Driving into Derby, you instantly know there's stories to be told about this town. Like a lot of Tasmania, the history of a life lived working hard on the land seeps from its every cracked-paint building and wild landscape surrounding.
Overlooking the Ringarooma River nestled in amongst mountains and rainforest, Derby is a classified town that's small in size but big on stories. Once a booming tin mining settlement, the town – once known as Brother's Home – was the setting for an epic tin rush that saw thousands of eager miners from Europe and China, of characters bold and brash, flock to the area seeking their fortune from this remarkable metal.
The Briseis Mine, in its heyday, became the world's largest exporter of tin ore, but in 1929 severe weather caused a dam burst of massive proportions wreaking devastation upon the township of Derby in a fury of flooding so huge it caused the river to reverse its flow for five miles upstream. Everyday items and personal treasures swept aside now stand as quiet but stark monuments to the personal losses of those hard working men and their families.
Today the quaint colonial cottages, two pubs, a few small shops and a Tin Mining Museum stand witness to new life once again rushing along its streets (well, moving along them in a fairly relaxed manner actually). Today, instead of horse and cart, it's two-wheel weekend warriors here to enjoy a swathe of customer built trails that snake up into wild bush as big and bold as any of the miners once were (but with a much sweeter scent).
World-renowned trail builders, World Trail, came to town a few years back to shift dirt in a completely new way, establishing nearly 40km of initial trail that has quickly come to be regarded as one of if not the best mountain bike trail hub in Australia. With more trails coming on line, plus nearby (20 mins' drive) Blue Tier about to get a revitalisation (it was already pretty damn good), this is THE centre of trail adventure in Tassie. Great place for trail running, too...
But when not plodding the trails as part of Tassie Trail Fest, what to do?
2. Wander and wish - the Blue Lake near town is a unique attraction. Once a mine hole, the lake now reflects a stunning aqua blue from the minerals at the bottom of the lake. Canoeing, fishing and boating are popular on this and other nearby lakes. Gem hunters should keep their eyes peeled for smokey quartz, topaz and amethyst, too.
3. Shop - In town, there are several antiques, second-hand, and craft shops to explore and traditional Devonshire teas for a morning or afternoon treats.
4. Learn - the Tin Dragon Interpretation Centre gives the full story on the town's tin mining history (and it has a cafe). There is also the Derby Schoolhouse Museum is a local history museum situated in the heritage school building, which was built in 1897. The Museum's collection includes many photographs, documents and artefacts dating from the early days of European settlement in the region, with a focus on the mining era.
5. Swim - the Ringarooma river through town provides great opportunity to cool off, or take a walk out on the MTB trails (mind riders) and have a dip at X falls.
6. Walk - further north along the trails to visit Cascade Dam and environs - trails are multi use, open to riders, runners and walkers. Use the MTB maps to get around.
And...relax. Derby is a dedicated slow town (well, when you're off the bike it is). Learn to ease back the throttle and go with the slow flow of time in this beautiful part of the world...
Check out where to eat in Derby and the region HERE.
Other events in Derby to come back for:
- The Blue Dragon Challenge (February) combines the scenically beautiful Blue Tier with the rich history of The Trail of the Tin Dragon and now the fantastic BlueDerby MTB Trails. Add the element of a two day mountain bike ride through this amazing area and you have a challenge that will leave you rewarded and left totally fulfilled, knowing you have just experienced some of the best adventure trails in Tasmania. Journey through the surrounding hills and across open plains with stunning vistas to the North and East coasts, delving deep into the rainforests and along river edges before returning to Derby. You can then relax and enjoy a dip in the river and soak up the charm and history of this once bustling tin mining town.
- Enjoy the madcap Derby River Derby (October) - a river race with very different rules. It is part of the North East Rivers Festival, with lots going on.
- The Gravity Enduro (December) format of mountain bike race has taken the world by storm. It encompasses everything incredible about MTB: cruise to the top of the hill with your mates (untimed), rocket down the hill as fast as you can (timed). . . repeat. The inaugural Tas Gravity Enduro Series takes in three epic locations for the Enduro format: Trevallyn, Hollybank MTB Park and, of course, Derby.