The west coast of Tasmania is as diverse as it is beautiful. The heterogeneous landscape is a tapestry in motion that takes the visitor on a journey through changing scenery, each with its own spectrum of colours and accommodating climate.
by Mike Fry
There are two directions from which to approach western Tasmania by road; from the north the Murchison Highway or the Western Explorer and from the south-east the Lyell Highway. Each direction offers the traveller a completely different experience. The Lyell Highway from Hobart will take the traveller across the south of the Central Plateau through Tarraleah, Derwent Bridge and Queenstown to Strahan.
The Murchison Highway connects Burnie with the towns of Tullah, Rosebery, Zeehan and once again to Strahan. For the more adventurous the Western Explorer links the communities of Stanley, Smithton, Marrawah, Arthur River, Corinna and Zeehan with a mostly unsealed road that requires the traveller to drive to the conditions. Travellers visiting Cradle Mountain drive to the Murchison Highway and join the road about 1 hour south of Burnie.
Travelling times will vary slightly as most visitors take their time, observe the scenery and stop for photographic opportunities along the way. As a rule of thumb just over two hours from Burnie to Strahan; just under two hours from Cradle Mountain to Strahan and four to five hours from Hobart to Strahan. The Western Explorer will take significantly longer due to the unsealed surface and speed restrictions.
Western Tasmania: Overview
The full picture of what there is to see and do would be way out of the scope of this article so we will just summarise some of the points of interest and deal with the various journeys and places of interest in detail in separate articles.
The five towns of the west coast have already been mentioned: Queenstown, Strahan, Zeehan, Rosebery and Tullah. These five towns make up the municipality of the West Coast. The Western Wilderness Marketing Zone covers a wider area than that of the west coast municipality and includes Tarraleah to the east, Cradle Mountain and Mole Creek to the north east and Waratah to the north as well as all communities and towns within that area.
In terms of tourism the main icons are Cradle Mountain and Strahan. However there are many natural attractions en-route such as Montezuma Falls near Rosebery and Lake St Clair at Derwent Bridge. Approaching Queenstown from Hobart is The Iron Blow which is the original Mt Lyell Mine.
The west coast council has erected a new viewing platform over the open cut mine and to fully appreciate the depth of the pit one needs to visit the Galley Museum in Queenstown to see photographs of the mine when in use. Zeehan also has a museum and was once one of the richest towns in Australia where Houdini and Caruso once performed at the Gaiety Theatre.
The Gordon River is the main attraction at Strahan where cruise boats operate every day to one of the most pristine rainforest wilderness areas in the world. The West Coast Wilderness Railway is also another popular tourism experience that travels to Queenstown via a cog railway through dense rainforest and over mountains.
Western Tasmania is best visited over a few days as visitors who come to Strahan and other west coast towns often find that they did not allow enough time and end up leaving wishing they had stayed longer.
Stay tuned as we visit each town in detail on the west coast and the natural attractions that make this the jewel in Tasmania’s crown.
Mike Fry represents tourism group Discover Strahan and Carolyn Nissen is the chairperson of Tasmania’s west coast tourism organisation. Together they are owners and hosts of Ormiston House Bed and Breakfast accommodation in Strahan. Article and photos supplied to Think Tasmania by Mike Fry with thanks to Kylie Jones (Marketing Services Coordinator) Federal Group for allowing use of some images. Please see Pure Tasmania online for more information.