There’s a magic about the Tarkine that you can’t know until you have experienced it for yourself.
It’s that spicy, earthy scent of the towering blackwood, myrtle and celery top pines as you explore the ancient rainforest, the sense of wonder when you realise that pile of shells on the rugged coastline is the remains of an ancient Indigenous tribe, it’s the thrill of exhilarating experiences that you can only have in this fascinating part of the world. It’s the sort of place that leaves an impression on your soul.
The Tarkine (indigenous name takayna) is a relict from the ancient super-continent Gondwanaland, a dramatic and breathtaking wilderness region of national, if not global significance. Its vast and varied beauty covers about 450,000 hectares including the Arthur-Pieman Conservation area, roughly bounded by the Southern Ocean to the west, the Arthur River to the north, the Pieman River to the south and the Murchison Highway to the east.
Although not designated as a national park, the area contains Australia’s largest tract of cool temperate rainforest, mountain ranges, wild river and cave systems, buttongrass moorlands and a rugged coastline with long sandy beaches, grassy woodland and coastal heath. It’s home to more than 60 species of rare, threatened and endangered species, such as the giant freshwater crayfish, the wedge-tailed eagle and the iconic Tasmanian devil.
As well as its natural wonders and Aboriginal sites of great archaeological significance, its more recent history tells of those forging a living from the rich natural resources – miners, loggers, farmers and fishermen – as well as close-knit shack communities and off-road vehicle drivers.
To best explore the stunning Tarkine make sure to set aside plenty of time, pack for any weather, fuel up the car and get ready to tick off these experiences:
The Tarkine Top 10
1 Tarkine Forest Adventure
Known locally as Dismal Swamp, this family operated business is anything but dismal! Just a 20 minute drive west of Smithton, the visitor centre is an award-winning structure perched on the edge of an 640 hectare sinkhole – the largest in the southern hemisphere. After a long campaign this natural wonder was preserved from logging and drainage and now offers the excitement of a 110-metre slide to the sinkhole floor in 15 seconds or less. For a more relaxed introduction take the 360 metre path down to the maze – 1.2km of boardwalk in the swamp itself. Look out for works by local artisans, as well as potoroos, pademelons and echidna as you wind your way through this very special forest. Try Tasmanian delicacies and the largest scones ever in the fully licenced café then stroll out on to the hanging walkway and see the majestic blackwood and stringy bark trees from a different perspective.
Open 10am-4pm September to end of November and February to end of May; 9am-5pm December to end of January, weather permitting. Closed Christmas Day, Labour Day, Anzac Day. Cafe open 11.30am-2.30pm
2 Kannunah Bridge
The next few attractions are all stops on The Tarkine Drive – a sealed loop of road that now makes the area much more accessible – from Smithton to the Tarkine Drive return is 130km. Beginning with a stop at the Kanunnah Bridge Picnic Area, taking its name from the Aboriginal name for Tasmanian Tiger, it’s about a 35-minute drive from Smithton. A nice spot for a bite to eat, you can have a quick break as you learn more about the area and take in the rapids and reflections of the upper section of the Arthur River.
3 Balfour Packhorse Track
If you’re up for something a bit more adventurous, your next stop can see you follow an old packhorse track through the stunning rainforest. The relatively flat but somewhat challenging walk is three hours return and was cut for prospectors at the beginning of the century to access the largely abandoned mining town of Balfour.
4 Sumac Lookout
Ten minutes’ drive back up the road and returning to the loop, stop at the Sumac Lookout for a breathtaking view over the Arthur River and surrounding rainforest.
5 Julius River Forest Reserve
Only another 10 minutes further along, check out the Julius River Forest Reserve. An enchanting rainforest and river site with barbecue facilities, you can choose from two moderate 30 and 40-minute walks.
6 Lake Chisholm Forest Reserve
Back in the car and it’s again only 10 minutes to reach the Lake Chisholm Forest Reserve. A picturesque 30-minute walk through majestic old myrtle forests takes you to one of the finest examples of a flooded limestone sinkhole in Australia known as Lake Chisholm.
7 Trowutta Arch
With other possible stops along the way at Rapid River, Sinkhole and Tayatea Bridge, complete the Tarkine Drive loop at Trowutta Arch Rain Forest Walk before the 30-minute drive back to Smithton. An easy 30-minute walk takes you to the extraordinary and rare geological structure.
Now it’s time to head to the coast. With accommodation options ranging from camping and cabins to holiday villas and beach houses, this small settlement is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the Tarkine coast. About an hour’s drive from Smithton, or about two hours from Burnie, the pristine Arthur River remains much as it has for thousands of years – it is the only major Tasmanian river that has not been dammed or had its banks logged. Why not hire a kayak and go for a paddle, drop in a line and try to catch a fish at the river mouth, walk along the rugged coastline or sit back and relax as you cruise the river with A R Reflections or the MV George Robinson (‘The Red Boat’) about 15km upstream, with a stop for lunch.
Only a few minutes drive from Arthur River at Gardiner Point then a quick, easy walk, this lookout features exhilarating views of the Tarkine coast and the mouth of the Arthur River. Revel in the power of the Southern Ocean swells and breathe some of the cleanest air in the world, with no land masses between here and South America. Learn more about the Aboriginal inhabitants from the installations on the top viewing platform and walk out to the edge to read the poem on the plaque.
10 Corinna Wilderness Experience
Your last stop in the Tarkine before heading into the West Coast, Corinna is an historic mining town, set in the rainforest on the banks of the Pieman River, about 2.5 hours south from Arthur River. Staying in this secluded township is probably the best way to feel immersed in the Tarkine rainforest, short of doing a multi-day hike. It offers a range of accommodation options, including the original Roadman’s cottage, the old pub which is like a guest house (with single and double rooms) available for groups, 12 one-bedroom cottages and six two-bedroom cottages. There is also limited camping spaces and some room for motor homes. Sample delicious local produce at the Tannin Restaurant or buy provisions at the General Store and use the barbecue facilities.
While you are there you can embrace the wilderness experiences, including cruises on the Pieman River in the legendary Huon pine vessel, MV Arcadia II, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, fossicking and panning for gold, bird watching and nature experiences. There is a range of tracks to explore, from the 20-minute Huon Pine walk and the award-winning 75-minute Whyte River walk, to the 2.5 hour (one way) Savage River walk, or the more challenging four-hour walk to Mount Donaldson.
Corinna is accessible from the north along the Western Explorer, which has some unsealed sections, and from the south by crossing the Pieman River on the legendary “Fatman” barge. Before you set out be aware that fuel is not sold at Corinna. The last available fuel is at Waratah one hour to the north; Zeehan one hour to the south; and Marrawah two hours to the north-west.