West Coast Wanderings
By Kate Butler
The West Coast is home to some of the most magnificent scenery in Tasmania and has an incredibly rich history to match. Strahan is the perfect base to explore this; whether you are visiting for a few nights, or have a little more time on your hands; there are wonders and wanders to suit all.
West Coast Waterfalls
Hogarth Falls is a short walk reached via The People’s Park in Strahan and a lovely way to escape all forms of civilisation without much effort at all. As you stroll along, you will find yourself surrounded by the sounds of chirping birds, buzzing insects and the trickling of water. The temperate rainforest almost encloses the path and the big, old trees and huge green ferns give it a real prehistoric feel. The walk is an easy 40 minute return, making it suitable for all ages and abilities.
Looking for something a little bigger and have more time on your hands? Then head to Montezuma Falls. Situated a few kilometres south of the town of Rosebery on the West Coast, it is roughly only an hour drive from your accommodation in Strahan. The walk is 9.6km in total and approximately a three hour return. It follows a historic tramway route, dating back to the 1800’s, through the rainforest to the base of the falls, which was named after the Montezuma Silver Mining Company. Along the way there is still evidence of its existence, with an old bridge overgrown with moss and ferns, the remains of sleepers lay along the path and a creepy abandoned mine shaft. The track itself is well maintained and flat, making it a wonderfully easy walk.
Life’s a Beach
A short drive from Strahan along a dirt road is Ocean Beach, arguably one of Tasmania’s most spectacular beaches. Stretching over 36km, you can feel the sheer force of the Southern Ocean as it reaches the unforgiving western wilderness. Take a walk, jump in a 4x4 or even ride along the shore.
Heading south of Ocean Beach, you will come to Macquarie Heads. From here, you can see Hells Gates, the narrow entrance you will pass through aboard the Gordon River Cruise, for a dramatic taste of the Southern Ocean. You will also notice the little white lighthouse atop of Bonnet Island across the harbour. You can visit the island on the Bonnet Island Experience Tour, which offers a glimpse of the little penguin colony living there.
Henty Sand Dunes
Speaking of beaches, don’t miss the Henty Dunes, which are just 11km north of Strahan and a bizarre mix of forest and sugar-fine white sand dunes reaching up to 30m high. From the top, enjoy views of sand, forest, mountains and ocean, all at once.
Zeehan’s Hidden Gems
Zeehan is just a 35 minute drive from Strahan and rich in fascinating history. It was nicknamed the Silver City after a mining boom in the late 1800’s. When you drive along the main street, you get a real Wild West sort of vibe from the old buildings and ruggedness of the surrounding landscape.
Just before you reach the town, you will notice the old smelters on the right-hand side, which have been abandoned for over 50 years. Thanks to the success of mining, Zeehan once grew to the third largest town in Tasmania. In the early 1900’s, however, the ore started to dwindle and the town began its decline. What remains at the site is known as ‘slag’, the by-product left after metal is separated from its raw ore, that and old rusted machines and the brick foundations from where huge chimneys once dominated the landscape. No vegetation can grow here and wildlife is scarce, making visiting it an eerie, almost other-worldly experience.
The Spray Tunnel
As you venture into the town, be sure not to bypass the Spray Tunnel; a 100 metre long abandoned railway tunnel, which was carved through a hill in 1901, so that ore could be transported from one of the mines. It is just 3 metres high, 2.2 metres wide and is shaped a lot like a keyhole. Until recently, you could drive your car through the tunnel. Today, you can walk, cycle or even ride through! The Spray Tunnel Loop is an easy walk and takes roughly an hour to complete.
If you are more of a nature lover than a history buff, take a hike! Mount Zeehan is not particularly large in size (702m) or striking in appearance, when compared with some of Tassie’s more famous climbs, meaning that it is mostly overlooked by walkers and hikers passing through. The track can be found opposite the smelters, but be aware there are no signposts, just a graveled area to park and a path leading up and away out of sight. The track starts off reasonably intact, though very loose underfoot. However, the further you climb, the more the path becomes hidden among the overgrowth and you will need to scramble over rocks and squeeze through the vegetation. This hike is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but the views are so very rewarding.
Well I’ll be Dammed
Tasmania’s West Coast is abundant with hydroelectric history. The small, former mining town of Tullah is just over an hour drive from Strahan and boasts some of the most stunning lakes in the region.
Just before you reach the town, turn right onto Murchison Dam Road. The scenic drive follows the Murchison River up to the reservoir with Mount Murchison standing majestically in the backdrop.
Just a little further into the town, turn right onto Mackintosh Dam Road. Here, you wind along 5km’s of road shadowed by craggy mountains until you reach Lake Mackintosh. The lake and surrounding landscape is simply breathtaking and a perfect spot to stop for a picnic.
After a long day of exploring, satisfy your hunger with the outstanding array of Tasmanian fare on offer at View 42° Restaurant & Bar, settle down with your meal overlooking the beautiful Macquarie Harbour.