Australia has a long history of sheep farming, and within 50 years of their arrival in 1788, sheep had become the main source of income for Australian industry.
29 sheep arrived in Australia with the British First Fleet. 230 years later, wool markets around the world are dominated by Australian exports, and our country has more than 27 million sheep; raised largely for wool over meat.
Humble farming has defined Australia for centuries, and sheep are considered the iconic Aussie flock; farmers continue to work sheep stations throughout the country to feed and clothe the nation.
A true-blue producing nation, there are now 85,681 farms across Australia, and many sheep properties invite you to stay; to swap those white sneakers for gumboots and experience country life in a real and authentic way.
One such property is Rathmore, an hour from Hobart in Tasmania’s Central Highlands; a historic sheep property settled in 1828, which is unique in offering a choice of accommodation.
Choose to stay in the beautiful sandstone homestead with the land owners, with grand bedrooms and period furniture, or in the historic Shearers Quarters, recently revived to offer a country experience that is rustic chic.
Rathmore Tasmania Farmstay: Stay on a Historic Australian Sheep Property (in Luxury!)
What is a Farmstay
A sheep station is a large property in Australia or New Zealand, where the main activity is raising sheep for their wool and/or meat (it’s our equivalent of a ranch).
It’s a large pastoral property which includes a main residence and a range of outbuildings, including shearing sheds, catching pens, and quarters separate from the main residence, where the shearers would live.
Context: While shearers today are contractors who go from property to property, historically they would live in basic quarters onsite.
Sheep shearing is probably the most iconic activity in rural Australia, so when it comes to choosing a farmstay experience, choosing a sheep property is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in rural station life.
And being that farmstay hosts often share their family home, or provide you with self-catered accommodation where you can freely explore the property, this is a fantastic way to meet down-to-earth Australians; to meet the people behind the produce, and often learn the ways of the land.
When it comes to Rathmore there are two options for accommodation which allow you to turn back time depending on your style of luxury and adventure.
Booking a grand room in Rathmore House allows you to experience life as a land owner; booking a room in the self contained Shearers Quarters gives you a taste of how the shearers once lived.
Or, you can experience a mix of both worlds, by booking into the Shearers Quarters, but taking your meals in the formal Georgian dining room of the main homestead.
Regardless of your choice, a farmstay at Rathmore’s 92 acre sheep property is a magical experience which allows you to sidestep the busy world for a few days, slow down, and savour the simple joys of nature.
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Rathmore House is an elegant Georgian homestead that has been beautifully restored, with four guest rooms available for stays of two nights or more.
This is the home of Cally and Richard Lyons, who are the most warm, friendly, and wonderful hosts, always ecstatic to welcome travelers into their home.
This is a house which has to be seen to be appreciated, and truly transports you back in time (though old world luxury is complimented by modernity where it counts, like electricity, WiFi, and 21st century bathrooms!).
As you enter the house and take your first step on the original floorboards, a warmth radiates throughout from the wood heating, and the mouthwatering smell of country-home cooking, from the delectable delights Cally and Richard have been cooking.
As soon as you step into the grand hallway you’ll notice the handcrafted cedar timber finishes, and an original staircase which leads up to two large attic bedrooms. There are two adjoining king rooms downstairs, complete with period furniture, iron beds, and a fireplace.
There is a spacious sitting room, dining room (both with fireplaces), scullery, conservatory, front veranda and a picturesque garden. Breakfast provisions are included, and lunches and dinners can be arranged upon request.
Rich in features characteristic of the Old Colonial Georgian era, the house is grand, though they have also preserved old-fashioned Tasmanian country hospitality, which you’ll unlikely find in any other place on earth.
Photos: A Tour Through Rathmore House
Shearers Quarters & Cottage
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For a more adventurous and independent farmstay experience, separated from the main house in a private part of the property are the historic shearers quarters, where the sheep shearers once bunked down.
Though while the heritage of the buildings have been preserved, the inside of the rooms have been revived, and are a lot more luxurious than what 1850’s sheep shearers would have had in the day (including private en-suite bathrooms).
The perfect combination of rustic chic, and modern heritage, there are 4 Shearers Quarters rooms, all with access to a shared Messroom with fireplace and well equipped kitchen (breakfast provisions are provided).
Three of the bedrooms (two Queen and one Twin) have ensuite bathrooms with shower, vanity, toilet and hair dryer, and one has a huge exclusive use bathroom with bathtub, shower, vanity, toilet and hair dryer.
Despite being quite far removed from the main homestead, in its own private slice of nature, WiFi in the Shearers Quarters is lightning fast, though you probably won’t have time for that between your time spent exploring the property, interacting with animals, and toasting marshmallows over the outdoor campfire under the stars.
While the Shearers Quarters are 4 rooms off a main messroom / kitchen, there is also a fully self contained Cottage which you can exclusively book, which was formerly the Shearers Cooks Cottage where meals were prepared by a cook and eaten by the shearers.
Things to Do at Rathmore
Rathmore offers 92 acres of property to explore, and you’re given free reign to enjoy the property, whether that’s enjoying a secluded picnic on a Rathmore hilltop at sunset, setting up a campfire, or interacting with the many animals that call the farm home.
While you’re well position to explore the Derwent Valley, and Mt Field National Park with attractions like Russell Falls, there are plenty of ways to spend your time at Rathmore without leaving the property.
And with chickens to chase (they’re faster than me), baby lambs and calves to feed, a rowboat on the dam, plenty of bush walking, a waterfall onsite, and wallabies, pademelons, quolls, possums, wombats and Tasmanian devils who come out at night (bring a torch), it’s likely that you won’t have time to leave!
Pro tip: If you’re heading down to the Dew Rivulet, keep an eye out for 6 local wild platypus they have onsite. They’re very easy to spot close to the embankment.
The Wool Shed
The Wool Shed sits on the property inbetween the main homestead and the Shearers Quarters, and this is a fully operational shearing shed, in incredibly good working condition considering its 1800’s bones.
If they’re shearing sheep at the time, you’ll be welcomed to observe the iconic spectacle, and while sheep are no longer shorn with blade shears (similar to garden clippers), historic equipment still hangs from the walls preserving the evolution of the industry.
When they’re not shearing, the door is open for you to independently wander through, though to truly dive into the history, wander up to the house and ask Cally for a tour. Born and raised on a sheep property in Queensland, she can vividly bring the context of the history you’re seeing to life.
Also on the property are several hay, vehicle and machinery sheds, a silo, and a beautiful outbuilding which was once the stables, though has now been converted into a stunning dining room with overhanging chandelier amid the hay.
And if you ask to be introduced to Hercules, you’ll have the chance to share bread with their highly energetic, bubbly, playful steer (you can either feed him from behind the fence, or decide if you’re confident enough to enter the field).
Watch this Transformation
How to Book
Rathmore is located an hour from Hobart, in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley / Central Highlands near the historic towns of Bothwell, Hamilton and New Norfolk.
Between the main house, the shearers quarters, and the cottage, it can cater for up to 27 guests, and is an ideal venue for family & friend gatherings, retreats, seminars and workshops as well as a tourist stay.
This property was owned by one family for 150 years, and never before open to the public before Cally and Richard started offering the farmstay.
Australia has the largest and most famous wool economy the world had ever seen. To experience authentic Tasmanian country living, and spend time on a real Australian sheep property, visit rathmore.com.au.
Say hi to Cally and Richard for me!