Truth be told, Tasmania isn’t a wildly popular tourist destination for visitors to Australia. And the same could also be said for Australians from the mainland. I’m sure for many, their one and only visit to the great southern island was on a school trip many years ago. I don’t know when I would have visited again were it not for family moving there in recent years.
When I decided to visit my family there as part of my trip back home last December, I was looking forward to a few things. Of course, the big one was seeing my aunt and uncle after a few years overseas. But there was also a curiosity and hope that I would get to see a little more of the island, having not been there since I was a young child. As it turns out, we ended up being shown heaps of fantastic places scattered throughout the state’s northern coast – all the favourite places my relatives had discovered since their arrival.
Allow me to share just a few of the sights available to visitors who venture to north west Tasmania.
I have to say, I wasn’t expecting too much from a place humbly called Dip Falls. The name certainly doesn’t evoke a mighty, rushing waterfall. Pleasantly. I had it underestimated. Situated a bit inland of the coastal town of Burnie, the falls are in the middle of the Dip River Forest Reserve, basically in the middle of nowhere. As it turns out, this little-seen spot features one of Tasmania’s best waterfalls.
The falls have viewing platforms both above and below, the latter of which makes you feel like they could come down upon you at any moment. Apparently we visited on a particularly good day as the water levels were atypically high and provided us with a real sense of its surging potential. Another unexpected delight was the rock formations found under the falls, with their hexagonal pattern resembling population rocky spots like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland or the Reynisdrangar of Iceland.
One feature of the falls that I thought gave it a sense of story was the so-called “Old Man”, a rock formation partly seen in the bottom centre of the above photo, that slightly resembles an old man complete with walking stick. It’s just a nice creative idea that encourages you to look a little closer at the falls. I do think the resident logs really grant the falls some added character. The below photo is probably my all time favourite from my trip to Tasmania.
Given that the falls are surrounded by lovely, dense rainforest there’s also the opportunity to explore that side of the area too. While there are roads and tracks to be found, the big landmark here has to be the aptly named Big Tree. If you can’t guess, it is indeed a … big tree. The tree is a perfect example of Tasmania’s ancient rainforest and measures 17 metres around and over 60 high. For sure a daunting, magnificent sight for tree lovers.
At the western end of Tasmania’s north coast, you’ll find The Nut or Stanley’s Nut. It’s the kind of name that immediately raises questions but also follows the great Australian tradition of overly simple names for things, think South Australia or Great Ocean Road. Well maybe it’s a little more creative than that. Anyway, The Nut is a large, steep bluff that sits above the small coastal town of Stanley, and well it kind of does look like a nut sitting on the landscape.
The Nut sits above the town of Stanley, a small seaside town full of colonial houses and the kind of atmosphere you can only get by the sea. The town itself makes for a great lunch stop if you’re out exploring north west Tasmania. From the town, you can either hike or take the chairlift up to the top of The Nut for views out to Bass Strait, weather permitting. Behind The Nut, you’ll find a pristine, wide open beach that was absolutely deserted when we stopped through.
Devil’s Gate Dam
For those looking for a quiet, scenic spot surrounded by nature, Devil’s Gate Dam couldn’t be more perfect. Located at the northern end of Lake Barrington, the dam is surrounded by beautiful forest and rocky cliffs. There are views over the dam down to the River Forth, as well as a few picnic tables overlooking the water. One neat thing to see here is the colour of the water in the river below, which is the colour of tea or even coca cola, due to the tannins entering the water upstream. Maybe not dazzling, but a chance to enjoy the state’s innate tranquility.
Town of Sheffield
Throughout north west Tasmania you’ll find tons of rural towns but you’re unlikely to find any like the town of Sheffield. What makes Sheffield so special is that the town is decorated by over 50 murals adorning the sides of buildings and walls. It turns out many of the towns in the area have their own special quirk; for example a neighbouring town has all sorts of topiary decorating its streets.
The idea for the murals came about in 1985 as a renewal project based on a Canadian town that had done a similar thing to revitalise its economy. Today there are murals on all sorts of themes, from promoting local businesses to organisations like the local police and the ANZAC soldiers. Again, for more on the murals of Sheffield, see this special post.
A common fixture of Tasmania’s primeval rainforests are their beautiful ferns, and where better to see them than a place named Fernglade Reserve. This small reserve sits on Emu River outside the town of Burnie and features some pristine forest reflected in the river’s waters. Here you can see a wealth of ferns dotting the trails and riverbanks.
Apparently the river has been known as a habitat for local platypus, but due to powerful flooding in the recent years, it’s uncertain if there are any left in the area. We didn’t see about, but that’s not a particularly good indicator.
Of all the places I wanted to visit in Tasmania, Cradle Mountain National Park was the place I most wanted to visit. The most inland of the destinations in this post, Cradle Mountain may be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole of Tasmania. Having seen photos of the park, I was keen to visit the renowned Dove Lake and hike around for views of the boasted and peaks of Cradle Mountain itself.
What I hadn’t expected was the sheer number of different and diverse terrains and landscapes that could be found throughout the park. There are a number of different trails that you can take, including up Cradle Mountain or down to various waterfalls. We didn’t manage to spot much wildlife but we did spy a few wombats from the car which I thought was fantastic. For more on Cradle Mountain, take a look at this post.
To be honest, when I think of Australia’s best beaches I don’t tend to think of Tasmania. Truthfully, I haven’t been to many so that could simply be my ignorance coming into it. While I was in north west Tasmania, we weren’t really blessed with what I’d call beach weather, the sky’s mostly covered with low cloud, rain and thunderstorms. The one day we did stop at a beach, albeit briefly, the weather had turned around and it was really lovely.
We had stopped in at Hawley Beach, a rather sheltered beach east of Devonport. Considering the break in weather, I was staggered to see so few people down at the beach. With similar conditions elsewhere in Australia you’d find the beach crawling with people. A nice moderately sized sand beach, Hawley Beach is distinctive thanks to the rocks scarred with rusty streaks that lie along one part of the beach. The rocks owe their colour to a lichen that grows on the boulders. Definitely a chilled out place to soak up the sun if you’re in this part of Tassie.
Narawntapu National Park
If you’re interested in exploring and spotting some of Tasmania’s native wildlife, then heading to Narawntapu National Park is a clever choice. The vast national park spans over 40 km² and sits opposite Hawley Beach across Port Sorell. Due to its pristine nature and inherent spirit of conservation, Tasmania is a treasure trove of Australian wildlife, home to most species of native animals, but sadly not koalas. Dubbed “Tasmania’s Serengeti”, Narawntapu is one of your best bets to find many indigenous animals as you drive and walk through its extensive reaches.
We certainly spotted plenty of animals during out visit there. As we were driving in to the park, we had already spotted a number of large kangaroos standing about in one of the fields by the road. After parking at the small visitor centre and camp ground, we watched as a wallaby hopped past people’s tents and the toilet block. Good start right?
The creature we were most keen to see though was the local Pademelon. A pademelon is a small marsupial and looks like a pint-sized kangaroo with a stunted tail. Simplistically, kangaroos, wallabies and pademelons have similar body shapes but vary in size; large, medium and small, if you will. I hadn’t even heard of a pademelon until the day before, but it turns out that they are quite common in Tasmania, as well as parts of New South Wales and Queensland.
As we walked down one of the dusty trails towards the wetlands, it wasn’t long before we spotted our first pademelon as it crossed the track behind us. The pademelons like to shelter under the lower undergrowth so they can often be tough to spot and even trickier to get a clean shot of.
The marsupials weren’t the only wildlife about as we spotted a snake below the boardwalk and people walking the other way warned that they had seen a few further along as well. Once we had reached the blind on the waterfront, there was also plenty of bird life about, but we didn’t linger long as we had run out of time. Still, well worth the visit to catch sight of the many marsupials.
Have you ever visited North West Tasmania and seen any of these sights? If not, to which of these sights would you most like to travel? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Why Not Pin It for Later