Aborigines have been known to live in Tasmania for more than 35,000 years. The Moomaire-mener Aborigines were the first known people to settle on the Eastern Shore of the Derwent River. It is believed that the Moomairemener were closely allied with all Aboriginal people who lived on the east coast of Tasmania between the Tasman Peninsula and St Patrick's Head. Together these people formed the Oyster Bay clan. The Risdon Cove area was a major hunting ground and during spring and summer the Moomairemener frequently collected shellfish on the banks of the Rayghe-Pyerenne (The Derwent River).

On a bright clear morning in early September 1803 a small British party under the command of 23 year old Lieutenant John Bowen of the Royal Navy landed at a cove on the Eastern Shore of the River Derwent to found a British colony in Van Diemen's Land.

The settlement at Risdon Cove was abandoned after just five months and a permanent site was established across the river, and named Hobart. The settlement at Risdon Cove, although abandoned, was the seed, which led to the colonisation of Tasmania.

The Clarence municipality was slow to develop despite its close proximity to Hobart. Its only early connection was a slow ferry service. In 1943 the first bridge, a floating pontoon structure, was completed. Following the bridge opening the area experienced steady growth, from a population of just over 5000 in 1947, to its current population of approximately 55,000 with more than 24,000 dwellings.

In January 1975 a section of the Tasman Bridge, which had replaced the Hobart floating bridge in 1964, collapsed after being struck by the heavily laden ore carrier, the Lake Illawarra. Millions of dollars were invested in Clarence as development increased to counter the temporary isolation from the City of Hobart.

Bellerive and Rosny Park expanded as businesses established new branches and the modern Eastlands Shopping Centre was built. A new highway between Lindisfarne and Bridgewater was developed to improve the remaining road link with Hobart, a second permanent bridge, the Bowen Bridge was constructed to replace a temporary bridge connection across the Derwent River north of Risdon Cove.

The Tasman Bridge was officially re-opened on 8 October 1977.

The municipality of Clarence was given city status on 24 November 1988.

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