When we wrote about our Mt Lyell Underground Mine Tour with Anthony Coulson of Queenstown Heritage Tours, we mentioned other tour options and promised more information. Today, we give you… the Lake Margaret Hydro Tour. It’s difficult to choose from so many top-class experiences, but this trip might just have been my favourite component of the entire long weekend.

Hydro Tour - Lake Margaret Village
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Hydro Tour: Queenstown Heritage Tours

Take a Hydro Tour in Tasmania

So what made the hydro tour my favourite? It was fascinating, from start to finish. Of course the actual Lake Margaret Power Station was the star attraction. A great supporting cast included views of the mountain’s pipeline right through to rushing river water at the base of the scheme.

The heritage village at Lake Margaret though… that was amazing. Sadly, all the cottages now stand derelict; still full of character but beyond “renovators delight” even for an overly optimistic real estate agent. But just imagine the tales those floorboards could tell.

Hydro Tour - Lake Margaret House
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Houses could be restored to former glory

Hydro Tour - Mountain Pipeline Views
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View of the pipeline: Lake Margaret

Anthony also told stories to his enthralled passengers, of life in the village at Lake Margaret. Residents would converge on the hall for all sorts of occasions, ranging from intense games of badminton to large birthday festivities. The building now boasts wonderful sound recordings, photos, posters and a 3D map of the surrounding mountain, lake and river systems.

Hydro Tour - Community Hall
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Local community hall: Lake Margaret

Hydro Tour - Badminton
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Badminton competition: Lake Margaret

Lake Margaret via Queenstown

The story of the Lake Margaret Power Station is one of pioneering ingenuity and Anthony’s hydro tour covers a remarkable 100-year journey. No coal, depleted forest reserves, but a high annual rainfall. Why not harness the power of running water, a plentiful resource in western Tasmania, to provide electricity to extract rich mineral deposits from the mines? Commissioned in 1914, the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company began the arduous job of construction in remote but stunning wilderness, 10km north of Queenstown.

Hydro Tour - Lake Margaret
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Moving water via refurbished pipeline

Hydro Tour - Queenstown
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Ingenuity and nature combine forces

Hydro Tour - Dam Wall
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Generating power: base of the scheme

Hydro Tour - Reflections
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Power generation: peaceful reflections

The Lake Margaret Power Station utilises water from a small natural lake high up on Mt Sedgwick. Despite protestations from locals, the unique woodstave pipeline was originally constructed using Canadian Oregon Pine. 1937 saw the replacement of the pipeline using native King Billy Pine when the imported timber failed drastically. In turn, that “soaker hose” was replaced again using Alaskan Yellow Cedar in 2009.

Hydro Tasmania purchased the Lake Margaret Power Station in 1985 and the station and surrounds have been heritage listed since 2007. As the licensed operator, Queenstown Heritage Tours takes small groups on exclusive private tours in a comfortable, 8-seater mini bus. Marvel at the work of Maltese immigrants at this site on the banks of the Yolande River and be sure to check out the photos in the museum… they too, are fascinating!

Hydro Tour - Pipeline
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Heritage display: original wooden pipeline

Hydro Tour - Museum Photos
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Fabulous photos: history of Lake Margaret

Queenstown Tasmania Heritage Tours

To find Queenstown Heritage Tours at 24 Sticht Street, head from your accommodation (we can highly recommend Mt Lyell Anchorage Bed and Breakfast) past the Miners Siding on Driffield Street towards the Lyell Highway (within view of the Empire Hotel and West Coast Wilderness Railway station). There’s a bright orange sign announcing Mt Lyell Underground Mine Tours on the Evans Building near the Galley Museum. There’s every chance Anthony will already be out on tour when you arrive in Queenstown, so it’s always best to book in advance.

Hydro Tour - Power Station
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Lake Margaret Power Station

Hydro Tour - Queenstown Tasmania
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Mountain views: Lake Margaret

Hydro Tour - Queenstown Heritage & Arts Festival
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Lake Margaret: Queenstown Heritage & Arts Festival

Our FAMIL visit to Queenstown and Tasmania’s west coast region was made possible by…

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