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Heading west to Queenstown and Strahan

From Hobart it is about 3 to 4 hours journey time to cover the 260 kilometres from Hobart to Queenstown on the west coast – but you should allow a day, so that you can stop, see and feel the air and the places along the way.

They say, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” – and this is true of this drive up the Derwent Valley from Hobart, and through the National Park to Queenstown and Strahan.

The journey begins by heading up the Derwent Valley in the Brooker Highway, and then onto the A10 Lyell Highway – which leads all the way to the West Coast.

On the way (but more a destination in its own right) is Mt Field National Park – where you can see the Gordon and Serpentine Dams and Lake Peddar – see details below.

Your journey really starts in New Norfolk. On a cold morning mist and fog may hang over the River like a long white pillow hiding the river from view, but creating its own unique atmosphere.

New Norfolk – is located on both sides of the Derwent River, with the smaller Lachlan River also forming a junction here with the Derwent. The rivers are both best seen from the Reserve Parklands that run beside the Rivers, with poplar trees and other old trees in the park creating the feel of an English country village. The town itself dates back to 1807 and was named after the Norfolk Island convicts and free settlers that arrived here that year to establish a settlement. At that time the only access was by boat on the River to take timber, vegetables and other produce to Hobart Town.

Today, you can see Norfolk Pines in New Norfolk, brought to the town when the settlers arrived from Norfolk Island.

There are a number of antique places, cottages and bed and breakfast accommodation options, but one of the most interesting places to stay is ‘Tynwald’ (www.tynwaldtasmania.com Tel: (03) 6261 2667 ) a mansion built in the 1830’s, near the old 1820’s Flour Mill and Oast House. The house and restaurant on Hobart Road is on 16 hectares near the River. Another (B&B) outside of New Norfolk is ‘Rosslyn House’ (233 Uxbridge Rd, Bushy Park Tel: (03)6286 1168) built in 1859. The house is in the middle of farmland with cattle grazing and the Hops fields nearby. Hops Bines (bushes) grow on high wire trellises, and Bushy Park hops is renowned for its hops, used in beer making to balance the sweetness of the malt and giving each beer its characteristic flavour.

Also to get a great view over the town and river, head to Pulpit Point Lookout, and if you are interested in Salmon, head to the Salmon Ponds at 70 Salmon Ponds Rd in Plenty (Tel: (03) 6261 5663. Here you will be able to fish for salmon, buy salmon and see the Museum of Trout Fishing. The Salmon Ponds date back to 1861, making this the oldest in Australia.

Mt Field National Park – is located on Gordon River Road (B61) which runs off the Lyell Highway (A10) and also Glenora Road, a bit over half an hour from New Norfolk. Here you will find Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Lake Barron Falls, Junee Cave, Big Tree Walk, Pindari Forest Walk and Lake Newdegate Circuit and one of the timbers that make Tasmania famous – the 100 metre high Mountain Ash trees – their timber called Tasmanian Oak.

Gordon River Road also takes you to the Gordon and Serpentine Dams and Lake Pedder – which covers 242 square kilometres of water, making it the biggest freshwater dammed lake in Australia.

Strathgordon – is located on the shores of Lake Pedder, and you can enjoy spectacular scenery, fishing, kayaking, swimming and trekking here – and even abseiling down the side of the Gordon Dam wall. A chalet and cabins are also available, but you would need to book.

Hamilton and Ouse (back on the Lyell Highway) are tiny villages and both date back to the early 1820’s with just a hundred or so residents. The old Hamilton Inn is in the centre of Hamilton.

Tarraleah– is in the middle of the Tasmanian Highlands – so a good place to stop over. Here you will find good food, wine and beer, and it is a great place to go mountain biking, take alpine hikes, fly fish, see Tarraleah Falls, golf, kayak, see eagles, quolls and other wildlife. The Tarraleah Hydro Power station is also here.

London Lakes is claimed to be the ‘world’s best fly fishing destination’ in the world. Here you can put on your waders and walk into Big Jim Lake to catch Brown Trout or into Samuel Lake to catch Rainbow Trout and London Lakes caters for both experts and novices. Small streams with meadow water plants help establish mayfly hatches – and the trout love catching the mayfly. The area is a wilderness area and you may well also see Quolls, Echidnas, wombats, wallabies, platypus and other wildlife. See www.londonlakes.com.au

Bronte Park – has a general store and lots of cabins and places to stay to enjoy the lakes, wilderness walks and hiking, as well as kayaking, trout fishing on the eleven lakes nearby.

Derwent Bridge – is where you find “The wall of the wilderness” – a wood carving wall that depicts the history of the highlands – the mining and days when horses were the main means of travel. The wall was carved by Greg Duncan. Derwent Bridge is about five kilometres from Lake St Clair, which has a depth of 167 metres, with lots of wilderness trails leading from the main National Park visitor centre at Cynthia Bay. The park covers a massive area, and walks can be day long, or shorter walks or longer depending on your fitness and willingness to walk.

Queenstown – was once the richest mining towns in the world and the legacy of the boom times are some of the buildings like the Post Office and Paragon Theatre that you see in town. You can still visit the Mt Lyell mines – both above ground and also below in the 10 kilometres of tunnels that were created in the search for copper and gold. When the mines were operational, a railway was operational to the wharves at Strahan, and the West Coast Wilderness Railway is still operational. Tel: (03)6471 7300 to book a ticket and find when the Railway is operating.

It is hard to imagine a greater contrast in landscape from the wilderness areas around the highlands, to what you see in Queenstown – almost a moonscape, and it is clear to see why there is so much controversy whenever mining talks about new mines.

Strahan – is next to Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River on the west coast of Tasmania and this small town set around the Esplanade has cruises to see up the Gordon River, around Macquarie Harbour, Hells Gate and the Sarah Island ruins, and there are also helicopter and seaplanes that can take you above all of the area to get a bird’s eye view. Fishing, Kayaking, four wheel drive tours and walking and cycling tracks along the Esplanade make for an enjoyable time. There are also lots of accommodation options from backpackers to hotels and caravan parks – but it is also wise to book. One of the historic properties is Ormiston House (www.ormistonhouse.com.au Tel: (03) 6471 7077) where you can also stay. This is at #1 Esplanade, near the old Customs House (now a Post Office), Visitor’s Centre and the woodworks gallery.
 
Happy Travelling!
 
Geoff Stuart

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