An urgent need for a photograph of the Steppes Homestead for a work-related project had me rising early and heading to Tasmania’s Central Highlands one recent morning, camera in hand. I’d passed this way along the Lake Highway (A5) many times, it being my usual route from Hobart to the North West Coast, but had never managed to stop and explore this historic spot, a few kilometres to the south of Great Lake.
Approaching from the south, the first sign is not for the homestead, but for the Steppes Sculptures. A short pathway from the carpark reveals a sort of mini Stonehenge of rocks, each adorned with bronzes depicting Tasmanian native animals – everything from Tasmanian tigers to tiger snakes.
The centerpiece of this little bronze zoo is a baby wombat, and all are the work of that most prolific and ubiquitous artists, the late Stephen Walker.
The Steppes Homestead itself is a few hundred meters further along the highway, although parking is not plentiful, so a pleasant short walk has been provided from the sculptures through the forest. It is a lovely way to approach the historic homestead, which from the highway does look like a small cottage that is still someone’s home.
Approaching from the forest, the first things one sees are the rustic outbuildings, displaying some well-maintained examples of vernacular building techniques born of remote necessity.
There is plentiful information available on the history of the homestead (see the links below), so I won’t say more than that the homestead was built on the conjunction of some key stock droving routes between the Tasmanian highlands and the grasslands of the midlands plains. A police presence was established to counter stock theft and to serve the highlands community, lasting until the 1890s. Later, the land occupied by the police reserve was designated as a nature reserve.
The homestead was home to the Wilson family, who occupied it from their arrival in the 1860s until the last resident family member died in the mid-1970s. At this time, the homestead and its outbuildings were added to the previously gazetted nature reserve, as a heritage site and to commemorate the family and their contribution to the highlands’ community and its way of life.
The site can be visited at any time. There are toilet facilities and fresh water available. The interior of the Homestead itself can only be visited on infrequent Open Days.
- Steppes Historic Site Fact Sheet – Parks and Wildlife Tasmania
- Steppes Historic Site – Parks and Wildlife Tasmania
- Geoff Richie’s On the Convict Trail – Steppes Historic Site
- Think Tasmania – Stephen Walker’s Steppes Sculptures
- Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office – Life at the Steppes
- Contemporary public art in and around Hobart
- Tracks into Hobart’s history
- A winter stroll through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
- The hidden charms of Bushy Park