Our first experience in Tasmania was rolling off the Spirit of Tasmania ferry in Devonport at 6 am and picking up our hire car. It had been a rough night’s crossing from Melbourne.
Even the captain had put out a tannoy saying it would be one of the worst crossings of the year, and he had been right. All that was on my mind now was where I could get a decent coffee to wake me up!
We were in Tasmania for an 8-night road trip, part of a more extensive 6-week trip we had planned around Australia. I had researched Sheffield’s amazing mural town, and it seemed like the obvious place to check out on the way to our first overnight stop in Cradle Mountain.
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Discovering the Mural Town of Sheffield
On the Road From Devonport to Sheffield
It was a short 25-minute drive from Devonport to Sheffield. The countryside scenery was lovely, but sadly the amount of road-kill was not. In Tasmania, many animals get killed by vehicles each day.
They walk into the roads at dusk and dawn while hunting for food. Not something we see on the UK roads, and quite a wake-up call – literally!
History of Sheffield
The town had suffered hardships in the past, and in 1986 the local council decided to put Sheffield back on the map with the introduction of murals on the sides of its buildings.
The idea had worked, and this once sleepy town is now an attraction in its own right, with over 200,000 visitors viewing over 50 works of art a year. Sheffield also holds the annual Tasmania Muralfest, where artists enter a competition to win a chance to decorate one of Sheffield’s buildings with their art. It attracts people from all around Australia and overseas.
Lucky for us, when we arrived, we were the only visitors due to the time of day. Unlucky for us the coffee shop didn’t open for another hour, and I was gasping!
With a while to kill before the town woke, we took advantage of the lack of cars or visitors and wandered around the town. We took photographs of the murals with subjects from rural life, historical events and wildlife from the area.
A Unique Open-Air Art Gallery
The first mural was painted in 1986 by John Lendis and depicted a mountaineer sharing his home with the animals. The town was rebranded “The Town of Murals” and became one of the best places to visit in Tasmania. It was quirky, fun and something completely unique in Tasmania.
The Blacksmith Cafe had one of the most stunning murals painted on the shop’s front and side.
A.G.Rowe has been commemorated in this painting as a local inventor of a coin-operated self-service, automated fuel pump, a pressure cooker and a machine for washing carrots for use on farms.
Notice the trompe l’oeil effect of the small child peering into the shop window in the second photograph.
The cascading waterfall depicts many that are found throughout Tasmania, linking the town to the nature around it.
Local eagles painted on the grocery storefront. We were lucky enough to see the real thing on the outskirts of the town.
Notice our shadows on the ground in the early morning sunshine. The Sheffield Tasmania Bible Church had a mural painted across its front showing an Australian farmer at work. Another scene was more religious and showed Jesus and his worshippers in the rural landscape of Tasmania.
Have you ever seen a cuter ice cream shop? It depicts early school days in Sheffield, and not far away, my favourite mural features all the animals indigenous to Tasmania.
The mural of a shopkeeper serving a girl with two of the world’s most famous brands on show, Cadbury and Coca-Cola. The mural has been painted straight onto the brickwork giving a tiled appearance.
A Great Place to Start a Tasmanian Road Trip
Sheffield is more than just murals; it has a feeling of calm with a stunning backdrop of Mount Roland. It was a total contrast to the non-stop city of Melbourne that we had only left the previous day.
We were still in Australia, yet it felt a million miles away with its colonial-style buildings and manicured front lawns. Sheffield has a charming identity, and you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time.
The town had been a great introduction to Tasmania, and we looked forward to visiting many more exciting places in Tasmania on our road trip.
Finally, signs of life became apparent around town, and we headed to a coffee shop so that I could satisfy my inner coffee monster and grab some breakfast before hitting the road for the hour’s drive to Cradle Mountain.
Sheffield had been a fabulous introduction to Tasmania, and this signpost caught our eye on our exit. We stopped for a photograph and asked a local if the names were real, and guess what? They all are.
Just imagine living in the Garden of Eden or even Paradise!
If you like the sound of Sheffield and want to stay over, then Grace Cottage is a good bet.
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