7 reasons to love a Western Wilds road trip
A journey into Tasmania’s Western Wilds is fascinating, from the dramatic landscapes you’ll traverse to the stories and legends you’ll uncover along the way.
1. Discover untamed wilderness
Spanning about 1.5 million hectares in Tasmania’s south west – about 20 per cent of the island’s land mass – the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is one of the last great wildernesses on Earth. Walk in valleys where towering Huon pines grow for thousands of years, where rivers meet rare temperate rainforest, and snow-peaked mountains shadow buttongrass plains. Guaranteed, this wild untamed environment is like nowhere else you’ve been.
2. Plunge into adventure
This region takes adventure to the next level. Take the plunge on the southern hemisphere’s highest commercial abseil at Strathgordon with Aardvark Adventures. Cruise the Gordon River with World Heritage Cruises or Gordon River Cruises. Navigate the raging rapids of the Franklin River with King River Rafting. Shred the steep mountain bike trails at Maydena Bike Park. Kayak through World Heritage wilderness with Tassie Bound Adventure Tours. Or lace up the walking boots and conquer one of the west’s rugged peaks, among them Cradle Mountain, Frenchmans Cap and Mount Murchison.
3. Hear the stories
Like all frontiers, the Western Wilds has its share of mystery and myth. At a performance of The Ship That Never Was, hear the dramatic and hilarious true story of 10 convict shipwrights who, in 1834, hijacked the last ship built at notorious Sarah Island. Discover ghost towns, such as Linda and Gormanston, and wander the remains of once-thriving communities from the region’s 19th century mining boom. And while the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was declared extinct in 1930 there are many who believe the mythical marsupials still roam the buttongrass plains. As you travel through the region’s epic landscapes, you may find yourself wondering – and watching.
4. Find a moment of calm at Corinna
The remote and historical mining settlement of Corinna is located on the banks of the Pieman River, at the southern edge of the vast takayna/Tarkine wilderness. This is some of the most extensive and dense temperate rainforest in Australia. Walks in the area skirt the remains of old shipwrecks and climb to mountain peaks, and draw a living link with the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, featuring rare Huon pines and huge myrtle beech. Stay in one of Corinna’s cottages, enjoy a meal at the Tarkine Hotel, and don’t miss the chance to kayak to Lovers Falls or float serenely on the river in an early-morning mist.
5. Uncover the history
Step back in time and discover the region’s rich heritage. Explore Zeehan’s West Coast Heritage Centre, housed in four remarkable old buildings, where themed exhibitions interpret the area’s rich industrial and social heritage. In Queenstown, take a self-guided tour or treat yourself to dinner and a classic movie in the warmer months at the Art Deco Paragon Theatre. And don’t miss New Norfolk, the third oldest settlement in Tasmania, where the streetscape features the nation’s oldest Anglican church, St Matthews, one of Australia's oldest pubs, and one of the few remaining traditional village squares.
6. Sleep somewhere special
Above the glacial waters of Lake St Clair at the southern end of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Pumphouse Point is a wilderness retreat like no other. At the northern fringe of the national park, Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge offers creature comforts and spa treatments overlooking World Heritage wilderness. Above Queenstown, Penghana Bed and Breakfast is housed in the grand 1898 residence of the general manager of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company, once the most powerful character in town.
7. Explore your way
In the Western Wilds, the journey is just as important as the destination. Take the Lyell Highway, one of the region’s key routes, which weaves west from Hobart and culminates in the infamous 99 Bends on Queenstown’s outskirts. Whether travelling by car, campervan, motorbike or bicycle, the ever-changing landscapes are captivating. Stretch the legs on short walks and at lookouts dotted along the roadside, fringed by ancient trees and towering ferns. Join a four-wheel-drive tour with Roam Wild to explore rugged mountain terrain with views over World Heritage wilderness. Take a unique steam rail journey on the West Coast Wilderness Railway between Strahan and Queenstown, with stops along the way for gold panning, wild honey tasting and rainforest walks.
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