The beauty of the Tasmanian countryside is the feeling of isolation you get there. Gazing out over some of the mountains, forests and lakes its hard to remember that we live in an industrialised world filled with billions of people. Nowhere is this feeling more prevalent than on the West Coast, an area whose raw beauty may not lend itself well to human habitation, but certainly lends itself well to a touring motorhome holiday. Not only do the rocky coastline and the raging southern ocean clash here in a mighty display of land versus sea, but inland the mountains and valleys have a lush cover of ancient rainforest that gives the region a mystical quality that you would expect from a fantasy novel. Prepare to be transported to a place very, very far away as you enter West Tasmania!
Most people would travel here from Hobart, a journey that takes you through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park along the Lyell Highway. The Park is simply sensational, protecting the great rivers of the west including the Franklin, Gordon and Olga Rivers, around which lush and green rainforest provides a home to an amazing array of wildlife. There are a number of bushwalks that you can take from right by the highway, with the one that leads to the base of Nelson Falls an especially popular one. The more adventurous may be inclined to get involved in some white water rafting down the Franklin River, with some trips going for as long as fourteen days!
The largest town of the West Coast is Queenstown, a mining town of 2300 people. The best thing about this town is its surroundings, as the town itself looks something like a deserted moonscape because of all the mining activity. Of course there is lots to see in the National Park surrounding the town, and the coastline lies not far away either. The small but characterful settlement of Strahan sits on the shores of the Macquarie Harbour about a forty minute drive from Queenstown, and is normally the next stage in a campervan journey.
The immense pine forests that you have passed through to get here are the reason for Strahan's existence, as it was initially a base for the businessmen coming to seek out the Huon Pine that grows in these parts. A penal colony was created at Sarah Island which lies offshore, and convicts would have to row to the mainland through the notorious 'Hells Gate' of Macquarie Harbour to harvest the pine. Huon Pine is still in high demand because it is extremely durable, and there are a number of shops in Strahan where you can buy goods manufactured from it. A tour of Morrisons Huon Pine Mill will teach you more about the wood and its importance to the area.
In Strahan because of the large harbour and the Gordon and King Rivers that empty into it much of the recreational activity is water based. When the weather and the elements are calm the waters of the harbour become so perfectly still they are like a mirror, and on days like these a sunset boat cruise up and down its 50 kilometre length are especially special. These take you past the salmon farms, where 60 000 kilograms of live salmon churn the waters into a white froth. Canoeing and kayaking are also a popular pursuit, and the ubiquitous fishing also has its place in Strahan!
For a beach experience you wont get in many other places pay a visit to Ocean Beach near Strahan, a 40 kilometre stretch of hard white sand bordered by high dunes behind it and the rough waves of the Southern Ocean in front of it. In wild weather the water droplets off the waves can give the impression of fog, and often whales get stranded on this shoreline. Dont expect bikini clad babes or beach volleyball, but do enjoy this taste of nature at its most raw.
With its rich history and its wealth of real natural attractions, any journey you make through the west of Tassy is going to be an inspiring and interesting one. If you are coming south from Hobart then you can always continue north through to Devonport, a three hour drive from Strahan. This is where the ferry from Melbourne docks, so you could drop off your camper and head to the mainland that way. Or else you could just continue your way through Tasmania... theres lots more to see!
Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit Discovery Campervans
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