Tasmania’s Western Wilds

For my birthday this year, I got an awesome pressie…a trip to the West coast of Tassie! I’d been dying to get up the West Coast ever since arriving in Tasmania and it was definitely worth the wait. I also got to rack up a whole pile of hours on my L2 licence on some really fun and exciting roads.

We were scheduled to stay in the quaint town of Strahan, a former mining port and now a popular tourist spot and perfect gateway to the West Coast of Tasmania. I took the day off work Friday and we hit the road, passing by the Great Pine Tier fire which had been raging for a few days up on the Central Plateau. It was one of several fires that devastated much of Tasmania at the start of 2019 and whose impact will be felt for a long time to come.

The drive along the Lyell Highway was really nice with a number of opportunities to take in the views as you go and we had a couple of nice roadside spots picked out to visit along the way.

The Great Pine Tier fire was just getting going as we made our way along the Lyell Highway.
Mount King William looked pretty inviting from the road.
The view of Surprise Valley which Gemma remembers as being far more expansive when she was a youngster.

One of the highlights on the drive out to the Western Wilds is Donaghys Lookout which offers spectacular views of Frenchman’s Cap, one of Tasmania’s iconic mountain peaks as well as the mighty Franklin river valley. It’s a super easy 40 minute return walk with a few hilly bits but nothing tooooo taxing.

There’s some handy signage too which helps identify the peaks as well as a nice bench to sit down and take it all in. We had planned to visit a couple of other sights like Nelson Falls and the Franklin River Nature Trail before reaching Queenstown but unfortunately ran out of time.

What’s that peaking out above the surrounding hills?
Why it’s Frenchman’s Cap of course! Majestic indeed.
Layers for days from Donaghys Lookout.

Arriving into Queenstown, it has a really cool atmosphere of opulence combined with….well, all that opulence disappearing. We enjoyed a tasty dinner at The Empire Hotel which a remnant of the glory days of Queenstown when it was the sight of a booming Copper Mine with Gold having also been discovered, albeit in smaller quantities. If you like fancy stairs then you should check out the Heritage listed Tasmanian Blackwood stairs at the Empire. The raw timber was felled in Tassie, shipped all the way to England and then the completed stairs shipped back down under for installation!

Mount Owen as seen from out near the airport where I went for a random wander.
The view from the Iron Blow Lookout gives a sense of scale to the mining operations that took place here back in the day.

We hit the road after dinner and continued West, out past the barren landscape surrounding Queenstown and onwards towards Strahan. You need your wits about you on this stretch as the road winds and winds through the landscape with lots of turns that suddenly tighten up on you and can easily catch you off guard.

Eventually we arrived in sleepy Strahan and settled into our cozy waterside cottage. Pretty much everything in Strahan is beside the water and all the restaurants and bars are within easy walking distance. Strahan, like Queenstown has had to adapt to changing times. No longer an integral part of the mining industry, it has become a tourist destination with the West Coast Wilderness Railway coming to a stop here whilst the Gordon River Cruise sets off on its own adventure. It’s also home to The Ship That Never Was, Australia’s longest running play!

The following morning we set off to explore Henty Dunes, a popular attraction with off-road aficionados and day trippers. I think we may have missed a signpost however as we didn’t get to see the huge dunes that people love to fly down on boogie boards or even make-shift cardboard box contraptions. We still enjoyed a relaxing stroll in a different section and the scenery was spectacular.

Henty Dunes is a sandy oasis amongst the brooding mountains of the Western Wilds.
This took a few goes to get just right haha 🙂

After enjoying the coastal splendour of Henty Dunes, we headed back inland towards another fantastic and easily accessible drawcard, Montezuma Falls. The track to the falls is built along the footprint of the original North East Dundas tramway which once snaked its way through this valley as part of the area’s mining heritage. The tramway was shut in 1932 and although parts of it remain, the majority of the track has now been replaced by nice smooth gravel that makes the walk to Montezuma Falls a veritable walk in the park. It is a long walk however at 8km and we saw a number of people scoff at the estimated time on the entrance sign and return to their cars. As I’ve said many times on this blog, stunning views should be earned, it gives you a greater appreciation for the landscape.

As if the incredible sight of Montezuma Falls isn’t enough, there’s also a not for the faint-hearted suspension bridge which can be crossed two adults at a time to the other side of the valley. The track continues on the other side of the bridge but we didn’t venture down it too far and returned back to the falls for a spot of lunch.

Taking in the beautiful surrounds of the track to the falls.
Luscious ferns line much of the Montezuma Falls track.
One of the creeks you pass by along the way.
What a quaint train trip this must have been, although I’d imagine the mine workers didn’t think the same.
An old bridge, now bypassed by the walking track.
Reading up on the history of the area.
The impressive Montezuma Falls. The tramline once ran right under the base of the waterfall, soaking the engine on the way.
Gemma making her way across the suspension bridge.

We returned to our base at Strahan for another night before rising early the next morning for part 2 of our Western Wilds trip to Zeehan and onwards to Cradle Mountain National Park. More to come…..

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