For many thousands of years, Sullivans Cove has been the traditional land of the muwinina Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Before European settlement, the area was a place of forests and plains, fertile wetlands and a natural freshwater stream that cascaded from the mountain we know as kunanyi/Mt Wellington, to the sheltered sea.
When Lt Governor David Collins arrived here in 1804, he found a safe harbour – a place where his new colony could grow and thrive.
Throughout the early years of Hobart’s settlement, Sullivans Cove was transformed. The waterfront quickly grew wharves and streets, houses and factories. The air rang with the sound of industry and trade – of working flour mills, fruit canneries, whaling ships and the shouted voices of countless workers.
For many, this was a place of hope and new beginnings, for others, hardship and despair. It was a world of salty air, smoke, steam, and constant movement. A place to which people of all backgrounds were drawn – to find opportunity, to pay for their crimes, to work and feed their families and build a new life in the colony of Van Diemen’s Land.
Within this new world, a city grew. Stone warehouses emerged, cut from the rock of the hills that curved around the waterfront. Mills opened their doors, grinding the grain that would feed the colony. Factories processed the fruits of the land and shipped them to the world. Houses, be they stone or shanty, sheltered families of migrants, convicts and settlers. And wharves and jetties reached into the sea, connecting the fledgling settlement of Hobart Town to the rest of the world.
For more than 200 years, Sullivans Cove has been the main stage upon which the drama of Hobart life has played out. Today, still, distant stories are being uncovered, a light is now being shone on the history of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, just as new chapters are written and continue to unfold. Visitors still arrive aboard great ships. People still settle here from all over the world. The many stories of our waterfront city are still here, bound by the enduring places and characters of Sullivans Cove – come and discover them for yourself.