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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Queenstown football field is the most intimidating in Australia – covered with gravel instead of grass!
That’s ‘West Coaster’ tough
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.
Perched on the shores of Macquarie Harbour, Strahan is a picture-perfect seaside village full of history.
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!
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 🤣
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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! 🤘
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!
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!
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!
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!
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?
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!
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.
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:
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.
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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