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Ross, Jo and Friends head their caravans into Tasmania's Wild West

March 15, 2007
Ross, Jo and Friends head their caravans into Tasmania's Wild West

Ross and Jo Whitty are now in Tasmanias North West "on the Around Australia via Tasmania road" with two other couples who are towing their own rigs. Ross and Jo have a brand new Giest 630 caravan towed by a Toyota Prado turbo diesel. Apart from two short shakedown trips they are novices who are learning fast.
Here is the latest in their adventures -

From: Ross & Jo Whitty
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:17 PM
To: garth
Subject: NW Tassie

Hi Garth, thought it was about time we gave you an update of our progress. Our 1st stop was the Big 4 at Ulverstone where we stayed for eight days while waiting for or friends to catch up.

While there we visited Penguin, Burnie, (Lactos cheese factory), Wynyard , Longford and Westbury. We also took a couple of scenic drives to Gunns Plains and Lake Barrington returning via Sheffield, famous for it's murals.

Our friends arrived a week later and we stayed on for two more days. After a happy hour meeting we decided to travel clockwise around Tasmania and headed off to Stanley in the Northwest.

We stayed at the park just below the Nut and a trip to the top was 1st on our agenda. The views are spectacular and worth the hike up, or the chairlift ride as a couple of us did.

The highlight of our stay in Stanley was an all day tag - along tour with a character called Bernie Atkins of West Coast Wilderness Tours, that we and one of the other couples did.

We toured the Milkshake Hills, where we had morning tea, South Arthur forest drive, Lake Chisholm and stopped for a four course gourmet BBQ feast at Julius river. Could have done with a nap after lunch, but off we went to the coast at Couta Rocks and after a short drive north we hit the beach.

As you may recall we are new at this and had never driven on sand before but under Bernie's expert tutorage and constant encouragement via UHF, we had a ball!

From the beach and into the sand dunes and back onto the beach for the final run to Arthur's River and back to Stanley for a well earned cappuccino. Bernie is passionate about the rainforest and taught us so much about the flora of the area on our two walks. Would highly recommend this to anyone visiting Stanley, it is not cheap but worth every cent.

We are now in Waratah for three nights and yesterday did a day trip to Cradle Mtn. The weather was kind clear skies and no wind, which we were told happens only around 30 days per year.

West coast 4wd touring picture Ross and Jo Whitty
West coast 4wd touring picture Ross and Jo Whitty

Off to Strahan tomorrow for three days, then four days to fill in on the way to Hobart where we are booked until after Easter so will do a lot of day trips from there.

Will give you an update from Hobart. Cheers Ross Jo

Hi Ross and Jo and Friends. Glad to hear you are having such a great time in Tassie. I am sure you will like Strahan - freshest air in the world. The surf breakers start two nautical miles offshore. When Endless Summer was the film of choice for surfers the surf set was acknowledged as the biggest in the world.

Tourism Tasmania says Strahan to Hobart is OK with a caravan. I have not towed over it so I am cautious about what OK means. I will be interested in your first hand impressions. Take it slowly and if in any doubt go down a gear early. Keep your brakes cool as a first priority. You will have a ball in Hobart.

Make a point of visiting Ross and the Huon Valley. If you are heading over the bridge for Port Arthur drop in at the Blue Bell Innin Somerville St Sorell it is just over the causeway from Midway Point. I have not been recently but if Barry Gooding is still the man the meals will be authentic Tasmanian game foods. I lived in Midway Point for two years and joined the Midway Point Yacht Club as a foundation member so my friend Ed Featherstone and I could race our 20ft Yvonne catamaran in the big winds which blast in from Storm Bay. The Pittwater is broad flat water and shallow. Ideal for mad yachties with flying cats.

I still smile when I remember a friend John Massey who fell of his trapeze wire while we were racing on a screaming reach at something near 20 knots. He was a tall man. He hit the water in a cloud of spray and then stood up. Interesting effect in the expanse of Pittwater! Sorell is underrated among Tassie heritage towns so dig a little with the locals. Abel Tasmanian staked a claim near there when one of his crew swam ashore. Again ask the locals.

Some of the worlds best white wine is grown in the area in boutique vineyards. The growers deliberately stress the fruit in poor soil and use natural techniques. The result is intense sugars brought on by the long ripening period and whites your palate will remember all your life. If it happens to be blowing as you cross the Pittwater take it slow.

Go for it with your touring and please keep us posted Garth

I have included stuff we know through personal trips and Tourism Tasmania about the places you have been and are going to for your interest and that of other site users -

The Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is the jewel of the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, with its glacial lakes, ice-carved crags, alpine shrubbery, waterfalls and tall forests. It includes some of Tasmanias highest country and bushwalks, which compare well with the best in the world.

One of Australias best known is the 85km Overland Track. The area offers short and easy walks for pleasure and relaxation. The 200m deep Lake St Clair lies in a basin which glacier ground out more than 20,000 years ago and Mt Ossa is Tasmanias tallest peak, dominating a range of highland lakes and waterfalls.

There are a variety of outstanding walks in this listed World Heritage Wilderness Area, which cater for a variety of experience and fitness levels.

Visitors can be accompanied by an experienced guide with specialist knowledge of the flora, fauna and natural heritage. There are walks that challenge multi-day expeditions like the Overland Track that can change the way those experiencing it think about wilderness and landscape. Public huts offer basic shelter, but carry a tent; there are established campsites.
Yes, it is wet. The track has been improved extensively with boardwalk and gravelled surfaces, but expect wet feet.

Sunset on the Nut picture Ross and Jo Whitty
Sunset on the Nut picture Ross and Jo Whitty

Parts of the route are high and exposed weather changes can be sudden, so be prepared for possible cold and wet conditions. The walk begins or ends with a dramatic ferry trip on Lake St Clair, Australias deepest lake.

Several companies offer guided walks they range from tent-based trips carrying your own pack, to fully-catered and supported walks using comfortable and fully-equipped private huts. Guided or independent, the Overland Track is a walking adventure of the highest quality.

The fabled Tasmanian Tiger can be seen in a hologram at Lake St Clair Park Centre. The last recorded Tasmanian Tiger died in 1936.

Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair is an excellent area to observe wildlife. Bennetts Wallabies, wombats, possums and pademelons are active, particularly in the evening. The Tasmanian Tigers relative the smaller Tasmanian Devil is another nocturnal native.

Things to see and do include

Visit Tasmazia-mazes, lavender farm and miniature village.

Go trout fishing at Lake Barrington or Lake Gairdner.

Go horse riding in the high country.

Visit Sheffield the Town of Murals.

Try wines from the local wineries.

Take a scenic flight over Cradle Mountain.

Climb Bell Mountain or Mount Roland.

Explore the old gold mines in the Moina area.

Enjoy leisurely scenic drives with spectacular mountain views and lush farmlands.

Explore the spectacular Mole Creek caves.

The West Coast of Tasmania is a combination of history and wilderness. In many ways its like arriving in frontier land. It is the kind of place where, biblical phrases like in the beginning take on visual significance. This coast has mountain monuments to the passage of great navigators. Mt Sorell dominates Macquarie Harbour and to the north is Mt Strahan.

Mt Heemskirk and Mt Zeehan were named by surgeon, explorer, naturalist, George Bass and navigator, explorer, Matthew Flinders, who are acknowledge as the first to circumnavigate Van Diemens Land.

The mountains honour Tasmanias discoverer, Abel Janszoon Tasman and his sturdy ships Heemskirk and Zeehan.The vessels carried the Dutchman from 1602 to 1659 to the European discovery of Tasmania, New Zealand and other South Pacific islands.

Strahan, about five hours drive from Hobart and four and a half hours from Launceston is the gateway to one of the most outstanding wilderness areas on earth. Attractions include cruises, ancient pine forests, the Franklin and Gordon Rivers, the last stronghold of some of the worlds remaining temperate rainforests.

The first European visitors to the West Coast of Tasmania came in chains. They named the entrance to Macquarie Harbour Hells Gates for they were sentenced to hard labour in the most infamous of all penal settlements, Sarah Island. Today the visitors come in hire cars, planes and buses. They stay in unique and historical accommodation and unlike the convicts have a sumptuous array of local produce, wine and unforgettable experiences.

After the convicts left Sarah Island in 1833, the Piners came. A tough breed of timber-getters they ventured further into the forests than any other in search of Huon Pine.The convicts used Huon Pine for building ships on Sarah Island, at one time the colonys biggest shipbuilding community.

The Piners felled the timber and floated it down the Gordon River, to be processed in the sawmills in Strahan, two of which still operate today. The five towns on the West Coast, Tullah, Rosebery, Zeehan, Queenstown and Strahan each offer something unique, interesting and hauntingly beautiful.

From the raw beauty of Montezuma Falls, Tasmanias highest at 104 metres, to the stark bare hills of Queenstown where summer evenings provide a kaleidoscope of hues and colours as the quartz mountain tops reflect dark orange sunsets over the Great Southern Ocean.

Silver and gold were discovered in the late 19th century and towns and mining communities sprang up amid the rainforests of the West Coast. They included silver mining towns like Zeehan, which had a population of over 10,000. Zeehan had its own stock exchange and a theatre with a thousand seats playing host to such artists as Houdini and Caruso.

Today Zeehan has a population of around 800, but has one of Australias best provincial museums. The West Coast Pioneers Memorial Museum houses a wonderful collection of photographs, minerals and mining history.

Tullah is the first west coast town travelling south from Burnie and the north coast.
A small mining community it sprang to life during the building of hydro lakes to provide the West Coast with electricity from the wild West Coast rivers. Until 1964 the only way into Tullah was by horse or tram.

Today visitors can relax by the shores of mountain lakes and rivers which are home to brown and rainbow trout, tempting for avid fly anglers and lovers of nature.

A little further south is Rosebery, an active mining town, surrounded by waterfalls and rainforest. Tours of the area are available by 4WD and bushwalkers have many tracks to follow into dense rainforests.

If it were not for the mining boom of the 1880s Tasmania may not have found such economic wealth as it did 100 years ago. The Mt Lyell Mine in Queenstown had a budget bigger than the state of Tasmania and today is still producing copper for world markets.

The waves, which explode on the West Coast, find their first shore after 8000km of Southern Ocean on beaches buttressed by magnificent sand dunes, which are home to spectacular flights of Mutton Birds at dawn and dusk between October and April.

The 40km stretch of Ocean Beach must be treated with respect. It has many moods. They vary from wild and wonderful to sleepy and sunny, but this is not the place for safe swimming. More sheltered swimming is available at West Strahan Beach.

The primeval Franklin River, tributary to the Gordon River. The mining moonscape of Queenstown, Zeehans Silver City history, Rosebery with a century of mining behind it is still a major West Coast mining town. These are just part of the West Coasts allure.

The adventurous will enjoy bushwalking, canoeing, white water rafting, sailing, windsurfing, trout fishing, mountain bike riding, fossicking, bird watching and horse riding. Remember the key to an expedition into Tasmanias wilderness regions is planning. The 250 km drive from Hobart to copper mining Queenstown takes between four and five hours, but in winter extra time should be allowed as visitors travel through snow country. Generally visitors should always allow more travelling time as roads are undulating and there are many attractions along the way.

Mobile phone reception drops out in the mountains and only Telstra networks are available on the West Coast. West Coast walking tracks are graded and range from easy 20 minute walks to seven-day expeditions requiring a good level of fitness. Ask the experts

Editors Note: Seek local advice at information centres and from Parks and Wildlife officers. Always have good walking shoes. Be prepared to cope with rain and sudden changes in the weather pattern. Dont take risks, advise someone reliable of where you are and how long you expect to be.

The West Coast lies directly in the path of the Roaring Forties and the winds from the Southern Ocean carry some of the worlds cleanest air. Another benefit is the regions sunsets, said to be the best in Tasmania.

In West Coast towns and villages, tough men and bold women carved a boom-and-bust living from the mountains, forests and seas. Gordon River cruise boat skippers talk of the heritage of the Piners chances are their grandfathers once worked the rivers.

Morrisons Mill, next to the Strahan Visitor Information Centre, still cuts Huon Pine. The smell of the oil, methyl eugenol, which makes this a remarkably resilient timber for boat building, is unforgettable.

Huon Pines live long lives. The collection of pines on Mt Reid have been growing for more than 10,000 years. Cutting of the timber has been prohibited since 1964. All craft timber comes from stockpiles gathered from flooded valleys and timber cut and left on the forest floor many years ago.

West Coast crayfish or Macquarie Harbour salmon are in class of their own fresh from the sea. At Derwent Bridge, between Hobart and Queenstown, catch Australias highest altitude ferry from Cynthia Bay, then watch the waters of the nations deepest lake curl away from the bow the glaciers that dug Lake St Clairs bed and shaped the surrounding crags melted 10,000 years ago.

Put on a miners helmet and light, and go deep underground in Queenstowns Mt Lyell mine after winning a fortune in copper, silver and gold, they are still mining today, three kilometres down. In the fine historic streetscapes of Zeehan, visitors feel the West Coasts rich mining heritage.

Nearby Rosebery has the atmosphere of a true mining town far below, the drilling goes on. In Tullah, the work may be over, but to be enjoyed are scenic lakes that create hydro-electricity. In Waratah, the pioneers once mined a mountain of tin these days, its where pure West Coast rainwater is bottled.

From Strahan, follow the tannin-dark Gordon River into the rainforest, or take a tour to the Teepookana Plateau see trees that took root many centuries ago, and discover how todays Piners are carefully working the precious Huon Pine reserves for the future.

Cross the restless waters of Macquarie Harbour and step ashore on Sarah Island hear the stories of convict hardship and resilience while wandering near the decaying ruins, and gaze towards the chain of mountain peaks that imprisoned them.

West Coast must see do

Escape on a Day Cruise into the Tarkine Wilderness, visit the Dismal Swamp Maze for an insight into Tasmania's native flora and fauna.

Join the Woolnorth Wind Farm tour, Take a 4WD tour, go surfing, canoeing or boating, or head off on a once in a lifetime adventure amongst one of the world's most pristine and unique environments.

The Arthur River Cabin Park is a good base. The park is set onsix acres, regularly frequented by a variety of native animals including Tassie Devils, Wombats and Sea Eagles . Arthur River is home to the 'Edge of the World' beaches, and right next door to Wilderness Conservation areas.

Ride the West Coast Wilderness Railwayand followa dramatic route from Queenstown to Regatta Point, Strahan.

Cruise from Strahan to the magnificent Gordon River famous for its reflections and deep valleys of dense rainforest - the Sarah Island penal settlement, Macquarie Heads Hells Gates.

Walk to Nelson Falls (easy short walk from the Lyell Hwy 28km west of Queenstown).

Photograph the dramatic landscape of the Queenstown hills.

Near Queenstown, catch a trout in Lake Burbury and take a 4WD tour to Bird River.

Take an underground or surface mine tour at the Mt Lyell mine, catch a scenic flight over the wilderness, or take an historic tour walk.

Walk on Ocean Beach, near Strahan, and explore the spectacular Henty Dunes.

Take a tour along the King River from Strahan to Teepookana. Take a helicopter flight to visit the Huon pine forest on the Teepookana Plateau.

Choose from the range of cruises, light plane, seaplane and helicopter flights, jet boat rides, all-terrain motorbike tours, sand-boarding, kayaking, guided walking tours or guided fishing trips available from Strahan.

Visit the astonishing Strahan Visitor Centre and learn about the areas unique human history and natural heritage and be entertained by the live performance of The Ship That Never Was - Tasmanias longest running play.

See the spectacular coastline of Trial and Granville Harbours, west of Zeehan.

Visit Zeehans West Coast Pioneers Museum, the Gaiety Theatre, historic buildings and Pioneers Cemetery.

Walk or 4WD to Montezuma Falls, Tasmanias highest waterfall, close to Rosebery.

On Lake Rosebery, go fishing, canoeing, windsurfing and bird watching.

In Tullah take a horseback tour, bike ride or boat tour.

Head north from Zeehan to cross the Pieman by barge at Corinna, and then take the Western Explorer route to the far North West region.

Tasmanias West Coast has won world acclaim as a destination. Strahan, was named the 'best little town in the world', by the Chicago Tribune. Federal Hotels and Resorts has enhanced the West Coasts appeal through major developments

A significant upgrading of The Strahan Village and a new luxury state of art vessel for Gordon River Cruises; and Operation of the world-class West Coast Wilderness Railway. Strahan offers the widest range of wilderness adventures and experiences in Tasmania and at the centre of it all is The Strahan Village.

Gordon River Cruises luxury vessel Lady Jane Franklin II takes visitors across Macquarie Harbour, ventures out to the edge of the Southern Ocean then travels into the Gordon River, deep in the heart of the renowned World Heritage-listed wilderness with a visit to the infamous Sarah Island penal settlement before returning to Strahan.

The West Coast Wilderness Railway, dating from the 1890s, is a world-class train journey.

It is a journey back in time, a unique wilderness experience, and an encounter with rain forests, majestic river gorges and 'living' history.

The train passes through dense rain forest, with a first-hand look at Tasmania's unique Huon pine; descends the spectacular King River Gorge; passes by an old port, now reclaimed by rain forest; and stops at stations along the way with displays and hands-on activities from the region's pioneering past.

Starting points are either the old mining town of Queenstown, or its former port at Strahan, travelling by train both ways or by train one way and coach the other. Trains from Queenstown are hauled by the quaint, small, but rugged little steam engines from the very earliest days of the railway - lovingly and painstakingly restored. The showpiece is the of the ABT rack and pinion system that climbs grades as steep as 1:16, named after its inventor, Swiss engineer Dr Roman Abt.

Its development, funded largely by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments, involved the reconstruction 34km of railway; building 39 trestle bridges; construction of stations and associated attractions along the way; and the complete restoration and rebuild of two steam and two diesel locomotives.

Apart from its own unique train and Gordon River cruise, the West Coast has much more to offer the visitor.For a birds eye view there are scenic flights by seaplane, the highlight of which is a landing on the Gordon River.

There is yachting for several hours or several days duration, kayaking and jet boat rides. On land there is much to do - walking four-wheel drive tours, climbing sand dunes, watching the mutton birds return from the sea.

Close to Strahan are Ocean Beach and the Henty Dunes, which rise to more than 30 metres for the ultimate four-wheel motor cycling experiences. Historic Zeehan was once Tasmanias third largest town and home to 8000 people. Queenstown has a long history of mining, a legacy of which is the weird 'moonscape' hills surrounding the town.

History contrasts with modern technology at spectacular hydroelectric schemes - the massive Pieman scheme, north of Zeehan and Lake Burbury near Queenstown.

Editor's Note: Also see -


Cradle Mountain  adventure picture Ross and Jo Whitty
Cradle Mountain adventure picture Ross and Jo Whitty