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Tasmania's West Coast Tour
From Devonport, head south on a 10-minute drive and explore Latrobe, with its colonial architecture and antique shops. One of the highlights of the area is the Warrawee Forest Reserve, whereby the Latrobe Landcare Group provides a unique insight into the Australian Bush. But perhaps its best attraction is the mystical and fascinating platypus, which you may see here in the wild.
a truly delectable experience, visit the House of Anvers, which incorporates
a chocolate museum, displays of chocolate making, chocolate tastings,
Just south of Latrobe, call into Ashgrove Farm Cheeses, which specialises in traditional country cheeses, or the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm at Elizabeth Town, where you can order fresh berries with just about anything.
Continue south to Deloraine, where you can picnic on the banks of the Meander River or lunch in a home-style café. The township boasts colonial buildings reflecting the area’s early history and gentle pastoral landscapes set against the spectacular backdrop of the Great Western Tiers. Nearby, daily tours are conducted through two of the extensive limestone caves of Mole Creek Kast National Park (see below).
Mole Creek, a short drive from Deloraine, is the centre of an important farming and forestry area and also the starting point for excursions into the Great Western Tiers and the underground limestone caves of Mole Creek Karst National Park. The Mole Creek caves have a long and complex history. The limestone in which the caves have developed began forming 400 to 500 million years ago. The area contains over 200 known caves, two of which are open to the public daily. King Solomon’s Cave, which is approximately 228 metres in length, is a dry cave and is lavishly decorated with shawls, stalactites, stalagmites and calcite crystals known as "King Solomon’s Diamonds". The nearby Marakoopa Cave (’marakoopa’ is the Aboriginal word for handsome) is much larger and deeper than King Solomon’s Cave, being some 457 metres in length. It features two underground streams, a large display of spectacular glow worms, large caverns, rim pools, reflections, shawls and flowstones. There are 246 steps (each way) in the cave and tours take approximately 60-80 minutes.
The nearby Trowunna Wildlife Park features native animals in a free-range setting and a nocturnal house where Tasmanian devils, native cats and possums can be viewed. Other attractions include a koala village and a display of the research material collected for the 1984 Tasmanian Tiger search, which was conducted from the park.
Also nearby is Stephen’s Honey Factory, where you can taste Tasmania’s unique leatherwood honey.
Peaceful farmlands, rugged mountain gorges, quiet streams, rivers well stocked with fish, waterfalls and virgin forests surround the town of Sheffield, at the foot of 1234-metre-high Mt Roland. The many outdoor murals for which the town is renowned depict the district’s pioneer history and other scenes of local interest. Purchase some fresh produce prior to stopping for lunch at the world-championship rowing course at Lake Barrington. If you’re travelling with children, nearby Staverton might be just the place to lose yourself for a minute or two in one of the seven hedge mazes at Tasmazia.
Visitors should bear in mind however that the wild weather of the Tasmanian highlands often shrouds the mountain in cloud.
There is always something interesting happening at Cradle Mountain. The comings and goings of wallabies and wombats in the late afternoon near Waldheim and the changing colours of the flowers can all add unexpected dimensions to your visit. You can also chat with rangers at the informative Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. They will reveal to you interesting facts about the park that no book or guide would ever contain, and then help you make your own discoveries.
During the peak summer season, National Park Rangers offer a variety of activities such as interpreted walks, talks, nocturnal twilight tours and slide shows. Besides being lots of fun, these are a great way to learn about Tasmania’s parks, wildlife and cultural heritage.
There are also other outdoor adventure experiences in the area. Fly over Cradle Mountain on a scenic charter flight from the Cradle Mountain air strip or ride a four-wheel motorbike on private property on the fringes of the national park. For a different perspective, take a guided trail ride and experience the area on horseback, or try your hand at fly fishing on Cradle Mountain Lodge’s private lake.
OVERNIGHT AT: Cradle Mountain Area
Cradle Mountain National Park, explore another of the many walking tracks, either on your own or with a guide. If you want to walk unescorted, buy a Day Walk Map from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. Staff will also provide tailor-made advice to match your walking needs with the tracks available and weather conditions at the time.
Afterwards, soothe tired muscles in a spa with a glass of quality Tasmanian wine or relax by a big open fire. After an evening meal you may wish to watch the sun set on the magnificent mountain before returning to the lodge for a nocturnal walk to find Bennett’s wallabies, pademelons, wombats, echidnas, spotted quolls, possums and Tasmanian devils.
OVERNIGHT AT: Cradle Mountain Area
Travel west via the Link Road through the rugged west-coast mountains and on to the historic mining towns of Tullah and Rosebery. Driving time is approximately one-and-a-half hours. Until the 1960s the former mining town of Tullah could only be reached by steam train. Today, it is a hub for beautiful walks, four-wheel-drive tours, guided trout fishing tours and horse riding. For details, contact Tullah Horseback and Boat Tours. A short drive beyond Tullah is Rosebery, and a little farther on you can take a break from driving and walk the 5km track along an abandoned tram line to view Tasmania’s highest waterfall, Montezuma Falls.
A drive of approximately one hour brings you to Queenstown - an historic mining town surrounded by bare hills that are a disturbing testament to more than 100 years of mining based on the huge Mt Lyell copper deposits. Mining practices today are far less labour intensive and much more environmentally sensitive than they were when this was the "queen" of the west coast. Near the top of Mt Lyell’s dramatic hairpin bends detour to the open-cut Iron Blow, Queenstown’s first mine. An underground or surface mine tour of the Mt Lyell Company’s present-day operation is among the principal attractions. Take an interesting historic walking tour of the town, or join a guided four-wheel-drive tour to the beautiful Bird River.
The restoration of the West Coast Wilderness Railway, currently Tasmania’s most exciting tourist venture, is breathing new life into Queenstown. The 35km section of rail from Queenstown to Strahan is serviced by a fully restored 100-year-old steam locomotive that ran the original rail line. It winds its way through one of the world’s last pristine wilderness areas, crossing 40 bridges and wild rivers and climbing 200 metres on its journey. This is a truly fascinating trip that reconstructs some of the early miner and pioneer experiences through the massive dense undergrowth and steeply cut rail tracks.
OVERNIGHT SUGGESTION: Queenstown
Forty-five minutes’ drive from Queenstown is the tiny fishing village and tourist hub of Strahan on the banks of Macquarie Harbour, the second-largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. The only safe anchorage on the rugged west coast, this was the major port during the west coast’s booming mining days in the late 1800s, and also the port used for the export of Huon pine from the surrounding forest. These days the harbour is an anchorage for crayfish, abalone and shark fishing fleets and the vessels that cruise the scenic Gordon River.
Strahan is the gateway to the mighty Franklin - Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Cruise operators Gordon River Cruises and World Heritage Cruises both cross Macquarie Harbour to Hells Gates, where the harbour and Indian Ocean literally collide, creating a particularly treacherous stretch of water. On an optional visit to the ruins of the fascinating penal settlement of Sarah Island, you can see where the worst convicts from Port Arthur were sent. Later, when your vessel docks at Heritage Landing on the thickly forested shores of the Gordon, you can view rare Huon pines. Some of the specimens in this forest are more than 2,000 years old.
To the north of Strahan are the vast and inconguous Henty Dunes, the next best thing to a tropical island. Join the kids in a long, slow tumble down these steep, rolling slopes, or rev up an all-terrain four-wheel-drive motorbike and make your own tracks through the soft white sand. Finish the day with an exhilarating jet boat ride on the King River or a tour of Macquarie Heads.
In the evening enjoy a crayfish dinner cruise on the 60-foot yacht Stormbreaker. Or simply take time out to walk the long empty expanses of beautiful Ocean Beach.
OVERNIGHT AT: 1-2 nights at Strahan
Make an early start and head north to Zeehan, whose wide, tranquil streets belie a rollicking history. In its heyday in the late 1900s, Silver City, as it was known, was bursting at the seams with close to 10,000 boisterous residents. The Gaiety Theatre was once one of the largest theatres in the world, attracting miners from as far afield as Queenstown to performances by such luminaries as Dame Nellie Melba. Today, the West Coast Pioneers Museum breathes life back into the boom days with its extensive collection of mining memorabilia and photographs. Finish your visit with a walking tour through the historic streets, the Spray Tunnel and the Pioneers Cemetery.
Back in your car, detour west to Trial Harbour - a lovely place to camp and fish - before heading north again to Corinna and crossing the Pieman River on the evocatively named Fatman barge. From here, the scenic but mostly unsealed Western Explorer will take you the rest of the way to the remote north-west.
By mid-afternoon you should have arrived at Arthur River, where a one-hour guided cruise up this deep mysterious river into unspoilt wilderness is a must.
Now the highway begins its leap westward to Marrawah, where long ago the last known wild Tasmanian tiger was captured. Over the years following that sad occasion, many people have reported catching a glimpse of one of these beautiful animals, but no sighting has yet been verified.
An hour’s drive farther on is Stanley, which was established in the 1830s as the base for the Van Dieman’s Land Company grazing operations in the far north-west. Stanley’s history is echoed in its sturdy stone cottages and the graceful façade of Highfield, a stately home built in 1832 for the company’s governor. Browse in the craft shops and galleries, visit a local artist’s studio and admire timber art works, furniture and paintings.
OVERNIGHT AT: Stanley.
Make an early start to join Stanley Seal Cruises on one of its one-hour cruises to Bull Rock, where a colony of 200 Australian fur seals cavorts in the surrounding reef. Fairy penguins also visit these shores. Swift and dainty in the water, their cheerful waddle across the sand keeps adult fans amused and must surely make spellbound toddlers feel like kindred spirits.
On the way to Smithton, 45 minutes farther west, stop and taste European-style cheeses at Lacrum Dairy Farm. Then journey on to the far north-western tip of the state to a region Tasmanians call the "End of the World".
A tour of the historic farming property of Woolnorth will give you a sense of the isolation experienced 200 years ago by the first European settlers. Remote coastal features, dramatic ocean views, beach walks and bird watching are all part of the experience. This is where the west coast of Tasmania meets the largest single stretch of ocean on earth: the waves that roll onto this coast travel all the way from South America.
In Wynyard, take a walk by the riverside gardens or drive the scenic route around nearby Table Cape, a flat-topped and fertile outcrop carpeted with flowers in the tulip season
Take a stroll on the city boardwalk to Burnie Park, where you can feed the native animals and enjoy rainforest and a gently cascading waterfall.
It is another 40 minutes drive directly to Devonport, but the scenic route along the shoreline to Penguin is much more attractive. This quaint seaside village is the perfect place to break your journey. You’ll know you’re there when you catch sight of the roadside gardens and penguin bins. Fairy penguin tours from the edge of the town are conducted at nightfall, while on the second and fourth Sunday of each month there is an excellent market in the former village school chock full of imaginative local crafts and true Tasmanian souvenirs.
OVERNIGHT AT: Devonport
Devonport is the start and finish of a tour of Tasmania for thousands of travellers every year, and there is much to explore in both the city and its scenic surrounds.
Prolific wildlife, long empty beaches, bird watching, swimming, fishing and summer wildflowers make the coastal Narawntapu National Park an idyllic place to spend a few hours or a few days. Camp or picnic in the Bakers Beach area, which is close to free-range wildlife viewing trails.
A short drive from the city is the Don River Railway, a collection of carefully restored steam and diesel locomotives and rolling stock. Train rides are available.
Before catching the Spirit of Tasmania I or II, visit the Bluff, with its attractive beach overlooked by a lighthouse. The bluff itself is dotted with 10,000-year-old Aboriginal rock carvings.
OPTIONAL KING ISLAND GETAWAY
If time permits, treat yourself to a day or two on King Island, just a short flight from Burnie Airport in Wynyard.
This island of long, empty beaches, clean fresh air, offshore reefs, rocky coasts, lighthouses and shipwrecks is most famous for its wonderful cheeses and other dairy products.
Australia’s worst maritime disaster occurred here in 1845 when the Cataraqui foundered on the west coast of the island, south of the township of Currie. Today the spectacular Cape Wickham lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in the southern hemisphere, guides mariners safely into Bass Straight. Pick up a copy of The Shipwreck Trail and explore sites around the coast - you can even snorkel to wrecks from shore. Charter a boat and combine a dive on one of the island’s wrecks with seabird watching and a visit to a seal colony.
Cast a line into the surf or dive for abalone and crayfish. Watch penguins return to their rookery on the breakwater as part of a tour with Top Tours. Or take a King Island Coach Tour to the island’s highlights with a knowledgeable local guide or jump in the saddle and take an exhilarating gallop along deserted beaches with King Island Trail Rides - both novice and experienced riders are catered for. Relax on a secluded stretch of sand with a picnic hamper of delicious King Island produce, or play a round of golf on Currie’s scenic and challenging seaside course. Those long ribbons draped over racks you can see from the road near the course are strips of bull kelp being dried for export to Scotland, where they will be processed into an ingredient used in sauces and lotions.
Whatever you do, don’t leave without tasting King Island’s succulent crayfish and tender, delicious beef – perhaps at Baudins, located on absolute beachfront at Naracoopa, where the menu features the finest of King Island produce.