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North West Coast
The North West coast extends from Burnie all the way west to Cape Grim, Tasmania's rugged north-west corner. Along the way are the beachside towns and villages of Wynyard, Boat Harbour Beach, Stanley and Smithton, as well as the rugged volcanic headlands od The Nut (Circular Head), Rocky Cape and Table Cape.
The first European settlement of Tasmania's Central Coast commenced in the 1840s, the rich basalt soil proved ideal for cropping, and today agriculture is the principal contributor to the area’s economy. Motorists travelling along the north-west of Tasmania are well served by the National Highway. Central Coast, however, is fortunate to have retained a small section of ‘old highway’. This scenic coastal detour hugs the headlands and sandy shores from Ulverstone through to Howth and is well worth the extra time taken to travel this scenic route.
Boasting rolling farmland, the hinterland of Tasmania's central coast is home to some of the region's finest agriculture and local produce, its narrow roads making their way through lush farmlands on their way to the alpine terrain of Cradle Mountain. The area is world-renowned for its bush-walking, mountain ranges and canyons, and laid-back small towns set againt mountainous backdrops.
North West Hinterland
The area is dominated by the Tarkine, a wilderness area containing a wildly diverse landscape, a world of natural treasures including Australia's largest patch of temperate rainforest, mountain ranges, wild river and cave systems and buttongrass moorlands. Waterways can be explored by canoe, kayak and riverboat cruises through forests of blackwood, myrtle and celery top pine all the way to the sea.
Set against the backdrop of the Great Western Tiers, the Mradner Valley is located at the western end of the Central Coasy Hinterland, located midway between Launceston and Devonport. Dotted among the farms of the area are numerous small towns, each with their own individual character and colonial-era charm. Deloraine, on the banks of the Meander River, has become a centre for artists and craftspeople, drawn by the lifestyle and inspired by the stunning scenery.
2 to 3 hours drive from Devonport and Burnie, Tasmania's West Coast region is made up of serene natural harbours, rugged coast, densely forested mountain ranges, fast flowing rivers, steep gorges, rainforest wilderness and ghost towns. The region has some of the most pristine and beautiful wilderness in the world, encapsulated in the World Heritage listed Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Bushwalkers are rewarded by spectacular nature sights. Even the less energetic can enjoy the untouched rainforests while cruising the Gordon and Pieman Rivers.
Bass Highway connects the major cities and towns of Tasmania's North West - beginning at Launceston, and following the coast through Devonport and Burnie, all the way to Marrawah on the west coast. Along the way, there are dozens of roads leading off the highway that will take you to pretty coastal villages on one side and the region's beautiful hinterland on the other.
Great Western Tiers
The Great Western Tiers are the northern face of the Tasmanian Central Plateau, which rises up to 1420m above sea level and is dominated by Cradle Mountain. In the foothills of the Great Western Tiers can be found a wide range of attractions both man made and natural which can be explored on this drive. It is also an alternative route to reach Cradle Mountain from Launceston. Allow a full day for the drive; add additional time if you are contemplating taking any of the bushwalks in the area or spending more time than a quick visit.
Old Surrey Road
Take a drive from Burnie along one of North West Tasmania's most historic roads, pioneered by the region's premier explorer, Henry Hellyer. In 1827, work commenced on the construction of a road from the little settlement of Burnie to Surrey Hills, an inland area selected as a suitable place for the Company’s sheep to graze. The road work employed five men, constructing a muddy track through the dense coastal rain forests. This route generally follows what is now Marine Terrace to the Emu River, then up from the coastal plain via Old Surrey Road, through Romaine, Ridgely, Highclere and on to Hampshire, a distance of around 30 km.
Castra Road (State Route B15) starts at Ulverstone and winds its way south through picturesque hills and farmland on its way to Nietta, a tiny village located about 44 kilometres south-west of the town of Devonport. If approached from Devonport via Forth, Castra Road is joined at the village of Sprent. On the way you'll pass some of the prettiest dairy farming country you are ever likely to see. Drive a little further past Nietta and you'll reach Leven Canyon, a little-known tourist destination in Tasmania where you'll come face to face with nature at its most dramatic.
Meander Valley Highway
There are essentially two ways to travel by road between Devonport and Launcestion; there's Bass Highway, which takes around an hour and bypasses just about every town on the way; and then there's the Meander Valley Highway, which follows Bass Highway closely, but takes in just about every town, village and settlement between Deloraine and Launceston. It will take a lot longer, and how much longer depends on how captivating you find the picturesque Georgian villages you pass through.
There are hundreds of names on a map of Tasmania, which to many Tasmanians are just that – a name on a map. Preolenna is such a place. I must admit that when a friend suggested it as a place to visit, I not only had to look on a map to find out where it was, I also had difficulty finding information about it. To my surprise I found that it was only 44 km west.
Highland Lakes RoadHighland Lakes Road gets nowhere near the same amount of useage as Tasmania's other North to South main roads, so chances are you won't see much other traffic. This makes it easy to stop and taking in the scenery - and there is plenty to stop and take in - without having to worry about that driver who is hard on your tail and wants to go faster than you do. It's a sealed road all the way, but be aware that snow is common in winter. Highland Lakes Road begins in the north near Deloraine and finished in the south at Bothwell. From there, it is an easy drive through the Derwent Valley to Hobart.
Forth to Sprent Regional DriveAs you enter Forth from Turners Beach, there is a road off to the right signposted to Kindred, a little village about seven kilometres away. Take this road and you'll find yourself on a delightful drive through lush farmlands and rolling hills. Before too long you will arrive at Kindred which, like many regional villages, could best be described as a string of farms scattered on either side of a few buildings that form the nucleus of the community.
Cradle Mountain DriveAustralia's most recognisable mountain, Cradle Mountain forms the northern end of the wild Cradle Mtn. - Lake St Clair National Park, itself a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The familiar jagged contours of Cradle Mountain epitomise the feel of a wild landscape, while abundant wildlife, icy streams, alpine heathlands, colourful deciduous beech and ancient pines reflected in still glacial lakes entice many visitors to stay and explore. There are a number of ways to get there; this drive, beginning at Devonport or Latrobe, is one of the more interesting.
North West Tasmania is a walker's paradise. The coastline offers plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and explore. The hinterland has mountain peaks and canyons; the Bass Strait shoreline was created by ancient volcanic activity, leaving behind a dramatic coastline that begs to be explored and appreciated.
1 hour return
Fern Glade is a magnificent walk among spectacular tree ferns along the Emu River. There's plenty of wildlife, and if you are lucky you may see a platypus.
1 hr return
Suburban Romaine Reserve features a fitness track that winds around a dam on Romaine Creek containing wild fowl. Beyond the lake is a picturesque bushland walk.
40 mins return
A pleasant walk through the manicured gardens and lawns of Burnie Park, then up a walking trail through a strip of remnant forest to Oldaker Falls.
Dove LakeCradle Mountain National Park
2-3 hour circuit
A great introductory walk to the park. Enjoy iconic views of Cradle Mountain on one of Tasmania's most premier short walks.
Cradle SummitCradle Mountain National Park
8 hours return
A challenging track to the summit of Cradle Mountain. 600 metre climb in elevation. Walk includes crossing wide rocks.
Crater LakeCradle Mountain National Park
2 hour circuit
Explore a series of delightfully different alpine lakes. Some bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks has a rough surface.
Enchanted WalkCradle Mountain National Park
20 minute circuit
A walk to suit all age groups - featuring a cascading river and magic old-growth rainforest.
It is rare in the world to find such a powerful place as the Leven Canyon that is so easy to access. Enjoy spectacular sweeping views.
St Valentine's PeakBurnie
4 hours return
It a good strenuous walk to the summit of St Valentine's Peak, but well worth the effort. The track is quite steep in places.
The Nut WalkStanley
45 minutes return
The Nut is a 143 metre high massif, rising from Bass Strait that towers over the town of Stanley. Walk to the top or take the chairlift.
1 hr/2 km return
One of several rewarding short walks in the Dial Range, a collection of modest peaks on North-West Coast.
Meander Falls CircuitDeloraine
One of Tasmania's best set of waterfalls, great walks and photo opportunities. One of the great short-medium bushwalks in Tasmania.
Located on the edge of the Great Western Tiers region of Tasmania, the walk is easy to follow, with a large portion done across the plateau along to the summit.
45 minutes return
Liffey Falls is one of Tasmania's prettiest waterfalls, is located in cool temperate rainforest featuring myrtle, sassafras and leatherwood near Mole Creek.
1 hour return
An easy, magical walk through a rainforest with plenty of photo opportunities. There are about 200 stairs to the viewing platform. A hidden jewel of The Tarkine.
Four short walks lead to the base of these picturesque falls, its viewing platform, an old sawmill boiler and the nearby “Big Tree”.
Archer's KnobPort Sorell
3.5 hours circuit
See some of the best views in Narawrntapu National Park from the supberb Archer's Knob lookout - birds, beach and paperbark swamp.
Alum CliffsGreat Western Tiers
50 minutes return
Enjoy a quiet country stroll to a forest lookout perched high above the Mersey River, as it flows beneath the Alum Cliffs.
Railton to Sheffield Rail TrailSheffield
12 km/ 3 hrs
The Railton to Sheffield Rail Trail is a 12km, grade 3 One Way hike. This trail traverses a variety of countryside, mainly off road, following the old railway corridor.
Don to Devonport CyclewayDevonport
See some of the nicest parts of Devonport by walking or cycling the rail trail. Parts of the trail run parallel with the railway to Burnie and the Don River tourist railway.
Quamby Bluff Summit TrackDeloraine
5 hrs return
A steep walk that is rewarded with 360 degree panoramic views across the Great Western Tiers, as far as Launceston and Devonport on a clear day. Medium difficulty.
Mt Murchison Summit TrackRosebery/Tullah
12 km/ 3 hrs
A hard walk with some scrambling over rocks but is worth all the effort! The Mountain has three lakes on it including Hanging Lake which looks almost like an infinity swimming pool.
Milkshake Hills Summit WalkSmithton
1 hour return
Branching off the 15 minute return rainforest walk, the summit walk traverses a short section of the rainforest before it begins its ascent towards the summit.
Postmans Track, Rocky Cape NPSisters Beach
30 mins return
Named after the route used for horseback postal deliveries early this century, this track circles the easternmost section of Rocky Cape National Park, near Sisters Beach.
Parsons TrackMole Creek
6 hr return
A walk to the sandstone rock visible near the top of the Great Western Tiers, looking south from Mole Creek village. Shorter walks access signposted landmarks along the Track.
Lobster FallsMole Creek
2 hour return
A walk through regrowth forest and a fine grove of Banksias to Lobster Falls lower cascade. The track follows a high route before dropping down steeply to the river bank.
Devil's GulletMole Creek
30 mins return
A short alpine walk leads to a stunning lookout platform overhanging the huge chasm of the Fisher River valley. Enjoy views to Mount Ossa, Cradle Mountain on a clear day.
Hellyer Gorge Rainforest WalkHellyear Gorge, near Waratah
20 mins return
A delightful wayside stop on the Murchison Highway, the steep, winding gorge of the Hellyer River is filled with rainforest of tall myrtle beech, encrusted with mosses, fungi and epiphyte orchids. A number of walking tracks along the banks of the Hellyer River (near the rest area) provide a pleasant walk to refresh before journeying on.
The North West region of Tasmania covers a vast area including the towns of Devonport, Burnie, Cradle Mountain National Park and the Tasmanian west coast as far south as Strahan and Queenstown. The gateway to this region is Devonport, with an airport and the Spirit of Tasmania (ferry between Victoria and Tasmania) terminus. The port handles much of the export produce from the rich agricultural areas around Devonport. The town itself is used as an arrival or departure port for most travellers rather than a destination itself.
A major farming area stretches from Devonport along the coast to Stanley. Many of Australia's finest vegetable and dairy produce come from this region. Stanley is an historic fishing village with a large volcanic headland - The Nut - accessible by chairlift. Far out to the north-west in the stormy waters of Bass Strait, King Island consists very much of uninhabited bushland teeming with wildlife. The island produces some of the best dairy products, for which it is famous.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, in Tasmania's World Heritage Wilderness Area, offers a rugged environment with many wilderness retreats and walking tracks. Icy streams, ancient pines, glacial lakes and wildlife surround the jagged contours of Cradle Mountain. The area is one of the most glaciated in Australia and includes Tasmania's highest mountain, Mt Ossa (1617 metres) and Lake St Clair, Australia's deepest natural freshwater lake, the source of the River Derwent.
The West Coast area of Tasmania is made up of rugged coast, mountain ranges, flowing rivers, steep gorges, rainforest wilderness and ghost towns. Strahan is situated on Macquarie Harbour and is the starting point for Gordon River cruises and air tours over the South West Wilderness. Strahan is the only town on this rugged and dangerous coast.
Coast RoadIf you are travelling between Devonport and Burnie, it is worth taking the old Bass Highway which hugs the coast if you have the time and want to enjoy some very pretty coastal scenery. The road winds its way around the bays and headlands, so it is by no means a fast route, but the scenery and a chance to pass a train on a line that follows the road and the coast makes it worthwhile.
Between Penguin and Ulverstone are a group of small granite offshore islands known as The Three Sisters. Goat Island (above) to their east is accessible at low tide -but be very careful not to get stranded. The island is a beschcombers paradise - there are jagged edges, fiery lichen, unusual seaweed, muscles, a cave and a fishing pool that's big enough to swim in. Goat Island even houses a breeding colony of little penguins.
The Three Sisters island group (above) has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because, with up to 400 breeding pairs, it supports over 1 percent of the world population of black-faced cormorants. Because landings are difficult owing to the lack of beaches and safe anchoring points they are little affected by human visitation and disturbance, although Australian fur seals haul-out on the lowest of them. Pacific gulls and sooty oystercatchers breed there every year in small numbers, and Caspian terns have nested there. White-bellied sea-eagles forage around the islands.
Nakaervis Reserve (qbove) runs along the shoreline opposite the Three Sisters island group. On the western side of the point there is a small beach, but to access it, one must cross the railway line. Though there are only a few trains travelling the line each day, care must still be taken doing this as the line is in regular use by freight trains.
Neptune silver mine site
The site of the Neptune silver mine is just outside of the town on the eastern side on the coastal road to Ulverstone. It was here, in 1850, that silver ore was first discovered by James 'Philosopher' Smith, an indifatigable Tasmanian explorer. By 1871, Penguin Silver Mines Co. had sunk a permenant shaft from which some of the richest sampled had yielded ore as high as 157 oz. to the ton. The ore also contained considerable quantities of copper, nickel, cobalt, lead, arsenic, sulphur, manganese and a small portion of gold. The mine, however, did not live up to expectations, and was soon cloded and the shaft filled in. The site is marked with information signs but little evidence of the mine remains. Please take care if you cross the railway line looking for the mine site as goods trains do pass along along it every day.
Preservation Bay, between Pentuin and Burnie on the old coast road, is one of the prettiest beaches on Tasmania's Bass Strait. It features a north-facing curved ribbon of sand set between low rocky bluffs. There is good access to the beach from the large car park next to the Penguin Surf Life Saving Club located behind the rocky shore at the eastern end. It is a popular swimming beach, hoever rips do occur during higher waves at low tide, with a strong rip running out against the eastern clubhouse rocks during northwest wave conditions.
It is common belief that George Bass and Matthew Flinders came ashore here to take on fresh water in 1798. Contrary to popular belief, the bay was not named by James Cook (he came nowhere near the place) but recalls a visit by three early European settlers who took refuge here in 1845 when the whaleboat they were sailing in was amost swamped in a storm. They camped for the night here, then sailed on to Emu Bay (Burnie).
Sulphur Creek, beyond Preservation Bay, has a curving 250 metre long sandy beach bordered by rocky shore and boulders. Volcanic activity has been the main determinant of the current landscape of North-West Tasmania. Weathering of the numerous lava flows has resulted in both the rich red soils so important to the agricultural industry and very prominent landforms, such as the amazing rock formations lining the shore near the boat ramp here.
Sulphur Creek is reputedly named because of the perceived smell of sulphur in the area when first explored by Europeans. Sulphur is associated with volcanic activity. This site is very interesting in that it contains rocks from the geological period just prior to, and the geological period following the most violent period of volcanic activity when chains of volcanoes formed across Tasmania.
Blythe Heads is where the Blythe River enters Bass Strait and the coastal road joins Bass Highway. The highway runs around the base of Titan Point (eastern side of Blythe River) and clips the western end of Blythe Mouth beach with a seawall backing the first 200 metres of the beach.
To the east of the Blythe River is a 200 metre long section of rocky shore and rock flats, followed by a beach which curves to the east, terminating at a low protruding rocky point. This is a narrow sandy high tide beach, backed by some cobbles and fronted by ridged rock flats. The community of Heybridge is located on the southern side of the highway. Blythe Point is the home of the Max Stonehouse Woodchop arena, Blythe Heads Azmens Club and the annual Blythe Heads woodchopping carnival.
The shore of Round Hill Point consists of a strip of high tide cobbles, fronted by ridges of metasedimentary rocks and intertidal rock flats. The railway line clips the rear of the beach. The once 400 metre long beach around the point now consists of an 70 metre long wedge of sand between the western boundary rocks and the seawall, where the small Chasm Creek drains out against the rocks.
Ferndene Gorge State Reserve
Dial Range23 km south of Penguin via Fabers Road and Riana
It comes as a surprise to many that the first discovery of silver in Tasmania was in Penguin (see below), followed by discoveries of copper and manganese. However, settlement occurred a decade after the 1850s gold rush in Victoria that created a demand for palings provided by splitters cutting in the Penguin district. There are, however, a few left overs from bygone mining days in the Dial Range, 6 Kilometres south of the town, which provides the scenic backdrop for Penguin.
This chain of mountains and valleys was given its name because the silhouette of one of its summits, the Gnomon, resembles an ancient sundial. Dial Range has numerous trails for bushwalking, mountain biking and horse riding. Two of the best places to visit are Ferndene and Mt Montgomery State Reserves. Ferndene Gorge State Reserve comprises 35.16 hectares (86.9 acres) and is managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. It was established on 2 August 1939 and is described by the Parks and Wildlife Service as a "scenic fern glade". There is a beautiful walk through the fern glade along a clear stream, surrounded by huge tree ferns reminiscent of Gondwana.
The picnic area has plenty of parking, a bbq, outside picnic tables and under-cover picnic tables and a well maintained toilet block. It’s a great spot for a picnic and also is the starting point for an easy 30 minute walk under the manferns along the banks of Mcbrides Creek. Just off to the left of the picnic area and over a little bridge is the walk to Thorsby’s Tunnel, an old silver mine shaft. You will also pass Brownings Tunnel along the way. Short walks include Ferndene (30 mins return), Tall Trees (45 mins), Mount Montgomery (2 hrs), Leven River (40-60 mins) and Mount Gnomon (2 hrs). For more information, purchase a Dial Range Recreation and Management Map from a local visitor information centre, or write to the North West Walking Club, PO Box 107, Ulverstone.
Penguin Cradle TrailIf you'd prefer a cross country hike, the Penguin Cradle Trail would suit you better. For experienced bushwalkers only, this 80km trail heads inland from the coast to Cradle Mountain. Some sections make for a pleasant stroll, while others provide a definite bushwalking challenge. The complete walk takes six days, but access roads mean that sections can be done as day or overnight trips. Please Note: The trail is not currently maintained and is not accessible between Gunns Plains and the Leven Canyon.
Gunns Plains Caves
Gunns Plains31.9 km south west via Mission Hill and Pine Roads
Gunns Plains is a rich fertile area dotted with dairy farms, potato growing, poppy growing and beef cattle. In days gone by vegetables were grown here and it was also one of the three major hop producing regions in Tasmania. The Leven River winds slowly through its pastures that support a variety of grazing stock. Agricultural endeavours are also very successful, benefiting from rich red volcanic soil. The town was named after botanist Ronald Campbell Gunn, who visited the valley in 1860. Gunns Plains Caves are in the Gunns Plains State Reserve. The Reserve overlooks the beautiful Leven Valley farmland and has toilets, a wood barbecue and a shelter hut. A shop at Gunns Plains sells food and petrol.
Being approximately 30 kilometres south of Ulverstone in northwest Tasmania, Gunns Plains is easily accessible and a relatively short drive from both Burnie and Devonport. It is an ideal half day destination if you are short of time, however there is plenty to do if you devote a full day or more to explore the area. Camping, accommodation and refreshments are also available nearby.
A PocketOz Travel and Information Guide