Kangaroo Bay Project History

Kangaroo Bay forms part of the land originally occupied by the Moomairemener people of the Oyster Bay tribe. Kangaroo Bay late 1960s

The name ‘Kangaroo Bay’ is first recorded in the diary of Robert Knopwood in 1807.

As early as 1806, Lieutenant Governor David Collins began making grants of land in the Kangaroo Bay area to a diverse group including former marines and Norfolk Island settlers.

One of these former Norfolk Island settlers, Richard Morgan, was allocated the centre of the bay adjoining Kangaroo Bay Creek in 1807, as well as additional land for his sons. The Rosny Barn, built by the Morgans, continues to this day as a major landmark on the eastern shore.

As is often the case with early place names, Kangaroo Bay and Kangaroo Point are often conflated in historical records, however in general Kangaroo Point referred to what would later become the township of Bellerive. Both the bay and the point were used as crossing points from the earliest days of European settlement, with Kangaroo Bay offering a safe shelter for vessels during stormy weather, as well as affording access to the wheat and meat supplied by Morgan’s farm.

By the 1820s a number of inns had been opened along Kangaroo Point to serve travellers crossing the Derwent; by this stage, Kangaroo Point was the main crossing place from the Hobart settlement to the eastern shore.

As settlement expanded, the Kangaroo Bay / Kangaroo Point area also became an industrial centre, with slaughterhouses and shipbuilding yards.

By the 1830s Kangaroo Bay / Kangaroo Point was well and truly established as both the main crossing point for the Derwent and a major industrial centre.

Vessels such as the 33 tonne Boddington regularly called at Kangaroo Bay to take on sheep, wool and potatoes.

In 1832 the first steam ferry to arrive in Van Diemen’s Land, the Surprise, ran from Hobart to Kangaroo Point. From 1855 the ferry P.S. Kangaroo, with two separate hulls joined together by wooden planking, was possibly the first catamaran in the world. She was affectionately known as ‘Double Guts’.

Ship builders such as Samuel Johnson and John Petchey established their shipyards on Kangaroo Point, from where vessels such as the Sir George Arthur were launched.

With such growing activity in the area, increased policing was required, which led to the establishment of a watch-house at Kangaroo Point overlooking the bay. Built in 1842, the stone watch house became the centre of policing operations for the area; later it served as the first Clarence Council Chambers. It is now the home of the Bellerive Community Arts Centre.

As well as a major shipping centre, Kangaroo Bay in 1892 became the terminus for the Bellerive to Sorell Railway. With the new Sorell Causeway, the railway gave farmers from Bellerive to Sorell a viable means of getting their produce to market.

The railway came into Kangaroo Bay over what is now Bligh Street, swept around the foreshore of the bay and ended in a purpose built terminus on a long spit and jetty into Kangaroo Bay which allowed ferries to connect goods and passengers directly with the train. After many years of unprofitable service, the Bellerive to Sorell railway closed in 1926.

In January 1975 a section of the Tasman Bridge collapsed after being struck by an ore carrier, the Lake Illawarra, isolating the eastern shore from Hobart.

Reconstruction of the Tasman Bridge was not completed until late 1977 and during the closure period the role of the old Kangaroo Bay railway spit as a ferry terminus was reactivated. The effects of the Tasman Bridge collapse and the Kangaroo Bay “ferry boat shuffle” remains in the hearts and minds of eastern shore residents.

The potential for Kangaroo Bay to become a focal point for the city has perhaps not always been recognised. Historically commercial and residential development in Bellerive Village and along Cambridge Road turned its back on the bay.

In the early days parts of the bay were used as municipal refuse tip, and putting an above ground sewer pipe around the waterfront was not given a second thought.

A reorientation of development towards the waterfront has been an objective of the more recent planning that has been undertaken for the area. 

Restoration of a sustainable ferry service to Kangaroo Bay remains an objective. 


Further information:

The Eastern Shore – a history of Clarence (Dr Alison Alexander)


Clarence City Council
38 Bligh Street (PO Box 96)
Rosny Park, Tasmania 7018
Telephone:(03) 62 17 9500

Page URL: http://www.ccc.tas.gov.au/page.aspx?u=1940

Page last Reviewed: 2017-05-09T14:09:45