North West Coast
North West Coast
If you are travelling to Tasmania by ferry from Melbourne this is the region where you are most likely to start your discovery of the island under down under. It stretches from the port town of Devonport all the way to Cape Grim in the far northwest. It encompasses bustling and productive towns like Burnie and Wynyard, idyllic farmlands, white sandy beaches and glow-worm-inhabited caves with an inconceivable depth of history.
Tasmania’s North West is one of the most fertile regions of Tasmania and its produce plays a very important role for the state’s economy. The bulk of Tasmania’s vegetable industry is located here and the region produces peas, beans, carrots, potatoes, cherries and berries, to name just a few. The far North West is also renowned for its superb beef and dairy, among them bries and camemberts. A cruise around the region will reveal many hidden gourmet destinations, such as honey farms, olive plantations, chocolates shops as well as boutique wineries.
For those who enjoy the chase of the little white ball, the North West Coast is home to 3 highly ranked championship golf courses. These include Woodrising at Devonport, Allison at Ulverstone and Seabrook at Wynyard. Along with these fine courses are a number of nine hole courses. One of my favourites being the Wynyard Golf Club with it breathtaking scenery and some tricky par threes.
Devonport is most commonly known as the port of the Spirit of Tasmania, which arrives and departs here at least once a day from and to Melbourne. The city revolves around the Mersey River. A walk and cycle path runs along the river all the way to the Don River Railway via the Mersey Bluff, from which you can enjoy splendid views all the way to Burnie on a clear day. The Mersey Bluff Lighthouse was built in 1889 to guide ships safely into the port.
The Devonport region is highly significant for the local Aboriginal community and you can explore the indigenous history in the Tiagarra Aboriginal Centre, from which you can also access the well-preserved rock carvings.
The Maritime Museum near the Bluff gives an insight into Devonport’s rich seafaring history. It is located in the former harbourmaster’s residence and hosts an impressive set of model ships.
The Don River Railway is a reminder of the olden days – since then passenger trains have disappeared entirely from Tasmania. The old diesel train takes you from the Don Village Station to Coles Beach, on weekends the train is pulled by a steam locomotive. The fare also includes entry to a noteworthy collection of steam and diesel locomotives.
From August to March penguins nest at Lillico Beach on the Western edge of Devonport and you can watch them waddle to and from their burrows at dusk and dawn.
Ulverstone and around
Time seems to tick slower in the quiet coastal town of Ulverstone. Its pretty parks and beaches make it a good family holiday destination. Its most outstanding landmark is the Shrine of Remembrance commemorating the Australian soldiers of both World Wars.
Ulverstone is home to one of the finest golf courses in Tasmania. The Ulverstone Golf Club is a beautiful and challenging championship 18 hole tree lined course which is well maintained year round.
Ulverstone also hosts Tasmania's biggest rodeo each January which is well worth attending and is ranked in the top 10 nationally. With attendances of around 6000 thrilling to the bull riding, saddle broncos and barrel racing it makes for a great evening out.
A short trip inland takes you to the Gunns Plains Cave featuring spectacular shawl and flowstone formations.
For a close-up encounter with Tasmania’s native wildlife visit the Wing’s Wildlife Park, a family-run rehabilitation and care sanctuary for injured and orphaned wildlife including Tasmanian devils, quolls and many other species.
Via the tiny settlement of Nietta you can reach the Leven Canyon Regional Reserve. An easy 20-min return walk leads to a sensational viewing platform from which you peer down onto the Leven River 300m below.
This little seaside town carries its name proudly. It was named after the world’s smallest penguins, which waddle ashore here during breeding season (September to March). Today the feathered seabirds share their name-town with a number of model penguins scattered around the place, including the 3m high Big Penguin by the seashore. You can watch the little penguins come ashore at night on a guided tour; for details check with the local visitor centre.
If you are visiting on a Sunday, browse the stalls of the Penguin Market, which offer everything from fine local foods and wine to arts and crafts as well as live music. This is Tasmania’s largest undercover market.
One of the beauties of Penguin is the old coast road which was the original highway between Penguin and Ulverstone. This is a lovely drive, especially in Spring when the flower beds lining the road as you leave Penguin are in bloom.
Burnie sits on the shore of the Emu River, a fortunate location, which has turned the town into the fifth largest container port in Australia. In the early days mainly tin and timber were exported from Burnie, today the port handles bulk shippings including minerals, fuels, woodchips and logs as well as containerised freight.
In recent years Burnie’s heavy industries including the paper-making business have given way to more creative enterprises and the town has proudly been labelled "City of Makers". One example of this development is the original Makers’ Workshop, where visitors can experience hands-on the art of making paper. You will be surprised that paper can not only be made from a variety of fibres, but also rainforest leaves, apple pulp and even wombat and kangaroo droppings.
Spoil your taste buds at the Cheese Tasting Centre located at the Makers’ Workshop, which displays dairy samples as well as other Tasmanian specialty produce. In the Hellyer’s Road Whisky Distillery close by you can sample single malt whisky.
With its noteworthy diversity of native flora the Burnie Park ranks among Tasmania’s finest. It features some animal enclosures with ducks, swans, wallabies, emus, peacocks and rabbits. Also nearby is the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, one of Australia's major rhododendron gardens with over 22,000 rhododendrons and other plants. Other notable reserves and gardens include Fern Glade, the Romaine Reserve and Annsleigh Gardens and Cafe.
The Little Penguin Observation Centre runs free guided tours from October to February.
Wynyard and around
The quiet little town of Wynyard is arranged around the Inglis River and spectacularly located against the backdrop of the Table Cape. It is the service centre of a highly productive agricultural district. The planting of poppy for medical purposes is a fairly recent development and you will come across several enclosed poppy fields while cruising the area. In October Wynyard comes alive during the annual Bloomin’ Tulips Festival .
Wynyard is surrounded by breathtaking coastal scenery including dramatic cliffs and picture-perfect beaches. Take a drive out to the Fossil Bluff, a rocky ledge offering sensational views. The oldest marsupial fossil of Australia was found here.
Follow the Table Cape Road all the way to the Lighthouse at the very tip of Table Cape. You can join a Table Cape Lighthouse Tour to learn more about the fascinating history of this place or simply take a halt, soak in the fresh air and enjoy the stunning views.
Boat Harbour Beach
This beach Eldorado makes you believe some supernatural power has cut out a piece of the Caribbean and relocated it here on Tasmania’s rugged North West coast. The white sandy beach surrounded by picturesque cliffs and turquois ocean was once considered Tasmania’s best kept secret. Today it gets swarmed with families during summer holidays and on weekends. The sea is usually calm, making it ideal for children, but don’t be fooled by the tropical appearance of the water: it usually remains quite chilly even during the summer months.
Rocky Cape National Park
This small coastal park blossoms during spring and summer when wildflowers lavishly expose their colourful array. Materials found in cave middens in the park reveal continuous human occupation of 8000 years, making this a place of great significance for local Aboriginals. Hiking treks take you to the Lighthouse, into the caves and to Sisters Beach, an 8km stretch of picture-perfect beach with picnic tables, electric barbecues, toilets and drinking water. Sisters Beach also has accommodation and a general store.
If you were looking for a good spot to hide a village, the location of Stanley certainly seems a suitable option. In the remote corner of Tasmania’s North West, the town is located on a small peninsula reaching into the Bass Straight and sheltered by an ancient volcano called The Nut, that’s been extinct for 13 million years. You can climb up the top of The Nut on a steep footpath or take the chairlift. Up on the 150m high volcanic plateau peering down onto the rugged landscape and foaming sea you might catch a drift of that edge-of-the-world feeling that must have send a shiver through the spines of those adventure-proven early settlers.
The Van Diemen’s Land Company set up their headquarters here in 1826 and Stanley became the first European settlement of the North West. The company’s old warehouse on Wharf Road today houses a boutique hotel. Today, the historic buildings from the colonial era are complemented by brightly painted cottages, some of them offer old-English style accommodation for visitors. The Discovery Centre features a good display on the local history.
Stanley Seal Cruises provide a 75 minute scenic cruise to Bull Rock to see up to 500 seals basking and playing in the waters of Bass Strait.
Smithton and the far North West
Smithton is the service centre for the local beef and vegetable industry. If you are touring the North West, this is a good place to stock up on groceries and fuel.
Approximately half way between Smithton and Marrawah is one of the last remaining swamps of the North West: The Dismal Swamp is a natural blackwood forest sinkhole 40m deep, which has formed over thousands of years by dissolving dolomite. The sinkhole features a 110m slide from the viewing platform down to the swamp floor. There is also a timber walkway with interpretation signs explaining this ancient environment.
The most North-Westerly edge of Tasmania around Cape Grim is known as Woolnorth, a 220km2 property owned by the Van Diemen’s Land Company. Since 2007 enormous wind turbines harness the power of the Roaring Forties and deliver around twelve percent of the Tasmanian energy demand. Woolnorth Tours operates guided visits to the wind farm and to some of the historic cottages.
The little unspoilt beach town of Marrawah is a hidden treasure built into peaceful hilly grasslands with marvellous beaches and welcoming, laid-back locals. The beach near Green Point, 2 km from the town centre is a popular destination for experienced surfers who enjoy the challenging break. There is also good surfing at Lighthouse Beach at West Point.
Arthur River is the last stop to stock up on groceries before entering into Tasmania’s remote wild west. Only a hand full of people live here permanently, but it’s a popular fishing destination, mainly during the summer. A few tour operators offer river cruises; you can also hire a canoe, which is a great way to catch a glimpse of the rugged wilderness of the Tarkine Region.
Deloraine and Chudleigh
For a small country town Deloraine features an impressive collection of art galleries, sculptures and other artsy attractions. It’s not hard to see where all this creative energy stems from: The town sits amidst an inspirational landscape of idyllic green hills, peaceful farms and the Great Western Tiers. The town has an alternative and vibrant feel with authentic eateries, bio groceries and second-hand shops.
In November each year overwhelming numbers of visitors swarm into Deloraine for the Tasmanian Craft Fair , the biggest of its kind in all of Australia.
The Yarns Artwork in Silk in the local visitor centre is a four-panel reflection of life around the Great Western Tiers. It was created by 300 local artists during the 1990s.
The 41 Degrees South Farm produces salmon and ginseng. You can sample the smoked salmon products in the shop or take a self-guided walk around the farm.
Just a few km down the road is Chudleigh’s Honey Farm, where you can taste an impressive selection of local honeys or indulge in the tasty honey ice cream. The shop also features a glass-walled hive in which you can watch thousands of busy bees at work.
The Trowunna Wildlife Park is committed to the rehabilitation of sick or injured native wildlife and prepares its fosterlings for life back in the wild. It is home to Tasmanian devils, wombats, koalas and birds and features live shows several times daily.
Mole Creek is the gateway to the Mole Creek Karst National Park, an area containing over 300 caves and sinkholes. Two of the caves are open to the public; both can be visited in a guided tour. Mole Creek was named after the habit of the local creek which disappears and reappears after travelling some distance underground.
Marakoopa Cave:Two small streams run through this hidden empire of stalagmites and stalactites. The humidity makes the cave an ideal habitat for glow-worms, who cover the cave ceiling like stars on a crystal-clear night sky.
King Solomon Cave:This is a "dry" cave, which is famous for its particularly beautiful geological formations. It’s stunning calcite crystals are known as King Solomon’s Diamonds.
Photo Credits; Tiagarra Aboriginal Culture Centre and Museum, Tiagarra; Tasmanian Devils, MDT; Big Penguin, Penguin, MDT; Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, EVRG; Table Cape Lighthouse, MDT; Boat Harbour Beach, MDT; The Nut, Stanley and Highfield Historic Site, MDT; Tasmanian Rainforest, MDT; Wet Cave, Mole Creek, MDT