West Coast Wilds

Highlights | Accommodation | Road Trip Essentials

© We are Explorers

Tasmania’s own heart of darkness – brooding and utterly unforgiving – Tasmania’s West Coast is a place like no other, teetering on the edge of the known world. 

Include the West Coast Wilds in your self-drive road trip itinerary and uncover its secrets!

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On the West Coast of Tasmania the indigenous palawa established an easy balance over tens of thousands of years. 

But in the eyes of early colonists it was a brutal, inhospitable wilderness suited only to the Empire’s most hardened criminals.

And yet beneath that beautifully harsh exterior they found a land of riches. Tin and timber proving an irresistible lure despite the grim lifestyle – fostering a resilient, fiercely independent community whose ‘West Coaster‘ legacy lives on today.

Lap of Tasmania road trip
Strahan at Sunset | 📷: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett

Mining and logging once fueled the West Coast, but its natural wonders are now the star attraction.

Untouched rainforests of Huon pine and sassafras, serpentine rivers with tannin-stained banks of gold and burnt caramel, and some of the world’s best seafood, plucked from the icy, surging waters of the Indian Ocean.

This is Tasmania at its most raw, bringing a sense of adventure and exhilaration to every road trip.

Highlights of West Coast Tasmania

The '99 Bends'

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The '99 Bends' to Queenstown | 📷: Pete Harmsen

Every Tasmanian road trip should include a morning spent cruising down (or up) the ’99 Bends’ between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown.

Its sweeping curves and magnificent views are acclaimed as being some of the best in Australia. With such a smooth tarmac surface its inclusion as one of the most thrilling stages in the annual Targa road race is also no surprise.

Read More: 12 Must-Pack Items for Your Tasmania Holiday

Queenstown

You’ll never forget the lunar landscape greeting your eyes as your road trip descends into Queenstown. Bare hills slashed with pink, red, and gold – the unfortunate yet photogenic results of its mining heritage.

Regeneration is important to this resilient town. Not only is the landscape recovering, but the community is reinventing its image through its unique heritage and unusual arts scene.

See the lovingly restored Paragon Theatre in Queenstown on your Lap of Tasmania road trip
Paragon Theatre in Queenstown

It’s a work in progress, but after years of neglect the iconic art deco Paragon Theatre is being lovingly restored to its former glory. Whether it’s dinner and a classic movie, or just a taste of their homemade choc-tops, it’s a surprising gem in the heart of Queenstown.

The LARQ Gallery is also worth a visit, with artworks from local and international artists regularly on display.

🤔 Did you know…?

The Queenstown football field is the most intimidating in Australia – covered with gravel instead of grass!

That’s ‘West Coaster’ tough 💪

West Coast Wilderness Railway

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West Coast Wilderness Railway | 📷: Tourism Tasmania & Nick Osborne

To ride one of the majestic steam trains on the West Coast Wilderness Railway is to take a journey back in time – to the days of tenacious fettlers and tough-as-nails prospectors.

The terrain is stunning, and whether it’s a half-day or full-day steam trip, departing from either Queenstown or Strahan, you’ll be amazed and inspired by the ingenuity of the early West Coasters.

Strahan and Macquarie Harbour

Perched on the shores of Macquarie Harbour, Strahan is a picture-perfect seaside village full of history.

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Macquarie Harbour World Heritage Cruises | 📷: World Heritage Cruises

A Macquarie Harbour Cruise is a must, crossing the mirror-like waters to the fury of Hell’s Gates, before gliding up the Gordon River to stillness and serenity. Ancient temperate rainforests line the banks, silent witness to one of Tasmania’s most merciless penal settlements – Sarah Island.

Once back ashore, settle in at the Richard Davey Amphitheatre to watch Australia’s longest running play – The Ship That Never Was. A rollicking adventure of canny convicts, hijack hijinks, and their quest for freedom!

🤔 Did you know…?

Macquarie Harbour is 6x larger than Sydney Harbour, and its cold waters are like a layer-cake, with fresh water from the Gordon River sitting above a layer of salty sea water.

It doesn’t taste as good though 🤣

West Coast Adventure Activities

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Tobogganing at Henty Dunes | 📷: Jason Futrill

With its rugged coastline, soaring sand dunes, and deep chasms, the West Coast Wilds are irresistible for adrenaline junkies!

White water rafting is a blast on both the Franklin and King rivers. Surrounded by World Heritage forests and with pure Tasmanian waters rushing beneath your feet – this adventure is sure to float your boat!

Closer to Strahan are the Henty Dunes and Ocean Beach, a sandy playground for 4-wheelers and toboggans. Spend a day cruising the dunes with the ‘Roaring 40s’ in your hair and the sound of crashing waves in your ears.

West Coast Tasmania Waterfalls and Rainforest Nature Trails

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Nelson Falls | 📷: Jess Bonde

Can you believe that some towns on Tasmania’s West Coast receive nearly 3,000 mm of rain every year?!

The rainforests are sublime, full of primordial lichens, mosses and fast-flowing streams. And many are accessible by short walks taking no more than 30 minutes.

The Franklin River Nature Trail, and trails to Nelson Falls and Hogarth Falls are all suited to any age or level of ability. While Tasmania’s highest waterfall – Montezuma Falls – is also worth a visit. Pencil in your favourite West Coast walk today!

Where to Eat on the West Coast

For thousands of years the West Coast of Tasmania provided an abundance of food for the palawa – and it continues to do so today. The cold, clear waters of the Indian Ocean surging against the rugged coastline produce Tasmania’s finest crayfish, abalone and scallops – and the inland freshwater fishing is second to none.

Fishing at Lake Burbury on your Lap of Tasmania road trip
Fishing at Lake Burbury | 📷: Samuel Shelley

Strahan

Fredericks in Strahan is the West Coast’s newest fine-dining experience, and their menu showcases the best of the west. View 42 and Risby Cove are also excellent options, or for a more casual meal drop by Bushmans.

Do you like the sound of canapes and free-flowing Tasmanian wines while cruising Macquarie Harbour? For a foodie experience with a difference, book the ‘Premier Upper Deck’ option with Gordon River Cruises.

Queenstown

In Queenstown you’ll find Serenade Cafe serving up the best hot pies on the West Coast (try a traditional Tasmanian scallop pie!) and Tracks Cafe is the perfect place for coffee and a light meal. The Empire Hotel is a solid option for hearty pub tucker.

🤔 Did you know…?

In the ’70s Queenstown’s Memorial Hall was a popular destination for Aussie bands such as AC/DC, Sherbet, and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.

Rock on! 🤘

West Coast Events

Unconformity Festival

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Unconformity Festival | 📷: We are Explorers

A contemporary arts festival exploring what it means to be a West Coaster, and what the future folds for this evolving region. It’s a little bit quirky and a whole lot of fun!

  • Where: Queenstown
  • When: October 2020 (every two years)
  • Find out more: The Unconformity

Rosebery Festival

Enjoy the Rosebery Festival on your Lap of Tasmania road trip
Rosebery Festival

For a fun weekend with the whole family, book in the Rosebery Festival. Held across 4 days every February, this celebration of West Coast life is full of music and arts for the oldies, while the kids will enjoy the billy cart races, teddy bear picnics, and colour run!

Ten Days on the Island

A truly epic arts festival, with performances and exhibitions held across Tasmania over three weekends. Opera, dance, theatre, performance art…it’s got the lot!

West Coast Accommodation

On the West Coast Tasmania accommodation options are plentiful. The weather is unpredictably exhilarating and those old-timers knew how to use the local timber in crafting some wonderfully cosy cottages!

Queenstown

In Queenstown we recommend staying at either Penghana B&B or Mt Lyell Anchorage. Both are just minutes from the West Coast Wilderness Railway and offer self-catering rooms or cottages if needed.

Stay at Mt Lyell Anchorage in Queenstown on your Lap of Tasmania road trip
Mt Lyell Anchorage - Queenstown

Strahan

Strahan is where you can indulge in a little luxury. Escape the West Coast chill in your own private spa at Wheelhouse Apartments, or if you prefer to relax in heritage surrounds why not stay a night or two at Aldermere Luxury Estate Apartments

Families will love Castaway Holiday Apartments, and of course there is always the ever-popular Strahan Village and its pretty views through the treetops and across the harbour.

Zeehan and Tullah

The Heemskirk Motor Hotel is the best option in Zeehan, and at Tullah TimeOut you’ll be torn between exploring the shores of Lake Rosebery and curling up with a book in front of your roaring log fire!

Wheelhouse Apartments - Strahan

West Coast Weather

On the West Coast of Tasmania you can expect Mother Nature to throw everything at you but the kitchen sink!

Read More: The Best Time to Visit Tasmania

Summer temperatures average between 11°C and 21°C, while in winter it isn’t as cold as you might think, with averages between 5°C and 12°C. The West Coast gets a lot of rainfall. In summer there’s a 40% chance of daily rain, while in winter that rises to 60% – and when it rains it buckets down, so don’t forget your waterproofs! Snow is rare at sea level on the West Coast, and more common in the higher altitudes of Derwent Bridge, Zeehan or Tullah during winter.

West Coast Road Trip Essentials

Wondering what to pack for Tasmania’s cool climate?

To help you out we’ve created a handy Tasmanian road trip packing list.

It lists all the most important things you need to take on your road trip, making your road trip planning a breeze.

Get it Here: Tasmania Road Trip Packing List

Read More: Driving Times and Distances in Tasmania

Hobart ⇌ Strahan:300km / 4hr 30mins (6hrs or more for campervans)

Derwent Bridge ⇌ Strahan: 130km / 2hrs (3hrs for campervans)

Strahan ⇌ Cradle Mountain Village: 140km / 2hrs (2hrs 30mins for campervans)

Devonport ⇌ Strahan (via Queenstown): 220km / 3hr 15mins (5hr for campervans)

Strahan  Queenstown: 42km / 45mins (1hr for campervans)

Petrol Stations: Queenstown (24hr), Strahan, Zeehan (24hrs), Rosebery

EV Battery Charging Stations:

  • Strahan Village Hotel (Tesla – patrons only)
  • Pumphouse Point at Derwent Bridge (Tesla – patrons only)
  • Highland Cabins at Bronte Park (Tesla – patrons only)
  • Waratah – The Bischoff Hotel – Tesla

A list of Tasmania’s national parks can be found here: Parks and Wildlife

A valid permit is needed before you can drive into these parks. For more information on the which pass you should buy, click here.

Permits can be purchased online here, from National Park Visitor Centres, Accredited Tasmanian Travel Information Centres, the Spirit of Tasmania, Service Tasmania shops, or by mail/email following these instructions.

Discounts are available for Seniors.

For Tasmania Police emergency road closure alerts click here.

Watch out for ice on the roads in the early morning

High rainfall and dense vegetation on the West Coast means some road sections receive little sunlight. This can cause moss to grow on the verges and can be very slippery.

For those in large campervans or towing heavy vehicles, use low gear instead of your brakes on steep, downhill sections.

Snow is rare on Tasmanian roads, generally only occurring in winter at high altitudes. When it does fall it doesn’t normally settle.

However, be aware that while uncommon, snow has occasionally blocked the road between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown. Check the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecast here for the latest updates.

Some rental companies prohibit driving above the snow line. If driving above the snow line is permitted, ask for advice before setting out on your road trip.

Next destination?

If you’re travelling clockwise, your next destination is Devonport and the Cradle Coast. Can you hear Cradle Mountain calling?

Travelling anti-clockwise, your next destination is the Derwent Valley – Tasmania’s ‘Valley of Love’.

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