Wild West Drive - 2/3 days

The west coast of Tasmania is one of the most accessible wilderness areas in the world. Because of its location on Macquarie Harbour, which fringes Western Tasmania's wilderness country, the village of Strahan enjoys a booming eco-tourism trade. As well as exploring Macquarie Harbour and the river that flows into it, visitors to Strahan are treated to the freshest of seafood, while having access to accommodation facilities to suit every budget and requirement. This drive takes in Strahan, the mining town of Zeehan to its north, and the historic villages on the main road between Hobart and Tasmania's wild west. The trip requires a considerable amount of driving, much of it along winding, mountainous roads, but the scenery and interesting places along the way make it well worth the effort.

Location

From Hobart, travelling north west to West Coast of Tasmania.

Length

625 km. Two day drive, overnight at Strahan

Features and Attractions

Richmond; Kempton; Bothwell; Taralleah; Queenstown; Strahan; Macquarie Harbour; Zeehan; Hamilton

Day 1

Take the Brooker Hwy north out of Hobart to Bridgewater. Continue north on the Midland Highway to Brighton and Pontville. Once an important stopping point on the road from Hobart to Launceston, Pontville is home to a number of convict built, pre-1820s buildings including a soldiers barracks. Continue north through the villages of Mangalore, Bagdad and Dysart to Kempton, a charming Georgian colonial settlement which is registered as a classified historic town. Dysart House, now privately owned, at the southern end of town, is an exceedingly handsome mansion. The next village is Melton Mowbray, a place that never grew to its full potential.

At Melton (as it is known by the locals), turn left and follow Lake Highway through Aspley to Bothwell. This little village, laid out in 1824, had a strong Scottish element in its early population which is evident everywhere in its buildings (see photo gallery). It is claimed that the first game of golf in Australia was played here in the 1820s. In season, Bothwell is known as the gateway to some of the best trout fishing in Australia. Leave Bothwell by taking Wentworth Street, and follow the signs to Ouse, another small Central Highlands town. It was in the hills around Ouse that bushranger Martin Cash roamed. Nearby are Cluny Dam and the Repulse Dam; both are small, but typical Hydro Power Station dams. Millbrook water mill off Victoria Valley Road dates back to 1843.

Travel north along Lyell Highway. A road to the right leads to Tarraleah, a town created to house workers on a 1930's hydro-electric scheme on the upper Derwent. A visitors centre sits on the hilltop above the huge hydro-electric pipes, a spectacular sight. The whole town of 1920s and 1930s wooden homes has been restored as an elegant wilderness adventure resort. Back on the highway, the next dot on the map is Derwent Bridge, a small community in the Central Highlands where the highway crosses the Derwent near Lake St Clair (5 km). There are several short walks available at Lake St Clair ranging from a 30-40 minute walk up to a 7 hour round trip to Mt Rufus. After Derwent Bridge, Lyell Highway winds for 56 kilometres through the heart of the Wild Rivers National Park, which lies in the heart of the Franklin - Gorden Rivers Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is a region of dramatic mountain peaks, beautiful rainforest, deep river valleys and spectacular gorges. There are several short walks and picnic stops along the way that will allow you to discover the grandeur and beauty of the Wild Rivers region.

Just off the Lyell Highway between Queenstown and Derwent Bridge is Nelson Falls. A short walk to the falls provides a welcome break from what can be a tedious drive through the mountains, depending on the weather conditions and traffic. After passing the man-made Lake Burbury, the highway climbs the mountains up to the remnants of the mining town of Gormanston, before winding its way down through the stark, treeless landscape that surrounds Queenstown. Spend the night at Queenstown, or travel on the Strahan for a wider choice of accommodation . If you plan to take a harbour cruise or ride the Wilderness Railway, give serious thought to adding an extra day to your itinerary - spending the whole day at Strahan and staying at Strahan overnight. 311 km

Day 2

If your overnight stay was at Queenstown, continue north on Lyell Highway and take the road to Strahan, a few kms out of town. Located at the top end of Macquarie Harbour, Strahan is the gateway to the world Heritage-listed wilderness area of Western Tasmania; it's a tourist magnet; cruises on Macquarie Harbour and up the King, Franklin and Gordon Rivers and to the former convict prison, Sarah Island, fill up quickly so book in advance. The short drive to Hogarth Falls is also very popular. If you intend taking a cruise at Strahan, a second overnight stay is highly recommended, allowing a full day in and around Strahan and Queenstown.

Leave Strahan by travelling north along Andrew Street into Henty Road. This takes you on a scenic back road to the old mining town of Zeehan. The town features some interesting architecture. Leave Zeehan via Zeehan Hwy, turning left into Zeehan Highway. Travel south on Lyell Highway towards Hobart, passing through Derwent Bridge and Ouse which were visited on the previous day when travelling north. Continue through Ouse on the Lyell Highway to Hamilton, a pretty colonial-era town on the Clyde River. Hamilton is full of history, from Georgian cottages that now house craft galleries or offer bed and breakfast accommodation to a convict built schoolhouse. Jackson's Emporium, built in 1856, is a quaintly different kind of department store specialising in Derwent Valley products.

Continue south through Gretna to Rosegarland and turn left towards Bushy Park. The hop capital of Tasmania, it is a fascinating historic destination, a real piece of Europe with its old houses, hop kilns, deciduous trees and hopfields which seem to envelop every building and road. Mount Field National Park, with cascading waterfalls, deep gorges and a large variety of plants and trees, is accessed by road from Bushy Park. Follow Glenora Rd through Plenty (with its superb Salmon Ponds) to New Norfolk, so named because the town's founding pioneers were re-settled from Norfolk Island in 1808.

The richness and variety of its historic buildings, the old Oast Houses and the gentle undulations of the countryside on either side of the Derwent River make this one of the most attractive places in the whole of southern Tasmania. Tasmania's oldest church, The Anglican Church of St Matthew, is in New Norfolk. Return to Hobart taking the picturesque drive alongside the River Derwent via Lyell Highway. 314 km

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