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Burnie, TAS

Major city and port on Tasmania's north coast

In 2010 Burnie changed forever. The Pulp Mill, which had been in operation since 1937 and was the heart of the city's industrial base, closed down. Since then it has reinvented itself as a substantial tourist city (it is the largest city on the island's north west coast) with opportunities to see the dusk arrival of the local little penguins; a superb Maker's Workshop where visitors can watch craftspeople at work; an excellent local museum; interesting journeys to waterfalls in the hinterland; and a range of fine dining options featuring the best of the seafood available on the North Coast.

Location

Burnie is located 146 km north-west of Launceston, 49 km west of Devonport and 326 km north-west of Hobart.

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Origin of Name

When, in 1842, the town was surveyed and the surrounding land sold to settlers it was named Burnie after William Burnie who, at the time, was the Director of the Van Diemen's Land Company.

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Things to See and Do

Makers Workshop and Visitor Information Centre
Burnie's new Visitor Information Centre, located at 2 Bass Highway at the western end of West Beach, is a delight. It is a memento to the city's historic past and its deep involvement in paper production. The centre offers (a) Paper Making Tours in which visitors can engage in a hands-on demonstration of paper making. The tours occur every 45 minutes from 9.15 am - 4.30 pm. Check out http://www.discoverburnie.net/what-to-see/makers-workshop.html for details and prices. (b) a gift shop where handmade paper products (albums, folios, cards, journals) can be purchased (c) the Makers Studio where craftspeople can be observed as they make their products including hand woven baskets, jewellery, hats, paintings, prints, woodwork, glassware and paper products and (d) there is an excellent cafe. Tel: (03) 6430 5831. It is open seven days from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm

Little Penguin Observation Centre
Located at Parsonage Point (just below the Visitor Information Centre) the Little Penguin Observation Centre is, from September through to March, the hub where, around dusk each evening, the little penguins that have been out searching for food, return to their burrows. All you have to do is stand on the boardwalk (it can get crowded) or go on one of the free guided tours which are run by the Friends of the Burnie Penguins, tel: 0437 436 803 for more details.

Burnie Park
Located over the Bass Highway just a little west of the Visitor Information Centre, Burnie Park with its lawns, shady walkways, and the historic Burnie Inn (the oldest building in the city) is one of the prettiest parks in Tasmania. It is an ideal place for a picnic and has excellent facilities for children.

Burnie Regional Museum
The Burnie Regional Museum is located in Little Alexander Street near the Burnie Regional Art Gallery. The highlight of any visit is Federation Street which is an authentic recreation of shops which would have been commonplace on the north west coast of Tasmania around 1900. The street includes a saddler and boot maker, a blacksmith, a printer, a photographer and even a dentist's surgery with a range of old equipment including a foot operated drill. There is also a cottage sitting room, a kitchen with the usual array of antiquated cooking utensils, an old wash house with a cast iron copper and galvanised iron tubs, a carpenter's shop with examples of the art of joinery as well as good displays of tools, an old butter factory, the Wellington Times Printery, a general store and Post Office. The museum also has demonstrations of spinning, weaving and lace making. For more information tel: (03) 6430 5746 or check out http://www.burnieregionalmuseum.net/. The museum is open from 10.00 am - 4.30 pm weekdays and on the weekends and public holidays from 1.30 pm – 4.00 pm.

The Old Police Station
The city's most elegant building is the building now located next to the Burnie Police Station in Wilson Street. In 1907 this magnificent two storey brick Edwardian house with a huge veranda and magnificent ironwork on both floors was built as a family residence and surgery for a dentist named Mr. Loucadou-Wells.

The Pulp Paper Trail
In 2010 the Burnie Paper Mill closed down. It had been operating since 1937 and the last owners, Paperlinx, gifted to the community and the men and women who had worked in the mill, a 600 metre long trail to recall a time when 'The Pulp' as it was known, dominated the industrial life of the town. The trail is located beside the beach and directly over the road from where the old paper mill once operated. The first sign notes: "Reminiscent of a giant paper reel unrolling the path is a symbolic 'echo' of The Pulp. Imagine for a moment that this path unfolding ahead of you is one long sheet of paper. At the peak of the mill's paper production it would have taken the No. 10 machine about 60 seconds to generate!"

There are a number of signs along the trail which tell the story of the paper mill which, over a period of 72 years, produced high quality paper, high-grade sawn timber, 'Burnie Board' and reams of copy paper. The trail is located beside the Bass Highway on the eastern side of the town.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Wilf Campbell Lookout
The best overview of the city is from the Wilf Campbell Lookout (turn off Mount Road and continue beyond the playing fields) which offers a panoramic view of the port and the city's central business district.

Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden
Located of Mount Road just beyond Surrey Road 8 km south of Burnie, the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden covers 11 ha and has over 20,000 plants in gardens with bridges, waterways and lakes. It is, obviously, best seen in the spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom.

Guide Falls
Located 16 km south of Burnie at West Ridgley, the Guide Falls are clearly marked beyond the township of Ridgley and are small and delightful. There are two vantage points - one overlooking the falls and another, down some steps, which approaches the falls up the valley. There is a large picnic area at the top.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the Burnie area was home to members of the Tommeginne Aboriginal language group.

* The coast was first explored by Europeans when Bass and Flinders circumnavigated Van Diemen's Land in 1798. They named Round Hill Point and noticed a 'peak like a volcano' near where Burnie now stands.

* On 14 February, 1827 a party from the Van Diemen's Land Company climbed  the 'peak like a volcano' and named it St Valentine's Peak. The party, led by Henry Hellyer, reported that the area was agriculturally rich.

* Later in 1827 Edward Curr applied for a series of grants which totalled over 100,000 acres.

* Towards the end of 1827 a small settlement was established at Blackman's Point at the western end of Emu Bay near the present city centre. This settlement was established by Henry Hellyer who built a blacksmith's shop, a few cottages and a large store which was used as the base for the Van Diemen's Land Company operations in the district.

* Emu Bay (as Burnie was originally known) was always a timber port. A sawmill was established near the port. Timber, used for everything from roof shingles to road paving, from house building to ship building, was exported to Melbourne and Adelaide and along the coast to Launceston.

* By 1842 land in the area was being surveyed and sold to settlers. That same year the Burnie Inn was built to cater for the growing population.

* In 1847 Burnie Inn gained its license. It is now the oldest standing building in the city.

* By 1863 the town only had 50 permanent residents.

* The discovery of tin at Mount Bischoff in 1871 saw the port grow rapidly.

* In 1878 the Van Diemen's Land Company built a tramway from Mount Bischoff to the coast. It was over 75 km long and used horses to haul the carriages laden with tin.

* By the late 1880s the railway was using steam locomotives and the port facilities had been greatly expanded.

* During the 1890s a railway was built through the difficult terrain between Zeehan and Burnie and Burnie became the major port for the shipping silver from the island.

* By 1901 the railway arrived from Launceston. Around this time the town's population was over 1500.

* By the 1930s the town's population was over 6 000.

* The construction of the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills in 1937 saw the economy focussed on timber byproducts.

* The population reached 10 000 by 1941.

* In 1948 Australian Titan Products, subsequently called Tioxide Australia Pty Ltd) began producing titanium dioxide pigment which was used in paints.

* The plant was closed in 1996.

* In 2010 the Paper Mill, at the time owned and operated by Paperlinx, was finally closed.

* Today the city still has an active involvement in the timber trade and has become a major tourist destination.

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Visitor Information

Burnie Visitor Information Centre, 2 Bass Highway, Burnie, tel: (03) 6430 5831.

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Useful Websites

There is an excellent local website - http://www.discoverburnie.net/ - which is both comprehensive and detailed as far as accommodation and eating are concerned.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

4 suggestions
  • There is a huge interest in photographing the AURORA and I feel if “AURORA” SPOTS COULD BE IDENTIFIED throughout the municipality, it will create some extra interest and incentive for photographers to visit. We need a high vantage point, preferably with easy vehicular access, and a clear view due south. If there is such a spot with water views included in the southerly direction that would be awesome …
    There have been shots taken from Roundhill Lookout but other locations would be really helpful.

    Barry Saltmarsh
  • Burnie Regional Museum is now open on the weekends and public holidays from 1.30pm – 4.00pm.

    Paul T
  • Midnight Oil have a song “Burnie” I had always thought it was the name of a person and now after all these years I realise that Pete was probably singing about the paper mill.

    Dave