Adventure

7 Reasons Tasmania’s Wild West Is Australia’s Most Exciting Region To Visit

As far as Australian destinations go, it’s harder to get much further off the beaten track than western Tasmania. It’s a wild land of contradictions, where massive mines sit next to pristine world heritage wilderness and environmental devastation helped to create Australia’s most fascinating arts festival.

But whether you want to bask in the silence of primary growth rainforest or scream at the top of your lungs while canyoning through a remote mountain gorge, it’s an incredibly rewarding destination that’s well worth the effort.

Here’s why you should take a chance on the western side of Tasmania.

#1 World class wilderness

 

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Look at a map of Tasmania and you’ll notice that the western half is mostly green, with only a few roads bisecting the immense wilderness protected by national parks. If the Tasmanian tiger were still alive, you imagine it would be lurking in this vast and impenetrable wilderness. Venturing in requires some serious effort, but even from a distance it’s easy to appreciate the grandeur of the stunning old growth forests. Fortunately, plenty of roadside lookouts and mountaintops allow you to do just that.

#2 Get wet and wild

 

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If you do want to head into the wilderness, there are no roads so the best way is to follow the Franklin River and Gordon Rivers. The site of a proposed dam in the ’80s that led to nationwide protests, today the free-flowing rivers are home to one of the most exhilarating whitewater rafting journeys on earth. Travelling through unspoiled wilderness that few people ever see doesn’t come easy, though – this is an eight- to 10-day journey and it’s strictly one way.

If you’re looking for something more accessible, Cradle Mountain Canyons lead exhilarating day trips that let you leap, slide and abseil down waterfalls and through canyons surrounded by temperate rainforest.

#3 Celebrate the unconformity

 

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Queenstown is not a place for subtlety. Mountains have been ripped apart by mines and the slopes scarred by acid rain to create a starkly beautiful landscape that glows orange, pink and green in the setting sun. The mines haven’t operated for years but the Queen River that runs through town is still bright orange and highly acidic. It’s also a frontier town that sits on the edge of the Southwest Wilderness.

The biennial Unconformity festival directly addresses these contrasting forces that define the local landscape with a series of site-specific works inspired by the local landscape and geology. The result is one of the most exciting and rewarding arts festivals in the country, where you might find yourself walking through rainforest while following the a tragic story of two lovers, using a metal detector to discover hidden sounds or head-banging to AC/DC in the town centre.

#4 How’s the serenity?

 

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If you’re looking to get away from it all, you can’t do much better than Strahan, which is literally at the end of the road. A charming village on the vast Macquarie Harbour, its beauty is untrammelled by industry and it makes the perfect place to rest up for a few days.

It’s hard to believe this region was once viewed as “hell on earth”, but a visit to Sarah Island vividly recreates the horrors of a penal colony notorious for its isolation and brutality. Now the ruins lay silent, watched by the surrounding World Heritage area. The easiest way to visit is aboard Spirit Of The Wild, which also glides silently up the dark, tannin-stained waters of the mirror-still Gordon River past ancient huon pines and myrtle beeches into a prehistoric landscape.

#5 Take the scenic route

 

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Locals joke that the road builders in Tasmania were paid by the curve instead of by the kilometre, and even a short drive shows why. The roads in the west take hairpins bends and switchbacks through ancient, mist-clad forests, climb over razorback ridges and burst out onto expansive peat bogs topped with tussocks of buttongrass.

It’s Australia, but not as you know it. You’ll want to leave plenty of driving time for both the conditions and the stunning views.

#6 Sitting on top of the world

 

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Cradle Mountain is one of Australia’s most photographed spots, and with good reason. Reflected in the waters of Dove Lake, the rocky peak can turn from a picture of serenity ringed by a blue sky into a formidable snow-covered fortress from Game Of Thrones in the space of a few hours. Reaching the summit is only possible in good weather but there are plenty of shorter walks that are accessible year round. The lake circuit offers stunning views of the mountain, and other tracks lead through fairy tale forests and buttongrass plains heavily populated by wombats and pademelons.

#7 Visit a ghost town

 

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Mining and logging created boom towns throughout Tasmania’s west, but most of them only bloomed for a brief period. Near Queenstown, abandoned settlements like Linda and Gormanston, where a few residents are still clinging on, have a wild west feel and many of the buildings still stand.

Deeper in the forest, however, nature is quickly reclaiming moss-covered ruins. Push through giant ferns to reach Pillinger and you’ll feel like you’re in a lost world, or you can do it the easy way and visit a series of old logging camps via steam train on the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

(Lead image: Unsplash / Sylvia Yang)