The town of Sheffield is a must see for those visiting Tasmania. With almost every public wall adorned by a locally inspired mural, a walk down the main street of Sheffield takes visitors on journey through Tassie.
In the 19th century Sheffield was rich in farming as good soil and reliable rainfall ensured happy cows. The land proved so good for dairy farming that the area around Sheffield became famous for the high “butter-fat” quantity in their milk.
These high butter-fat diary products were enjoyed by workers of the Forth river Hydro project which started in the 20th century. Workers flooded the town and nearby Gowrie Park, and the town experienced an economic boom. The focus of the town had shifted from dairy to Hydro-electricity.
Unfortunately growth was short lived. As many areas of Tasmania found, hydro-electricity projects employed a great number of people during construction, but when the pipes, dams and plants were finished, very few people were required day to day to run the plant. In the case of Sheffield, the jobs disappeared and so did the people, property prices fell and the town became depressed as houses lay empty in the 1970s.
Sheffield was always in a good position to bounce back once tourism took off in the 1990s and 2000s. This quaint town is close to the walking hot spot of Tasmania, Cradle Mountain and a convenient stop on a journey from Devonport. It also provides easy access to Mt Roland and the Western Tiers Ranges that overlook Sheffield creating a stunning backdrop.
In the 1980’s in an effort to reinvigorate the town and ride on the back of the tourism boom, Sheffield began a project to create murals. Borrowing inspiration from a town in British Columbia, Canada, named Chemainus, the murals were created to reflect the rich history and culture of Tasmania and the local area. Now 67 murals dot the town, and each year a competition sees another addition to the collection.
On weekends in particular the town buzzes with day trippers and mainlanders off the ferry enjoying a delicious bakery treat and taking snaps of the colourful murals. On our Best of Tasmania 10 day tour we always stop in to this quaint town and enjoy some morning tea while admiring the murals.