The town’s pioneers were re-settled from Norfolk Island in 1808. They soon farmed the rich land around the town. They introduced hops to the area in 1860 and the plant soon became an important crop.
The first road connecting the town to Hobart was built in 1818; the first railway was in 1887. During the 1940s, a newsprint mill was established at nearby Boyer, boosting industry in the local area. The railway is now preserved as the Derwent Valley Railway.
For some years after 1848, New Norfolk was the place of exile of the Irish nationalist leader Terence MacManus, where his cottage (“The Grange”) still stands. Later he was joined by his fellow Irish rebel Smith O’Brien.