Tasmania has some of the world’s tallest and oldest forests, where trees can stand up to 100 metres tall and grow for thousands of years.
Many of these trees inhabit the island's cool-temperate rainforests, the largest tracts in Australia. And these ancient giants are often in easy reach, growing along walking trails or accessible riverbanks.
The royals of the Tasmanian forest, even in name, are the Eucalyptus regnans, with their Latin title meaning “to reign”. Also known as mountain ash or swamp gums, they are Australia’s tallest trees, towering over the forest around them.
Rising near the Tahune Airwalk in southern Tasmania, the tallest tree in Tasmania is a mountain ash named Centurion. In 2018 it was measured by Yoav Daniel Bar-Ness, of Giant Tree Expeditions, at 100.5m in height.
“These forests are as fabulous as anywhere in the world,” says Bar-Ness, who leads tours to view the giant trees. “We have World Heritage forests that are uniquely important in the world. I call them islands in the sky.”
It’s not just the height of the trees that impresses; it’s also their girth. Mountain ash appear as strong as they are tall – the widest tree in Australia is found in the Blue Tier in north-east Tasmania.
“When approaching one of these giants and having this sense of amazement or wonder, it’s the thickness of them and the signs that they’ve survived so much – that’s what I find impresses people the most,” says Bar-Ness.
Mountain ash are not alone is reaching towering heights in Tasmania. At Evercreech near Mathinna, a stand of white gums is the tallest of the species in Australia, reaching about 90m in height. The tall trees of takayna / Tarkine form the largest cool-temperate rainforest in Australia. Even the blue gum, Tasmania’s floral emblem, reaches new heights in parts of the state.
“There are some fantastic blue gums – some of the last of the giant old Eucalyptus globulus – on the Lake Skinner track, going up into the Snowy Range,” says Bar-Ness.
We have World Heritage forests that are uniquely important in the world. I call them islands in the sky.
Yoav Daniel Bar-Ness, tree guide
Where to see tall forest
Blue Tier Giant
Near Weldborough in the north-east, take a short walk (1hr, 3.2km) to Australia’s widest living tree, with a girth of 19.4m.
In the south, ascend into the canopy on this 600m-long elevated walkway high above the forest floor.
Styx Tall Trees Conservation Area
Big in name, big by nature, the Styx Valley, near Mount Field National Park, has trails to towering trees with evocative names such as Firebird Wonder, Gandalf's Staff and Icarus Dream.
It’s a 5min walk from the carpark at this north-west waterfall to the Big Tree, with a circumference around its base of nearly 17m.
A short walk from the falls’ carpark leads to a 50m-high brown top stringybark with a trunk more than three metres wide.
Evercreech Forest Reserve
Discover the White Knights of Evercreech, the tallest white gums in the world, on a circuit (20min, 1km) that’s one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks.
Tall Trees Walk
Walk a circuit (30min, 1km) around the lower slopes in Mount Field National Park to witness a collection of grand trees. There’s even a clinometer along the walk to help you calculate the height of the giants.
Hollybank Wilderness Adventures
Located in a reserve 20km north of Launceston, Hollybank Wilderness Adventures features a spectacular stand of tall forest. Take to the trees on a ropes course high in the canopy, or speed through it on a zipline.
Across the west coast are Huon pines that have been growing since the Roman Empire was at its peak. These shaggy, slow-growing conifers are endemic to Tasmania, and have long been prized for their timber, especially among shipbuilders.
Huon pines have been known to grow for more than 2000 years, which makes them one of the oldest living organisms on the planet. Only the bristlecone pines of California, Nevada and Utah live longer than Huon pines, though Bar-Ness says there’s some chance that Huon pines may even outlive their wizened North American counterpart.
“In some parts of inaccessible Tasmania, we have individuals that could be 2000 or maybe 2500 years old, and we have examples of some clonal groves where perhaps no individual stem is 10,000 years old but there’s evidence that the grove has been standing there for more than 10,000 years,” he says.
Huon pines aren’t Tasmania’s only aged pine. King Billy pines are estimated to grow for up to 2000 years, while the subalpine pencil pines can have 1000 years on the clock.
Where to see ancient pines
Huon Pine Walk
Stroll the banks of the Huon River on Tahune’s Huon Pine Walk (20min) to find a stand of the namesake pines.
Cruise the Gordon River from Strahan and alight at Heritage Landing, where a 400m boardwalk meanders among 2000-year-old Huon pines.
The Pieman River has a dense concentration of Huon pines along its banks. It can be explored on a cruise from Corinna aboard the Arcadia II, the only river cruiser built of Huon pine still operating in the world.
Follow the boardwalk (30min return, 800m) to this alpine lake, with its shores covered in gnarled and ancient pencil pines. One of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks.
Learn more about Tasmania’s remarkable plants and trees.