It could be a blip on the map or a charming little town on a country river depending on your perspective. The tiny town of Franklin, (under 400 residents in the last census) is located 45 minutes from Hobart and forms part of the Huon Valley trail. Like the river which threads through the rich pasture-lands still producing apples for which Tasmania is famous, The Huon was named after one of the many French explorers who visited the island, Jean- Michel Huon de Kermadec. Surprisingly for the time, the town takes its name after the wife of the polar explorer, Sir John Franklin. Careful to ensure that the inhabitants were worthy to live in a town bearing her name,she set to interviewing them for their suitability, which could be seen as an early example of social engineering. The historic buildings in the little town have been revamped due to a wave of incomers from the mainland, seeking a slower pace of life, lower cost of living and a cooler climate. Since arriving on the island a month ago, I am amazed at the number of Queenslanders I have met who have chosen to relocate here, and not just to the capital Hobart but these smaller towns as well. A recent meet and greet held to welcome newcomers to the town saw over 200 new people, mostly couples over sixty, turn up to meet the locals. The island at the bottom of Australia, is having a resurgence as a favoured retirement destination.
I met my brother for lunch at the Petty Sessions Gourmet Café so named because in an earlier time, it was a local court when the area was thriving.. The food was good and the view of the Egg Islands, strips of land along the river, calm and beautiful. The little town has a strong boating community, and the artisan skill of wooden boat building is still practised. The Living Boat trust is an organisation which offers special needs children an opportunity to learn the joys of sailing.
In many ways this creative little town is a microcosm of the demographic shifts throughout the island leading to an increasing appreciation of the beautiful island and its unique history, wildlife and natural environments.
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