Your Town with Cass – Franklin TAS

In this month’s Your Town with Cass column, Move To More blogger and Eugowra local Cassie Gates, chats with stylist, writer and photographer, Michelle Crawford about her life in the sleepy town of Franklin in Tasmania.

Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 1
Image credit: Michelle Crawford

What’s your Franklin story, Michelle? 

We moved from Sydney to the Huon Valley back in 2004. We’d just had a baby and couldn’t afford the home we wanted, with the life we wanted for our new family. Looking around regional NSW, nothing really stood out. On a trip to visit friends in Hobart we simply fell in love with Tasmania! We returned to Sydney and quit our jobs, gave notice on the house we were renting, and two months later we were living in Huonville! No money, no job and no idea, and it was the best thing we ever did!

We bought the quintessential farmhouse, a white weatherboard home on a half-acre block of land. It was a dream for me; this is exactly what I wanted for my kids growing up. We planted an orchard, cooked on a wood stove, had chooks, and the kids would spend hours having fun outdoors. It was the perfect life for my family, and we spent the next 14 years living here.

My husband initially found it challenging to find a job, but when he did, he has been very happy working with a Telco and continues to work with them today. I was happy being a mum, and I found the area quite creative. I always wanted to work with food and have that strong connection to where my food came from, and those that grew it, and Tasmania is an excellent place for that. I loved cooking, and as a sideline to being a Mum, I baked cakes and sold them at the Farmers Market on a weekend. I love storytelling and would blog about this as well. I made a lot of connections through doing this, and it turned out to be the launch pad for my career in cooking, catering, photographing, and styling cookbooks.

When the kids were older and we had outgrown the place, we started looking for a new place to live. We did contemplate buying a piece of land and building a house, but costs began to blow out, and it all felt too hard, to be honest. Meanwhile, the ‘Bowmont’ was sitting here in Franklin. Once an antique store, a rambling, dust-filled store filled to the brim with ‘stuff’. We knew the building quite well and had been shopping there for years. It had languished on the market for over a year with no interest. My dream to have a new home, an event space, and B&B accommodation was sitting right in front of me, already built! So, we ditched the idea of building a new home and bought the ‘Bowmont’ instead!

This was in November 2019. We were now the proud owners of this magnificent old building, which was in serious need of some love and attention. Then COVID hit Australia! Our family of four was locked in this 22-room house, and it was a great way to get to know the place.

Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 2
Image credit: Marnie Hawson

What is life REALLY like in Franklin?

Franklin is a really small village in the Huon Valley. It is on the main thoroughfare down the state, right on the beautiful Huon River. Back in the day, it was a significant port for industry in the area. Before roads, the river was the road, and timber and produce used to leave this area through the port. There are lots of significant old buildings from this time. When the roads were built a lot of the industry moved to Huonville and poor Franklin went into decline. It feels like a town trapped in time with lots of old Georgian or Victorian buildings and cottages, all heritage listed. The maritime spirit still lives on, though, and in Franklin, we have the Wooden Boat Centre and The Living Boat Trust, with wooden boat building still very much alive. Many people here are involved in boat building and want to keep this incredible art alive. Pretty much the place is full of older men with holey jumpers messing around with boats! Our population sits at around 450 people.

The Trust brings many people to town with events held throughout the year, like regattas and weekly rowing sessions. I love that they have a weekly dinner amongst the boats, moving aside the life jackets and oars, and people pay fifteen dollars for a three-course meal. One incredible woman cooks for them all, every week! She doesn’t know if there will be five people or fifty! She does a great meal, and everyone loves it. With a lot of older people, this may be the only decent meal they get all week, and to spend it with friends in this beautiful location, what could be better?

Then we have the Franklin Palais in town, a 120-year-old building with concerts, markets, movie screenings and an incredible committee that raises money to maintain this old gem. I love movie nights on the last Sunday of the month, where everyone must bring a plate. Most times, it is a current film, and afterwards, we all share in the delicious treats people have brought along to the event. You bring a blanket because it does get chilly, have a glass of wine, it such a sweet village we live in. I really love living here.

My son absolutely loves living here too. He is very creative and dabbles with blacksmithing. We have a forge out the back for him to tinker with and he also likes to make jeans, so he has an industrial sewing machine to make those.

Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 3
Image credit: Sam Shelley

What sort of jobs are available? 

Health would be our biggest employer, along with Aged Care, including home help. It is still very agricultural, with orchards and vineyards prominent. Aquaculture is also a significant employer of the Salmon farms we have in the region. Tourism is a very important player, and that brings with it hospitality jobs. You will be snapped up in a second down here if you are a chef!

What do you do on the weekend for fun?

There is always a list of jobs to do on this building so our weekends tend to be doing odd jobs around here. We love to entertain, and we do a lot of that. We are very lucky there are a lot of walking trails around here and some weekends we will go and do that.

What is the art & culture scene like?

There is a huge artistic community here. There are always art exhibitions and art trails during the weekend, a vibrant, healthy art scene. The Huon Valley Council has invested in a converted shipping container, which they call ‘Artbox,’ and this travels around the region with pop-up art exhibitions in it.

The Palais has the most amazing bands playing, from folk, Tasmania Symphony Orchestra, and contemporaries. The Cygnet Folk Festival is always a good time of year for music, and that brings a lot of acts to town.

Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 4
Image credit: Michelle Crawford

How easy is it to get to Franklin travel-wise?

You can get a bus into Huonville during peak times. Everyone has a car around here. The nearest airport is 50 minutes away in Hobart.

Is there a sporting culture in Franklin? 

It is AFL crazy here. Every town around the region has a cricket pitch, so cricket is big during the summer months. And given our amazing river, rowing and sailing is huge here. The kids from Hobart come down here to compete in Regattas.

I like to swim every day in the Huon River. There is a group of us, the ‘Franklin Frosties,’ who do this every day all year round. Some days, there are half a dozen of us; other days, there are 25. It gets down to six degrees in winter, and it’s a huge buzz swimming in that!

Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 5
Image credit: Michelle Crawford

I bet there are some nice restaurants/pubs to eat at in town.

In Franklin we are spoilt for choice. I can recommend you go try the Post Office, yes the post office! Inside you can pick up your packages and grab a lovely bite to eat. The best toasties, delicious pies, amazing cakes and a good coffee.

A great little Turkish caféFish & Chips shop and an Italian Osteria exist in Franklin. The couple make their own pasta.

We have a pub for your typical pub grub, parmy and steaks with chips, kind of thing.

A bit further afield, we have Willy Smiths Orchard, which not only grows organic apples and makes incredible cider, but also has a beautiful restaurant in an old Apple Shed where they do tastings as well. And recently, a historic old homestead, Clifton Estate, has been bought by someone, and they have converted an old Hop Kiln into a restaurant. Our favourite is the Lost Captain in Huonville, set in a gorgeous old homestead by the river, with talented chefs cooking contemporary food and sourcing produce from growers around the valley.

The vineyards in the area are quite small and don’t have food as part of their offering. They will though get a food van in for special open weekends which is nice.

There was Fat Pig Farm until recently. Mat and Sadie have temporarily closed the restaurant while searching for someone to take over.

Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 6
Image credit: Michelle Crawford

What are the schools like in town? 

There is a primary school and a High School here in Franklin, and then the kids must go to a College in Hobart for years 11 and 12. The way it works here in the region is several High Schools feeds into a College where the kids finish off their final years of school. They are good, well-resourced schools, and kids can do whatever subjects they like because the numbers are there. I like this system they have here in Tassie.

Hobart has Universities for further tertiary education.

Can you get in to see a doctor? 

Like most regional areas, it can be hard to get into a doctor. The trick is getting on the books, and once you are on, you can usually see a doctor within a couple of weeks.

One of the downsides of Tassie would be the health system, it is very understaffed. I go through to Hobart for the dentist and specialists, it’s only half an hour away.


Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 7
Image credit: Lean Timms

Ok. Here’s your time to pitch! If you had to give someone one reason to move to Franklin, what would it be?

Community, the river and the weather. It’s so hard to narrow it down to just one. Oh, and the scenery! It’s so frickin beautiful here! You look outside and it is stunning, natural beauty everywhere. It changes all the time, which I love. We currently have swans on the water, with people in their row boats.

Your Town with Cass - Franklin TAS - Image 8

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