The Tour de Tassie continues!
Where to next??
From East to West
The East Coast of Tasmania is a beautiful area – dark, deep forests with waterfalls and ancient trees, mountain bike areas, National Parks, gorgeous beaches, amazing rocks, enough history to satisfy anyone and busy coastal towns with a holiday feel and delicious fish and chips – bonus! I featured some of my photos of these areas in my last post.
The West Coast is just as beautiful and has so much to offer. Read on for more….
After our night at Tarraleah we headed towards the West Coast of Tasmania. The weather was cool and wet as we started out and soon the rain drops turned thicker and heavier until they were snowflakes!! I commented that it was quite pretty driving along into the snow flurries, but I was reminded that it wasn’t me who was doing the driving!!
The Wall (no not THAT wall!)
Just outside the very small town of Derwent Bridge we stopped at The Wall. We had been advised by several people that this was well worth seeing and I’m happy to say it most certainly was!! It’s hard to explain, and as no cameras or phones were allowed inside, I have no photographic proof of my own. I have included a link to The Wall’s website as it gives a great overview and some pictures. It should also be noted that The Wall has been funded by the artist himself. It really does have to be seen to be believed. Here’s a brief introduction and a photo from the site:
Artist Greg Duncan is creating a stunning sculpture at Derwent Bridge in the heart of Tasmania. The Wall in the Wilderness is Greg Duncan’s commemoration of those who helped shape the past and present of Tasmania’s central highlands.
A work in progress, The Wall is being carved from three-metre high wooden panels. The carved panels will tell the history of the harsh Central Highlands region – beginning with the indigenous people, then to the pioneering timber harvesters, pastoralists, miners and Hydro workers.
In the time we were viewing the amazing wood carvings inside, the snow had thickened and started to settle, so we continued our drive through the mountains very carefully. These roads are quite isolated and there’s no mobile phone reception for much of the drive.
After an interesting, winding drive through thick rainforest we emerged into the lunar landscape of Queenstown. If you’ve never been to Queenstown, it is described by Discover Tasmania here:
Queenstown, the largest town on Tasmania’s West Coast, is surrounded by dramatic hills and mountains and was once the world’s richest mining town. The copper mining and mass logging in the early 1900s created a surreal and rocky ‘moonscape’ of bare coloured conglomerate.
It is an amazing sight driving down more than 90 bends and bare hills into the town, especially as we’d driven through thick forests most of the way until then. Suddenly it’s all open, rocky and barren. We did see this amazing waterfall, called the HorseTail falls. There’s a fantastic walking track there now which takes walkers to a safe viewing platform, this is already on the list for our next visit. The cold weather was not conducive to doing the walk at the time. How moody do the falls look with the low cloud swirling around?
We stopped in at Queenstown and looked at the West Coast Wilderness Railway station which runs regular trips on the old steam trains through the rainforest and the steep countryside. It’s a very popular activity to do but unfortunately we didn’t get to do it this trip – another trip for next time!
We continued onto Strahan which is a pretty little harbour town that belies its dark convict history. It’s also on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. We thoroughly enjoyed our two days there despite the drizzly, cool weather. We were welcomed by a double rainbow over the harbour and were happy to be co-opted into participating in Australia’s longest running play – The Ship That Never Was – in the early evening.
This dramatic and hilarious play is based on events from 1834 and was performed by two very funny actors with help from audience members. On entry we were given hot water bottles to keep our hands warm and blankets to wrap ourselves in. It was a cold, wet evening!! But it was a brilliant event and one of the highlights of our trip. Mr H played the Captain, and performed brilliantly, whereas I was the hero, 93 year old Billy. The show has been performed for over 20 years and is still a popular activity for visitors. We had a ball and learnt a great deal about Sarah Island which we visited the next day.
Gordon River Cruise
The Gordon River Cruise was 5.5 hours on the Lady Jane Franklin II, which I was pleased to hear was designed to have minimal impact on the environment. The cruise took us out through Hell’s Gates in Macquarie Harbour, past the fish farms and up the Gordon River to Heritage Landing, where we walked amongst the ancient rainforest and saw huge Huon Pines still growing. Hell’s Gates were so named by convicts as they came through the heads of the harbour and was perhaps a reflection of the life they knew was ahead for them.
The reflections on the water were magnificent and the whole area was very moving and ethereal especially with the low cloud. We went ashore at Sarah Island and explored the convict ruins with an entertaining tour guide. The stories are fantastic and would make great works of fiction except they’re true! It was an unforgettable day with the journey through the World Heritage Wilderness into the pristine temperate rainforests of the Gordon River, a real highlight.
Strahan’s timber industry is well represented with timber mills, artisan shops selling handcrafted wooden objects and the history is well illustrated. Huon Pine was discovered to be a great timber for use in ships due to its makeup and the trees were extensively harvested over the years.
I vaguely remember the hue and cry, and the protests that resulted in the Franklin River being saved from being flooded for the proposed damming of the Gordon River in the 1980s. The area is now safely a part of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area. Floating serenely through some of the area, and seeing and feeling the beauty, I am so glad this was the end result.
Much of the Wild Rivers landscape has been shaped by ancient glaciers and is remote and rugged. The area has a much longer natural history, with ancient Huon Pines that grow to an age of over 3000 years.
Later in the day after more showers, and subsequent rainbows, we walked through gorgeous rainforest to Hogarth Falls. They were running well and the tannin in the water gave the water a real earthy colouring. Now I have to say that although Mr H is very tall, at over 6 foot (1.92mt), he was still dwarfed, in both height and age, by the magnificent tree ferns (as can be seen in the picture below).
These next photos are some of my favourite photos from the whole trip. I’d love to know your favourite shot!
All in all it was a magical few days in Queenstown and Strahan. We left the next morning for a very different drive on a road that doesn’t even feature on the map I included at the start of this post. More on that later!
The West Coast has a lot to offer and in my opinion is a ‘must-do’ for anyone visiting Tasmania.
Travel safely. Until next time!
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