.
The Mersey Bluff Lighthouse was constructed in 1889, and in 1890 the first Victoria Bridge united the east and west banks. Railways expanded to support the transport of limestone, and the town continued to grow and prosper. In the late 50’s it was the fastest growing urban area in Australia. In 1981 Prince Charles of Wales declared Devonport a city.
Current Day Devonport
Devonport is home to Tasmanian sports hero and World Champion Wood Chopper David Foster, but her most famous family is the Lyons. Joseph Lyons was the only Australian Prime Minister from Tasmania, and his wife Dame Enid Lyons was the first woman ever elected to the Australian parliament. The Lyons house, Home Hill, built in 1916, is open to the public.
Today 25,415 citizens call Devonport home, and it continues to be a hub of transportation between Tasmania and the rest of the country. There is daily air service from the local airport to Melbourne and Devonport is the southernmost terminus for the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry. The city is also a key hub for farming and food processing in Tasmania.
Nestled between river, ocean, and mountains, Devonport is a popular tourist area in Tasmania. Attractions include the Mersey Bluff Lighthouse, the aboriginal rock carvings of Mersey Bluff, the Bass Strait Maritime Center, the Devonport Regional gallery that exhibits travelling art shows, local artists and items from the Devonport Regional Galleries private collection that includes the Robinson Collection and the Tasmanian Arboretum.
Exhibits at the Bass Strait Maritime Center explore both the natural history and human developments in the Bass Strait. A visitor can try their hand at bringing a simulated, turn of the century steamer into Mersey River or take a two-hour sail on the Julie Burgess ketch.
The Robinson Collection is a 100,000-piece collection of photographs. Taken by Bert Robinson and his son Albert, the photos chronicle family, business, culture, sports and politics in Devonport from the 1920s to the 1970s.
The bountiful agriculture in “Australia’s Market Garden” drives a thriving restaurant industry. Forty percent of Tasmania’s annual crops grow in and around Devonport, and many of the newer restaurants focus on local produce.
Australia, Tasmania and the local city council are investing in the future of tourism, retail, and food production in Devonport through The Living City Project. The first phase of the project was completed in October 2018 and represented a $71.1M investment. This phase included the construction of a new library, visitor center, council offices, Providore Place, a new multistory parking structure, a convention facility and a new home for the Devonport Regional Gallery.
To find out more about the Living City Project click here.