Everyone told me Tasmania was beautiful, and they were right. For a small island it’s certainly a place that packs a lot of punch. The scenery is like nothing else I’ve seen in Australia. Tasmania has a rugged scenic beauty, with sea shores that stare into the harsh southern ocean, bush and scrub that have been beaten and battered by the elements and a world heritage wilderness that can seem like you stepped into a land that time forgot.
Driving from Hobart in the south to Strahan in the West, the Derwent Valley shows off its pretty farmland with rolling hills. As you start to climb, the road becomes winding and the bush closes in around you which means you get surprised by what’s around the next corner.
At the top the images you see are stark but beautiful. The scrub type bush is short and compact and seem roughened by elements, but all the bushes huddled together create a flow for your eye to follow and you can’t help but admire it.
I then came across the Wall in the Wilderness. It’s a 100 metre long sculpture work in progress that chronicles the history of the Tasmanian Highlands. The sculptor is Greg Duncan and this wall is extraordinary. It was impressed upon me at every given opportunity that photos were not permitted though, so you will have to go to Google or in fact go to the Wall to find out more.
On the descent to Strahan I pass through Queenstown, with stark barren hills that make you think you’re driving through something poisonous. This area has been abused by man, stripped of trees and copper and gold and poisoned with the fumes of ‘progress’. When you know you’re driving to somewhere famous for its natural beauty, Queenstown is a reminder that the environment should be treated with care.
Strahan itself is a pretty seaside village where the locals are friendly and everyone has a story. The stars of this town are Huon Pine and the Tasmanian Wilderness. I took a tour up the Gordon River and every part of the journey was impressive. You start in the Macquarie Harbour, which is six times the size of Sydney harbor, and then you journey through what’s known as Hells Gates to get a taste of the famous Southern Ocean. As you enter the Gordon River, everything slows down… literally. The boat almost drifts to ensure the wake is not harming the environment. Here the smell of the air is different, the light is different, even the swish and the lapping of the water seems different. As you stare out into this world heritage listed wilderness in awe of its beauty, the busyness of your mind calms down and you appreciate how special the natural gift you’re being presented with is.
At Heritage Landing, a boardwalk guides you into the silence of the rainforest. Not just any rainforest though, the largest tract of temperate rainforest surviving on earth. With that thought in your head, you view your surroundings with higher regard. You notice the colours, the sounds and the smell and you hang off every word from your guide. Even if trees aren’t really your thing, you can’t help but be impressed by a 2000 year old Huon Pine.
The boat ride back to Strahan has one more stop at Sarah Island. This is another of Tasmania’s penal colonies. Where the very worst offenders, and the escapees from other prisons were sent. A tiny island surrounded by wilderness was an incredibly harsh incarceration for those unlucky enough to be sent there. The goodness for us travellers though, is that the actors who tell you the stories do so with great passion and the remains on the island really help bring the stories to life.
From winding roads to wild wilderness, Tasmania’s west coast is well worth a visit.