Turners Beach and Leith, Tasmania

While Tasmania's north-west is famously known for the iconic Cradle Mountain and wilderness adventures, lesser known are its beaches, which are not only among the best in Tasmania, they rival some in states which have built their repulation on their ribbons of clean golden sand.

Turners Beach and Leith are two localities on the shores of Bass Strait that are blessed with superb beaches, serene pieces of beach paradise that are untouched by the masses. Turners Beach and Leith sit on either side of the mouth of the River Forth where it empties into Bass Strait. The beaches are big and wide, with plenty of room for young travellers to stretch their legs and run off some energy. According to the local fishermen, the salmon and mullet run thick and fast in the river mouth of the Forth.

Turners Beach Twilight Market is held the last Sunday of every month from 2.30pm to 6.30pm, the Turners Beach Twilight Market features local produce and artisans with a community focus. Location: Esplanade, Turners Beach. Phone 0478 260 315, mobile 0438 849 967.

Turners Beach itself is a straight north-northwest-facing strip of sand that extends from Claytons Rivulet to the 100 metre wide mouth of the River Forth. The eastern 100 metres of beach curves into the river mouth, which has a deep channel and strong tidal current flowing though the mouth. A boat ramp is located 100 metres into the river mouth. The beach is backed by a narrow recreation reserve filled with trees, has a central parking are and a picnic and recreation area, followed by a row of beachfront houses and finally a caravan park in the east. There is a viewing platform that is perfect for taking photos.

Not many beaches have a river flowing into the sea right through the middle of them, and when they do, as the River Forth does here, some interesting and unfamiliar things happen. Large pebbles, sun-bleached driftwood, seaweed, sponges, cuttlefish and other fascinating offerings are dragged up from the ocean-floor by the tide and dumped around the river mouth. At low tide, the sand is revealed, along with more gorgeous pebbles, shells and sponges - it truly is a treasure-hunter’s paradise. You never know what you’ll find among the driftwood. Even the sound of the waves dragging back across the rocks will probably be something unfamiliar to your ears.

Turners Beach was originally known as Scott’s Beach, named after the Scott family who operated a flour mill on Claytons Rivulet. The township was developed by and renamed in honour of Harry Vincent Glengyle (Glen) Turner on 21 March 1961 who was on the Ulverstone Council and Town Planning Committee at the time. At the end of the Second World War Turners Beach had no formed streets with only a few sandy tracks through the bush. Thus, the township is quite a recent development having evolved from about 1950 before being officially named as the town of Turners Beach on 21 March 1961. It is suggested that Turners Beach was named after the Turner family who lived in The Gables in the 1920’s. Harry Vincent Glengyle (Glen) Turner on 21 March 1961 was on the Ulverstone Council and Town Planning Committee at the time.

Gables Park

On the road to Turners Beach is the historic private residence, Gables Park. It was built around 1850 and was originally known as The Sailors Return Inn. In 1853 it was robbed by the bushrangers Dalton and Kelly (not Ned) who stole the landlord's whale boat and sailed across the Bass Strait to Victoria. They were subsequently caught, brought back to Tasmania and executed in Launceston. There are many beautiful old timber houses in the area which date from 1880-1920. Lonah, which overlooks Three Sisters Islands on the road between Ulverstone and Penguin, was built by a retired English soldier, Major-General Lodder, around 1875.


The settlement of Leith stands on the opposite side of the mouth of the Forth River to Turners Beach. Across the river between the two are three bridges - one road bridge carrying Bass Highway, and two railway bridges, the oldest of which is no longer in use.

Forth River Railway Bridge

The Forth River Rail Bridge, alongside Bass Highway at Leith, was built in 1885, making it one of the oldest movable bridges in Australia. The bridge has eight metal girder spans totalling 135.4m and this is quite substantial, but the primary significance is the bridge's metal girder swing span, 2 x 12.8m. Of the movable bridges listed in the Register of Australian Historic Bridges only two existing bridges are older - at Bourke (1878) and (1883). Of these, the bridge at Bourke is a lift bridge and that at Sale, while a swing bridge, has trusses for its primary structural system. The Forth River bridge is therefore the oldest remaining bridge of its type in Australia. It is also unusual for a movable bridge to be designed for railway use only. Most other movable bridges were either road bridges or combined road and rail bridges.

Completed in 1885, the bridge carries a single track railway on metal girders with spans 3 x 18.3, 2 x 12.8 (movable) and 3 x 18.3m, totalling 135.4 m. The ballasted deck is supported on deck-type metal plate girders throughout. Spans 2 and 3, and also 5 and 6 are continuous. The end spans are simply supported. All piers are of concrete and steel, the central pier being circular in plan to support the ring girder of the rotating span. The bridge was named by the men who built it in 1885 as the Forth Bridge, after its famous namesake cross the Firth of Forth in Scotland.

The bridge was seriously damaged by floodwaters and floating debris on 8th April 1929. Logs swept down the river damaged a pier, bringing down a fixed span of the bridge into the raging waters, though the rails and sleepers on the span remained intact. The cost of repairing the bridge was £17,000. The road bridge alongside the rail bridge sustained minimal damage in the flood.

Turners Beach Berry Patch

Tasmania is famous for its berries, and if you like the thought of picking your own, Turners Beach Berry Patch is a place where you can do this. If you'd rather not pick your owm, there are pre-picked raspberries and strawberries available. Gluten-free options available. The Berry Patch also has a cafe serving zesty berry ice-cream or freshly ground coffee, or you can relax over lunch, morning and afternoon teas, or enjoy a wood fired pizza as we did. Gluten-free options available and you also have an option of indoor and outdoor dining. Open daily from 9am to 5pm, winter opening hours from 10am to 4pm (Closed public holidays and during June). Phone (03) 6428 3967, 0400 173 737.

Beyond Turner Beach

Braddons Lookout

9 km east via Bass Highway and Braddons Lookout Road

Braddons Lookout, located on the Upper Forth Road (enter from the Bass Highway on the eastern side of the Forth River Bridge) offers excellent views over both the coast and the hinterland. It is said that on a clear day it is possible to see Cradle Mountain to the south.

Braddons Lookout was named after Sir Edward Nicholas Coventry Braddon who, after a long career in the British civil service, arrived in Tasmania in 1878, entered state parliament in 1879 and was premier from 1894-99. The lookout stands on the site of Sir Edward Braddon's home. A secondary platform with a low fence improves the view for people in wheelchairs who may be unable to see over the stone wall that surrounds the main viewing platform. Eight plaques are dedicated to prominent local businesses, such as vegetable processing company Harvest Moon, while the others explore local history and historical figures such as Braddon himself.


9.7 km south east via Bass Highway and Forth Road

When it comes to small towns in Tasmania, Forth definitely ranks as one of the most scenic, as well as one of the oldest. Nestled on the banks of River Forth, it is only a 13 kilometre drive from the city of Devonport. Being just 'up the road' from Devonport makes it a great place to kick off your exploration of the state if you are arriving by the Spirit of Tasmania.

Previously known as Hamilton-on-Forth, the village predates the larger settlement of Devonport. James Fenton, a young man of Irish descent came to the Forth estuary in 1839 in search of arable land. Assisted by his hired male companion, he erected the first European edifice in the district, and in 1840 returned to take up permanent settlement.

At the hub of Forth's history is the Historic Bridge Hotel, which is one of the town's oldest buildings and still stands in almost its original form. It was first licensed and opened in 1872, and has managed to retain the old world charm and atmosphere of those times of the past. The building is heritage listed and regarded as a national treasure. It is also regarded as one of Tasmania's leading live music venues, with something always going on musically. It's a great place to grab a country cooked meal, enjoy a beer and a good yarn with your mates or the locals.

Having a population of just 350 people means Forth is the kind of town where everyone knows everybody and you will be made to feel extremely welcome. Many of the original buildings have been replaced since settlement, but there is still a strong sense of history about this old town.

Their village Markets feature many unique stalls with local goods and handmade crafts as well as new goods at bargain prices. It's also regarded as a social meeting point too, with morning teas, lunches and dinners available, so a trip to the markets is a good opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals.

The village of Forth plays host to the annual Forth Valley Blues Festival. Held on a Saturday in mid-March and located at the Forth Recreation Ground, with entertainment from 12.30pm to 1.30am. The Festial features lots of great blues and roots bands, a bike show and stalls, hot food, bar facilities. There is free camping, and breakfast available Sunday morning. For more information phone (03) 6424 2286 or (03) 6424 9816.

Forth to Sprent Regional Drive

As 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.

In 1865 land here was donated for a church by John Arnold. The first building was constructed of palings and had a shingle roof. By 1866 there were 28 children attending Sunday school, but four years later the Church was closed for worship and relocated to Sprent in 1984. Kindred Community Hall is the most prominent building in the village today.

Kindred got its name because so many of the early settlers became related to one another through marriage. When they first settled there, the hillsides were nearly all covered in heavy scrub and dense bush. The soil is rich, though the country is steep in places and good crops have been grown.

Travel on another 6 km through rolling hills covered in a patchwork quit of multi-coloured field, and you'll reach Spent, a small village that has managed to survive, but only just. Though there are still plenty of farming families in the area to support a school, the village centre is these days a collection of mainly abandoned buildings, silent witnesses to the small but thriving community hub that once existed here. Two vehicles wait to be filled up at the long abandoned service station. Chances are neither of them with be going anywhere any time soon.

Sprent is named after a Scotsman, James Sprent, one of a team of surveyors who took part in the first trigonometric survey of Tasmania in the 1830s for the production of the first map of the whole island. Upon his arrival in Hobart in May 1830, Sprent had established a "public School for young gentlemen", and later lectured on astronomy at the Mechanics Institute. Sprent became the Surveyor-General in 1857. He died 5 years later, age 55.

Continue travelling north from Spent on Castra Road and you'll be taken back down to the coast and the town of Ulverstone 13km away.

Gunns Plains Caves

Gunns Plains

34.8 km south west via Preston Road

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.


31.3 km south via Forth and Castra Road

Wilmot is one of those kind of places where the journey getting there is as much fun as being there. The big drawcard for me was always the original Coles family store, from which came "GJ", the son George who decided to move to the mainland and Melbourne, where he figured he had more chance to make a million that if he stayed in the backblocks of North West Tasmania. It was a move that paid off handsomely - his venture grew into the gigantic Coles retail empire we see today. Sadly, the original Coles store at Wilmot burnt down some years ago.

Whichever way you come up to Wilmot from the coast - and you have a choice of two - you are in for a visual treat. Follow the road from Wilmot to Devonport travel up through the aptly named 'Valley of the Views', which is also known as the Wilmot Novelty Letterbox Trail. Not only will you be treated to some great scenery, you'll find the road is lined with the most interesting and unique array of letterboxes you are ever likely to see. Someone started the trend a few decades ago, it caught on and now everyone has one! Now that's community spirit for you. Also look out for the graphic portrayal of Wilmot's history by local artists and school children on telegraph poles along the road.

North Motton

14.6 km south west via Bass Highway and Gawler

The village of North Motton in the dairy farming district on the Preston Road is about 10 kilometres south of Ulverstone. Land in the area was occupied by William Motton in 1854, after whom the area is named. In 1865 a handful of Primitive Methodist families settled in the North Motton district including Nathan and Sarah Brothers, John and Ann Eagle, Isaac Brett and the Revell family. North Motton was one of four locations in the greater Ulverstone region where the Primitive Methodist migrants from Scotland settled and built churches; with other churches built at Gravel Hill, Norfolk Creek and Penguin. In 1877 the church was used by the Department of Education for a day school and a Sunday school was also established around this time.

The foundation stones for the new building were laid in December 1902 and the occasion was reported by The North West Post: “Methodism and North Motton have grown up together, the pioneers of this rising and prosperous district having been active adherents of that section of the Christian Church. The rapid growth and expansion of that part of West Devon has caused the old Methodist Church to become uncomfortably small for the ordinary services, and it was decided to build a much larger one on the land adjoining, at an estimated cost of £400. The contract for the erection of the building was let some time ago to Mr Manser for £385, and the work has been pushed on as rapidly as possible”.

Nothing of the church remains apart from a wall which stood in front of the church and the cemetery which contains the headstones of many of the early members of the church. The cemetery also has a headstone in remembrance of Chrissie Venn, a 13-year-old girl whose unsolved murder in 1921 was a sensation at the time. Her ghost is claimed to haunt the area of her murder.

Castra Road Scenic Drive

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. Nietta is literally the end of the road. 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.

It has been said of the British that their home is their castle, which might explain the use of the word Castra by the early European settlers for the area they now called home in Tasmania. In the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, the Latin word castrum (plural castra) was a building, or plot of land, used as a fortified military camp. In English, the terms Roman fort, Roman camp and Roman fortress are commonly used for castrum.

Silver Falls

Castra Falls Circuit

The Castra Falls Circuit near Upper Castra gives access to for waterfalls; Castra Falls, Silver Falls, Step Falls, and Secret Place. It is a grade 4 return hike which should take you approximately 2.5hrs to complete. Castra Falls is the second waterfall on the Castra Circuit. The track is commenced as an easy to moderate walk, progressively becoming more difficult the further you walk. It commences a few kilometres down Gaunts Road which is found on the way to Leven Canyon from Ulverstone.

Kaydale Lodge Gardens


35.3 km south via Bass Highway and Castra Road

Nietta is a rural community situated approximately 30km south of Ulverstone. The Wilmot River forms most of the eastern boundary, and the River Leven forms much of the western. The B15 route (Castra Road) enters from the north and terminates at Nietta village. The name was used for a Parish from 1886. Nietta is an Aboriginal word meaning “little brother”.

A visit to Kaydale Lodge Gardens at Nietta is worth including on a trip to the area if you enjoy and appreciate the labours of those blessed with a green thumb. This 2ha garden has been a family obsession for the Crowdens of Nietta since parents Kay and Robert started it in 1979 from a bare paddock around the house Robert built. Using stone from their fields, they built walls and archways while running the cattle and cropping farm, raising their two daughters and establishing a business offering accommodation and meals. A small entry fee applies.

Leven Canyon and Black Bluff from the Cruickshanks Lookout

Leven Canyon

44 km south via Bass Highway and Castra Road

Leven Canyon is a little-known tourist destination in Tasmania but well worth seeing. To get there, continue through Nietta and follow the signs to Leven Caynon. The canyon is a 250 metre deep ravine that is part of a wildlife corridor from the coast to Cradle Mountain. The Leven River runs through 300-metre limestone cliffs carved through the Loongana Range, down to Bass Strait. The viewing platform at Cruickshanks Lookout offers spectacular views of Black Bluff, the canyon itself and the surrounding areas. Black Bluff, directly opposite Cruickshank Lookout, is the region's first peak each winter to have a covering of snow, due to its exposure to the prevailing westerlies.

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