1846. Kelly convenes a meeting to inaugurate a horseboat ferry from Kelly’s Point to Tinderbox Bay. Approval is obtained the following year, and Anthony Denne, now the most prominent landowner hereabouts, is granted the operator’s licence, with the condition that constables and government employees travel for free, and in ‘a proper boat’.

The day-to-day operation of the ferry, though, is in the hands of John Bluett, who moves into Kelly’s old farm cottage in 1851. He is a tattooed convict from Cork, a ‘wandering gypsy’ transported for ‘stealing a donkey’, and a much-lashed recalcitrant. A ticket-of-leave man when he first becomes the ferryman, Bluett’s sentence expires in 1852, and he is now an employer, having taken on two other boatmen to help run the ferry. The service is discontinued in the late 1850s.

If the ferry had its own jetty its location is not known. Probably the first jetty is built by the marine police, with locals, the mail service – and the ferry – making use of this facility. Denne’s own boat is housed in the Marine Police’s large boatshed here at the end of Jetty Beach, and this may have been the ferry. The point is also a pilot station, even after Kelly’s death in 1853, when it is taken over by John Bleach. Bleach moves into Kelly’s farm cottage in 1865 and remains there until he retires in 1879, after which ‘Bleach’s cottage’ becomes derelict and the pilot station ceases to exist.

This site is resurrected in 1947, when it is chosen as a new car ferry terminus, and constructed at considerable expense the following year. ‘Madness’ shout the local fishermen, and sure enough, it is swept away in a 1951 storm. Visible today are the retaining wall and remains of the car ramp, and the beginning of the exit road is also readily identified.

Jetties have to be strong, well-built and constantly maintained to withstand the weight of stacked cargo and the horsecarts that deliver and collect goods. The original jetty at the southern end of the beach is constructed in 1880. It quickly becomes a social hub and a favoured day-excursion destination for trippers from Hobart, with the Cartela a regular visitor. During World War II the Arcadia II, a patrol boat armed with a Vickers machine gun, is based here (she is now the cruise boat on the Pieman River). The jetty has, in the past, also been the key site of local economic exchange. From here farmers exported their produce to the ‘mainland’, and during the fruit harvest, ferries might be berthed four abreast. The jetty you see now is substantially rebuilt in 2003.

Image sources

The images of the Arcadia II at the Dennes Point jetty in the 1920s, the ‘Sunday walking party’ and the channel road, south of the Dennes Point jetty, are from the Tasmanian Archives Series: Photographs and Negatives by R C Harvey, 1923 – 1951, Refs. NS1029_1_77, NS1029_1_369 and NS1029_1_367, respectively. Note that the image of the walking party has been reversed, as it is thought to be the wrong way around in the Archives collection!

Known sources of images of the ferries are as follows:

  • Ewen Alison – Tasmanian Archives series: Miscellaneous Collection of Photographs. 1860 – 1992 (PH30).
  • Taruna – Maritime Museum of Tasmania, attributed to John Craike.
  • Beagle – Ian Barwick (private collection).


(Click to enlarge images)