A few months ago I was driving through Derby with an old-timer Examiner photographer who hadn't been through the town in a few years.
"Cripes!" he said as we passed a swanky new accommodation venue to the right of the road as you enter the main street.
"Cripes!" he said again as he took in the funky cafes and restaurants, that have popped up or undergone refurbishments to service the new crowd of young people that populate the town.
"Cripes!" he said a third time, as he noticed the hoards of families, mostly helmeted and decked out in riding gear, milling around the caravan park.
In the five years since the Blue Derby mountain bike trails opened, the once-vanishing former mining town of about 300 people has undergone a radical tourism-fuelled transformation.
Any Tasmanian who hasn't made the trip North-East in the past five years would find the place close to unrecognisable. It has metamorphosed from a site of minor historical interest into a outdoor adventure backpacker hub, with the corresponding increase in vegan options, yoga classes, and takeaway smoothies.
Property prices have shot up and more than 33,000 people now visit the town each year, to eat, sleep, and ride the trails.
So you could be forgiven for thinking Derby would have been hard hit by the reduction in tourism brought about by the COVID-19 lockdown.
But tourism operators say they are having a busier winter than they've ever seen.
Crank it Cafe cook Renee Colgrave said they have been "flat-out" since restrictions on intrastate travel eased on June 5.
Cooped-up Tasmanians have seized the opportunity to get out of their homes and stretch their legs, and the local support has ushered in an unexpected busy season in what is usually a tranquil period for the town.
Ms Colgrave she said they had no expectations of a rush.
But some cafes in Derby found themselves serving upwards of 300 meals on both Saturday and Sunday last week, according to Dorset mayor Greg Howard.
Crank It Cafe was no exception, with an unusual rush of Tasmanian diners in a mid-June weekend.
"It's winter," she said, marvelling a little. "It's our dead season this time of year. Usually there's no one about at all."
The cafe is only open Friday to Monday - they will resume full-time operations for the school holidays - but the weekend patronage is more than keeping them going.
Ms Colgrave said she wouldn't be surprised to see the numbers pick up even further during the holidays - and for good reason: "The Derby burgers are the best ones you can find, and the coffee is the best in Tasmania."
Buck Gibson is another local who has seen a lot of new faces in town over the past three weeks.
The owner of bike hire and shuttle service Vertigo MTB, Mr Gibson usually recognises pretty much every Tasmanian who uses the trails.
A community of repeat customers forms the core of Derby's intrastate visitors.
But this June, an onslaught of newbies have arrived.
"One positive that we've noticed already, just for the past three weeks that we've reopened, is that there is a lot more Tasmanians mountain biking," he said.
"There's a lot more younger kids getting into it, a lot more families, they've got all the gear - it's great to see."
A boom in bike sales was reported nationally during the pandemic, with one Sydney supplier telling media, "We're the new toilet paper".
The same supplier, Giant Sydney, said their sales had quadrupled during COVID.
New customers were seeking exercise, wanting to avoid public transport for social distancing reasons, or finally had the time to take up a new hobby, and found the answer to their problems in bikes.
Mr Gibson said the visitation at Derby this June implied the mainland trend had been replicated enthusiastically by Tasmanians.
"It's really hard to buy a new bike at the moment - the companies are having trouble keeping up supply [because of the demand]," he said.
"And mountain biking is fantastic fun.
"Anyone who has a go at it, they really, really enjoy it.
It's really hard to buy a new bike at the moment - the companies are having trouble keeping up supply [because of the demand]. And mountain biking is fantastic fun. Anyone who has a go at it, they really, really enjoy it.Buck Gibson
"You can pick the right trail for you, start off nice and easy, and just have fun. The trails that are nice and flow-y - just have a go. And you get fit doing it too."
Mr Gibson said only about 10 per cent of Derby's visitation comes from overseas, with a higher percentage coming from other parts of Australia.
Tasmanian Premier Gutwein has announced the state's borders will reopen to domestic travellers from July 24 - depending on the situation on the mainland in a month's time.
Mr Gibson said as long as Derby can welcome interstate visitors again by September, the town should escape COVID fairly financially unscathed.
Vertigo MTB's staff of about 30 was reduced to eight during the lockdown, utilising JobKeeper.
But he said he actually somewhat enjoyed the enforced break from customer service.
"We went and did non-mountain bike things for a bit," he laughed. "Derby was just so quiet, it was amazing. And school holidays should have a bit of a buzz about it, which will be good.
"Looking forward, we're hoping that come September/October, interstate travel should be on the go again."
He said he didn't want to speak on behalf of tourism operators outside of the mountain biking world, many of which rely on international visitation more heavily.
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"Some of them will suffer," he said. "But I guess, we've got how ever many million Australians who travel overseas who won't be this next season."
"Let's hope they want to come down and get their Tasmania fix."
Dorset mayor Greg Howard, whose patch includes Derby, said he was more worried about tourism businesses in the North-East who cater for a large international market.
Bridestowe Lavender Farm and Barnbougle Lost Farm Golf Resort are both attractions in the region that draw large numbers of interstate and international guests - up to 90 per cent, Cr Howard said.
The North-East as a whole is less reliant on tourism than some other regional parts of the state.
Agriculture and forestry remain Dorset's two biggest industries - and they were industries largely unaffected by the pandemic.
Forestry, in fact, benefited from New Zealand shutting down industry during its total lockdown - with timber buyers instead turning to the Tasmanian market.
Agriculture, meanwhile, could see a delayed impact from the pandemic. Restaurants are likely to cut orders from produce suppliers in order to use the stock that has been sitting in their storerooms while the doors were shut. But, for the time being, North-East farmers have been operating as close to normal as could be hoped.
Bridport has also experienced a healthy influx of visitors over weekends - an atypical experience for a coastal town in chilly weather - and loosened social distancing restrictions from Friday will help the cafes of Scottsdale, Bridport, and other Dorset towns get back on their feet.
But there's still no doubt interstate visitation would help the region.
"Victoria's got two to three months - because JobKeeper cuts out at the end of September - to get their act together," Cr Howard said.
"If they can get their act together and control the community transmission ... you can understand why people are nervous about having Victorians come to their state when some of those people are possibly asymptomatic, they could have [COVID-19] and be spreading it and not know that they're spreading it.
"They've got to throw a heap of resources at Victoria and get that sorted."
The main reason, though, that the North-East is counting their lucky stars, is the fact that there have been no known active cases of coronavirus in the region.
"We were very lucky that we didn't have any cases at all," Cr Howard said.
"That gives us a bit of confidence in the way businesses can operate now.
"We were comfortable to stay up here in our own little patch, when it was blowing up on the North-West Coast, and there were multiple cases in Hobart and Launceston - we were very happy to be up here, make no mistake about that."
On a sunny Friday, Derby is certainly busier than one would expect of a tourist town in the middle of winter emerging from a pandemic.
The groups of two-wheeled travellers peddling leisurely down the bitumen of Main Street - a fixture of the town over the past five years - are happily present.
At least seven shuttle buses between the town centre and the trailhead appear ready to go, and the entrance to Blue Derby is swarming with mountain bikers slowly looping in the mud as they wait for their turn to hit the trails.
There are riders who are trying out a mountain bike for the very first time.
Families are there who moved their planned holidays to come to Derby when restrictions eased, after they were denied the opportunity over Easter.
At The Hub restaurant, an enticing smell of charring dough and sizzling cheese wafts from the pizza oven through the store.
Owner Jason Heydon estimates there have been two quiet days since they reopened for the June long weekend.
Today, two friends from Scottsdale - Britt Weeks and Denise French - are in town for lunch and a walk around Lake Derby.
The pair are enjoying a pleasant day out in the June sun, doing a normal activity that now seems like a luxury - going out for a nice meal in another town with a friend.
Spending the lockdown in the North-East of Tasmania, they have been more fortunate than many during the COVID period, Ms Weeks said.
"We haven't been touched by it, really - we've been very lucky," she said.