The Spirit Of Tasmania - Off road in West Tasmania

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First updated : 03 May 2009
Last Updated : 02 July 2012


When you arrive in Devonport - Tasmania you're greeted with a fantastic backdrop of the Cradle Mountains!  Devonport is a small port town but the surrounds are charming to look at if you take the time.

On this trip I wanted to travel the western side of Tasmania.  I had done the eastern side on my last trip.  So I headed west from Devonport to a town called  Burnie. The morning roads (about 7am) where pretty much empty and the highway was in great condition and certainly wide enough to accommodate lots more traffic.  Much of the road followed the coast, on one side and the odd house and farm or two on the other the Bass Strait.

Since it was a public holiday there didn't seem to be anything open so a quick stop to the always open local franchise of a certain global fast food outlet for an additional wake up coffee was required!  Burnie is not a big town, the highlight was the port that had a huge mountain of wood chip! 

We followed the road visiting various landmarks including Rocky cape light house, along the coast towards the town of Stanley.  Stanley is small tourist town essentially built around the base of a large rock.  It's village style surrounds has a great atmosphere.  With a few shops opened I took some time to check out what was on offer.

After that it was time to go as far west as possible to a place called Woolnorth.  It's the location of one of the largest wind farms in Australia.  It's also controversial due to the habitat of endangered Orange bellied parrot. 

It was still before lunch and we had covered the entire way to the west coast - as far as we where allowed anyway. So a stop for another break and backtracked to the junction and headed 'off road' to Arthur River.  The road is a wide gravel track with large loose rocks that was particularly dusty on the day.  The scenery was a large open plain of sea tolerant bushes and smaller trees.  Not very interesting at this stage. 

It was interesting to note that where there where steep climbs the sections were  resurfaced in standard bitumen - so that normal cars could get through when it was wet - presumably.  As for mobile phone coverage - all networks didn't have any! So no buzzing of the Blackberry's or Exchange and push enabled Nokia mobile phones  going off - kind off eerie!  Didn't last for long though.

After Arthur river it wasn't long until we reached the start of the scenic mountain drive to Mt Frankland and the surrounding National park.  The road had become much smaller now with the temperate bushes lined the side of the road. The twists in the road and terrain were not challenging for the cars but it would get tiring for a motorcycle rider not conditioned to the constant corners, bumps, rocks and dust.  The dusty road soon gave way to a rain forest track. Some corners where blind so you had to be careful.  I only mentioned that because we passed a few going the other way and by the looks on their faces they we're clearly very tired.  Mind you we also saw group of ATV riders who where in much better condition.

I was surprised that some of the mountains/hills in the area had been cleared of trees!  I hope it wasn't man made - rather a natural disaster like bush fires because its quite a scenic place to go through.  The scenery varied quite a bit in my eyes and reminded me of my travels to the Ski fields in NSW, ACT and Victoria.  Some of it was quite dense and certainly picturesque.  The fresh air, ferns and tall trees with streams running through them was a pleasant experience.

The entire off road section would be a decent start for off road riders because it's really easy to do but at the same time tiring.  I guess it a chance to see what your fitness levels are like.  If you can't make it you're not ready for anything more challenging.

By lunch time it was time to cross the one of the one rivers by cable 'ferry' or barge near Corinna.  The ferry was oddly called the Fatman barge.  This barge wasn't a very big one - two cars maximum.  Watching the trips it made across the river as interesting as it seemed that it was made from large barrel drums with a platform on top.  The dog was getting edgy because it hadn't been out of the car since Stanley.  It was time to head off to the town of Zeehan for a short break.  Zeehan was not much a place to stop over night so it was off to Strahan for the evening and possibly dinner. 

Strahan is located on the shores of Macquarie Harbour and is a holiday town.  Everything is located on a 1 kilometre strip on the shores of the harbour.  By the time we got there it was raining heavily and hence slow going on the roads.  We where hoping to get a camp site there but the tourist office wasn't open.  It was disappointing considering it was long weekend which you'd expect all tourist facilities to be open.  The town itself has faux village feel which was entirely appropriate given its marketing.  Nature wise it is pretty place to look at with the water and heavy tree lined roads.  The parked water planes and anchored boats in the town all added to the atmosphere.  I initially thought it was a river as opposed to a real 'harbour'.  We waited till the rain slowed before heading off for the night at Queenstown.  But not before getting a bite to eat.  The fish and hot chips where lovely from the local shops BTW and the meat pies where surprisingly good and fresh considering the lateness in the afternoon and that it was from the only franchise bakery/cafe in the town. 

By the time we left Strahan the sun was fading despite being 5pm-ish.  Queenstown wasn't too far away but the evening was already upon us!  The road to Queenstown was a lovely curving mountain road.  Definitely worth a drive or ride in brighter conditions.  Definitely worth a go for corner lovers.

It was dark by the time we reached the town so couldn't see very much. Since we didn't know how to get to the caravan park it was time to test the GPS units!  Interestingly both Garmin and Tomtom gave the same path.  So off we went!  I missed a turn since I was looking for the road names spoken by the Garmin.  The older TomTom which only directed by distance to a turn off worked better in this instance saw the others get there before me.

More details next week!

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