If there’s one place to add to your mountain bike bucket list it’s Derby in the North East Corner of Tasmania. Blue Derby is the official name to some of the finest flowing yet challenging single track MTB trails you will find anywhere in the world. Nestled in forested valleys, Derby was a sleepy town until 2013, quietly sitting on the banks of the Ringarooma River. Today it has been transformed into a wonderland of tracks and trails, so if you’re a mountain biking enthusiast, Derby and the northeast of Tasmania should be high on your list of must-see places.
Derby sits approximately 288 km north of Hobart and 94 km northeast of Launceston. If you’re arriving in the State by boat, you’ll want to head east from Devonport to Launceston along the Bass Highway, before turning onto the A3 running through the rolling hills of the northeast towards Scottsdale and finally to Derby. If you’re after a gentler drive with less tight corners (or you’re towing a campervan) take the B81 through Lilydale to Scottsdale. You’ll only need a few minutes more and you’ll have an easier drive. Image thanks to Flow Mountain Bike.
The quiet town of Derby is dominated by the Blue Derby Mountain Bike Park which was opened in 2015. The park was specifically designed to weave through and around Derby and the adjacent Blue Tier Forest Reserve, providing riders with over 80 kilometres of single track mountain bike (MTB) trails. An exhilarating design has made this small town a mecca for anyone with an interest in mountain biking.
Blue Derby is not just about the amazing single tracks, it also about the stunning environment that you experience from each and every ride including a mix of man tree fern filled rain forests, wet myrtle forests, sub-alpine terrain, granite slabs, views of rivers and waterfalls, significant elevation gain and more berms that you have probably ever encountered.
However, from a mountain bikers point of view one of the most stiking features of Blue Derby is what lies below your tyres. The soil around the area has a granite content so it’s granular nature allowing it to drain quickly during and after any rain. That means all season riding. Don’t worry, there’s enough dirt in there to provide enough grip to rail around the endless supply of top to bottom berms.
The Blue Derby trail head is at the base of the Derby township where you’ll find a well-documented list of all the trails within the network along with some suggest routes.
From the trail head you’ll need to ride up the green trail rated ‘Axehead’. From here you have access to the majority of trails which range from family friendly smooth and rolling green run of Sawtooth all the way up to double black rated pin-balling rock garden of Shearpin.
A highly recommended option is to book yourself (and friends) onto a shuttle from Blue Tier to Derby. This destination ride starts with the shuttle drop off high in the sub-alpine environment of Blue Tier and then winds itself through a myrtle beech forest covered in moss and lichen down towards the township of Welborough. The Blue Tier trail will have you in awe of the natural beauty of the surrounding environment but also amaze you at just how far you can travel without even pedalling. It then leads you into the famous Big Chook trail with its never ending berm upon berm all the way to the valley. Image thanks to Flow Mountain Bike.
The best part is that these trails conveniently allow a half way stop at the Welborough Pub where you’ll be able to stop for a decent bite to eat and a great selection of drinks.
The shuttle then picks you up again and takes to the start of the Atlas trail which then leads you back towards Derby. Along this stretch the tempo changes slightly with good mix of all round trail riding (yes it has a couple of uphill sections) including the obligatory supply berms, set amongst the man tree ferns reminiscent of Rotorua plus some roots and rocks to make it more interesting. Make sure you also stop for at the look Derby dam before you head into the iconic Dam Busters trail or even the granite filled Black Dragon.
No matter whether you choose a shuttle or pedal yourself whatever trail you choose there are plenty of options and all of them are world class. In April 2017, Derby hosted round 2 of the Enduro World Series which showcased to the world of mountain biking that this place is the real deal. To top Detonate Trail won the “ trail of the year” by the riders within the Enduro World Series. Challenge yourself to the infamous rock gap within the Detonate, but be warned, this trail is not for the faint hearted.
Derby’s trails are in prime condition and riders domestically and from around the globe are riding and enjoying these trails. Better yet, construction is currently taking place to expand upon the world class trails along with some trails to allow newer or younger riders to get into the sport.
Surprisingly there is also another side to Derby that is absolutely fascinating – it’s history as the town with possibly the richest tin mine in Australia. It is stunning to imagine that this area was once home to over 3,000 people connected to the Briseis Tin Mine. Make sure to stop in at the Schoolhouse Museum if you’re interested in the history of the area.
Derby has a main street of small cafés, gift shops and plenty of parking, so if you’re waiting for your other half to finish their ride you can grab a coffee, take a shower or wash your bike down at the bike wash.
For history buffs there is quite a lot of history in the area, particularly regarding the former tin mine and dam disaster of the 1920’s. The influence of Chinese workers has also played a part in the area as many hundreds were working for the tin mine at its peak.
Most visitors to Derby hire a car so that they can stay within the area for as long as they wish or can easily travel between their accommodation and the tracks. There are many tour companies who provide organised tours and additional experiences within the area of Derby including the obvious mountain biking tours and other tours such as fishing charters, vineyard tours etc. There is a limited bus service which travels through Derby to the nearby town of Winnaleah. The bus service is offered by Sainty’s North East Bus Service.
Accommodation offerings in the area of Derby include many self-contained options, hotels, small cottages and camping options. You can also stay in one of the nearby towns with plenty of options of places to stay if you’re happy to drive.
Tackling a track on one of Derby’s famous MTB trails should be at the top of every visitor’s priority list when visiting Derby and the Northeast corner of Tasmania. The Blue Derby Mountain Bike Park offers a number of really exciting and challenging tracks that have become some of the most photographed in the mountain bike circuit world. You’ll be riding in the footsteps of MTB champions as the track hosts riders during the Enduro World Series. Image thanks to Tourism Tasmania & Supplied Courtesy of Flow Mountain Bike.
The Derby Schoolhouse Museum provides visitors to Derby a chance to step back into the past and see the history of the area including the stories related to the Briseis Dam disaster of 1929 and information on residents who impacted this little town in its prime.
Nearby Derby you’ll find Little Blue Lake, a popular attraction because of the special blue colour of the water. The lake has a high concentration of minerals at its base which have been left over from mining operations in the area. The high mineral content creates a vivid light blue reflection of the water. Little Blue Lake is a popular stop and the colour has to be seen to be believed. Image thanks to Blue Derby Pods Ride.
There are a number of places to eat in Derby and the surrounds, so why not stop into the town during the day for a traditional Devonshire tea and then finish at the end of the day with a pub meal at the local?
Considering you’re in the northeast of Tasmania make sure you find a dish that includes some fragrant lavender, produced by the lavender farm not even an hour away.
Derby was settled in 1874, nineteen years after European explorers first set foot in the area. The settlement was created when George Renison Bell discovered tin in the area and the interest of prospectors was aroused. In 1876, the Krushka brothers founded the ‘Brothers Mine’ and the little town became known as Brothers Home.
The population of Derby had swelled to over 3,000 people by the 1890’s as the mining industry gained momentum and the Brothers Mine (renamed by this stage to the Briseis Mine) drew over 122 tonnes of tin every month. The name of the town had also changed, to Derby, after Edward Smith-Stanley, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the 14th Earl of Derby.
During this time the nearby Cascade River was dammed to create Briseis Dam, a 23 metre high and 145 metre wide dam wall held back the river and provided high pressure water to support mining operations.
In April 1929 the northeast of Tasmania received unprecedented rainfall. Within 48 hours, 475mm of rain fell and the Briseis Dam failed. A cascade of water 20-30 metres high raged down the valley and destroyed everything in its path.
Fourteen people lost their lives and mining in the area was stopped for nearly 10 years due to the extensive damage to the mine. Stories of the tragedy included an entire family taken away by the flood waters and many other locals affected.
The dam wall was rebuilt in the 1930’s and still stands today and once the tin mine reopened it became an important assistant and supplier to World War II efforts, eventually closing in 1948.
The area surrounding Derby and the Blue Tier Forest Reserve is a beautiful area of temperate Tasmanian rainforest and mountains. The terrain in this area lends itself to bushwalking, and of course fantastic mountain bike riding with rocky granite outcrops, winding rivers and spectacular views.
If you’re thinking of travelling to Derby during the month of October, keep an eye out for the Derby River Derby as part of the North East Rivers Festival. This festival is a family friendly event which includes a very fun water race involving rafts made by teams. Guaranteed to be a laugh! Image thanks to Tourism Tasmania & Rick Eaves.
Bridestowe Lavender Estate can be found under an hour’s drive from Derby. Experience fields of gorgeous French lavender, a café serving edible lavender dishes and pick up gifts for your friends and family back home. Image thanks to Tourism Tasmania & Kathryn Leahy.
Thirty minutes from Derby you can be on the golf course at one of the country’s premier golf courses – Barnbougle. What a weekend away, golfing and mountain biking in the spectacular north east of Tasmania!