Tasmania’s Central Highlands is home to some of the world’s greatest lakes and some of the state’s best camping locations.
The region known as the ‘heart of Tasmania’ is popular with campers, fishers and shooters and is home to both holiday shack owners and permanent residents.
But next weekend, thousands from across the state will flock to the area for the fourth-annual Highlands Bushfest at Bothwell.
The Central Highlands Council festival started in 2014 after councillors decided the region needed an iconic event.
Despite competing with other events on the same weekend, including the popular Huon Agricultural Show, Highlands Bushfest still manages to see about 4000 people through the gates each year.
Claiming to have “something for everyone”, the festival features everything from sheep dog demonstrations and speed shearing competitions to historic machinery displays and Tasmanian reptiles.
Similar to the north’s Afgest event, Highlands Bushfest hosts stallholders, which have a specific focus on recreational activities popular in the region – fishing, camping, four-wheel-driving and camping.
Special guests will be Tasmanian television personalities Nick Duigan and Andrew Hart.
The hosts of the popular fishing series Hook, Line and Sinker have MC’d the event since it began.
But their involvement in the festival goes beyond holding a microphone, with the duo taking out the Iron Man Shearing Novelty Event two years in a row.
Hart said during the speed shear, Duigan got to “skull a beer” while he “ate a cold pie” before their third teammate started shearing the sheep.
“It turns out I’ve actually got quite a talent for eating a cold pie,” he said.
“Our team has been undefeated for two years and I expected to continue being undefeated this year.”
According to Duigan, Hart’s pastry talent was “not one that’s widely useful” but was “unrivalled” nonetheless.
“He’s like a kitchen appliance designed to do nothing else but eat cold pies,” Duigan said.
While showing off his cold pie-eating skills is one of the highlights of the event for Hart, he said hearing local fishing stories was his favourite part of the festival.
He said across the weekend, both him and Duigan get to meet keen fishers and see plenty of photos of local catches – they even get a few fishing tips.
“We enjoy the event because of the people, they’re fantastic outdoor loving, four-wheel-driving enthusiasts, fishing enthusiasts, farmers … we fit in really well with that type of crowd,” Hart said.
“I don’t think it’s a secret they’re trying to turn it into the Agfest of the south and it’s been really good to watch it grow every year.”
For Duigan, “seeing what’s new in the fishing scene” is always a highlight at Highlands Bushfest.
He said the fishing industry in particular was “well represented” at the event.
“It showcases many of the things I’m interested in personally … the outdoors, fishing, camping,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity to talk to people who go fishing and who might watch our show that have ideas of what we should do or places we should go.
“We get plenty of fishing tips and even people who say I don’t know what I’m doing when I’m fishing, but that’s okay … we do get heaps of suggestions.”
One local fisherman who agrees with Duigan and Hart about the success of Highlands Bushfest is professional fly fishing guide, Ken Orr.
As a third-generation fly fisherman who grew up on the lakes, Orr described the event as “very typical of what goes on in the Central Highlands”.
“It’s a celebration of what we do and is unique to the Central Highlands,” he said.
Having attended every year since it started, Orr said he hoped the event would continue to grow, but maintain its unique outdoor theme.
“We don’t want it as another Agfest, we just want it as bushfest and to grow as bushfest and continue to showcase the Central Highlands, which we really need to be promoting more,” he said.
As a representative for the Tasmanian Shooters and Fishers party, Orr said he would be spending much of the weekend “talking to the people” about fishing, hunting and shooting.
Organised by the staff at Central Highlands Council, the event is all about the community, with entry restricted to a gold coin donation to allow everyone the opportunity to experience the “highlands hospitality”.
“We expect that this event will continue to grow, and believe that patrons will enjoy what is on offer,” Central Highlands mayor Lou Triffitt said.
“Council are conscious that cost can prohibit families from attending events, and have kept entry to a gold coin donation. If you are one of the many that enjoy the outdoor activities around fishing, hunting, camping and four wheel driving you will not be disappointed.”
The event will kick off on Saturday and run until Sunday at Bothwell Recreation Ground with free parking available.
HIGHLANDS BUSHFEST HIGHLIGHTS
- Speed Shearing competition on Sunday
- Historical machinery display
- Tas Reptilia
- Rosedale Stud animal nursery
- Entertainment by Bernie Bruce on Saturday and Lynda Grey on Sunday
- Sheep dog and dog jumping demonstrations
More at centralhighlands.tas.gov.au.