Tasmania 2010/2011 Part 1 NW

Monday, May 30, 2011 at 18:09

Navigator 1 (NSW)

After an eventful trip from Perth along the Gunbarrel Highway, we reached Melbourne and had to decide if we would turn left and go home to Sydney or turn right and go to Tasmania........

At 5.30pm Saturday, 27th November, we checked in and boarded the Spirit of Tasmania. Our last trip to Tasmania was in 2003 when we stayed for 7 weeks.

Day 1 Sunday 28th November ..DevonportLake Barrington Distance travelled – 105 km
At 6.30 we disembarked in Devonport and cleared quarantine by 7.00am. We had little sleep last night – the new ‘Ocean Recliners’ looked good on the net but who ever designed the chairs obviously did not try to sleep in them. They were shockers!
We spent a little time at the mouth of the Mersey River having breakfast. Downstream we could see the Spirit of Tasmania in dock waiting for its evening trip back to Melbourne. We had been looking forward to restocking with fruit and vegetables at the Devonport Farmers’ Market but we were a day too late.

We headed south to Railton via Latrobe. The little town is dedicated to topiary - more than 100 shrubs have been trimmed into living sculptures. The subjects include steam trains, giraffes and elephants. In 1999 Neil Hurley planted the 1st topiary character outside his shop, the ‘Looking Glass Cottage’ - the man with plough still grows today. Community members and business owners formed the Railton Topiary Group to continue the project.
An added attraction in the area is the Seven Sheds Brewery. Their Seven Sheds Kentish Ale has made it to the top of the list.
Once through SHEFFIELD, the town of murals, we were in full view of the magnificent Mount Roland, towering some 1234m above sea level.
The valleys and farmlands en route to the western side of Lake Barrington were beautiful. We made camp for the evening on the edge of the lake. The campground was nothing special but we certainly couldn’t complain about the crowds!

Day 2 Monday 29th November ... Lake Barrington - Leven Canyon Distance travelled – 136 km
It was a relaxing morning taking a walk down to the lake’s edge, so peaceful and quite. At lunch time we headed off through spectacular countryside to Leven Canyon, 42 km south of Ulverstone.

Day 3 Tuesday 30th November .. Leven Canyon Distance travelled – 0 km
Not too early we set off on the 50 minute loop walk. The 20 minute Rainforest Walk took us to Cruickshank’s Lookout with breathtaking Canyon views, 275m above the Leven River. This area is part of a wildlife corridor from the coast to Cradle Mountain. We continued on down the Forest Stairs, 697 of them, to the forest floor with its amazing trees and small ferns. From the base of the stairs we took the gentle incline of the Fern Walk back to the picnic area. The picnic area and small campground were beautifully maintained with excellent facilities – flush toilets, BBQ, large enclosed shelter shed and plenty of fire wood.
The rest of the day was spent around the campfire with a local couple and other travellers sharing experiences. Our campfire dinner was great.

Day 4 Wednesday 1st December .. Leven Canyon Distance travelled – 0 km
A lazy day! We promised our camping companions an apple cake for morning tea, cooked in our folding Coleman Oven. We don’t have an oven in HUGO but this folding oven sits nicely on the outside gas ring. It’s just the thing for someone who only uses an oven every now and then. Thankfully the result was a great success.
The weather was sunny and with our camping area ringed by beautiful tree ferns it was just too good to move on.
After the success of the apple cake I mentioned scones – you guessed it, they didn’t forget. Amazingly enough they were excellent! All the scones I had cooked previously had turned out like rock cakes. My mixture and Steven’s cooking instructions were spot on!
Once again the group spent the evening around the campfire. Fantastic company!

Day 5 Thursday 2nd December .. Leven Canyon Distance travelled – 0 km
Today we planned to move on but overnight the rain had set in. We were comfortable and dry in HUGO so we stayed put. During a break in the showers Chicka went for a morning walk to the lookout and I got on with this Blog. Soon a fire was burning in the picnic shed fire place and we spent the rest of the day there with the other campers.

Day 6 Friday 3rd December .. Leven Canyon – Ulverstone Distance travelled – 191 km
It was a late start due to the rain but by 11.00am we were on the road. The valleys and farmland were shrouded by mist. Instead of walking to Preston Falls in the rain we continued on to Gunns Plains Caves. During our last visit to Tasmania we went to the wet Marakeepa Caves where we saw glow worms.
We headed to Ulverstone and found a free campsite on the ocean front tucked in behind the coastal flora.

Day 7 Saturday 4th December - UlverstonePenguin Distance travelled – 216 km
About 32km further along the coast, heading west, we were in Penguin. It was a delightful waterfront town with the freight line right on the water’s edge. The track was lined with flowers for the entire length of the town. In the shopping centre we were stopped by a guy who said, ‘I have seen that rig on the Exploroz web site blogs’. It turned out that he was a friend of a member we had met at the ExplorOz Annual gathering at Wiluna. Small world!
Having explored the town we sought out the campsite at the Penguin Surf Club – What a beauty – free and right on the water!

Day 8 Sunday 5th December ..Penguin – Hellyer Gorge Distance travelled – 289 km
At 8.00 we were at the highly recommended, undercover, Penguin Markets. Our main aim was to stock up on fruit and vegetables but this section was a big disappointment. Apparently there were over 100 stalls of arts and crafts but we didn’t stay to check them out.
We stopped in at Guide Falls before continuing on to Hellyer Gorge. The road into the gorge, through the rainforest, was steep and very windy. The free roadside stop beside the Hellyer River was very pleasant but the walk along the river was only very short.

Day 9 Monday 6th .. Hellyer GorgeWaratah Distance travelled – 31 km
The attraction of Waratah, before we got to know the town, was the free washing machine/dryer. We gave both of these a real work out.Waratah was however, another former mining town with an on again, off again production.
With the entire afternoon free we familiarised ourselves with the town. It was a very picturesque setting with the town built around the waterfall and gorge. Many old buildings remain – the two storey hotel, the post office, courthouse as well as several little shops and cottages. The museum/police station housed in the old courthouse has a great feeling as the judge’s bench and the docks have been retained. Once again at the craft shop, housed in the old Waratah Post Office, the large service counter had been retained. The little coffee shop overlooking the gorge did a thriving trade.

Day 10 Tuesday 7th December ..WaratahCorinna Distance travelled – 382 km
Just 10km from Waratah, heading west and just before the Arthur River bridge, we reached the track to Philosopher Falls. It was raining and the track needed a little trimming in places for the truck to get through so we thought we would leave this one till another time. Apparently this walk had it all as it winds its way through eucalypt and myrtle rainforest to the headwaters of the Arthur River. From there it follows the historic water race as it cut its way through the steep rocky banks coming across waterfalls that were discovered by ‘Philosopher’ Smith while in search of tin and silver. Workers built the race by hand early last century to enable them to generate power for the tin mines near Waratah. The Steep descent at the end of the track leads to a viewing platform beside Philosopher Falls.
A further couple of km and we turned off to Whyte Hill. From the viewing platform we could have viewed the amazing expanse of the Tarkine - Australia’s largest rainforest but, it was raining!
Old mining towns along this road from Waratah to Corinna are now gone. Savage River still has a large iron ore mining operation, the old town gone replaced by the modern miners’ dongers. To the north of the road we came into view of the huge tailings dams. To increase the capacity of this dam huge machinery was working to raise the level of the dam wall.
The silica road continued all the way into Corinna, a restored historic mining town nestled on the banks of the majestic Pieman River. The history of the area dates back 30,000 years to the Tarkiner people and the more recent pioneers and miners. In 1881 the settlement of Corinna was founded when a track was cut through from Waratah and a government store was built to service the nearby mining fields. In 1883 a gold nugget weighing about 6.5kg was found at Rocky River north of the Pieman. It was the largest nugget ever found in Tasmania. Extensive water races were constructed throughout the rainforest. During these days, steamers brought in fresh supplies and more miners. They shipped out cargoes of Huon pine along the Pieman River.
Today’s travellers still cross the Pieman River on the vehicular punt but now they can stop for a cool drink at the new Hotel at the small settlement on the north bank. Accommodation has also been boosted from the cosy one or two bedroom eco-friendly retreats, original miners cottages with the addition of 14 modern cottages. The new buildings have been tastefully constructed to blend in with old. The camping area had also been improved with silica topped roads.

Day 11 Wednesday 8th December ..Corinna Distance travelled – 0 km
Back in 2003 we cruised to the mouth of the Pieman on board the legendary Arcadia 11 but this time we were content to go for a few walks along the banks of the Pieman River.
Day 12 Thursday 9th December .. CorinnaCouta Rocks Distance travelled – 108 km
North of Corinna the Western Explorer is a dirt road that follows the eastern boundary of the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area. It was not as we recalled the first half of the journey being narrower but not of any concern, rainforests, silica surface and an outlook of mountain tops. We appeared to be travelling along the ridges.
We finally reached the commencement of the notorious Balfour Track which leads out to the coast. The message on thewarning sign was very clear ‘Winch and snorkel essential, Travel in convoy strongly recommended’ NO, we didn’t attempt this track! It is not hard to find accounts of horror stories regarding attempts to conquer this track. A photo of Hugo and the sign was enough.
On the western side of the Western Explorer was the 4km track into the old mining town of Balfour. While walking along this track two cars passed us and said it was a clear track in. We returned to the truck and made our way in. Nothing remains that we could see but an old collapsed mine shaft and a hermit’s shack with Henry in residence. The old cemetery eluded us.
Soon we were at Couta Rocks, a fishing village. We headed south to see how far we could travel towards Sandy Cape but at Temma we were confronted by the sign ‘Permit required beyond this point’. Back at Couta Rocks, we found a secluded bay and made camp. The seas were wild and winds strong and gusting. Hugo was a rocking!!
Day 13 10th December ..Couta Rocks – West Point Distance travelled – 60 km
Continuing north we called in to the fishing village of Sarah Rocks. Most of the fishing huts are only used on weekends and holidays. The weather was just not suitable for fishing. Bush camping is allowed along the water’s edge but we did not find it appealing at all.
The next coastal spot was Nelson Bay/Sundowner. At the northern end of the latter we found a perfect spot but there were no toilets in the area at all. There is quite a large camping area here and in the Christmas Holiday quite a few people would head for this area.
We continued on to Arthur River and the ‘Edge of the World’ on the southern headland. The Plaque read as follows:
North West Coast Tasmania
I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity to be washed by the ocean of time.
It has shape form and substance. It is me.
One day I will be no more but my pebble will remain here on the shore of Eternity.
Mute witness for the aeons that today I came and stood at the edge of the world.
Brian Inder
Here the Roaring Forty trade winds deliver the cleanest air in the world to Tasmania’s most westerly point as the sea crashes and booms onto the craggy shore of the wild west coast. Having cast our pebbles down into the sea we went to the enclosed picnic shelter and cooked a baked dinner, in the camp oven, on the gas BBQ.
The two Arthur River cruise boat, The MV George Robinson and ‘Reflections’, sat at anchor as the weather had kept the visitors away. As we were not happy with the camping areas on both the southern and northern sides of the river we continued further north first to Bluff Hill Point Lighthouse and then to West Point. The later was a 4km run out to the coast and there we found a secluded bay protected from the howling winds. Our windows provided excellent viewing of the pounding seas.
Day 14 11th December .. West Point - Dip Falls Distance travelled – 110 km
Our first stop today was at Dismal Swamp where we could stroll, bike ride or whizz down a 110m slide to the world’s only Blackwood forested sinkhole. We took the more adventurous path and sat in the cafe overlooking the view whilst having Devonshire tea.
Just a short run and we were on the NW coast in the small township of Smithton formerly called Duck River. This former name could have helped with tourism – Duck Cafe, Duck Inn, duck ornaments, duck ponds etc. Perhaps they should changed back to Duck River.
On to Dip Falls but first a visit to Wild Wood Gallery, one of Australia’s largest timber and craft warehouses, stocking Huon Pine, King Billy Pine, Sassafras, Myrtle, Blackwood and Celery Top Pine. In the showroom was a range of finished products with several attracting our attention. For Chicka it was a large bowl and for me, a beautiful hall table. We went away empty handed.
Dip Falls had came highly recommended from other travellers. When we arrived it was raining so we continued on a further 1km to the Big Tree which grows amongst spectacular wet eucalypt forest. During a break in the weather we dashed up to the tree. It was a Browntop stringybark, its age estimated at around 400 years and its height of 62 metres. The exceptional thing about this tree is that its circumference is 16 metres. It would take about 15 adults holding hands to encircle this tree. The boardwalk around the base of this tree allowed us to get up close to one of the many forest giants of the Tarkine.
We made a quick dash back to the truck to find that we had locked ourselves out. I started to quietly panic while Chicka crawled under the truck in the mud and the slush to retrieve the spare key. Evening had arrived quickly, the rain was coming down so we stayed put for the evening.

Day 15 12th December .. Dip Falls – Stanley Distance travelled – 48 km
We moved to the picnic area at the falls. A short but steep walk lead us to the base of the magnificent falls. The water was cascading over hexagonal basalt columns which had been formed from the cooling of the volcanic rock many, many years ago. Across the bridge, a level walk and viewing platform provided an unsurpassed view of the top of the falls. Opposite the car park, a gravel path took us to the remains of an old boiler which powered a mill for the sawing of blackwood in the 1920’s. We both find these small pieces of our history very interesting.
After a short run through dairy and beef country we were in Stanley which is a registered historic town. The town nestles at the end of a peninsula dominated by a striking ancient rocky outcrop called The Nut. This natural feature, which is a lava plug rising to 152m which sheer cliffs on three sides, connected to the mainland by a 7km isthmus, is Tasmania’s most photographed landmark.
After driving around the dock area, the residential and small shopping area we settled in for the afternoon and night right on the coast at Godfreys Beach.

Day 16 13th December .. Stanley Distance travelled – 0 km
Today was a day for exercise. We took several hours to wander around the town. If was quite disappointing to see how may little shops were vacant or for sale and how many ‘Vacancy’ signs were outside the little boutique accommodations.
After lunch we walked the 1.5km up the hill to the historic HIghfield homestead which has a commanding view of The Nut. So much of our history has been destroyed so it was just wonderful to see this building estored for future generations.
Tomorrow... The Nut

Day 17 14th DecemberStanley – Black River 34 km
On our last visit to Stanley we took the chair lift to the top of The Nut but this time we walked up the very steep pathway. The day was magnificent so we took many breaks on the way to the top to take in the view. Well at least that was our excuse!
On our walk around the top we could look across the bay to the historic Highfield residence on one side and on the other to Port Latta. Iron ore is brought from the Savage River mine, in a slurry, via pipeline, to Port Latta where it is processed before being shipped overseas.
Before leaving Stanley we drove around the farmlands in the vicinity of Highfield House.
A very short distance away we found a good campsite at Black River, right at the boat ramp. The wind was up so we enjoyed the view from inside the truck

Day 18 15th December ... Black River – Wynyard Showground Distance travelled – 94 km
We continued eastward along the north coast and went into explore Rocky Cape NP. Camping is not allowed in this park but the picnic area was an area of spectacular coastal scenery even in the strong winds and rain that we were experiencing. On the top of the hill at the lighthouse we were nearly blown away.
Continuing eastward we called in to revisit Sister’s Beach and Boat Harbour, the latter being a very popular holiday destination with many homes given to holiday rental. Next we visited Table Cape, a very picturesque area with fields of Opium Poppy and pyrethrum full bloom. The rich volcanic soils also support the huge potato growing industry. In September, this area is famous for its tulips.
At Fossill Bluff we had magnificent views of Wynyard
At Wynyard we explored the town before going to the Showground where self contained motorhomes are welcomed to stay over night. We were fortunate in meeting another lovely couple here from the Gippsland area in Victoria.

Day 19 16th December ... Wynyard – Bakers Beach Distance travelled – 105 km
Enroute to Bakers Beach we stopped in at Burnie to do a little shopping. Our truck attracted the attention of a man who was very keen to know the ins and outs of the construction of HUGO. If we return to this NW corner he is going to take us into Woolnorth Estate free of charge, a saving of $135 PP. Sounds like a plan to me.
We passed through more fields of Opium Poppy, Pyrethrum and vegetables before arriving at Bakers Beach. We pulled up in a camping bay that overlooked the day use area and the water which was very pleasant. Strong cold winds were blowing so once again we enjoyed the view from inside.
Total distance travelled ... 941 km
The next section of our trip will take us to Launceston, the NE and the central plateau Lakes District
The outback calls
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