Nine-day Western Wilds road trip

Tasmania’s west is known for its wilderness landscapes – cool-temperate rainforests and alpine plains, mountains and glacial valleys, wild rivers and windswept coasts. Lesser known are the human stories of the region: tales of survival, endurance and hopes that live on in local memory and heritage streetscapes. Take a steam train through the rainforest, haunt a ghost town and mingle with the locals. Drive the 99 Bends, and stand at the windswept Edge of the World.

Cradle Mountain. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Jason Charles Hill

Day 1: Devonport to Cradle Mountain

Welcome to Devonport! After disembarking from Spirit of Tasmania, make your way towards Cradle Mountain, to experience one of Tasmania's most cherished landscapes. Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is part of the extensive Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area – home to ancient rainforests, snow-capped mountains, glacial lakes and alpine heaths.

From the park’s northern edge, the rugged peaks of Cradle Mountain tower over Dove Lake. A range of walks are available here to suit all tastes and abilities – from the 10-minute, wheelchair-accessible Pencil Pine Falls and Rainforest Walk to day-long alpine circuits for the experienced hikers.

Tonight, get up and close with Tasmanian devils with an after-dark feeding tour at Devils@Cradle. Treat yourself tonight, with a stay at the luxe Cradle Mountain Lodge.

Montezuma Falls. Photo: Jess Bonde

Day 2: Cradle Mountain to Corinna

As you hit the Murchison Highway, detour briefly north to Waratah – a small town built at the top of a waterfall to support the largest tin mine in the world.

South of Rosebery, take the three-hour return walk to Montezuma Falls, Tasmania's highest and arguably most majestic waterfall.

Visit the town of Zeehan, with its grand mining-boom streetscape and rich history. Nicknamed the Silver City, this used to be Tasmania's third largest town. Walk the Spray Tunnel, a 100-metre abandoned train tunnel that once led to the Spray Silver Mine.

Explore Zeehan’s West Coast Heritage Centre for a fascinating insight into the area’s industrial and social heritage. This seven-hectare site spans the restored Gaiety Theatre-Grand Hotel, once considered one of Australia’s best theatres.

Turn north to cross the Pieman River aboard the Fatman barge all the way to the old mining settlement of Corinna – now an eco-tourism haven surrounded by cool-temperate rainforest and threaded with walking tracks.

Stay overnight at Corinna in one of Corinna Wilderness Experience’s cottages.

Strahan Waterfront. Photo: Stu Gibson

Day 3: Corinna to Strahan

Embark on an exciting adventure on the Pieman River aboard Arcadia II – a 17-metre boat built in 1939 from Huon pine. Keep an eye out for these majestic trees along the river's edge, some of which are more than 3000 years old. Tasmania's west is the only place on Earth where the Huon pines can be find.

Recross the Pieman River on the barge and head south to Strahan. Walk the 40-minute return track to Hogarth Falls, keeping an eye out for platypus in the creek.

In the evening, join the audience for a performance of The Ship That Never Was – an interactive, family-friendly theatre production based on the incredible true story of a daring convict escape from notorious Sarah Island.

Stay overnight at Strahan, where you could luxe out at the boutique Salt Box Hideaways, enjoy the comforts of a self-contained apartment at Wheelhouse Apartments, or stay in the heart of town at the centrally located Strahan Village.

Gordon River Cruises. Photo: RACT Destinations

Day 4: Strahan to Queenstown

Start the day with a waterfront stroll along Strahan Esplanade, where interpretive signs tell stories of the convicts and pioneers who survived the harsh conditions of the remote west coast.

Cruise across vast Macquarie Harbour to Hell’s Gates and into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area along the serene Gordon River with World Heritage Cruises or Gordon River Cruises.

Afterwards, take the famous winding road to Queenstown, the largest town in Tasmania's west, surrounded by dramatic landscapes and home to a range of charming places to stay, including Mount Lyell Anchorage and Penghana Bed and Breakfast.

Head to the Empire Hotel’s traditional dining room for dinner.

West Coast Wilderness Railway. Photo: Hype TV

Day 5: Queenstown

Board the remarkable 35-kilometre West Coast Wilderness Railway steam train for a journey taking you through the west's rugged wilderness all the way to the coast at Strahan.

Combine the steam-rail journey with thrilling white-water rafting or peaceful river drifting with King River Rafting for an exciting day of activities.

History buffs will love Queenstown’s  fascinating past. Take time to explore the Galley Museum and its eclectic collection of west-coast artefacts, tour the Art Deco-era Paragon Theatre, or join one of Roam Wild’s tours of historic Lake Margaret township and power station – it's a real-life ghost town.

After such an active day, take some time to unwind in Queenstown.

My Lyell Highway leading out of Queenstown. Photo: Ollie Khedun

Day 6: Queenstown to New Norfolk

The road out of Queenstown is full of twists and turns, so take it slowly. At the top of the spectacular “99 Bends” above town, marvel at the Iron Blow Lookout and follow the mountainside boardwalk to Horsetail Falls.

Past Lake Burbury, stop for the easy 20-minute return walk through mossy forest of sassafras, myrtle and ferns to reach the beautiful Nelson Falls.

Lake St Clair is Australia's deepest freshwater lake, and offers an abundance of activities amid nature. Choose wilderness walks ranging from a leisurely 45 minutes to challenging overnight trips. Explore the lake’s shores and dense forests of ancient pines with dramatic mountain backdrops, and spot wildlife including wombats, echidnas and platypus.

At Derwent Bridge visit the ambitious art installation The Wall in the Wilderness, where 100 metres of carved Huon-pine panels depict the pioneering stories that helped shape the Central Highlands.

Stop in at the old hydro town of Tarraleah, built in the 1930s by the Hydro Electric Commission.  Workers from all across the world came here to help with the construction of Tasmania’s hydro system, and the scale of this project is visible in the massive steel water pipes running down the mountainside.

In the Derwent Valley, whisky lovers can pause for cellar-door tastings at Lawrenny Estate Distillery in Ouse, while beer lovers can taste wild-fermented brews at the friendly farm bar of Two Metre Tall Farmhouse Ale & Cider.

Stay overnight in New Norfolk, which features historical buildings and some of the island’s best antique shopping. Treasure hunters are spoilt for choice here: Drill Hall Emporium, Willow Court Antique Centre and Ring Road Antique Centre are just a few of the must-see antique boutiques.

Explore this peaceful town on foot, while soaking up views of the snaking River Derwent and surrounding mountains.

Wallaby, Mt Field National Park. Photo: Off the Path

Day 7: New Norfolk to Strathgordon

Start the day with a drive to Pulpit Rock Lookout on the outskirts of New Norfolk, offering sweeping views of the Derwent Valley’s rolling farmland and the River Derwent.

Return the short distance to Westerway, then turn into Mount Field National Park, Tasmania's oldest national park. Grab coffee and a snack at Waterfalls Cafe and Gallery, then choose one of the many wilderness walks available. Stand-out short walks include Russell Falls and Tall Trees; or take the unsealed road to Lake Dobson to stretch the legs further on the Tarn Shelf or Pandani Grove tracks.

In the village of Maydena, experienced mountain bike riders will test their skills on gravity-focused trails through stunning forest at Maydena Bike Park. Those seeking gentler rides can jump aboard a unique pedal-powered railway through the rainforest with Railtrack Riders.

At the road’s end, buckle up for the southern hemisphere's highest commercial abseil at Gordon Dam with Aardvark Adventures. This 140-metre sheer drop in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area will set your heart racing.

Stay overnight at Pedder Wilderness Lodge on the shores of Lake Pedder at Strathgordon.

Lake Pedder. Photo: Stu Gibson

Day 8: Strathgordon to Thousand Lakes Lodge

Today, join a kayak tour of Lake Pedder with Tassie Bound, or head to Red Knoll Lookout on the unsealed Scotts Peak Dam Road for 360-degree views of the south-west wilderness.

The scenery here is unlike anywhere else, and the short and easy Creepy Crawly Nature Trail through the rainforest is the perfect way to embrace it all

See Tasmania’s forest giants at the Styx Tall Trees Conservation Area and gaze up at magnificent Mountain Ash, the world’s tallest flowering plant, easily accessible via a short walking track.

Return north past Tarraleah and turn up onto the Central Highlands, where the Central Plateau Conservation Area is known as the “land of a thousand lakes”.  With its impressive glacial and alpine landscape, this destination is loved by anglers and bushwalkers alike. Hit the shores of Great Lake, Australia’s second largest freshwater lake, at Miena.

Travel to Lake Augusta for a peaceful night at Thousand Lakes Lodge. Experience secluded luxury and sleep in a converted Antarctic training centre, surrounded by the wilderness of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Thousand Lakes Lodge. Photo: Alice Hansen

Day 9: Thousand Lakes Lodge to Devonport

Spend a morning fly fishing with one of the guides of Thousand Lakes Lodge, grab one of the lodge's e-bikes and pedal to Lake Ada, or take a walk around the surrounding lakes.

Linger at the lodge for a lunch crafted with the finest Tasmanian produce. .

Set out north along Highland Lakes Road for the return journey to Devonport, where you will drive board Spirit of Tasmania to set sail for home.

Want to spend more time in Tasmania? Check out our Heartlands road trip and discover even more of this incredible destination.


Original content is courtesy of Tourism Tasmania