Windermere on the Tamar, sketched by Bishop Nixon in the 1850s (AOT,
The Tamar River was discovered by Bass and Flinders in 1798, and was explored by William Collins and William Paterson in 1804. They found the valley was inhabited by Aborigines of the Leterremairrener and Pangerninghe clans. Paterson established the first settlement at Outer Cove in November 1804. A few months later it was moved to York Town and in 1806 to Launceston.
Apart from George Town, established by Governor Macquarie in 1811, settlement in the Tamar Valley was restricted to scattered farms, logging camps and small hamlets, with small-scale shipyards, until the discovery of gold at Beaconsfield in 1877. Later in the nineteenth century apple orchards developed, with a wharf at Beauty Point for exporting the fruit. The orchards were replaced in the late twentieth century by vineyards and housing subdivisions with the spread of suburban Launceston. Following the opening of an aluminium factory in 1955, Bell Bay became a major industrial area and the main port for northern Tasmania.
The Tamar River has always been a major waterway, the main port being at Launceston until the 1960s. Steamers linked scattered farms and hamlets until they were replaced by road transport in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1968 the east and west Tamar were connected by the Batman Bridge.
Further reading: L Bethell, The story of Port Dalrymple, Hobart, 1980; J Branagan, George Town, Launceston, ; C Smith, Town with a history, Beaconsfield, 1978; L Nyman, The West Tamar people, Launceston, .