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After we left the sensational north western Tasmanian coastal village of Stanley we headed south towards the western wilderness area of Tassie and the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Parks, Franklin-Gordon Rivers, mining areas of Zeehan and Queenstown and the West Coast town of Strahan. On our epic Tassie trip we were entering the West Coast wilderness and we had no idea what was in store for us.
As we headed south-west on the Murchison Highway over the West Coast Range the weather took a dramatic turn for the worse and we experienced gale force winds and driving rain that turned into sleet the further south we ventured. It was so cold that it was almost unbearable to leave the warmth and comfort of our campervan!
We stopped briefly at Hellyer Gorge on the Hellyer River and walked through the dense rainforest along the rapid flowing rocky-bottomed river. There are a number of sections of rapids on the Hellyer River that are suitable for kayaking and of course it is popular for bushwalking. But on this particular day I would not have recommended kayaking!
The weather forecasts informed us that there was snowfall at Cradle Mountain and throughout the highlands of this area. We had no choice but to amend our planned itinerary, so instead of taking the turnoff for Cradle Mountain National Park, we continued towards Strahan.
We wound our way through the Mount Murchison range, to Tullah and Rosebery. We stopped at Rosebery Lake at the Tullah Lakeside Lodge where we indulged ourselves in home-cooked warm scones, jam and cream and a steaming hot chocolate by the open fire at the lodge. We took in the gorgeous views over the lake whilst enjoying our indulgent morning tea.
We turned off the main road to visit Montezuma Falls, the highest falls in Tasmania at 104 metres, that we heard were absolutely stunning, only to be turned around by a large tree that had fallen across the road. We were having no luck with the forces of nature on this particular day!
We eventually arrived at the once prosperous town Zeehan that was established in the late 1800s, after tin, silver and lead discoveries sparked the largest mining boom in the west. Nicknamed ‘Silver City’, it quickly grew into Tasmania’s third largest town and social hub for the entire West Coast region. Today the town attract geologists from around the world due to the unique geological structures of the region. I have to say that it was more like a Ghost Town on the day we visited.
After leaving Zeehan, the weather still wasn’t very pleasant, so we headed to the harbour-side village of Strahan. With a dark and fascinating convict past, Strahan is set on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and is where we spent two glorious days exploring the region.
Strahan is an attractive village with lovely little shops and eateries lining the main street alongside a very picturesque harbour. It is also the destination – or departure point – for the West Coast Wilderness Railway that runs between Queenstown and Strahan.
Nestled on the shores of massive Macquarie Harbour, Strahan is the gateway to the World Heritage listed Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. We decided to take a cruise out into the harbour to Hell’s Gates, the spectacular entrance to the harbour, and then continued down to the Gordon River enjoying the timber-rich forests lining the river banks.
We saw many fish farms in the centre of the harbour that produce over 9,000 tonnes of fish consisting of Atlantic Salmon and Ocean Trout. We were told by our tour guide that a coal seam runs under the water and the shores contain some of the oldest plant fossils ever found.
Further down the Gordon River we learnt about the Tasmanian timbers that were logged in wilderness. The most sought after timber was from the Huon Pine, that lives for thousands of years and is a magnificent tree valued for its water resistant qualities for shipbuilding.
Eventually we arrived at Sarah Island, in Macquarie Harbour, that was once a notorious convict prison and is a powerful reminder of the brutal treatment of Tasmania’s convicts. From 1822 to 1833, Sarah Island was the home of a harsh convict settlement, with logging and boat building from the locally sought Huon Pine being the main trade.
We took a guided tour of the island with a highly entertaining host who regaled grisly stories of the characters that were interred on this hellish convict settlement in the middle of the harbour.
Once one of the world’s richest copper mining towns, Queenstown is only 40Kms from Strahan and is surrounded by Mount Sedgewick and Mount Owen. The township of Queenstown is located in the valley on the western slopes of Mount Owen and the surrounding area resembles a cratered moonscape.
The scenic drive into Queenstown down a spiralling road with over 90 bends is nothing short of jaw-dropping and a testament to the brutal reality of Tasmania’s mining past. You can stop at the copper Queenstown sign and memorial plaque at the entrance into the town and get fabulous views of the township below.
A 20 minute drive out of Queenstown, is Lake Burbury where you can take in the sights or fish for trout. This is a popular place for camping. We stopped here briefly to take this photo and then made our way eastwards towards Derwent Bridge.
After a wonderful couple of days exploring the West Coast we traversed the island across the mountainous Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to Derwent Bridge. It goes without saying that this was a challenging but scenic drive with small amounts of snow on the roadside in places. The wild wild west of Tasmania is unlike anywhere else in Australia – it’s rugged beauty, mining and convict history and lush rainforests were all-encompassing.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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JulieMarch 4, 2016
Sounds like an epic part of your Tassie adventure!! Shame to have missed Cradle – it’s even more spectacular with snow on and around it
KathyMarch 5, 2016
It was a shame to miss Cradle Mountain. Maybe next time I’m thinking. We were totally unprepared for cold weather. The Western Wilderness was a fascinating area of Tassie. :)
NOMAD/nester _ Julie SmallMarch 22, 2016
Cardinal rule for Tassie – go prepared for all weather regardless of the time of year! One year we walked up to the Walls of Jerusalem late December and it snowed for 3 days. And not just a flurry here or there, real blizzard like conditions. But it was truly special because we were prepared for it.
KathyMarch 22, 2016
Yes I have thoroughly learnt my lesson the hard way! Always take your snow gear to Tassie regardless of the season!! It is so bizarre that you can have snow in summer in Australia! :)
JoMarch 4, 2016
What an epic adventure in a beautiful and awe inspiring wilderness region. I loved reading about your trip and finding out snippets of information that a tourist brochure might not give.
KathyMarch 5, 2016
It was an epic adventure. I loved the Tassie wilderness. It is so vast and untouched that I think I might have to return to explore Cradle Mountain and maybe walk the Overland Trail. :)
AndyMarch 5, 2016
I love this part of Tasmania and I missed out on Montezuma Falls also, as I got lost exploring ghost towns rather than stopped by a tree. The Sarah Island tour sounds great! I would love to do that. What a history.
KathyMarch 5, 2016
I loved the wild west as well, but unfortunately didn’t spend enough time exploring this fascinating area. It was snowing at Cradle Mountain in late November and we never had warm enough clothing so we gave it a miss. Next time I’d like to explore a lot more. The Sarah Island tour was very interesting. :)
Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)March 5, 2016
I love the Thomas the Tank Engine look alike. I stayed in Queenstown once. It was fascinating but a bit smelly from memory which is typical of mining towns. Cradle Mountain is breath taking. It was snowing lightly up there when I visited it the first time.
KathyMarch 5, 2016
Queenstown was surrounded by big moon craters of denuded terrain but strangely beautiful. The other mining town, Zeehan was like a ghost town and that is where Thomas the Tank Engine was. Very intriguing part of Tassie. The wilderness is so vast and untouched. :)
budgettraveltalkMarch 5, 2016
I spent 5 weeks in Tasmania as a 17 year old with a girlfriend and remember the wild west. We didn’t experience the crazy weather that you did though. It was a pity you weren’t able to reach Cradle Mountain. I don’t remember the Sarah Island tour. Tassie is certainly something.
KathyMarch 5, 2016
Apparently the West is renowned for its wild weather and gusty strong chilly winds, so we were told. It did prevent us from seeing a couple of places, such as Cradle Mountain and Mt Field National Park, but then we wouldn’t have spent enough time in Hobart. This means we will need to return at some point in time! :)
RuthMarch 5, 2016
I can see that there are a lot of unique and different settings in this part of Tasmania. It is like you do not know what you are going to see next (mountains, forests, lakes, old buildings, beaches). I like the buildings in Zeehan.
KathyMarch 5, 2016
Tassie is such an assortment of natural attractions. It has beautiful beaches, rugged untamed coastlines, many rivers and streams, mountains and national parks galore, historical buildings and untouched forests. All of this in a very compact island state. :)
seizetheday20March 6, 2016
Ah Tasmania – so so beautiful and a unique landscape that you don’t find elsewhere is Australia. I watched a documentary about Sarah Island – such a brutal, barbaric place for those interred there, but certainly a most interesting site to visit now.
KathyMarch 6, 2016
Sarah Island was so interesting. We had a very entertaining tour guide who actually told stories from the convict’s point of view and it was an extremely brutal place. I adored Tassie and could go back there tomorrow! :)
Linda ~ Journey JottingsMarch 9, 2016
Snow in November? But I guess, now being forewarned, if one goes prepared it would be a gorgeous sight!
I have promised myself a trip to Tassie in the next year so following along on your trip has offered some great info and inspiration :)
KathyMarch 10, 2016
Yes indeed it did snow in late November! Such a crazy weather pattern. We experienced all types of weather during our 12 day tour. Tassie was absolutely breathtaking from one end to the other. I highly recommend a trip here. :)
Life Images by JillJanuary 30, 2020
I would really love to get back to Tassie one of these days and spend more time exploring. Happy travels Kathy.
KathyJanuary 30, 2020
We would like to go back here too to cover the territory we didn’t cover on our last trip. I really enjoyed the diversity of the island and Tassie’s history is so interesting.