Published on 30th May 2017
by Ricky French

A wild, rugged corner of the country that begs for exploration in winter.

Mining relics, mountain train journeys, shipwrecks and untouched rainforests – the frontier feel is never far away in this wild part of the world. The rugged West Coast of Tasmania is surrounded by the stunning takayna/Tarkine wilderness, which harbours rainforest dating back to the time of Gondwana (the super continent), spectacular granite mountains, wildlife and a windswept coastline home to seabirds and culturally significant Aboriginal middens.

This area holds a special – and somewhat gruesome – place in Australia’s colonial history. Deep in the impenetrable bush in 1822, eight convicts escaped from Macquarie Harbour Penal Station and took their chances in the wild. Starving and shivering, they were no match for the hostile terrain, and eventually succumbed to the elements – and each other.

Today you can find much more welcoming options. Fresh seafood is the star, but so are traditional meals based around the tastes of the old time “piners and miners”. Winter is the perfect time to experience the area from the comfort of heated wood cabins, winding drives or train rides, and the still-playful nautically themed bars and restaurants.

The West Coast might only be around a four-hour drive from either Hobart or Launceston, but feels more than a world away.

Welcome to West Coast of Tasmania

EAT

The bounty from the coast’s wild ocean and Macquarie Harbour means seafood reins supreme in this part of the world. Inland towns bring out good old-fashioned home-style cooking.

STAY

Bushwalking through mining tunnels; sitting pretty on a historic railway; and exploring the wild coastline – there are a hundred ways to delve into history while seeing the stunning countryside. Bunker down in a miner’s cottage on the banks of the river or laze in luxury with a view.

DO

Bushwalking through mining tunnels; sitting pretty on a historic railway; and exploring the wild coastline – there are a hundred ways to delve into history while seeing the stunning countryside.

Morrison’s Huon Pine Sawmill

It was a tough life for the early Tasmanian timber workers, who felled Huon Pine along the Dennison, Gordon and Franklin rivers. Their spoils would be floated downstream to Macquarie Harbour, tied together, then rafted across to the seaside township of Strahan. In summer the water level in the rivers would often be too low to float the logs, so they’d be left in the riverbed until the next flood picked them up and washed them downstream. Morrison’s Huon Pine Sawmill in Strahan remembers and bears traces of this life. A huge vertical frame saw dating from the 1800s sits pride of place in the mill and has been there since 1940 when three brothers Morrison set up their Huon Pine business on the Strahan wharf. Here you can see the original derrick crane that hoisted logs off the rafts and into the mill to be cut up and shaped, mostly to build boats, and a demonstration of the saw in action every day at 3pm. The gift shop sells beautifully handcrafted Huon Pine souvenirs, from clocks to jewellery to bowls to breadboards and serving platters. Everything is made in Tasmania and a lot of it right here at the mill. You can even buy unfinished, seasoned offcuts to take home and craft yourself. There’s also a short film showing the life of the early timber workers and you can see historic photographs that give stark sense of what it was like to work this wild land back to the Huon Pine glory days. Give thanks you were born in a different era.

Itinerary

The Local's Tour of the West Coast

Winter fun indoors and out as you explore the wild coast, pick through mining relics, get a history lesson and wash it all down with whisky.