The Salmon Ponds in Tasmania won’t only appeal to history buffs. There is something for everyone from the curated gardens to fish feeding. You might even spot a platypus!
As you drive through the Derwent Valley towards Mount Field National Park, make sure you stop in Plenty. Ten minutes from New Norfolk, Plenty is home to the Salmon Ponds Heritage Hatchery and Gardens, the oldest trout hatchery in the southern hemisphere. It is a magic place to explore.
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Salmon Ponds – a little history
The Salmon Ponds were established in 1864 to introduce salmon to Tasmania. When that didn’t go so well, attention turned to the trout that were also brought out from England.
These brown trout thrived and the rest, as they say, is history. The hatchery was the basis of trout hatcheries throughout Australia and New Zealand. The Salmon Ponds still provide trout stock for Tasmania’s lakes and rivers to this day.
English Garden Setting
After you pay a very reasonable entry fee, the first thing you notice are the gardens. They are neat, manicured and green. Designed in the 1860s, they reflect the tradition of public open spaces in England at the time.
The ponds, that are chock full of trout, blend in with the garden’s design. As you enter the hatchery, you’re given a guide to the trees in the garden. The guide includes a map and picture to about 60 significant trees on the grounds. Many are over 150 years old.
Gardening enthusiasts will be in heaven. Even the kids might like following the map and matching up the trees with the close up images of their leaves.
Okay, so perhaps not every child will like tree spotting. But they will love feeding the fish. There are half a dozen different species in separate ponds around the hatchery including Atlantic salmon and brown and rainbow trout. The Rainbows are the most fun to feed.
There is a vending machine that for $2 dispenses a generous cup of fish food. Don’t worry if you can’t see the fish in the water. You only need to throw a couple of the food pellets in and you cause feeding frenzy. And don’t worry, this is one place where feeding the animals is actually encouraged.
The first time you see it happen, the ferocity and splashing and flashes of colour can be a little startling. Rainbow trout the size of your arm throw themselves at the food and each other. If you toss in enough food close to the bank you’ll likely end up with wet shoes, that’s how energetically they feed.
Kids will love the enthusiastic reaction they get from throwing a few pellets into the water. It is great fun for the young and the young at heart.
Trout Fishing Museum
Anyone who has ever cast a line will enjoy walking through the trout fishing museum. Even if the history of trout fishing isn’t your thing, the displays of rods, reels and fishing gear are fascinating.
The museum is set up in the original cottage of the first superintendent of the Salmon ponds. Each room has well organised displays where you can view how fishing gear has changed over the years. You look at the old equipment and wonder how they ever caught anything. But they did.
Displays and honour boards show the details of record catches over the years. The importance of trout fishing to the area is also captured in several of the displays. For some fishing enthusiasts, the cottage might be their idea of their dream home.
Next door to the museum is the building that housed the original trout hatchery. It is also quite interesting to have a quick look through.
Look out for a Platypus!
The Salmon Ponds are set alongside the Plenty River. As well as trout, the river is also home to platypuses. It is quite common for platypuses to make their way from the river and into the trout ponds.
The pamphlet you receive as you arrive describes platypus sights as ‘frequent’. A map in the pamphlet even has a dotted line showing the path the visiting platypuses like to follow. Your best chance of seeing them is later in the afternoon.
Remember, the platypus is an elusive creature so there is no guarantee you’ll see one. We didn’t spot one during our visit but that was hardly surprising. At best, we have mixed platypus spotting luck. There are some great pictures on their website of the platypus around the trout ponds. If nothing else, it’s a great chance to see a platypus without venturing into the Tasmanian wilderness.
Finish with a Feed
When you‘re done fish feeding and walking the grounds there is a lovely café to relax in. It specialises in pancakes. A few pancakes by the ponds are a great way to finish your visit.
No, the Salmon Ponds might not be a big secret. But, if you are going to Mount Field National Park or exploring the Derwent Valley be sure to pop in. It’s a fun, relaxing and interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
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