Part of the list of 11 Unesco World Heritage Convict Sites, Woolmers Estate is a homestead with a history.
Located on the Macquarie River, the picturesque Woolmers Estate was established in 1817 by Thomas Archer and remained in this family until 1994 when Thomas VI died without heirs. Today, this pastoral estate is a museum and you can visit via guided tours through the rooms and gardens or take a self guided tour around the grounds.
The house itself is furnished with the personal collections and possessions of six generations of the Archer family. Nothing else has been brought in. You can only see this via a guided tour.
Below, I give you a brief history lesson of Woolmers Estate before describing exactly what you can expect from a visit here.
Woolmers Estate’s History
As mentioned above, Woolmers Estate was occupied by the Archer family for most of its existence and is seen as one of the best examples of a 19th century rural homestead in Australia.
The many buildings on this property which include the main family houses, workers’ cottages, stables, bakehouse, blacksmith’s shop, former chapel, pump house and more help show the history and social structure of how things used to run in a colonial pastoral estate where up to 100 people might be living and working.
This was part of the Assignment System where convicts could be assigned to free settlers who were able to use them as free labour as long as they housed, feed, clothed and gave them religious instruction. This system worked quite well at Woolmers Estate where the convicts often chose to stay after their sentence was finished.
Many of the buildings at Woolmers Estate are where these convicts lived and worked. In fact, you can even see some of their “graffiti” in the Wool Shed.
In addition to the buildings, there is a huge collection of items the family acquired which gives insights into the Archer family over six generations.
Woolmers Estate Review
Before Coronavirus, entry to Woolmers Estate was by organised tour only. At the time I visited in November 2020, only self-guided tours ran which means you don’t get to go inside the main home. While I do feel like this is a shame, there is still a lot to explore and learn.
Currently at the time of publishing in December 2020, it’s possible to visit by either guided or self-guided tour (but you can’t go inside the main house if self-guided).
A visit starts at the Nigel Peck Centre. It’s a new building with two galleries, a café, meeting rooms and gift shop. This is where you buy your tickets, get a self-guided tour book and enter the site.
The first attraction is the Rose Garden – it’s magnificent, and it gets it own section below.
Then it’s on to the historic part of the estate. This has been added to over the generations, but the main core of the property is the same. The buildings are grouped into three areas – the Domestic, Service and Farm Precincts.
The first part of the visit is at the Domestic Precinct with the main house, Woolmers House, associated buildings and stables.
Woolmers House was built in 1820 and added to in the early 1840s. It’s a spectacular building from the outside, but if you can go in, the contents are meant to be amazing. The original Thomas Archer stated in his will that much of his household belongings were to be considered heirlooms and they are still in the house today.
Next up is the kitchen wing and courtyard built in 1847. This is quite an area with a kitchen, two larders, a scullery, a laundry and bedrooms for the servants. Since then, a garage and workshop was added which was later converted to a cafe.
By the house is the walled garden for the Archer family and their guests. Built in the mid 1840s, it was to cater to the feeling at the time that the different classes in society needed to be kept separate. This garden feels quite distinct from the working areas of the estate.
The coach house and stables that exist on the estate today were created around 1840. It has two wings of six stall stables but today, it is home to a couple of old cars owned by the Archer family.
The next part of the estate is the Service Precinct. This area supported the Domestic Precinct and the rest of the estate. While it is next to the main house, it was separated by a high brick wall.
In this area, is the chapel and apple packing shed, store, golf-club house, pump house, windmill, bakehouse cottage and Mountgarrett’s Cottage, most probably used to house domestic servants.
Next to the Service Precinct is the Farm Precinct which was separated by tall hedges.The buildings left here include the blacksmith shop, free settlers’ cottages, cart shed and farm stables, the wool shed and apple shed.
Even on a self-guided tour you can enter many of the buildings in the Service and Farm Precinct. The Wool Shed is particularly fun to explore. It’s not just the oldest still standing in Australia but there is some old convict graffiti upstairs.
The estate is extenstive and fun to wander and explore. Signage is limited so I can see why a guided tour would be useful. There is a self-guided tour book which has about half a page of information on each building.
Everything is beautiful making it the perfect location for one of the Woolmers Estate weddings which it’s possible to book.
There is also a Woolmers Estate restaurant on site serving lunch Thursdays to Sundays when we visited.
If you are visiting Brickendon and Woolmers Estates, there is a 2.8 kilometre Convict Trail Walk between the two.
Woolmers Estate Rose Garden
The Woolmers Estate national rose garden is just gorgeous. This garden is a modern addition opened in 2001 which is inspired by French formal gardens of the 1600s.
We were lucky enough to visit in November which is generally the best time to see it all in bloom. It is very pretty.
They also hold an annual Woolmers Estate rose festival, “Festival of the Roses”, in November.
Woolmers Estate Accommodation
If you want more than just a quick visit, there is a collection of six cottages on site where you can stay at Woolmers Estate. All the cottages are in historic buildings which have been renovated wirth modern amenities while keeping the 1840s convict era feel. These self contained cottages look over the Macquarie River to add to their appeal.
There is a choice of three cottage types. The coachman’s cottage has three upstairs bedrooms and sleeps six. It’s great for a family with washing facilities and has a private hedge lined garden.
The Gardeners cottage has one bedroom and sleeps two people. It is all on one level and has views towards Longford. It’s very charming and is recommended for honeymooners.
Then there are four free settlers cottages which are called Blacksmiths, Coopers, Orchardists and Shepherds. These are perfect for groups or friends. They have upstairs loft-style bedrooms which are located in groups of two semi-attached cottages.
For a cheaper alternative, the Longford Riverside Caravan Park in Longford is close by. Read our full review here.
Woolmers Estate Tasmania Location
Woolmers Estate Longford is located at 658 Woolmers Lane. It’s only about 5 minutes drive off the main A1 highway that runs between Hobart and Launceston near Perth about 25 minutes from Launceston so it’s easy to make a detour here.
Woolmers Estate Longford Admission Fee
At the time of publishing, the entry fee is $16 for adults, $5 for kids and $35 for a family.
Woolmers Estate is a fascinating piece of history that I really enjoyed discovering. Despite growing up in Tasmania and thinking I knew much of the history since British colonisation, I had no idea that places like this existed with their different way of living far removed from the past I learned at Port Arthur and Richmond.
When you add in its convenient location just off the main highway between Launceston and Hobart, there’s really no reason not to pay Woolmers Estate a visit.
I visited here with my four year old. While he did get bored after awhile, Woolmers does work quite well with kids thanks to so much of it being outdoors. He liked the places we could go inside the buildings, the Wool Shed, the old cars and, especially, the Rose Garden.