A town like Wynyard

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I’d never heard of Wynyard until I bought a small acreage nearby on Tasmania’s North West Coast.

Wyynard (population 4,800) could never be mistaken for a hip and happening place and its streets and green rolling hills certainly exude the tranquil melancholia common to small, isolated hamlets.

Yet, there’s more to this quirky place than meets the eye.

In the early years of white settlement, Tasmania’s North West Coast was a popular destination for missionaries and religious zealots. With a fervour unseen since, they built churches and schools and attempted to convert the local indigenous population.

Just about every denomination exists  in Wynyard including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Anglican, United, Catholic and Presbytarian — although with the population overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon, there is little chance a synagogue or mosque will open any time soon.

The Exclusive Brethren also have a school here and female students are occasionally spotted in the local supermarket with long skirts covering their ankles and walking meekly behind the males.

Like many farming communities, the annual show is an opportunity for locals to display their cooking produce — including cakes, biscuits and scones — and their agricultural prowess with giant pumpkins, prize birds and all things woolly, beefy and four-legged.

There is also the ‘Bloomin’ Tulip Festival held annually over a September weekend. The festival itself is part of a larger promotional campaign called The Colours of Wynyard which celebrates the beautiful coastal spring flowers.

The tulip farm on nearby Table Cape is a popular tourist destination and a tulip festival is held in Gutteridge Gardens on the banks of the Inglis River.

Prior to the festival, tulips are planted in flower beds along the streets of Wynyard, leaving no doubt as to the event’s purpose. Over the weekend, a variety of stalls offer local produce such as wines, cheeses and honey while others sell hats, scarves and jewellery.

Bands, often led by high school students, keep everyone entertained between general announcements and activities.

During the summer and autumn there are water sports on the Inglis River and visitors can learn to sail for $5 a lesson. (I doubt you would find another sailing club that offers lessons any cheaper.) Maneuvering and tacking on the river is actually quite simple and children are frequently captaining their own small boats.

Tranquil walking trails wind alongside the river and the track to Fossil Bluff is a popular destination for those interested in dinosaur prints preserved for millions of years.

And then there’s the Wynyard market.

Every second Sunday Australia’s worst market opens for business. The locals cling to the idea that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and so there’s an awful lot of junk for sale. It’s worth a trip, however, just to gawp at the outrageous prices stallholders expect for items that should have been taken to the tip long ago.

A dis-used train track runs the length of the coast. If the State Government funded a light rail it would be one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys. Yet the will and money is lacking and there is now talk that it will become a bike track. This would be a fantastic use of the rail line but, like many things on the North West Coast, the talk is rarely accompanied by action.

There is a small airport at Wynyard and Rex Airlines flies in three times a day.  Rex is an excellent regional airline whose planes each seat about 30 people. I like flying Rex, but be prepared for a bumpy ride as small aircraft offer little protection from turbulence.

In summer, the coast gets more lively as people travel from Hobart to their holiday houses at Boat Harbor and Sisters Beach, stopping in Wynyard to grocery shop on the way.

After six years here, I’ve noticed this influx of people makes the whole place seem almost cosmopolitan.

So if you’re planning a trip to the North West Coast, it’s worth spending a day or two in Wynyard. At the very least, you can tell your friends about the small town with the really, really bad market.

Author: Sue Bell
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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