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West Coast Wilderness Way
West Coast Wilderness
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Total 277 km

West Coast Wilderness

This drive links the three World Heritage Areas of Cradle Mountain, the wild rivers of the Franklin and lower Gordon River and the wilderness that surrounds Lake St Clair. The drive starts from Cradle Mountain and explores the unique post-settlement history of the region that includes convicts, miners and railway men and their families.

Start: Cradle Mountain

Duration: 3-4 days

Print: West Coast Wilderness [PDF 341KB]

National parks:

Cradle Mountain - Zeehan

  • Heading south from Cradle Mountain, stop at Tullah, a peaceful former mining town surrounded by a beautiful landscape of lakes, rivers and mountain ranges.
  • Explore the wilderness around Tullah on walking and mountain bike trails with guided nature tours available on sea kayak, canoe or horseback.
  • The town of Rosebery, a short drive farther south-west, is a working mine township proud of its environmental management. Keep an eye out for the old Hercules to Rosebery aerial ore bucket ropeway, constructed to move ore from the Hercules mine to Rosebery.
  • Walk to Montezuma Falls, a nearby three-hour return walk to Tasmania's tallest waterfall.
  • Continue on to Zeehan, once Tasmania's third-largest town with gold and silver mines, numerous hotels and more than 10,000 residents. Today, Zeehan's Main Street is lined with grand old buildings like the Gaiety Theatre, visited by Dame Nellie Melba and Harry Houdini, beautifully restored and still entertaining locals and visitors.
  • Visit the West Coast Heritage Centre with one of the finest collections of minerals in the world.
  • Walk or drive through the unusual Spray Tunnel, a 100 -metre abandoned railway tunnel at the end of Main St.
  • Fish for trout in some of the world's best trout fishing waters in nearby Lake Pieman.
  • Overnight Zeehan or continue on to Strahan.

Strahan

  • Take a cruise up the Gordon River into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. The dark and silent Gordon River will hypnotise you with its mirror-still reflections.
  • Along the way, step back in time on Sarah Island, the infamous penal settlement that was once the colony's largest ship-building centre and Tasmania's most brutal prison.
  • Enjoy a fishing excursion on the harbour, a scenic float plane trip up the Gordon or an exhilarating jet boat ride on the King River.
  • Take a leisurely stroll around the foreshore walking track.
  • Watch a performance of The Ship That Never Was – the longest running theatre show in Australia, telling the story of convicts who stole a small boat and sailed it halfway around the world.

Strahan – Queenstown

  • From Strahan, drive on to Queenstown where the starkly beautiful barren hills that encircle Queenstown and the verandas that line its main street give the town a wild west atmosphere. The smelting and mining practices of the early 1900s that caused the deforestation of the slopes ceased long ago and plants are slowly recolonising the area.
  • Take a ride on the West Coast Wilderness Railway from Queenstown along river gorges, across bridges and over 35 km of mountain ranges on a unique Abt rail system.
  • Talk to the local tour guides, tour the Mt Jukes Road to Bird River or descend 1.5 km underground and explore more than 7 km of the drives and workings of the Mt Lyell copper mine.
  • The West Coast produces world-class furniture and craft timber – the famed Huon pine, sassafras, blackwood and myrtle – most of which can be viewed and purchased at sawmills in Queenstown and Strahan. If you're not a maker, you can select beautifully crafted finished products from local outlets.
  • Visit the Galley Museum with its massive photographic collection displayed in 23 rooms along with a minerals collection and local memorabilia.
  • Have a meal or overnight at the historic Empire Hotel, built in 1901. The hotel features a large traditional dining room and a magnificent National Trust-listed staircase carved from locally cut blackwood, made in England and returned to Queenstown for assembly in 1904.
  • Overnight Strahan or Queenstown.

Queenstown – Lake St Clair

  • Depart Queenstown or Strahan via Tasmania's newest hydro dam and trout fishery, Lake Burbury, then cross 60 km of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park on the way to Lake St Clair.
  • Keep an eye out for a sign to Donaghys Lookout, around 50 km from Queenstown. The 40-minute return walk from the Lyell Highway climbs a small hill at an easy grade to a sheltered, rocky viewpoint with stunning views of the mountain ranges of Tasmania's western wilderness.
  • Stop another 9 km along the highway at the Franklin River Nature Trail. This short, easy walk along the banks of the Franklin through cool temperate rainforest will give you an idea of the beauty that lies within the heart of this wild river wilderness.
  • Drive on to Lake St Clair and the end of the West Coast Wilderness Way touring route and the start of the Rivers Run Touring Route.
  • For more on Lake St Clair see the Rivers Run self-drive itinerary.
Leg Time / Distance
Cradle Mountain to Zeehan 1 hr 35 min / 106 km
Zeehan to Strahan 41 min / 44.5 km
Strahan to Queenstown 37 min / 41 km
Queenstown to Lake St Clair (Derwent Bridge) 1 hr / 86 km