Snapshot Sunday: The Red Bridge – Campbelltown, Tasmania

Convict labour built this bridge at Campbelltown which is on the main road between Hobart and Launceston. It dates back to 1838.

The Red Bridge, convict built bridge, Campbelltown Tasmania

A Visit to Cockatoo Island

I’ve been keen to visit some of the small islands in Sydney Harbour for many years. While we were there in March I was lucky enough to be able to visit Cockatoo Island.

Cockatoo Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has been many things ; a penal colony, a dockyard, World War II naval base, submarine repair facility and more recently, movie set and tourist attraction.

Getting to the island was pretty easy as it has a regular ferry service. As it turned out, the day I was there some areas were closed to public access because they were preparing for an upcoming event but as my ankle was sore from previous walking expeditions during the holiday and the weather was hot I decided to just see the things I was mostly interested in.

Camping, Cockatoo Island
Camping, Cockatoo Island

The first thing I could see from the ferry as we approached was rows of tents. You can stay on Cockatoo Island either camping in your own tent or one of theirs “glamping”which is a more fancy version of camping or staying in an apartment or heritage house. I would love to stay there myself but not in summer. I really don’t care for summer in Sydney.

Arriving at the island.
Arriving at the island.

Here is the entrance built during the naval era.
Here is the entrance built during the naval era.

When you arrive at the island there are several options for walks, you can  book a tour or follow a set route with a map or an audio tour. I preferred to wander about with the map.  I’ll describe the different features of the island chronologically even though geographically they are a bit more mixed up than that.

This is what the website has to say about the convict era remnants.

Convict trail:

For those interested in World Heritage and convict history and stories
A convict prison between 1839 and 1869, home at its peak to 550 men who built their barracks, forged their own prison bars and constructed Fitzroy Dock. Cockatoo Island, together with 10 other historic convict sites, is inscribed on the World Heritage List. This trail offers incredible evidence of human endeavour. Some attractions include:

  • Military Guardhouse – A garrison for British army ‘redcoat’ guards from which they could observe the prison block and if necessary fire their muskets through holes in the walls.

  • Mess Hall – Where convicts devoured their generous daily ration of one pound of fresh beef or mutton, twenty ounces of bread, and half a pound of vegetables.

  • Fitzroy Dock – Built for the Royal Navy from 1847-1857 mostly by convicts with their bare hands, often waist deep in water and in leg irons.

  • Convict Silos – Chiselled down by hand out of the island’s bedrock this series of silos are evidence of a remarkable colonial enterprise


One of the convict era buildings.
One of the convict era buildings.

Guardhouse Cockatoo Island Sydney
Ruins of the old Guardhouse

Convict built Fitzroy Dock
Convict built Fitzroy Dock

Maritime History

Although I am interested in our convict past I have to admit that on Cockatoo Island I was more interested in seeing the maritime relics. The first time that David and I visited Sydney soon after we were married I remember that we saw an Oberon Class submarine in the harbour. These vessels were maintained at Cockatoo Island which was still a working dockyard at that time.We were both quite excited about that.

One of the things I was rather intrigued by was the tunnels that crisscrossed the island. These would have been used for air raid shelters during the war years I think. This one, The Dog Leg Tunnel was not totally accessible but I did stop in to see the little theatrette showing historical films although I judged I would not have enough time to see them all.

One of the tunnels
One of the tunnels



This was taken at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour once a naval dockyard.
This was taken at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour once a naval dockyard.

An old rusting crane from the dockyard days.
An old rusting crane from the dockyard days.

Dockyard Cockatoo Island
Looking down onto the dockyard

Just look at that rock wall and imagine how hard it must have been for the convicts to cut into it to build the barracks and the docks with just hand tools.I thought the old rusting gantries and cranes made great subjects for photography. Although the stairs that lead down to the dockyard were rather scary to descend I enjoyed that part of the site the most.

rocks Cockatoo Island

My time on Cockatoo Island was too short. I hope on a future visit to go back and see more and who knows maybe even camp overnight. Oh, and the movie set I mentioned.  I didn’t see that particular area but part of the film “Wolverine” was made on Cockatoo Island.

Further Reading:

Meanderings in the Midlands

image figure on bridge
The old bridge at Ross c1999

I’m back from ten days visiting my sister in Oatlands and although I had a thoroughly good time I have to admit I missed my blog. I found trying to read posts over a very slow internet connection extremely trying so in between trying to read the few hundred emails that have probably accumulated in my Yahoo account I’ll try to catch up with what you have all been doing.

I didn’t take as many photos as I had hoped to on this trip. Our outings were based around visiting markets and interesting antique and second-hand shops so photos tended to be quick ones taken on the fly rather than planned. We had extraordinarily good weather, fine, mild and even warm days with light breezes and that made our outings very pleasant. I just love Tasmania in autumn. In South Australia the climate is warmer and drier and except in the hills you don’t really see deciduous trees as much as here. The changing colours and falling leaves remind me of my childhood in England.

The Midland Highway, the road that takes you from Hobart to Launceston, or from Launceston to Hobart if you are a northerner :), is promoted as the Heritage Highway. I’ve visited most of the towns on the route but apart from Oatlands itself the two I know best are Ross and Campbelltown. One day last week we decided to pay them both another visit.

image Ross Bridge
The convict designed bridge at Ross.

Ross is off the highway,a quiet little village which started life as a garrison town as long ago as 1812 which is very early in Australia’s history. Ross has a convict designed and built stone bridge which is probably my favourite of Tasmania’s three well-known bridges, Richmond, Ross and Campbelltown. The main feature of the bridge are 186 carvings featuring insects, birds, animals and faces of local personages including an unflattering one of Governor Arthur! I was quite surprised to find that although this is my favourite bridge I didn’t have a recent photo of it in my files. I think I had mentally noted that I had “done” Ross bridge and didn’t need to take another but the photo above was taken on my first trip to Tasmania with Hubby around 1999! I guess I thought I would never take another as good.  For those who like details it was taken with my old Pentax MG, my favourite camera before I went digital. The picture at the beginning of this piece was taken by Hubby and is of me standing in the middle of the bridge by the engraving showing the distances to Hobart and Launceston. Sadly I’m fatter and greyer than that now.

On a fine day you can see visitors strolling up and down Ross High Street, getting lunch, browsing in the few shops or visiting the Wool Centre. There is a nice old pub called the Man’O’Ross, a bakery which is popular with visitors and antique and gift shops.  It was a bit early for lunch so we just had a look in the antique shops before heading off to Campbelltown.

Campbelltown is quite a different kind of town. The highway goes right through it so although it is equally old and has historic buildings it has a much busier feel to it. If you are driving off the ferry in Devonport and heading to Hobart you will probably find yourself stopping in Campbelltown for petrol, food or a chance to stretch your legs. There is a nice park next to the service station and several cafes. The service station once had a cafe attached where you could buy deep-fried Mars Bars but I think that is gone now. Campbelltown’s Red Bridge was also convict built. Nearby are a group of wooden sculptures which were carved from trees which once grew beside the river. One depicts the bridge and a soldier guarding a convict. This was the main north south route even in those early days and much of the road and bridge work was done by the convicts who also made the bricks for many buildings all over the state.Wood Carving -Campbelltown

The next one has a lot going on. It shows Governor Macquarie and his wife Elizabeth (Campbell) and the bushranger Martin Cash. Seated with his telescope is Dr William Valentine. He was responsible for bringing a team from the US Naval Observatory to Campbelltown to view the Transit of Venus in 1874. The aeroplane and globe commemorate local aviator Howard Gatty who in 1931 circumnavigated the globe in a plane called “the Winnie Mae”. Lastly on this very busy sculpture there are bales of wool and sheep representing the Campbelltown Agricultural Show, the longest running show in Australia. The Midlands grew rich on the sheep’s back and many fine homes were built all over the countryside.

wooden sculpture at Campbelltown
The Bushranger, the aviator too, the Governor and his wife.The merino ram and the rest are all here in this sculpture at Campbelltown.

The last one depicts the animals ,birds and fish found in the area of the Elizabeth River. How do I know all this? I took a photo of the informative plaque on site. 🙂

The third sculpture is of wildlife.